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'Thicker than fossilized dino-dung' says scientist.


my eyes!...

Ok, he hasn't been called anything of the sort really*. But, recently, I have noticed that there is a common assumption that footballers are thick. Much of the media hoopla and general national hand-wringing that consumed Britain this year during the great 'Will Wayne go to London or Manchester?' debacle concerned the young Liverpudlian's ability to take care of himself. Countless inches of tabloid (and broadsheet) chatter made absurd predictions about his future and nearly always made the parallel between the careers of England's hottest new star and that of the infamous Gazza.

The perceived wisdom is, that a key factor in the decision to sign for United was, in fact, Sir Alex Ferguson's famed ability to guide talented but inexperienced stars to maturity. Giggs and Beckham are the two most famous examples. This is also the club and manager that tamed Roy Keane, another player who I have heard accused of being a 'gouger-made-good'.

So, the logic goes, Rooney opted for United on account of the fact that, in Ferguson, Rooney would have his Obi-Wan: a stern hand to guide him through the perils of becoming a global superstar and always there, to keep his cash flow limited - on account of the fact that young Wayne is too stupid to look after it himself.


Now I don't know Wayne Rooney. Never had the pleasure. But from what little we have seen of this kid, it's kind of clear that he is not the most articulate of men. Of course he isn't. He's eighteen for God's sake. Do you remember what it was like to be Eighteen? It was horrible. You were horrible. Horrible, uncommunicative and grumpy.

And you weren't having a TV camera shoved in your face and being patronized and ripped off by an army of yes-men, agents, marketing executives and other assorted bloodsuckers. So let's give him the benefit of the doubt for a while, shall we? You know, leave him alone until he's done with puberty and then let's ask him for his view of the world?

Which rather inarticulately brings me to my point. Footballers are not thick. They're not. Occasionally they can be stupid, oversexed and overpaid thugs; sporting haircuts that would pique the curiosity of most anthropologists. But so can many politicians. Now, I'm sure that there are professional footballers out there who are dimmer than the light-bulb atop Ireland's new National monument, but I believe that, on average, most footballers are actually quite smart people. And here's why...


I hadn't played football in a very long time. About four or five years. Then, this January, urged by boredom, I started playing again. Needless to say, the first few games were hell, whilst my body took its time to recover from the shock of me trying to kill it. Eventually, my general fitness got better and I got into the pace of things and really started enjoying myself.

Then, slowly, as the weeks blurred by, I started to notice something about the guys that I was playing with. Mostly Spanish, these guys were good. Really good. I'm talking about speed, ability, fitness and simply awesome ball control. It was that which shocked me at first: how effortlessly even the most mediocre player on the pitch could perfectly control a ball. It never seemed to be beyond any of them to squirm, dodge and dribble their way out of any hole on the pitch. Or at least get a free-kick whilst trying.

And then there's the shooting. First game I played this year, a guy let rip with a 25 yard, left-foot volley which came within fractions of decapitating me; only to miraculously miss my head and cannon off the bar with a rasping bang, leaving the woodwork flapping. This continued to happen all night.


What does this have to do with anything? Ok, consider the following scenario. Real Madrid - I don't like them, but it's an excellent example: big game. Beckham smacks a ball from just outside his own penalty box, right-footed, a lot of air on it, looping across 60 yards of the pitch, swinging from right-back to left-wing channel, as Zidane (who has been motoring down the pitch like an express train, his marker trailing in his wake), turns his head, takes a half-body twist , slowing his pace slightly, allowing the ball to fall (unmolested) over his shoulder and land on the end of his left foot, unleashing a fifteen yard volley which narrowly fires wide. Now.

Let's carry out a little experiment. Go out of the building you are in now and bring two mates and a football. Start running. Very fast. Now, keep running.

One of your mates has to launch a pin-point accurate cross, over 60 or so yards. You, have to run, full-tilt, towards an (unknown) given point, to make contact with a projectile the size of a human head, which is traveling from a point behind you. That you can't see. Then, hit the object (without altering it's trajectory before shooting) as hard as you can with your wrong foot. Oh, and get it on target.

