Thursday, October 24, 2013

Oliver Stone's "Natural Born Killers"

"Did you enjoy that rubbish?" asked my wife, the next morning. She'd gone to bed after two scenes of Natural Born Killers. Too much violence. Too much bad language. Not her sort of film.
I wouldn't say I enjoyed the film but I was quite mesmerised by it. I have a habit of falling asleep in front of the telly but there was no chance of me doing that with Mickey and Mallory on the rampage.
With original story by Quentin Tarantino (though substantially rewritten) and directed by Stone, the film was never going to pull any punches. It concerns the curious relationship between two young people from dysfunctional families (Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis both played brilliantly) who embark on a mass-murder spree. The second half of the film deals with their eventual incarceration and bloody break-out. It was shot mainly in New Mexico and Illinois respectively.
The main themes of the film are the almost innate violence in society that produces such a pair and the media's glorification of the violence. Mickey defends his actions as being 'pure' whereas the media, as portrayed by the Robert Downey Junior figure Wayne Gale, is hypocritical and false. During the breakout, where Gale himself goes on a shooting rampage, the film seems to suggest there is not much difference between the two. Like de Niro in Taxi Driver, Woody Harrelson also shaves off his hair before cleansing the world of filth.
Even the warden of the prison - a brilliantly OTT  neurotic psychotic Tommy Lee Jones - is just a step away from the Mickey and Mallorys of this world and the law enforcement officer Jack Scagnetti once strangled a prostitute. The pair drive past buildings that appear to be on fire or showing grisly violent scenes, an effect that works well the first few times but I began to tire of it a bit towards the end.
I won't give away the ending. It seems very far-fetched but the film seems to be suggesting that we are approaching some kind of apocalypse where violence becomes the norm.
For me, the violence got wearisome after a while. Maybe that's the point. Like society, the viewer sees so much violence he becomes inured to it. We never seem to have much sympathy with the victims because they are mere canon fodder to be butchered. We don't know their back stories or have any empathy with them. It's the old Sex Pistols 'No one is innocent' thing. The film concentrates on the perpetrators and their motives for seemingly random acts of butchery, though it seems that several of the victims were pretty unsavoury - Roger Dangerfield as Mallory's Dad, her mam, the redneck in the bar (quite Thelma and Louise-ish), the warden, the police officer, the media guy. Except for the Indian guy. He was shot by accident.
This film was actually banned in Ireland on its release. I can kind of see why. The irony is that, although the film is an attack on the media's sensationalision of violence, the two protagonists are the real anti-heroes of the film and there is a very real danger they could inspire copycat killings.
Not for the faint-hearted. Or the criminally deranged.

John Ford's "Rio Grande"

