Wednesday, 29 November 2006

Blowin' In The Wind Part 5

So, the essential problem was that we only actually had just over an hour in Stansted on the way back and the check-in desks close 45 minutes before the plane takes-off. So on landing we would have some 20-25 minutes to get from our plane to the next one. We did try and mitigate this in all sorts of ways including checking in over the Internet. Apparently, though Ryanair impose a limit of 8 on anyone wanting to check in that way. Quite why no-one could figure, but I'm sure Ryanair have their reasons.

The short time in Stansted was one of the reasons we were only carrying hand luggage, too. As at least two of the party had to check their baggage last time this was getting to be all too moot a point.

The check-in desk people in Derry were very helpful and it turned out we could get priority tickets so we could sit at the front of the plane for an extra two quid. Sorted!

I checked in and got myself a sausage roll (another thing you can't get anywhere other than the UK and Ireland) and carried on reading in the café. Eamon came over with good news. The flight was leaving early. I looked out the window. The gusts of wind were quite dramatic across the long grass and every so often the Bird Control Vehicle drove out to scare the birds. At some point I looked up from my reading material to see a Ryanair plane bank very steeply from the runway and fly off.

"You ought to have seen that" said one of the group. "The plane was coming in like this", he held out a splayed hand and twisted it violently back and forth, "then about a hundred yards from landing the pilot bottled it and flew off. He's probably going to land somewhere else."

He was wrong about the last part. Eventually the plane did land at Derry, and we were let on first, not that it mattered much anymore. The pilot let us know that we were going to sit where we were until the wind had dropped a good bit. This took sometime. Disconcertingly the gusts of wind on the stood plane felt a lot like bad turbulance. The take-off was quick. The pilot must have just hit full-throttle and pulled the plane off the ground the moment that he could. It should probably be noted that for two of our group it was the first time they'd flown anywhere. They ought to be re-assured it'll probably not be that rough again.

By the time the plane in Derry took off our connecting plane had already left Stansted. The next plane to Salzburg was at 6:30. Not too bad just a whole night in the airport until we can check in at 4:30 and get a breakfast in the Wetherspoons. Oh yeah, and another 70 Euros for the flight. Oh and it was a Sunday so the O'Neills decided that it could close at 10:30. So that was at least 6 hours with very little to do except experience first hand how cold and uncomfortable Stansted floor tiles are when you are trying to sleep. And they are cold. And uncomfortable. Tiredness though is it's own blanket and I got a few minutes and the odd hour here and there, at least. One of our number, bored and restless, decided that he would whistle to pass the time. I'm not a morning person really, and for some reason whistling goes through me, so someone whistling first thing in the morning wasn't putting me in a particularly pleasant mood. The whistler was told as much. I think he started talking instead. Still, that was better than whistling.

4:30 came around and that was pretty much it. We all sat silently in different groups waiting for the gate number to shown. One bloke used the time to get his last couple of pints of cider in, I had a breakfast bloomer and a coke. The flight and drive home were pretty uneventful.

All the food and Guiness was great, I'd met a lot of nice, friendly people, and the group as a whole remained surprisingly cheerful. So the whole thing wasn't a total bust, but I couldn't help feeling we'd spent the whole weekend being fucked by the weather.

Tuesday, 28 November 2006

Blowin' In The Wind Part 4

Since Leeds had lost 3-0 to Southampton earlier that day, and I found "dirty" Leeds oddly old fashioned, I wasn't particularly inclined to argue. Besides Leeds had stopped Preston from getting to the play-offs for promotion last year so I could afford to be a magnanimous.

Still, I didn't want to be around that lot for anymore that necessary so three of us went off to find a chippy. Fish and chips is an odd thing to miss when your abroad, but I do. It's one of my must-do things when I go home. That and get a curry and drink as much decent bitter as is, well, decent. And see friends and family, of course. We went to the Nevenny Grill. I can't remember what the fish was, but it was good, the chips, though, were a little on the thin side and the marrowfat peas weren't really mushy. You can't have everything I guess, but I enjoyed it.