And (sorry), this at the same time as a great, hulking, hairy-arsed defender (your other mate) is charging after you with the express intention of crippling you. He may or may not be wrestling with you as you run, holding your shirt and kicking like a mule. He may be biting you. He may or may not be screaming a great cacophony of insults at you, his legs pumping furiously as he tells you that he's going to violently copulate with your girlfriend and then defecate in her mouth.

Oh, you think I'm making this up? Beckham (who I generally don't have a shred of sympathy for) used to have the weekly joy of 60,000 'fans' singing to him about the fact that his missus takes it up the pipe. And still people scratch their heads and wonder why more and more footballers are heading for Spain.


Consider it. Consider the timing. Consider the accuracy. The judgment of pace, trajectory and rotation. Consider the blend of clinically executed mathematics, instinctual geometry and physical fitness. Consider the fact that most of these guys drive Aston Martins. Damn.

So, are footballers a previously unrecognized genus of savant? Should we be looking to them to save our nations and educate our children? Um, nope. We shouldn't. But let's stop assuming that they are all as dense as the proverbial Irish bog from which they may or may not have sprung.

*No thick footballers were harmed during the writing of this text.

the legend of Ian Harte


the bull...

Got back to Valencia last night (another blog about the bloody journey soon) and met an old friend of mine Charlie. Now, Charlie (God bless him) is one of that rare and incredibly dogged Valencian breed: a Levante fan.

For those of you who wonder what the hell that means, simply, Valencia have two major foorball teams. There is the hyper-succesful, well-kitted, well-sponsored FC Valencia who bagged the Spanish title and UEFA cup last year. They are swish, funky and now managed by the tinker-man Ranieri. Whilst they are not expected to win the league this year (the smart cash is on Barca) they are still a super-squad of seasoned professionals, with bags of cash and lofty ambitions.

Take a 1km jaunt down the road and you get to Levante FC. The best way I can think of comparing the two clubs, would be to say that Levante are to Valencia what Tranmere are to Liverpool. They are the eternal underdogs, always on the verge of something good and never quite getting there.

All of that changed however last year when Levante, after a Herculean effort, finally dragged themselves back into the top flight and now find themselves facing not just their Valencian cousins from down the road, but also the awesome firepower of Barca and that pack of whores from Madrid. Indeed, the frenzy concerning the arrival of Goldenballs et al is already building, depsite the fact that the game is two months away.

Now, imagine my surprise when I ask Charlie how things are going for Levante when he leaps up to his feet and starts chanting the following words: "El Torre Irlandes! El Torre Irlandes!"....

The 'Irish Bull' to whom he refers is none other than Ireland's prodigal son, Ian Harte. Harte, fucked off with life at Leeds decided (much like Mr. Larsson formerly of Celtic) that he fancied a bit of sun in his latter years of football and signed for Levante.

And fuck me but do they love him. To be blunt: the Levante fans have already elevated him to the status of a demi-god, waxing lyrical about his awesome free-kick abilities and his tireless work effort. It would appear that our boy Ian is flourishing in the sun and is playing out of his skin. It has become a weekly routine for the entire stadium to chant his name as he mercilessly smashes the legs off another mincing Spaniard who has had the ill-fortune to stray up the right-flank.

Harte, now devoid of his place in the Ireland squad, has a point to prove. And it appears that he is hell-bent on proving it.

I'll be going to a game as soon as possible and will scream my lungs out for the guy...

the birdbath identity...


Now then. Those of you who know me personally, will be aware that over the course of the last ten months or so, I have been engaging in a radical experiment. This experiment has involved a seismic shift in personal appearance. Or, to come to the point, I've been growing my hair.

Photographic evidence of the various evolutionary stages in this project are scattered across various websites and I won't post them here. Sufficeth to say that it makes for interesting (at least purely anthropological) viewing.