Apparently in 1950 John Ford was itching to make "The Quiet Man" but Republic Pictures didn't have much faith in the project and insisted he make "Rio Grande" first to help finance the picture. And although the Irish film proved a bigger box office success, "Rio Grande" is nevertheless one of the great Westerns of the period.
Kirby Yorke (John Wayne) is a lieutenant colonel stationed near the Mexican border after the Civil War, charged with protecting the area from marauding injuns. It is a hard life and into his troop one day walks new recruit Jeff Yorke (Claude Jarman), his estranged son who he hasn't seen for 15 years. He is followed by his estranged wife Kathleen (Maureen O'Hara) who hates the army life and all it stands for, determined to buy her son back out of the army.
One of the main stars of the film is the wonderful Monument Valley with its magnificent hoodoos. (The crew apparently stayed in quite primitive conditions at a location called Goulding's Trading Post, which I must visit someday) Rugged, uncompromising and mysterious, the scenery is a perfect backdrop for Wayne, though one of the themes of the film is how the seemingly intractable positions held by humanity (O'Hara) and duty (Wayne) blur during the course of the film.
"Rio Grande" is not merely an Injun film, though there is none of the ambiguity attributed to the Injuns' motives as in "The Searchers." These Injuns are bad, "savages," as one character puts them and their eventual routing is quite predictable. The strength of the film lies in the chemistry between Wayne and O'Hara and the questions posed. Wayne had burned O'Hara's homestead to the ground 15 years previously during the Civil War - the cause of the estrangement - on army orders. "I wonder how history will view Shenandoah," Wayne asks at one stage. To him, it was a necessary evil. To O'Hara it was an act of cruelty.
There is a lot of comedy in the film too, mainly provided by the soon-to-become Squire Danagher, Victor McLaglen, as the Sergeant in charge of the recruits. McLaglen was once a heavyweight boxer of some note and, despite popular misconception (much of it fostered by McLaglen himself) he hadn't an ounce of Irishness in him, despite his constant casting as a dim-witted but lovable Irish rogue.
"Rio Grande" is the third and, in my opinion, best of John Ford's three cavalry pictures - "Fort Apache" and "She wore a yellow ribbon" were the other two - and is interesting as the first pairing of Wayne and O'Hara. Most critics seem to disagree, placing "Rio Grande" third in the trilogy. There are a few niggly problems - mainly due to the fact that most of the songs in the film were actually written post 1870s, though Quincannon's tears during the singing of "The Bold Fenian Men" is a delight! Wayne continues his emergence from being a one-dimensional actor to a multi-faceted anti-hero and, all in all, "Rio Grande" is a much under-rated film.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Battling intrinsic evil

