Wednesday, 20 May 2009

The Gran Alacant Advertiser. What a joke!

Well, the sun continues to beat down here, and I must say it´s a refreshing change. But some people never do change, it seems.

Yes, despite all the improvements in Anglo-Irish relations over the years as the bigots on both sides have become more marginalised, it seems that some people are still caught in a time warp.

Witness The Gran Alacant Advertiser, a local pamphlet of the famously insular "ex-pat" community in this part of Spain. Read into that what you will, but let´s just say it´s fair to assume that, in their isolation, they live on a diet of UK Gold (should that be Mould?) and still think that Bernard Manning is the height of comedy vogue.

In its most recent edition, it has a little "joke box". And what´s the joke? None other than two "Oirishmen" who get a blonde to measure a pole (don´t ask). She suggests they take it down, and she measures it as it lies horizontal on the ground. Paddy and Mick (and what else would they be called, of course) complain that she has established the length of the pole, and not the height.

Really funny, eh? Not. It´s hard to imagine the kind of mind that would actually find it so; but it might be supposed that its hilarity would be proportionate to the IQ deficit of anyone laughing.

Oh... on another page of the same rag is the legend: "We are excessable on the internet".

Now that is stupid.

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Sunday, 17 May 2009

Drink! Feck, it´s dear in Ireland

But we all know that, don´t we. Something to do with our "low tax economy". "Arse!!!", as Father Jack might have said.

This morning in Supervalu Gran Alacante, I spotted a bottle of wine - a good one at that - priced at EUR 1.35. Good, that is, by the Gombeen Man (and Les Battersby) criteria of wine appreciation - the alcohol content - which stood at 13%. Excellent value, I say!

Not that this holiday is descending into a drunken blur, you understand, but it hasn´t escaped my attention that a bottle of vodka can be acquired for the spirit-uplifting price of only EUR 4.09. I must say, I found it hard to resist such a bargain, of course. Then you can get a half-litre can of San Miquel for a competitive 56 Cent.

Funny. I seem to recall that a debate surfaces now and again in Ireland involving Those Who Know What´s Best For Us which goes along the lines that the reason we have so many drink-related social problems is because alcohol is too cheap and readily available. I also seem to remember the vintners, somewhat hypocritically, taking a strong stand against retail outlets selling at prices (and times) that were more competitive than them. They dispense alcohol responsibly, you see.

Given that alcohol is a fraction of the price here that it is at home, isn´t it strange then, that the streets of Spain are not resonating with the cries of drunken ribaldry and awash with streams of alcohol-derived vomit - as is any Irish town during a weekend.

Must be that wonderful culture of ours. But at least it´s one of the less embarrassing aspects.

Now where´s that voddy?

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Friday, 15 May 2009

Bloody hell... I need a holiday.

Welcome to the first of my rather indulgent on-holiday blogs. Thanks for your comments, which I´ve only got round to reading, having just located an internet cafe.

Well, I had hoped that a break would give me an opportunity to stop moaning about things for a few weeks. But no. Everything was honky-dory, not even five minutes into the second leg of the trip (Saintes to Gran Alacant). Bowling along a near empty French motorway and - ooh la la la - our friends the Gendarmes emerge from a sneaky hiding place at the side of the motorway and take off in pursuit of a fleeing Gombeen Man.

Well, actually I wasn´t fleeing at this point, having nearly polevaulted the car ass-over-tit (in the mechanical sense) to scrub off some illegal speed. In fact, I was well below the limit as my rear-view mirror was filled with the unwelcome sight of the rozzers' flashing blue lights. And I thought it was only our coppers who stooped to such underhand tactics! Travel broadens the mind, as they say.

163 (kmh, not mph) in a 130 kmh zone. Anyway, the upshot is that the Gombeen Man holiday wallet was 90 Euro lighter after the unwelcome encounter. Worse still, there was still over a 1,000 kilometres to our destination!

Anyway, made it in the end... just a bit later than planned.

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Friday, 8 May 2009

Goodbye from Gombeen Man

So, it’s goodbye from Gombeen Man. Running the blog is a pretty time consuming process, and constantly giving out about things can be very wearying. Plus, no matter how much you give out about stuff – it doesn’t seem to make any difference.

So that’s it - for three weeks anyway. I’m off for a little spin through France and down to Spain to recharge the batteries, which are nearly flat from giving out about this year’s nonsense - so far - in Gombeen Nation.

Being a bit of a Luddite at heart, I don’t have one of those new-fangled desktop Internet things, so will be restricted to the local internet cafĂ© (assuming there is one) maybe once or twice a week.

So, here’s hoping there won’t be anything to complain about for the next three weeks... otherwise it won’t really be a holiday. And believe me, I need one.

Maybe I’ll treat myself to a couple of indulgent “reality style” blogs from my place in the sun? Something about the local architecture or the parched beauty of the landscape, perhaps? Or the charming bouquet of the local wine as I sit necking bottles of it on the terrace? Or maybe I’ll just stick to the beer and vodka cocktails. Anyway, bear with me if things seem uncharacteristically upbeat for the next few weeks.