I began the experiment as a certified slaphead. Withing a mere matter of two weeks I had assumed the appearance of what my (then) girlfriend referred to as 'a manky tennis ball'. Another few weeks and there was a definite alteration in my personal comportment.

The weeks and months rolled by until we found ourselves staring down the barrel of Christmas and I found myself staring at a war-crime in the mirror. It was that stage: the one where your scalp looks like Dresden at the end of the second world war - a desolate, twisted wasteland with odd, angular projections jutting in several directions. Many close friends attempted to reason with me, but to no avail.

I kept going.

We get to May and a definite shape is starting to take form. My face looks altered. A different shape almost. Better I think (although there are those who violently protest to the contrary).

Then we get to three weeks ago, when sporting a glorious mane of bouncy, golden locks, I made my way into a Grafton street barber for what i expressly made clear was to be 'a trim'. No worries, I think to myself.

20 catastrophic minutes later I was sitting, jaw-agape, wallet-ajar, dignity trampled underfoot as I realised that the barber has translated my request for 'a trim' into the words 'make me look like a wanker' in whatever befuddled language he really spoke in his head.

Now, we've all had bad haircuts. It happens. Part of life. Par for the course. Run of the mill you might say. Insert your own proverbial platitude. But to be quite frank, I've had fucking enough.

What part of 'I want a trim' can you misunderstand? The words 'I want a trim' do not sound, even remotely, like the words 'Shave my head and make me look like a shirt-lifting, cat-raping beast from the deep'. They just fucking don't. At all.

And I'm sick of it.

You must understand... I have one of those faces. One of those. You know the ones I mean... you know the kind of face that you just want to punch? The kind of face that you instinctively want to repeatedly kick with a shit-smattered hob-nailed boot? The kind you have no rational reason to detest, but despite your tree-hugging, goat cheese eating tendencies, you find yourself wanting to wallop with a tyre-chain?

Yeah, well, I have one of those faces. I don't know why, but people (especially large men) have always wanted to harm me. Horribly.

Now, I do my best. I try to smile. I usually look like a lecherous git, but I do try. I try to be nice too. And I try to grow my hair in such a way as to take the focus off my face. Sometimes it works. But recently I have been getting those looks again. The ones that are followed by the sound of cracking knuckles and low, atavistic growls.

So, fuck the lot of ye. I'm growing it again.

One of the (only) joys of being an English teacher, is the wonderful array of stories that Teachers have to tell each other. It's part of what we do to get through the often mind-numbing tedium of teaching such wonderful things as adverbial expressions of time. Some recent conversations have given me some gems. Usually these always involve a misunderstanding of the English language. For the most part they are innocent enough mistakes. Occasionally however, a story comes along which leaves me helpless with laughter.

For example a friend of mine was telling me about a young Polish boy she is teaching. A quiet, shy, bug-eyed creature, he has sat wordlessly in the class and managed to get through several weeks without uttering a single syllable. One day the class concerned the subject of shopping and my friend asked the students what they should say when they aren’t happy with what they have bought, upon which our small Polish friend yelled out the immortal words “Wrong size Motherfucker”.

However, the coup de grace was a story I was told last week concerning a Russian student who came to stay and study in Dublin two summers ago. Students are placed with host families, who are charged with feeding and looking after these raging balls of teenage hormones. On the first night, the Russian student was having dinner with his new family (including pre-pubescent girls) and the conversation turned to his family back home in Siberia…

Russian kid: thanks you for de loverly dinner
Mum: you’re welcome. So, tell us about your family back home?
Russian kid: What?
Mum: Your family?
Russian kid: Oh. Yes. Mine family…
Dad: Yes, what does your father do?
Russian kid: My father?
Mum: Yes, your father. What does he do?
Russian kid: Oh, yes. Mine father. He has a business…
Mum: Oh very good. And what business is that?
Russian kid: Sorry?
Dad: His business. What is it?
Russian kid: Oh uhm, I, uhm, I don’t know the words..
Dad: Well, can you describe what he does?
Russian kid: Yes I can.
Mum: Good. So what is it?
Russian kid: He fucks dogs.
Dad: He fu… what?
Russian kid: He fucks dogs.
Mum: What? He does what?
Russian kid: He fucks dogs.
Dad: He what?
Russian kid: You know, he fucks dogs.
(tumbleweed rolls through)

Five minutes and several dictionary consultations later, the rather shell-shocked host family got to the bottom of the problem. Our young friend was trying to explain that his father was a champion dog-breeder...