Living in an ordinary semi-detached house in an ordinary newish estate in Dublin 15, intrinsic evil is not something we come up against on a daily basis. We do not have poltergeists chasing us down the stairs, nor axe murderers lurking around the wheelie bins, nor blood-sucking bats tapping on our double-glazing which, frankly, is no bad thing, as we don’t want the house prices to go down even further.
Of course, intrinsic evil (as opposed to any other kind) does not really exist outside of the horror movie genre, except in two forms – dentists and wasps.
No child ever grows up wanting to become a dentist. Psychologists suspect that medical students messing about with ouija boards inadvertently summon up the Devil who inserts into their brains the notion that they want to become dentists, and presto, another legalised sadist is created.
But for all their malevolence, the dentist tends not to bother you too much unless you are somehow brainwashed into visiting him in his surgery. In the thirty five years since leaving school, I finally summonsed up the courage to confront this man/beast about five years ago after a particular nasty abcess, thinking that the instruments of torture must surely have been refined during the intervening years. They hadn’t and consequently I will go to my grave with the stumps of my teeth rotting in my gums before making the same mistake again.
Wasps however are another kettle of insects entirely. In all of Christendom, there is no creature as nasty and this time of year they appear to be out in force to kill off any feelgood factor you might accidentally have picked up.
One of the few pleasures that we have is sitting outside on warm summer mornings and eating our breakfast on the wide bit of path outside the back door that we laughingly call a patio. This is an all too rare occurrence as sunny mornings tend not to coincide with my days off work, so when it does happen, it is a joyous occasion. A joyous occasion, that is, until a nasty black and yellow insect comes buzzing over the garden fence intent on spoiling our breakfast. Doesn’t matter if you’re eating fruit or Coco Pops or scrambled egg, he’ll come over and stick his big ugly snout in your airspace until you notice him and spring up wildly, threshing about like a demented windmill.
What I can’t figure out is how he seems to be able to smell a breakfast from two hundred yards. There could be juicy apples fermenting on trees or lovely nappies protruding from the wheelie bin down the road but produce a bowl of Krispies and he’s over like a shot, even though he’d never order it in a restaurant. Obviously it isn’t the food he’s interested in, per se, merely the ruination of your enjoyment of it.
Seemingly, they like garden sheds as well, though Lord knows, there’s not much nourishment in them. A few years ago they even started building a nest in our old shed, which I bravely sent crashing down with a rake before running away as fast as my short fat legs could carry me.
A few weeks ago, we had to get a new shed, as the old one was on its last struts. Two minutes after the new one was erected, there were four of them buzzing around it like potential house buyers, examining the joints and the felt roof. Only after emptying a half a can of Raid into the shed was I able to get in there myself.
Another thing they seem to like is carpets. We had Des Kelly coming to put a new carpet in the bedroom (not himself apparently, but a couple of lads who work for his company) and I got a nice dry day to roll out the old carpet on the grass to cut it up into small squares for easier disposal. No sooner had I started than a wasp started buzzing around my ear, obviously jeering me in wasp language because I was using a stanley knife that hadn’t seen a new blade since 1985. Even when I turned suddenly and threatened him with the aforementioned knife, he simply laughed and breezed away, returning with his waspish taunts as soon as I had got back to work.
Many years ago, when I was still in short pants (in my early thirties) my grandfather taught me how to kill wasps by the simple means of slapping them with my bare palm. They won’t sting you, he explained, because they won’t have their stingers out. But if you don’t kill them first time, don’t try and slap him again.
Of course, I tried and it worked and I duly became a minor celebrity in my primary school for my death-defying bravery in killing wasps with my bare hands. If I’d have been older, I could have walked around with a girl on either arm but at age seven, all girls smell. When asked how I did it, I simply said there was a knack to it, in case some other young punk tried to steal my thunder.
The problem nowadays is that wasps have got smarter. Oh I don’t mean they’re able to compose concertos or retrieve Dunnes trolleys with a euro coin without trying to push the coin in with another coin. No, they seem to have mastered the art of hovering. You can only slap a wasp to death if they actually land on a hard surface that your wife doesn’t object to ending up covered in wasp blood. If he simply flies around you, no amount of slapping will have any effect except maybe to add to his enjoyment of your rising frustration.
And now, in addition to your normal, nasty, head-and-torso wasp, you have these new guys who look like wasps but aren’t quite the real deal. They are more single-bodied and slightly transparent but if you suddenly find one landing on your glasses, you don’t stop to find out if its real or an impostor. They’re probably hornets but everybody says that about wasp-like creatures and I’m sure nobody really knows what a hornet looks like.
The other day we had three of these things in the kitchen and one in the sitting room and after I’d finished hooshing them out with a tea towel (their only natural enemy), I went upstairs to find a real wasp crawling around the inside of the bathroom window. I felt like Dustin Hoffman in Straw Dogs going around and bolting all the windows and doors against the evil outside. Unfortunately, the bathroom wasp flew away before I had time to get into position to slap him into oblivion.
The only good thing about this wasp epidemic is that you know, with our weather, that it won’t last. And then, in return for enduring abysmal weather for eight months, at least you get them wasp-free, demonstrating yet again that in front of every silver lining, there’s a dark cloud.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Goodbye Mona