Nevenny Street is also home to the U Drop Inn, which I didn't go into, but it seems to me that it's pub name in search of the right pun. I guess the owner wanted to distinguish his establishment from all the Dew Drop Inns to be found around the world. That said, there does seem to be plenty of U Drop Inns.

Anyway, back to Bonners which was filling up by now. As well a developing a small ever-changing band of people outside each door enjoying a quick fag. The Austrians, who at the age of thirteen are given a cellphone and a packet of Memphis and are told to go out and enjoy themselves, took a while to get used to this. As I'd stopped smoking some 18-or-so months previously I just tried to sympathise with their tales of how cold it was getting outside. I did have a cigar at one point so I did get to go outside with everybody else and meet some new people. We had a good story about how we'd come all the way from Austria to watch a game that had been cancelled so much sympathy was garnered.

Soon enough it was time to get the taxi back to Harkins Bar.

It had been mentioned several times that I sing and, though I wouldn't say that I could play guitar, strum a few chords. Probably too many Guinnesses into the evening a guitar appeared. It was badly out of tune and I usually use a little electronic tuner so I enlisted the help of an Austrian bass player to try and get the thing to play a listenable sound after about half an hour and no joy (terrible, I know) the regulars were, if not demanding entertainment exactly then at least getting a little more vocally curious as to where entertainmant was.

Abandoning the guitar I tried to do Mr Bad Example and then Hallelujah unaccompanied which I think got applause more for trying than anything and then tried to ignore how badly the guitar was tuned to do a well received Dead, Drunk & Naked. I don't know but the punters seemed to enjoy it.

One of our group then got in to a louder and louder argument over whether he came from the place with the kangaroos or was it the place where Hitler was born.

It was time to go home.

Monday, 27 November 2006

Blowin' In The Wind Part 3

Luckily the ground was just too water-logged to really let the snow settle and the snow stopped just as it looked like it was going to get fiercer.

We got the bus into Ballybofey. As always, anywhere, there were roadworks and the delicatest of out number lasted all of about five minutes before needing to be let off the bus. He made is excuses and we left him to it. The countryside between Brockagh and Ballybofey was as picturesque as you'd expect, all little valleys and dales with quaint little houses dotted about. The sort of wind and rain swept countryside that justifies a whiskey after walking through it.

Ballybofey is, in essence, the street you can see on the first page of it's website. More bars than you'd think and a couple of bookshops, it's not entirely devoid of character. It takes about five minutes to clump up and down before you reckon you've ssen it all and head for the designated bar. In this case Bonners Corner Bar. Some of the group had decided to go and do a little more shopping. One in particular wanted to buy a tweed suit. That the shop, Murphy's & Co., was a namesake for the buyer was a particular bonus.

About halfway through the Guardian quick crossword the rumours started. I half heard them at first and paid them no mind, but as the group got back to full-size the question was being asked: "Has the game been cancelled?".

It had. Apparently, although it rains all the time in Ireland and the Finn Harps ground is next to the river, the pitch had become unexpectedly waterlogged and the game had been put off for a day. A day we didn't have.

What we did have was Guinness in front of us and a curious inclination to not feel let down by the news. We moved on to Harley's Cheers Bar.

Harley's is the main sponsor for Finn Harps this year (there is a rotational system among the shops and bars in Ballybofey for sponsorship that was explained to me a few Guinnesses too late) and there was a possibility that they had a few replica shirts on offer. They didn't have one that fit me but most of the group was satisfied.

What Harley's did have was a big, gobby lass from Preston with a small party around her of the sort of Prestonians who hang around with big gobby lasses. One of them, seeing the top I was wearing, said something about "dirty Leeds".

Interlude: Irony

Cynically releasing your cynical "best of" cash-in just before Christmas only to be beaten to the top of the charts by the new Westlife album. I doubt there's too much grumbling in the Houses of Oasis and U2 —it's not like either needed the money— but a little schadenfreude never hurt anybody.