Easter Saturday, April 2004

(the scene: a hotel room in Mallorca. Two men are lying on two beds, bored out of their heads, smoking a joint)

Donnie: So. Anyway. Wanna hear a funny story?
Me: Sure. Fuck it.
Donnie: I'm warning you though, it's a bit of a rough one
Me: Oh yeah? What are we talking about here?
Donnie: Well, you know the way every bloke has one of those horrible wanking stories?
Me: Um, yeah
Donnie: Yeah, well it's one of them.
Me: Oh.

Conversations with my ex (part 1)


Sometime in November 2003

Me: So anyway, the amazing thing about Star Wars is that Lucas, you remember George Lucas?
Her: Yep
Me: Yeah, well, the amazing thing about Lucas is that rather than go the conventional route and have Luke kill his old man, which is what must happen according to Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey model� you remember I told you about that last week?
Her: Huh?
Me: The Hero's Journey. Basically there is only one story. One story since the dawn of time. The Oddysey, The Iliad, The Decameron, Lord of the Rings, The Matrix, Harry Potter, Star Wars. Basically they are all just variations on the one story�
Her: Oh yeah.
Me: Well, ya see, Lucas, rather than following the model, decided to do something that no-one had done before. In that, he had the villain who has killed off Daddy turn out to be Daddy himself. Thus, the reconciliation between our heroic peasant (Luke to me and you) and the Dark Father (Darth Vader is Dutch for Dark Dad) all that bit more difficult�
Her: Uh huh.
Me: So, you wanna watch it?
Her: Not really. No.
Me: Ok.
Me: An episode of the West Wing maybe?
Her: Yeah sure.
Me: Cool. Grab me a beer from the fridge will you?

Patient woman.

Sometime in August 2004

Sean: So, the thing is this. Lucas right, that cunt, when he goes to re-edit the special edition of Star Wars, no wait, I'm sorry, Episode four, he decides to fuck with the greatest screen entrance. Ever.
Me: Huh?
Sean: Remember when you first see Han Solo?
Me: Um, yeah.
Sean: In the bar right?
Me: Yeah, in the bar...
Sean: Right. The bar. And what does Han do?
Me: What do you mean?
Sean: With Greedo...
Me: Oh. Yeah. Ehm, he shoots him...
Sean: Right. Shoots the freaky green fucker dead. In cold blood. Blows him away. Doesn't blink. Chucks a coin on the table and says .'Sorry about the mess'.
Me: Yeah, cool...
Sean: So. What does Lucas do to the meanest, coolest entrance to a movie ever? What does he do to the greatest introduction to a charecter ever?
Me: Ehm...
Sean: He cuts his balls off.
Me: Sorry?
Sean: Cuts his balls off. He edited the movie so that a special effect makes it look like Greedo fired first.
Me: What?
Sean: I'm serious. Greedo fires first in the Special Edition. Han Solo has his balls cut off. The character is emasculated. A big CGI sciccors comes in, his cacks are reefed off, his balls are yanked down and snip. Balls cut off. As a result, Han Solo is walking around for three movies with no balls.
Me: Pint?
Sean: Yeah sound. Carlsberg.


'As been an insane seven days. Twas fallas, the fire festival. That basically involves small terrorist children chasing me all over the city carrying the kind of explosives usually seen in baghdad. the city is insane. for six days and five nights, they party, eat, smoke, dance and never sleep. i mean that, they do not sleep. every ten seconds the air is rent in half with a deafening explosion. and i don't mean no farty little pops here, we're talking windows rattling in panes and fillings in teeth. This was like downtown Kabul on a rowdy friday night. all this, with fireworks, street parties, marching bands, more fireworks, food cook-offs in the street and then some more fireworks. i can honestly say that i got about 20 hours sleep out of a possible 48 or so. I had the time of my life, but I never want to go through that again.