Mona Brereton died last Wednesday (October 2nd) She was born on April 24th 1916, which is more commonly known in Irish history as Easter Monday, the day the Easter Rising started. I have it in my head that she told me once that she was born in the Rotunda, only a few hundred yards from the GPO, where Pearse read out the Declaration of Independence and which was shelled continually from land and water over the next few days. My wife and mother-in-law say this was unlikely as most babies were born at home and only the well-to-do attended the world's first maternity hospital in those days. Still, it's a good story and I'm sticking to it.
It wasn’t a very large funeral. Mona never married. She had one brother who disappeared off the face of the earth, so her only other relations were her cousins’ children. She used to talk a lot about her relations in New Zealand and corresponded regularly with them. She even visited them on two or three occasions and they would visit her whenever they came over this part of the world.
The other members of the congregation consisted mainly of her neighbours, her carers and the family of the late Doctor Dempsey, for whom she worked for decades.
Her parents lived in Swords Street where she grew up and, indeed, ended her days, in No 32.
Mona began working at the doctor’s surgery in Manor Street in Dublin 7 when she was 16 in 1932. It wasn’t Dr. Dempsey at the time but an older man. I have no idea when Dr. Dempsey took over but I know that Mona worked with him for decades. Mona lived above the surgery at the time.
Dr. Dempsey’s son spoke about Mona at the funeral. She had been very much a part of the family and her and the doctor would bounce off each other. The two of them were one of the first to run the Free Drug Scheme, when they were both somewhat elderly and apparently they’d both be giving out yards about the difficulties of dealing with what was effectively a prototype of Pobal.
Mona retired in 1993. She had to leave the house  in Manor Street but such was the affection in which she was held by the doctor’s family, that they purchased the little Artisan cottage in Swords Street that she had grown up in and gave it to Mona to live in till the end of her days.
I can’t claim to have known Mona well. My wife was born and reared in the house next to Mona’s and her parents still live there. They knew Mona for over half a century and Mona was a long-standing friend of the family. She told me she could remember my wife coming home from hospital in 19589 and crying continually. My mother-in-law used to spend long evenings in with Mona, chatting about this and that and the state of the world. My brother-in-law would do the same.
When we were moving house thirteen years ago now, there was a gap between selling our house and moving into the new one. We all moved in with my wife’s parents, though due to space constraints, it was decided that I would sleep in Mona’s.
I didn’t really know her that well. I knew she never forgot our children’s birthday and there was always a card with money in it at Christmas too. I’d visited her occasionally with my wife and mother-in-law but beyond a few pleasantries, nothing much had passed between us. So I was a bit apprehensive about how we’d get along.
I needn’t have bothered. Mona was so easy to chat to. I’d go in to her around 9pm and we stay up chatting until after 11pm. Most nights she’d get the whiskey out and we’d share a dram. Can’t for the life of me remember what we talked about but the conversation was always free-flowing. I remember asking her one time why she’d never married. “It just never happened,” she replied, shrugging her shoulders. She used to refer to me as “her toy-boy” and wondered if the neighbours were scandalized by an 84 year old woman co-habiting with a much younger man. All of course said with that twinkle in her eye that was never far away.
It must have been about six or seven years ago that she started getting sick. She ended up in hospital a few times and by the end, she had had more than enough. She didn’t see the point in carrying on, there was no quality of life. She was a real Eleanor Rigby, the spark had gone and it was simply a matter of waiting till the end. She had home-help, who came in and did a bit of light cleaning and cooked her meals. She had a very good neighbor who came in to see her all the time, collected her pension for her, paid the bills. But He did her no favours, dragging it out for years until finally last Wednesday, she got relief. She is buried in Glasnevin with her parents.
I hope she has at last found the God she believed in implicitly.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Standing up for sitting down

