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The Beastie Boys

The idea of having a “stag do” was just an excuse. I’ve wanted to get a bunch of folk on coney island for an overnighter for a while. This just seemed like a good opportunity.

Regular readers will realise that I have a little bit of a thing about Coney Island and it seems to be my ambition to get everyone I know out there at some point.

I managed to beg/borrow/steal a total of 7 canoes for the trip. Which is not bad going for an extensive budget of nothing. Canoe people (people who canoe…) seem to be fairly generous folk. I made lots of phone calls looking for canoes and trailers and folk bent over backwards to try and track stuff down for me.

Occasionally that involved me moving the canoes in a less than ideal manner.But with Zoomtard‘s help and a little bit of refinement we managed to get 5 canoes on one car.

So 14 of us made it for the evening and only 4 of them were yellow bellied, scaredy cats, reluctant to paddle and went over in the motor boat with the warden of the island.

The rest of us with our fairly widely ranging levels of experience made it under our own power. Even if some of our senses of direction weren’t quite so wonderful.

There had been a recent hatch of flies from the lough which provided a rather dramatic cloud of “smoke” over the island. They’re the type of flies that can’t bite you, but they’re still blood annoying when they fl;y up your nose. The good thing is that come evening they go up high into the trees and instead make an almighty buzzing noise while you chat.

One tented village later (I assumed dictatorial role and shouted at everybody like a school teacher) we were ready for the BBQ and the banter.

We were joined at a bout 10pm by a group of 50 or so drunken young farmers from Portglenone who had come down on a “booze cruise” on the Maid of Antrim for a trip. They were charmingly pissed and entertaining apart from the one idiot who thought it would be funny to break one of our tents and throw a few sleeping bags in the hedge. Shame we didn’t find that out till after they’d left otherwise we could have thrown him in the lough.

One bottle of Woodford Reserve later it was 4am and starting to rain and time for bed. Good times.

Sleep was more of a formality than an enjoyable experience. So it goes.

Next day was damp and getting damper but we got our tour round the island from Peter and all home safely.

Much appreciated to everyone involved, especially to those who helped with the shifting of the canoes.

Leaving is an exit

Last night hailed the end of an era. The end of 2 years living with these likely lads in the Little Portugal/Lithuania area of the most republican part of Portadown.

It has been an awful lot of fun.

I moved here in the midst of my Dad’s last illness and the lads followed shortly after.

The original plan was to be there for a bit longer but then Transfarmer came along and plans change. Funny how that happens.

In many ways I think I would have far preferred living on my own. I am a touch of an introvert and am a big fan of my own company (poor taste I know) but I’ve also got just enough self-awareness to realise that living on my own would be a really bad idea.

People are good for you. When you’re confronted with other people’s lives and habits intruding and pouring into yours you have to learn to re-shape your life to fit them in. The minutiae of kitchen etiquette exposes your own petty little obsessions and highlights how ridiculous they are.

It comes as a shock each and every time that I do not have all the answers to life, that these other people I come into contact with on a daily basis have experiences, wants, dreams and wisdom far beyond my own.

Only when something is considered “past” and no longer “present” can I get nostalgic about it. I like our green walls. I always did, but only now am I nostalgic about them. Somewhere over the past few days the memories of the times in the house have moved from being memories to good memories in the fond and warm sense. Somehow it seems to take the fond and warm sense to appreciate the lessons learned and the time passed.

Back to Saturday night.

We had a BBQ/party

It was an awful lot of fun. Sitting in the pokey back yard smoking your eyes red from the BBQ smoke and eating undercooked pork ribs.

Incidentally the Office spent a good 30 minutes with the white board on the fridge trying to explain to Transfarmer his solution to plug the Deepwater horizon oil leak. Apparently they’re adopting it now. So he tells me…

And so now we have one week left. Then the big move out happens. Lots of boxes and hoovering and driving the Volvo round packed to the roof with stuff and junk. I couldn’t be happier. And then a week after that I get to do the same thing in reverse and move it all in here. (well not actually St. Pats, as nice at that would be, but in the near by area.)

It’s got to be better than sleeping on the floor in the Transfarmer’s living room…

Downhill from here

I have a bunch of mates who are currently 5 months into cycling the length of Africa. From Tangiers to Cape Town.

