Guilty Pleasures.

Probably not about a secretary in love.

Probably not about a secretary in love.

I love a passion. Apparently, there are people who enjoy nothing more than spotting different Eddie Stobart trucks (they’ve all got different female names. One is named after William Hague’s wife, apparently) and noting it down in a log book. Now, that’s not my cup of tea but I understand how someone can find their thing, and I respect that.

I have a lot of passions. Writing fiction is my big one, as is collecting thrashy thriller novels from the 1960s, 1970s or 1980s. But specific ones, big idea thrillers, about powerful people and big concepts and gorgeous illustrated covers that give a taste of what the book is about. Take this one to the right here, which is Alistair MacLean’s “Air Force One is Down”. Guess what it’s about? Go on, I dare you. One of the reasons I collect them is for the covers, which were commissioned especially for the book and tend to illustrate a key scene in them. They weren’t cheap either. When I enquired about getting an illustrated cover of that style for my own novel “The Ministry of Love”,  I was shocked at the cost. So, it seems, are publishers, because we now see these antiseptic shadowy covers that could be stuck on any thriller. Compare these two, from Colin Forbes’s “The Stone Leopard”. The left is from the 1980s, the right an edition from the 1990s. I know which one I prefer. I keep a load of these on display as I write my own stuff, just to remind myself. I’m not writing literature, I’m writing stuff that people will enjoy reading on a plane or by a pool or on the LUAS. And if it goes well, one day I’m going to treat myself and spend the big bucks on getting one of those covers for one of my own. 

The Young Meteors.

A meteor, doing meteory stuff.

A meteor, doing meteory stuff.

It occurred to be recently that I know quite a few young people (I’m deeming that to be under 40, by the way. Just shut up, right?) who are really beginning to shine in their given areas. I reckon you should keep an eye out for them, because all are on their way to being either household names or failing that, “That fella off the telly”.

Colin Scuffins, who is a writer and film producer (Independent movie “Prodigal Son”), and one of the funniest writers I have ever met. You will be hearing about this guy, just wait and see.

Ciaran Toland, barrister and expert in EU law? Expert, you say? Well, he just took the European Parliament to the European Court, and made them cry. On his way to being a player in Irish life.

Averil Power, Senator. The new face of Fianna Fail. Not on the take, liberal, and not afraid to actually read books. You’ll be hearing about this one, if you haven’t already.

John McGuirk, media commentator. A solid media performer coming from the eurocritical centre-right, and would cross the road to beat up a cosy media consensus.

Andrea Pappin, media commentator. The Anti-McGuirk. Appearing on everything from Newstalk to Tubridy to The Frontline to TV3. More likely to take a cosy media consensus out for coffee and say “Yes, but have you read this report?”. Check out her blog here.


My favourite restaurants.

Gotham: Mmmmmmmm

Gotham: Mmmmmmmm

As anyone who has admired my bulging waistline will tell you, I like to eat out, and so I thought I’d pen a few words on some of my favourite eateries. All would be middle of the road price range:

Gotham, in South Anne Street and Stillorgan. Good pizza, excellent brunch menu, and one of the few places in Dublin that a meat and potatoes guy like me will eat a salad for a main course. Their pear and parmesan salad does that weird thing most Irish salads fail to do: Be actually tasty and filling.

Koishi in Ballsbridge is one for the sushi lovers, and unlike Yo Sushi, you will be able to leave satisfied without taking out a mortgage. Ask for a window seat and you can watch the Guards sneaking across from the US Embassy to The Embassy Grill for a sneaky battered sausage and chips. 

The Leopardstown Inn (Go on, guess where it is) does both excellent bar grub and Greens restaurant upstairs is also well worth a visit. The Lep Inn also does a very tasty Sunday carvery (Try the beef and mushroom pie) although I found it a bit pricey. Having said that, it got the mother’s seal of approval, and my mother knows her carvery. Decor, resembling an upmarket 19th Century French brothel, is nice too.  

Bijou Bistro in Rathgar. Good brunch menu, and great modern European menu, with plenty of gravy.

Finally, just tried Paulie’s Pizza beside Slattery’s Pub on Grand Canal Street. Rough and ready, and a tiny place, so don’t be discussing having an adulterous affair or corporate espionage, but the pizza is excellent. I would have included a link but their site seems to be down.  

Beware the Japanese Long-Range Knicker Grabber.