The five of us in happier days

Seventeen years ago, give or take, we took possession of a three piece suite in our little artisan cottage off Oxmantown Road to replace the one that had come with the house seven years previously.
I believe that we bought it in a furniture shop in Capel Street and that it cost a tidy sum. It was a brown, fabric three seater couch (that seated four) and two deep incredibly comfortable armchairs and when I say we took possession of it, it did not have an easy entrance into our lives.
The hall door of our house led directly onto the sitting room door to the right and the delivery men must have spent the guts of two hours squeezing it in through the two doors, reversing it back out, trying it a different way, sitting on it, squashing it, cursing it, before finally getting it into our tiny sitting room, while my wife sat and watched, afraid at every second that the door frame was going to give way.
When it was finally in, it completely filled the room, providing a great obstacle course for our two small children. I hasten to point out in my wife’s defence, as she has total control over all matters furniture, that we were about to move into a slightly larger house four hundred yards away and she had bought the suite, not for the artisan cottage, but for the new house and had been worried that it might have been sold if we’d have waited.
So, two months later, we squeezed and squashed it back out of the cottage and squeezed and squashed it into the new house. Then six years later, we repeated the whole process, as we moved up here to the newly developed estate of Hazelbury Green, where finally we had a sitting room large enough not to be dwarfed by the suite.
Recently my wife, who watches far too many interior design programmes on the television, decided the house needed a bit of a shake up after ten years and an intensive painting and decorating programme was put in place. Ceilings, walls and skirting boards were all painted, beds changed, new curtains bought, furniture rearranged, new carpets purchased and so on and so forth.
All this I went along with, if not willingly, then at least grudgingly. And, to be fair, the house has been totally transformed and is looking really well.
And then she decided that she wanted to change the three piece suite. Her argument was that the suite is old-fashioned, seventeen years old and totally out of keeping with the decor in the sitting room.
I announced, with a degree of heroism that surprised even myself, that I was opposed to the idea. My reasons were that it just happened to be the most comfortable three piece suite that had ever been manufactured; that there was absolutely nothing wrong with it physically; and that just because something was old didn’t mean it was fit for the scrapheap (I said, looking at her, pointedly) Furthermore, I added magnanimously, if she wanted to change the whole decor in the sitting room to make the three piece suite fit in, I had no objection.
I am not exaggerating when I say that it is the most comfortable suite ever. It really is. So much so that I long for us to have loads of visitors, so I have an excuse to sleep on the couch. When the children had sleepovers, many of their friends only agreed to stay over, if they could put the two armchairs together and sleep there. I myself have spent many delicious evenings asleep in the armchair, oblivious to the X Factor or Big Brother. In its day, it was a great couch for wrestling on and I can’t wait for my grandchildren to grow up a bit, so the bouts can resume.
Faced with my resolute opposition to changing the suite, my wife then altered her tactics. Instead of trying to steamroller her fiendish plan through, she became more subtle about it. She offered to look into the possibility of having the suite reupholstered, to which I replied that I had no objection. However, when we looked into it a bit further, we found that it was actually cheaper to buy a new suite. Oh no, I said, nice try, no potatoes.
Since then, she has been trying to inveigle everybody else into making me see the pig-headedness of my opposition. When members of the family come around to call, the talk invariably turns to how outdated the suite looks and how we’ve been struggling along with it for seventeen years, all because of my obstinacy and I have to endure reproachful glances for the wicked way I treat my loving wife.
And not just members of the family neither. People who come around trying to sell us Eircom Phonewatch or Sky are startled when she drags them into the sitting room to ask them, honestly, don’t they think the suite takes away from the whole look of the room?
Every time one of those ubiquitous advertisements for DFS comes on the telly, showing decidedly strange families having a great time sitting around on furniture (“Can we go and sit on the couch today, Dad? Can we? Can we? Please!”) remarks about how much she’d love a new suite are made and a period of brooding begins when my assent is not forthcoming.
Thankfully, my cause has been helped by the practically total dereliction of Dublin 15 by the major furniture stores. Classic Furniture has gone, as has Read’s and there are no suites in Clery’s Home Furnishings or Des Kelly’s. The only one is the Furniture Liquidation Store over in West End and I think she feels its wrong to shop in there, as you might be profiting from other people’s misfortunes.
For a while, though, in the face of this unrelenting attack, I began to waver. Maybe, I conceded privately to myself, maybe we could find another suite equally as comfortable. Anything for an easy life. And maybe I was being a tad selfish in placing my demands ahead of hers.
But, whispers the little devil on my shoulder, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the suite we have, despite its age.
Finally, and to put an end to the subject once and for all, I gave her an ultimatum. Either the suite goes, I said, or I do.
She is currently rummaging in the attic for a suitcase, whistling a happy tune.