Let that sink in.

They’re clearly mental.

Anyhow they have a great website and blog that you should follow and you should donate some cash to support their sponsorship

A punch up at a wedding

5/01/09 1815 – somewhere over Canada. I think.

It has been a while since I was locked in a little steel tube flying over an ocean.

I got back from NZ about 2 and a half years ago. I have made a couple of trips to England and Scotland but haven’t been any further.

I put a moratorium on travelling for a while. Part by choice part by circumstance.

It is truly a bizarre experience. To be able to cross thousands of miles at 30000 feet and arrive safely and on time on virtually every occasion.

It is just such a fundamentally bad idea – flying. This is not something hairy monkeys should be able to do with such frequency, precision and safety.

The view from up here continues to blow me away. I never get tired of staring at distant cloud formations. At the sun setting over the horizon.

Yet I get to do this. Me and this exceptionally wealthy and privileged portion of the human race. It is truly odd.

I’m flying to the states for a friends wedding. I’ve never been to America. For someone who’s been pretty much everywhere else I find it odd that I haven’t been there.

I suspect it will be just like home with better weather, more fried chicken and an underdeveloped sense of irony.

I am disappointed by the selection of movies, the frozen vegetables and the fact they charge you 4 quid for a beer.

I like the chance to sit in one place for 8 hours and read books and listen to tunes and watch movies. I would prefer a comfier seat and some salt and vinegar crisps but I will take what I’m given.

1850 somewhere between Philadelphia and Dallas.

America has not been welcoming so far. We waited two hours to get through immigration. Not the most pleasant of experiences. If you’re a terrorist intent on violence it must take even longer. Maybe it’s the long queues that put them off.

We arrived in Philly to find that our bags didn’t follow us and are presumably somewhere over the mid- Atlantic right now. Better over than under I say.

We then had a further last minute dash to the gate to get to the next flight on time. That’s been a theme today.

I’d love something to eat that doesn’t come in a pre wrapped plastic packet. I’d love a glass of water. Though perhaps I’d be better communicating that to the crew than writing it here…

Chrissy – we must love you to come all this way to come to your country that doesn’t seem to want us here

6/01/10 1840 Dallas, TX

Apparently Paul Simon has a house near here. I thought I caught a glimpse of an old bald man mowing next door’s lawn but I wasn’t sure.

We have the great pleasure of staying in someone’s house here. All 12 of us or whatever. This is clearly an act of great trust and mercy.

We arrived (with no bags, a lot of stress and no sleep) to a warm house and bed with a well stocked fridge. We have been very well looked after.

Driving on the wrong/right side of the road freaks me out a bit. Even the “compact” saloon we bought is huge. It’s wider than the Volvo.

There were a few near misses and one episode of going down a 3 lane highway the wrong way. But just the once and it was easily corrected.

America is worth it if only for the pancakes and bacon and maple syrup. Immense. I found a burger called “the coronary”.

With no luggage as yet arrived, people are progressing into their second day of underwear and borrowing toothbrushes. So we headed to one of America’s great defining institutions – a supersupermarket called Target.

This place was colossal. It did everything. I think it had more staff than customers.

I bought socks and pants and more razors than I needed – if only cause it was cheaper for 10 than 2. This is presumably why our planet is falling to pieces.

I am so tired I am losing fine motor skills – struggling to get the coffee machine into working order. I’ve skipped the stag do (or bachelor’s party as they call it here) to get my head peace and a decent night’s sleep.

The challenge is to stay awake till 9 or so and then sleep proper till morning.

Incidentally the hen do is still here in the house eating chilli and drinking margaritas before they head out. I have barricaded myself in the room as a means of staying alive.

9/01/10 Dallas, TX

What happens in Dallas stays in Dallas. So the standard rule goes. So the antics of the stag and hen dos are consigned to the records of the local police departments. Or something like that. Having chickened out with a lame ass fun-killing early night I have no right to comment.

Dallas seems like one big suburb so far. Everywhere we drive seems miles of similar, wide open freeways bordered on either sides by chain stores and restaurants each surrounded by vast tracts of parking.