My brother recently recounted to me a story of a girl he knows who lives in Japan. She was awoken one night by a tapping on the window of her second floor apartment, and a strange shadow being cast into her bedroom. Rising from her bed, she cautiously stepped out onto her balcony, where a collection of her laundry, including underwear, was drying, hanging over the balcony. Much to her shock, she noticed a steel claw attempting to reach over the balcony and snag a pair of her knickers. Looking over the edge, she saw on the street below a young man with very thick glasses operating, with great difficulty, a long steel rod, over two stories high, with which he was attempting to steal an item of underwear. She shouted at him, he shouted out an embarrassed apology, and proceeded to race down the street, holding his two-storey pole out in front of him.

Of course, I was fascinated by the pole. Did he make it? Or is there someone manufacturing them? And are the Japanese so respectful of each other that everyone minds their own business when they pass an ordinary fella out for a late night stroll with his two-storey high knicker grabber?

Jason’s Diary

Canada's Fianna Fail got their heads kicked in as well.
Canada’s Fianna Fail got their heads kicked in as well.

Canada has had an election where the centrist Fianna Fail-style Liberals (In government forever, good at spending other people’s money, and progressively more corrupt the longer they remained in power) have been kicked into third place for the first time ever.

Interesting discussion here on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s “The House” political affairs show about the future of Canadian politics.

You anoraks know who you are, and you love it!   


Interesting piece here from Mick McLoughlin’s on Ireland’s parochial approach to the EU.


Smart move by Phil Hogan here on water charges. After all, if we are trying to get people to use water responsibly, then of course it should be based on usage. Actually agreeing with Phil Hogan! Jaysus, I think I’ll go and have a nice lie-down. (And see, I can be nice to the Blues!)


Some curious comments about the British queen’s visit here. I find it funny that some people regard the date as “insensitive”. For f**k’s sake, this is Ireland: Every date is insensitive for one reason or another. As for using historical reasons not to welcome her, I’ve never bought into this slaves of history argument. History is to learn from, not to be constrained by. One thing though: Can the media stop referring to her as Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth in the same breath as Barack Obama, US President. Either he gets his full title, (His Excellency Barack Obama President of the United States of America) or nobody does. We are a republic, you know, and should show equal respect to the head of state of a friendly republic.

Jason’s Diary

Am I the only person under 40 who doesn’t get Jedward? It’s a career, they’re making money, fair enough. I just don’t get why adults give them so much attention. The front of the Irish Times? Really? Is that supposed to make us regard the Irish Times as being irreverent? Still, what do I know? I watched “One Foot in the Grave” and always regarded Victor as being a perfectly balanced individual.


Well done Fingal County Council on nominating Senator Norris. Fine Gael’s plan to stop the people choosing the president could be thwarted yet.


Here’s a mad one to look at. Political holidays for politics junkies.


Delighted to see that Raven Books in Blackrock has moved to larger premises on Blackrock Main Street. Great staff (who actually read books, which is a novelty), and that eclectic mix of books that only an independent operator can provide. Hope they prosper, although as with all small bookshops these days, it’s a question of use it or lose it. Check out their website here.


And finally, Europe Day is just plain silly. I’m a pro-European, and I find it embarassing, trying to create a fake sense of patriotism about the EU. It occurred to me, as I sat in the bath at the weekend reading my backlog of Economists (The magazine, not the academic professionals. I’m not a Thomas Harris character) that if there was a well-funded rival to the EU advocating a different form of European integration, I suspect I’d support it.     

Odds and Ends.

Someone told me recently that an anti-war group staged a demonstration against both NATO AND Colonel Gadaffi. I never quite understand the logic of the position they put forward on this. They support the uprising, yet oppose air support for the rebels (let’s call a spade a spade), so how do they propose the rebels defeat Gadaffi’s superior military machine? They seem to believe that through some type of political osmosis, Gadaffi’s military will turn on him. Yet surely that is far more likely if Gaddaffi’s actions have left the Libyan military getting the tar kicked out of them by NATO? This is a messy business, in that we don’t really know who the rebels are, and if Libya were to go in an Iranian direction post-Gaddaffi NATO might have to bomb them again, but the reality is that we’d be one dictator down, which is always a good day’s work. The far-left always seem to want an absolutely pure result, which humanity has never, ever delivered. But then, neither has the far left. Name one model nation run by far left principles. Oh, go on.

There’s a guy I know who has a friend on Facebook who is quite pretty. So pretty, in fact, that in nearly every photo she is in she turns her head to face the camera from an angle, showing what I assume she believes is her “good” side. The funny thing is, everytime I see a picture of her now I start giggling at the idea that she walks around like that, talking to people like she has a permanent crick in her neck. Then it occurred to me: maybe she does! I made discreet inquiries, because I realised that I could have been disgracefully mocking someone with a terrible affliction. Turns out she doesn’t. She just walks around at an angle.