Friday, 24 November 2006

Blowin' In The Wind Part 2

Actually, it didn't turn out too badly. Although 4 hours is a long time to spend in an O'Neills where there's nothing to do except drink and read the newspaper nobody went overboard. One member of the group did disappear for a good while, but seeing as he'd been getting steadily grumpier for no reason anyone else could discern, then this was probably for the best.

Is there a good reason for having you shoes scanned or is Stansted still indulging in the worst kind of security theatre? I know that I certainly felt a hell of a lot safer knowing that everyone's Hush Puppies had been individually scanned for the good of the nation.

Past security in Stansted there's a Wetherspoons which meant that whatever else happened this trip, then at least I'd drunk a couple of pints of proper bitter (Theakstons OP and Bombadier).

The flight to Derry was mostly uneventful. The landing was just a little rough, but the weather seemed to be taking a turn for the worse, so this was almost expected.

Derry Airport did turn out to be a Nissen hut by a runway. Not quite Coventry Airport standards (all the facilities are in one building), but nicely simple.

After getting to Eamons house and enjoying a very good meal provided by our hosts the few who were still awake and willing were carted off to Harkins Bar, a cosy little locals pub seemingly in the middle of nowhere. They do a very fine pint of Guinness and, apparently, it's occassionally visited by stars of all stripes. Thankfully Mick Hucknall wasn't there that night.

Next morning, a fuse had blown leaving us without electricity for a few hours. Still, breakfast was managed —a great full Irish, though with only a few slices of toast. After that a couple of us were still feeling a little delicate, but worse yet it had started to snow. The reports from Austria were that it was 19 degrees and glorious sunshine, in our little corner of Ireland the snow looked like it was starting to settling.

Thursday, 23 November 2006

Interlude: Old Drinking Game

A while ago I proposed a drinking game based around an article in the Guardian by Mick Hucknall -- every time you feel the need to mutter "twat" while reading it take a drink. He's had a new article printed, this time about copyright, and the rules remain the same. You'll be too tight to mention by the end of if.

Blowin' In The Wind

So, Ireland, then...

It all seemed like such a daft but doable idea at the time: Eamon wanted to go and watch the last Finn Harps match of the season and if anyone wanted to come along, they could.

Nine others, including me, said it might be fun. So arrangements were made, flights were booked and money handed over.

I think the original idea, by the way, was that the Harps might have been in contention for promotion from League 2, as it was, they were in contention for fifth place rather than sixth. Nobody cared much about this, but perhaps it was a premonition.

The journey to Ireland was almost entirely without incident. Everyone turned up on-time and there were no roadworks or other delays —no shipwrecks and nobody drownded, nothing to laugh at at all— and we were in Stansted before we knew it. The couple of breakfast beers in Salzburg Airport helped here, as I think I read about two lines of my book before dropping off.

At Salzburg I had noted how one or two of our fellow travellers had a funny idea about hand luggage, and exactly what was needed for a weekend of Guinness drinking, but the Airport staff had been quite accomodating and not too inclined to fuss if one or two of the group had packed for a month in the Antarctic. Apparently a laptop computer is an absolute essential for both an Antarctic expedition and a weekend on the piss in Ireland. Who knew?

I also noted that Harmony from Angel was in this month's Playboy and it would go very well with my Cordelia edition...

The staff at Stansted were not so accomodating. The whole idea of just hand luggage was that we could breeze through the airport and leave the time that would normally be used waiting for your luggage to turn up for the more important things. Like drinking. Stansted employees were deaf to our alcoholism. Still, it wasn't too bad, only a couple of us needed to check in our bags and Derry airport, we just knew, was going to be a Nissen hut by the side of a runway. That just left 5 hours in Stansted and not much else to to besides drink Guinness and eat as many things containing bacon as possible. It was all so easy...

More later.