Parking is never an issue there is just always so much space.

Driving is more of an issue. Sat Nav has it’s uses but sometimes tells you the turning just as you pass it. Would be quite literally lost without it otherwise though.

The wedding itself is tonight.

I look forward to hitting the road proper and get out of the city and see why GOD is more interested in this country more than any others… I expect great things.

9-01-10 Dallas TX

Tried to go to a Dallas mavericks basketball game the day after the wedding.

Had a bit of a mare trying to get tickets online and ended up just driving down to the arena to try and get some at the door.

Unforunately only the 70 buck tickets left and while I was keen on experiencing some truly American culture I wasn’t so keen on paying 70 bucks to watch a sport I had no real interest in. What sort of country would make me pay so much to come and insult one of their national sports while lambasting their excesses…

However it turns out that Dallas does have some kind of a city centre and is not just large stretches of suburb connected by vast motorways.

Ended up in a smoky bar watching the Dallas cowboys game with a bunch of baseball cap wearing baseball fans who thought we were just great.

I’m not entirely sure why but listening to odd accents mispronounce commonly known words such as Armagh and Smithwicks is still funny.

In fact this may be one of the things that stopped various groups of human beings wiping each other out at their first meetings – everyone laughing at how the Persians mispronounced toga.

Maybe not.

10/01/10 Clear creek cove, Burnet, TX

Cleared out of the salubrious Mansion we’d been squatting in this morning leaving a trail of dirty sheets and a nicely wrapped bottle of Irish whiskey and Irish tack in our wake.

Rarely have I felt myself more welcomed and looked after than in that house. While Dallas may not be the most inspiring city in the country (or even the state) then at least the hospitality put a positive spin on it.

So with an hour or so getting lost round Dallas-Fort-Worth airport (it has two toll motorways dedicated purely to the airport, it is a colossal and scary place…) and having dropped off one of our party and picked up a new one we were on the road south.

Via a Waffle House of course. We hadn’t had our daily ration of eggs, bacon and saturated fats yet. We sat at the bar of a diner. Nice.

Driving is fun. Directions not so much. GPS gives you more confidence than you should have. You presume it’s bringing you the right direction and you assume you’re on the interstate even when you’re on a two lane highway with traffic lights and junctions every few hundred yards. I was sure I saw tumbleweed at one point.

Problem was the car on front had the GPS and the car behind knew we were going the wrong way. Cue comedic light-flashing-horn-hitting-overtaking-gesture-making-manoeuvres-that-are-misinterpreted-as-some-kind-of-joke…

We worked it out in the end. Good old fashioned maps are sometimes more useful.

Finally we found ourselves beyond the endless suburbs and chain restaurants, finally able to see the glorious rolling Texas landscape… Well sort of.

There doesn’t seem to be that much of a glorious rolling landscape. There’s just parched grass and endless fields, occasionally interspersed with grey scraggy trees and bush – these reminding you that this was more like it always looked.

And so we arrived at our quaint little lake house just after dark to find the heat already on and the world’s comfiest sofas. We have landed.

So this is frolicks 2009

Christmas is upon us. Like a runaway hippo in a downtown metropolis.

Which means I have lots of christmas dinners and nights out to prepare/look forward to.

Topping the list is Festive Fun and Frolicks. The now famous institution of bringing people together to eat and be silly while I publish all to the world.

This thing only works if you have an act. If it’s just the Tates boys and Edinburgh St fighting it out for the top spot it won’t work. I’m throwing down the gauntlet to see if anyone will be able to match the Garvaghy massive in our prolific talent and boyish good looks.

So given a few hours on a wednesday morning with this:

I present FFF 09…

Hold tight London

So I went to London.

To see friends of Transfarmers. American people. But nice Americans

I’ve had to come to terms with my latent racism against Americans and the English, and I suppose even with those lovely people I’m trying my best to distance myself – the white anglo-saxon Protestants.

It turns out – yes I know you’ll be shocked – that there are lots of nice and wonderful Americans and English out there. Perhaps my scathing dislike and crass sarcasm if unfairly directed in their direction.

That’s what happens when you make sweeping generalisations. Life is going to become bloody difficult if I’m going to have to stop making sweeping generalisations about people. I’ll have to actually be gracious and kind and get to know them.