Odds and Ends.

Was in “The Frontline” audience last night watching Andrea on the panel with Michael Healy-Rae. I have to say, I’m liking MHR the more I see of him, because I like his brutal honesty, and his point about the expectations of his voters is a fair one. I don’t know if it came across on the television, but when he made a point about “you can always sort it out” when asked about limited resources (hospital beds) it got a very negative reaction from the audience, and he got booed. I wonder, are we beginning to realise, as a country, that if you use pull to get your sick relative a hospital bed, you’re accepting that someone else with more pull can get your sick relative bumped DOWN the list in favour of THEIR sick relative?

I don’t like “The Frontline”. Not the show, or the staff, who are always friendly and professional, or Pat, who is really good in this format. I just don’t like the 30 second soundbite type debate nature of it. It’s not a format I’m any good in, because I don’t have time to “warm up” or think or expand on points. Assuming you can even get in, that is.

Had an interesting chat with a chap from the United Left sitting beside me. Very nice guy, and we ended up discussing the challenges of creating a leftwing mentality in a country “contaminated” by 800 years of centre-right British values. He also explained to me the differences between the SWP and the SP (which seems to hinge on interpretation of Trotskyite writings, which I loved. The only writing FFers ever fall out over tend to be on cheques). He had the grace to see the humour in it, which can be so lacking at times in the far left. Having said that, I took the piss out of the PDs. Which is never hard. 

Before traipsing out to RTE I attended a talk arranged by Kevin Rafter and Eoin O’Malley of DCU with Chris Mullin, the former Labour MP. He was very self-deprecating and gave some great snapshots of life as an MP and minister under Blair, and was very revealing about Gordon Brown and his temperamental unsuitability to be PM. Tantalisingly, he hinted at a television remake of  “A Very British Coup”, possibly about a moderate Tory PM being undermined by the far-right. Sounds like fun.

Two asides: His diaries are an excellent read, up there with Alan Clark in terms of fun (minus the overactive libido). Also, I’m currently reading Kevin Rafter’s “Fine Gael” book, and it’s well worth buying. It’s effectively the first biography of Enda, and I would not be surprised if it’s recovered and reissued with a few new updated chapters. Like Rafter’s “The Clann”, a fascinating history of Clann na Poblachta, you’ll read it in a weekend. Which I would, if I only had time. And, admittedly, wasn’t also reading a collection of new Sherlock Holmes short stories at the same time. Guilty pleasures, alas, as I’m indulging myself with a rewatching of the Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes series. But that warrants a post all of its own.

The Joys of Flying.

Ryanair: Have the measure of their customers.

Ryanair: Have the measure of their customers.

I’m old enough to remember when flying had a faintly glamorous air about it. Going to the airport was a novelty, primarily because you could spend so much time browsing around, taking in the whole slightly surreal “international zone” air of the place. As Billy Connolly once pointed out, there was a time when people actually dressed up to fly.

Flying to and from Stanstead last week was not glamorous. Ryanair do what they say they do: They’re normally cheap and they get you there, but it is an unpleasant experience. For the right to actually book your seat, and not get into a fight over trying to get your bag into the locker, I’m willing to pay extra, which I do with Aer Lingus normally. It saves me the hassle of queuing forever so that I don’t get a middle seat, which I hate.

This flight was particularly awful, although not Ryanair’s fault, in fairness. I ended up behind a group of surly teenagers (20 odd in number) who were so self-obsessed that they kept forgetting that they were in a queue, and stood talking to each other as the queue moved on very significantly. After the third incident, I just walked around them, much to their disbelief. One of the benefits of having a beard, I find, is that it, accompanied with a cold glare, tends to intimidate people. Which is handy in situations like this. When we reach the security check, I watched as they got savaged by security staff for a) taking pictures of the security area, b) not being actually ready (they don’t have their liquids and stuff in bags) and c) getting teenage surly with the staff, which is the airport equivlent of picking a fight with the bouncers. Always a loser.

I get to the gate, just in time to see the woman in the queue behind me get into an argument with the flight attendent as to why she has to show her boarding pass to get on the plane (?) and also to watch a group of people with enormous bags argue with the staff as to why they should pay for them whilst one of their number (I’m not making this up) physically beats his bag (with his fist) into the metal frame thing they use to determine bag sizes, and then gets into what can best be described as a fight with the frame to get his bag out of it again, having wedged it in. All as the Ryanair hostess calmly tells him that he has to pay for the bag. The group, by the way, insist on standing around him watching, blocking access to the plane for everyone else until the Ryanair people order them out of the way.

Glamorous it ain’t.