Wednesday, 22 November 2006

Brings A Tear To The Eye

This has been across the 'Net and back -- I've been in Ireland over the weekend is my excuse, about which more later -- , but just in case you haven't seen it, there's that weird bank person doing a parody of U2's One and David Cross doing a faithful cover of it over at WFMU.

At least, I think it's faithful cover, I tried to listen to the corporate bloke but I couldn't last more than about 30 seconds before cringing in embarassment for him and having to make it stop.

Dictionary Updates

It seems the Guardian is giving David Thomson space every couple of weeks to update his Biographical Dictionary of Film. So far he's done Will Ferrell and Christopher Nolan.

I get the sense that with both of them he has slightly less to say than write, not that he doesn't fill up the column well, but one of the delights of the BDF was that Thomson could sum up careers in a few careful sentences. Here, though, he may have had to write more about Nolan and Ferrell than you feel they are worth.

Still, it's a column to keep your eye on.

Wednesday, 15 November 2006

Tom Tom Club

Tom Robinson listens to Tom Waits' new album and finds it hard work. He also steals Ten-Bob Dylan's headline.

I think, though, Tom has it wrong. Orphans seems to be an album made up of things from Tom's vault, songs he probably spent much time crafting but didn't have an album to give them a home on. I don't think it's meant to be listened all in one go, or even an album at a time. It seems to be made to put your mp3 player and lost in the shuffle, the occassional Waits track that you've never heard before showing up and giving you pause to listen. That's how I'm going to do it anyway....

Monday, 13 November 2006

Outlining All My Chins Was Humbling

A while ago somewhere I followed a link that gave you a tutorial on how to turn a picture of someone into a pop-art style pic.

Having no time what-so-ever, but being a narcissist I tried on a photo of me. I didn't work out great, so I tried again with a something I had on my hard-drive of Eamon from the Irish pub...

That worked a bit better, but it's not something I'm showing the Internet until I've tried again. So I went back to my favourite subject, me! And tried again, I think this one worked out just fine:

Thursday, 9 November 2006

That's Brand Awareness

The Guardian in saying goodbye to an American senator, Rick Santorum, -- "that accident has now been corrected" -- end the article with the words "Santorum has been flushed away". It's a pity FailedPenalty in the comments felt that he had to include the link that explained why this was so sly.

Wednesday, 8 November 2006

Reasons I Don't Understand America Part 10

Actually, I completely understand Fox News running this headline: No Matter the Results, the Election Will Change Little. I just don't understand why anybody would give any credence to anything Fox News ever said.

Tuesday, 7 November 2006

Of Course, No-one Saw This Coming

Health drive puts pupils off school meals. That's right. Kids don't want healthy eating and they certainly don't want Jamie Oliver ramming it down their throat.

Friday, 3 November 2006

Texting As Spelling Reform

Over at Comment Is Free Simon Jenkins has decided that illiterate teenagers are leading the way to streamlining the English language, or something...
It is plain silly to regard doughnut as "better" than donut. The same goes for alternatives to night, through, colour and wholesome. When the great Noah Webster invented American spelling after independence, he left British English immured in bigotry. He chided "even well-bred people and scholars for surrendering their right of private judgment to literary governors". To Americans, spelling reform was the sovereignty of common sense. For that reason the British treated it as foreign, vulgar and, worst of all, American.

And, well, it gets sillier:
Spelling is the last fig leaf of empire, the last bastion of nanny (or Lynne Truss) knows best. It is stuck in the tramlines of the past, and nobody thinks straight on the subject.

Before going totally bonkers:
Can texting finally spur revolution? Young people have evolved both a new script and a cost-effective reason for using it. They are breaking free of spelling dogma and expanding the alphabet with emoticons.

Emoticons are curse on the internet. If you can't imply "tone of voice" with your writing adding random punctuation at the end of a sentence rarely helps. In my experience it often used some thing like this "You wanker :-)" as if smiling about being openly insulting somehow makes it OK. Far from clarifying a text they tend to obfuscate it, making the text harder to read and adding information about the authors intent that is at best weaselly.