Have you guys seen the 25th Hour with Ed Norton? God's bollocks but it's the best movie I have seen in years. Hands down. No Contest. This is of the calibre of the Shawshank, Band of Brothers and Die Hard. Epic, truly awesome cinema. No cash. No props. No budget. Nothing. Except some of the best acting I've ever seen.

Anyhoo, crawled back into work today to face the dreaded kids and that all too small classroom. Yeeha but I had a hoot. After seven days on the lash, the first thing I needed to see when I walked back into work was my most delightfully unplesant student sporting a dashing new set of titanium-sparkling braces. Christ, I didn't know where to look and whether or not to pity the poor sod or burst out laughing. Make no mistake, teaching can throw some strange ones at ya. I felt as though someone had flung a curveball made of deep fried shit. Sometimes, it really is hard not to laugh.

Right, I'm off to bed.

Despite the fact that this morning has seen a dramatic announcement by somebody claiming to represent Al Qaeda, assuming resonsibility for the 11M massacre, there are still some very worrying questions to be answered.

One of the most vexing concerns the technology used in detonating these bombs. Specifically, the bombers appear to have used a mobile-phone detonator system. While the details of this are rather unclear, one thing is unmistakable: this is a technology used by and invented by the Real IRA.

According to a report in today's Sunday Independent: "The Real IRA perfected the mobile-phone bomb, which it tested in south Armagh in late 2000. A highly-sophisticated bomb using two mobile phones linked to each other - to avoid electronic jamming by security forces - was discovered in Derry in February 2001. The mobile-phone bomb in a parked car was to have been detonated as a police patrol passed by. " (

ETA have never used these bombs before.

In addition, security reports indicate that members of the Real IRA are supposed to have met with members of ETA in recent months. Israeli forces claim to have found these devices in Palestine and American forces have discovered them in Iraq.

So if it is ETA, then some very, very serious questions need to be asked in our Dail. If it was Al Qaeda, then God only knows what we have become involved in.

You will conjugate the verb!

So. I have bored you with tales of how to get qualified and how to make an arse of yourself. So what of the job itself?

For the most part, my work consists of one-on-one classes in companies. Now this can be good and this can be horrible. As a positive example, I have classes most mornings in the Ajuntaimento (the local government) which are absolutely fine.

They start at 8.30 am and generally last about 1 and half hours. I like doing them as the students are quite relaxed and fun to get on with. Indeed, the class which I have first thing on Fridays is my favourite, as this is with Jorge, a 38 year old senior civil servant. Classes with this guy are not like classes at all. It's more like meeting a mate for a chat each Friday morning. Frequently we just go for coffee, talk about football, movies and his pet favourite subject, international politics. I'm actually learning quite a lot from this guy as his knowledge of the subject is extensive to say the least. He is also just as cynical as I am.

On the other hand, I have to teach at a furniture company on Tuesdays and Thursdays and I fall short of the words needed to descibe just how much I hate this. A large part of this, is due to the student in question: a small, bespectacled, troll-like creature (who shall remain nameless) who is, to put it simply, stupid. I hate the very sight of him. His clothes, his voice and his smelly dank office. Teaching this individual is akin to pulling teeth with a rusty pliers. I hate it, hate it, hate it.

I also have classes with groups of adults and groups of teenagers. The adults are a doddle and fun to teach, but I have had spectacular problems in recent weeks with one group of kids which led to me instigating a reign of terror in the classroom. This includes a yellow-card, red-card system for discipline. After getting in three sets of parents regarding the behaviour of some students things seem to be better. Still, that doesn't stop me from entertaining fantasies where I pick a student up by his feet, swing him around and dash his brains out upon the classroom wall.

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