But while I’m logging on I will check out the news from Ireland, and watch its new economic miracle unfold before the eyes of a jealous world - inspired by David Blochs “can do” e-mails. “Now why didn't we think of that?” all the other countries will be saying to themselves.

You see? Ireland really is the sort of place that you have to get out of now and again.

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Wednesday, 6 May 2009

David Bloch, Brightwater MD, chain email

The following is an e-mail from Brightwater company director, David Bloch, who claims his company is "a little enclave of positivity and energy", despite the "daily media barrage of misery". It got him a slot on the opinion pages of today's Irish Times, so I suppose that's a result for him.

He might like to include blogs like Gombeen Nation along with the established "meedja", who feel that the economic boom was but a "confidence" driven, construction-based pyramid scheme. Here's an extract from the email, which could be entitled Fwd: Send this on to ten people and your personal angel will grant your wish. (As suggested by the reader who brought it to my attention).

The Irish media is spreading fear and panic! I am the MD of an Irish Company. I have a job and I want to keep it. I also want to keep the jobs of my staff and my friends... and I want to live and work in an upbeat country! The Irish Media is spreading fear and panic – it makes me think about cutting more costs, salaries, staff and saving money. If it affects me, it must affect other people. With the positive American attitude, do we have any doubts that the US will recover? Ireland has one of the youngest and well-educated populations in the first world (after the US) - let’s use our energy and can-do attitude and get out of this. I sent a similar e-mail to a few people from my address book a couple of weeks ago. Here’s a few comments from the dozens of replies I’ve had which show I’m not alone in my thinking:

From Senior Manager at Big 4 Accountancy Firm: "'s giving a desperate impression to investors, commentators etc. Also too much time spent pummeling those who are easy to blame - bankers, developers etc. By all means accept there have been mistakes, learn the lessons, add regulations etc. but now time to move on and have plan for the future."

From MD of major European Bank, based in Ireland: "I know RTE would argue that in criticising them we are in danger of "shooting the messenger" but "the medium IS the message. Those in RTE are relatively "bullet proof" in their jobs. They are playing "Russian roulette" with private sector jobs as visiting business people and others latch on to our depressive outlook. Other development agencies will also use this to argue against Ireland as a location to invest in, in favour of their own place."

From Partner at medium-sized Law Firm: "What irks Me about say RTE is that the doom laden voices of George Lee, Ann Doyle and others announcing yet more job cuts etc as the lead item. It is literally depressing. It is usually preceded by a really sad ad from one of the NGO's with pictures of starving emaciated Africans. I know their plight is tragic but the continuous subliminal effect of all of this is to drag one down in terms of "mood". The best piece of news is in fact "Nationwide" at 7pm with Mary Kennedy and Michael Ryan. They are cheery and upbeat."

From Irish person recently moved to New York (don't know her details):
"Hear Hear I say!! I live in New York and although things are tough here, people are getting on with the new reality and figuring out creative ways of dealing with the downturn."

From Owner of private Irish company: "Frankly, I'm enraged about what RTE specifically are doing. They're destroying hope and thereby destroying Ireland. "

Funny. There were few complaints when the media was as caught up with the credit-fuelled boom as much as the Government and most economic commentators. Remember Bertie's remarks about the "boom getter boomier" (or something similarly unintelligible)? And his inviting those few voices critical of the way things were going to "commit suicide".

Instead, Bertie and the captains of Irish business committed economic hari-kari.

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Sunday, 3 May 2009

Holy Crucified Christ! Blasphemy law is relic of the past.

Dermot Ahern has suddenly decided that Ireland needs a law against blasphemy, in order to tally with the provisions of our backward 1937 Constitution which forbids taking the good Lord’s name in vain.

Why do we suddenly need to outlaw blasphemy? Our own home-grown religious fundamenatalists might well be on the run, having stifled Irish life for most of the State’s history, but in world terms, fundamentalism is very much on the rise – particularly in its most virulent form: Islam.

Why should we be required to have automatic respect for religion? Why should we be tolerant of people whose beliefs are the diametric opposite of tolerance? Should we also be tolerant of fascism? Domestically, you only have to look at the tribalism in Northern Ireland which is still riddled with sectarianism and division even now. You only have to look at how we had Catholic morality forced on us in the Republic by denying us access to condoms and divorce until relatively recently – and how we still don’t have abortion rights.

But this law will not only give succour to our decidedly un-Christian Christians, it will do so for every brand of lunacy and superstition, including the rising tide of darkness that is Islam. You only have to think back to the furore when Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, printed some cartoons depicting the Muslim prophet, Allah (see above). Journalists had to go into hiding, having been issued with death threats.

Then there was the case of Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh, who was murdered by an Islamic extremist for making a film that was critical of that religion’s oppression of women. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somalian-born anti-Islam campaigner who was subjected to genital mutilation in the country of her birth, is still in hiding having collaborated with Van Gogh. Then of course, there is Salman Rushdie and the fatwa which still stands against him. His crime? Writing a book.

Rather than create a crime of “blasphemous libel”, the Government should call a referendum to remove the article on blasphemy from de Valera’s reactionary 1937 Constitution, which is itself a relic of the past.

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