Friday, September 2, 2011

How to solve the Maths problem

Statistics show that only 16% of pupils that took Maths in the leaving cert sat the higher level paper. Or to put it another way, a massive 89% only took the lower paper. Further controversy was stoked whem Minister RuairĂ­ Quinn admitted that he didn’t know how many maths teachers had taken mathematics as their main degree subject, though he did get an extra mark for showing his workings.
By not sitting the honours paper, pupils automatically excluded themselves from many third-level science, engineering and technology courses. Apparently they had the notion that they have also excluded themselves from three or four years of grappling with unintelligible formulae and algebraic equations. Kids, eh?
A proficiency in maths is essential for working in high-tech industries, which are performing strongest in job creation. They are also fairly essential if you want to work on the checkout in Tesco’s. Like the succession of ministers before him, RuairĂ­ Quinn admitted that much work must be done to increase the number of students taking higher-level maths and he has immediately set up a task force to oversee this, to be run by somebody else.
This has led to a lot of debate in educational circles and other two-dimensional mathematical shapes, as to how we can get more students to take Honours maths without dumbing down the paper. Apparently in the international league table, Ireland lies somewhere between Antarctica and Rockall in our mathematical proficiency, one possible explanation of the deep pile of doo-doo that we find ourselves in economically.
The Minister has announced that all those taking the higher maths paper in the leaving cert next year will gain an extra 25 bonus points. He feels that this will act as an incentive to students to consider taking the subject.
Of course, smart students will take seven different subjects and put their name down for higher level maths too. Then by simply turning up on the day of the exam and staying for five minutes, they will have another 25 points in the bag.
The incentive route certainly seems to be the way to go, though it is doubtful whether your average teenager will salivate at the thought of an extra 25 points. Promise them tickets for the Foo Fighters at Slane, or free driving lessons, or a new i-Phone and then maybe the Minister might be in business.
Another option is to make all the other subjects so difficult that higher level maths will seem a doddle by comparison. In history, you could set a question worth 25% of the marks asking students to describe the prevailing weather conditions of any one particular day in the past thousand years. Or in geography, ask them to list the inhabitants of any medium sized Chinese city. That will soon have them flicking back to x, y and zed and wondering if they are quite so difficult after all.
Inevitably the topic has touched on the way that maths is taught as a subject. In much the same way that lack of affinity for Irish is often attributed to the uninspiring way it was taught in school, so the spotlight has been turned on the hard-pressed maths teachers, who possibly have only a little more knowledge of what a logarithm is than their pupils.
Rather than simply standing at a blackboard, or whiteboard or greenboard or whatever they use these days, teachers are encouraged to be a little more creative in the way they impart the mysteries of heavy sums. Glove puppets are to be encouraged, with characters such as Tommy Tangent, Harry Hypotenuse and Annie Adjacent helping to explain the ludicrous art of trigonometry. Field trips to Paddy Powers will help to debunk the myths of probabilities and role playing should help to explain the science of sets and subsets, with extra marks being awarded to pupils who take on the challenging role of the brackets.
Although it is not an official ministerial directive, teachers with dull, boring voices have been encouraged to attend evening classes in rap and hip-hop in the hope that kids will start to see higher mathematics as something wicked, innit, rather than dull and irrelevant as the general consensus appears to be at the moment. Eminem has been approached to duet with Dizzy Rascal on a song about the complexities of the laws of indices and it is hoped that the resulting video will feature in classrooms from September, while Jedward’s new single has been provisionally titled Baby we love your integer coefficients.
Mr Quinn has encouraged young people who are disappointed with this year’s maths results to seriously consider re-sitting the exam next year. Sadly most young people, it would appear, would rather stick red hot pokers in their eyes. And who can blame them?

Hello Dragons

I am not generally a man to bear a grudge, or even to grudge a bear, and so this year, I magnanimously decided to accede to my wife’s suggestion that we holiday in France. Not that my approval was ever sought, you understand, but if it had been, I would have put the past firmly behind me and extended the hand of entente cordiale to our Gallic neighbours. Let bygones be bygones and all that.
And by and large, we had an excellent holiday. For once the sun behaved and I commendably resisted the urge to address shopkeepers and waiters as Thierry Henry avec le main, particularly as my wife would have given me one of those looks that can kill a man dead at thirty paces. Neither did I juggle one-handed with my bread roll at the table before flicking it over to an imaginary Gallas, though the temptation at times was almost as strong as the injustice perpetrated at the Stade de France on November 18th 2009, which I have put firmly to the back of my mind.
One thing I did notice, though, and it is something that has caught my attention anywhere outside the British Isles, is that they seem to have a pretty useless quality of electricity in continental Europe.
Oh, they beat us hands down with their bread and their coffee and their wine and their rivers are longer and their mountains are higher and the Eiffel Tower puts the Quinn Building firmly into the bungalow category, but in the electrical stakes, we are currently way ahead.
This is particularly evident when I shave on holidays. I have an electric shaver which gives me no problems at home but when abroad, it behaves like my lawnmower ploughing into a particularly thick clump of dandelions. Instead of humming like a bluebottle that’s just got five numbers up in the Euro millions, the buzz actually stops as it attempts to cope with two days of bristle. It simply can’t handle it and grinds to a standstill, like a car with a flat battery, at the same time yanking the hairs painfully out of my face instead of slicing neatly through the stems as the adverts show.
Now, my degree of expertise in the field of electricity extends as far as knowing that the green and yellow wire is earth. I get confused between the brown and the blue and have to consult the diagrams, tempted as I often am to simply take a chance. Let’s face it – I don’t even know what the stuff looks like.
But it occurs to me that they must be using less watts or volts or something in Europe, though obviously the ordinary man dans la rue doesn’t realise this. I mean, he can’t look at a light bulb in Perpignan and then nip over to look at a light bulb in Clonsilla and accurately compare the two. If he could, I suspect the Clonsilla bulb might blind him, so perhaps it’s just as well.
However, I am sure that he would be disgusted to find out that little old Ireland, up to its neck in debt and without a team in the 2010 World Cup finals, enjoys the benefits of Grade A electricity, while he has to make do with the Yellow Pack variety. Serious questions would be asked on the Pont d’Avignon as to why Frenchmen were ripping their faces to shreds every morning, while Irishmen and women can perform their boudoir in relative comfort.
I’m sure that it’s something to do with hydro-electric power. To my (admittedly unscientific) mind, it suggests that little droplets of water are getting into the wires and smudging them up, impairing the zinginess (technical term) of the electricity produced. In Ireland, of course, most of our lecky comes from good old-fashioned tried and trusted fossil fuels, with no chance of moisture surviving in the furnace.
My solution to the problem – and I only have the welfare of Monsieur Joe Savon at heart – would therefore be a two-fold one. Firstly, we taunt our neighbours mercilessly about their rubbish electricity (thereby alerting them to their inadequacies) and then we offer to sell them so top-notch, 24 carat electricity of our own.
Enda could invite over M. Sarkozy and spend the whole time on his Philishave, loudly proclaiming how effortlessly it slices through his stubble. Or Padraig Harrington could offer to give Miguel Angel Jimenez (sorry, couldn’t think of a French golfer) a bit of a trim the next time they’re standing on the seventh tee at Luttrellstown waiting for the pair ahead of them to finish up.
Then we go in for the hard sell and this is the bit I have to work out properly in my head before I approach the Dragons and look for them to invest several millions in the project. My problem is that I can’t figure out exactly how we’re going to deliver the goods.
The obvious solution would be to plug a very long extension lead into a socket in a house in Rosslare and then trail it under the sea to Le Havre, where it can hook up to the French network, which I believe is called Le ESB. Trouble is, I don’t know any deep sea divers who are also adept with a staple gun. You’d have to attach it to the sea floor somehow. You couldn’t just leave it floating in the water or it would keep tripping up trawlers or Russian submarines.
The alternative would be to fill up a lot of batteries with electricity and then ship them over. The danger with this is that, were the ship to sink, it might very well electrify the whole sea with disastrous consequences for marine life and anyone silly enough to go swimming in our waters.
I have also toyed with the notion of floating pylons, which I believe could work rather well. The concept of firing electricity into space and rebounding it off a satellite down to mainland Europe, however, is unlikely to reach the prototype stage due to severe funding issues.
Of course, another point of view could be that we should simply leave the French to struggle on with their inferior electricity, just as they left us to stay at home kicking our heels while they enjoyed the South African sun and the vuvuzelas and an early exit from the competition.
But I couldn’t possibly comment on that.