These were nice Americans. They all seem to have lived in Ireland till the country in its wisdom decided to kick them all out. So now they all live in London. Which is at least accessible on a short flight.

The main issue was not the short flight but the incredibly long journey from the car park to the airport. I’d have been better leaving the car at home and walking. So it goes.

I still love airports – the over priced, below average coffee, the mediocre book shops (i only bought two…), the uncomfortable seats. But they still appeal.

On the way through security my bag got x-rayed and then emptied looking for stupid things people put in their hand luggage like bombs and knives. The lady opened the bad and pulled out a nice shiny pen knife.

I told her I lost it about 6 months ago and hadn’t been able to find it – which was true. I bet everyone says that though. I didn’t feel bad about her confiscating it, as far as I was concerned I lost it 6 months ago.

And when I say we went to London, i really meant we went to Ealing. Which is about as far from central London as the car park was from the airport.

So there was no sight seeing, no shopping, no “minding of the gap”.

Instead there was food and drink and good chat and a comfy bed and a good kip. Quite the rock and roll lifestyle I know.

My only suggestion to the Americans is – screw London, come and live in Ulster, the last, best bastion of British imperialism in Eire. That way you could just sneak over the border and no one would ever know.

Though I suppose you thought of that already. I’ll lend you a passport if you want.

August and everything after

So as summer comes to an end with a cold, damp, miserable thump (what a surprise) it’s time to review some of what i’ve been up to over august.


I was at a wedding in a castle in Edinburgh (though not edinburgh castle) where they had the most wonderful humanist wedding ceremony. (I think we need more humanist wedding ceremonies, but that’s another blog.)


There was great food, good wine and even some dancing – of which i did not partake i must confess. Even the Bon Jovi.

I picked up the guitar and grew some balls and played my songs in a wee cafe in Portadown. And after the first 4 songs i even started enjoying it.

And in a fit of musical enthusiasm I picked up the old electric again and played with the old band in church. Lamenting my dying guitar amp and how rusty I’ve got at playing the electric guitar.

I await my new valves in earnest in the hope i can resurrect the Hot Rod deluxe to do another 10 years of loyal service.

On a more positive not the new Pod X3 rocks. While a little on the complicated side to set up and run it does sound pretty sweet. These are the days i wish i hadn’t sold my strat to Woodsy.

In between I have actually enjoyed my work. Which is kind of new for me. I have found myself too often pisssed off and frustrated in work so it’s nice to have a wee bit more enthusiasm and positivity about the whole thing. being there less helps. Which i know sounds weird – “I love my job as long as I’m not there…” – but when I do less hours I sleep better and am more sane than usual. This has got to be a good thing.

I look forward to dropping a day a week in the middle of september and going back to cutting up dead bodies with the students.


And then most recently was Jonny and Lynne’s wedding. Dear Jonny, whom I’ve known since I was 6 when he arrived in P2 and stole my lego. Not that I’m bitter. Dear Jonny, who I shard houses with and tears and joy with and made 9 platiunum selling albums with in the Turf Brothers. Good times.

Great wedding, though running around doing musical stuff all day. Including the first ever live turf brother’s performance.

And it was mighty craic playing in Nice Guy Eddie again (my old wedding band) and even nicer to move from dance floor to band and back to dance floor again getting to play just the songs that i remembered.

There was dancing. There was me dancing. There was me enjoying dancing.  But i blame Transfarmer for that. I blame her for everything really.

But above all else what made the wedding was the fact that we didn’t have to drive the 1 1/2 hours back from the Killyhevlin at midnight. Instead we sat about the hotel till 0130 and then dandered back to our little chalets at the riverside for a cup of tea and a nice kip.




And so began our little two day holiday in damp fermanagh. Like the donegal trip simply transplanted to a pre-fab chalet on the bank of the river.

I took the good ship pudge out on my own for the first time but was slightly annoyed that the brisk wind meant that i couldn’t get the thing turned and embarassingly had to reverse the canoe to shore just to turn it.


Everyone else seemed to enjoy their trip too. No one got wet anyhow.


We visited an ice-cream shop, just for the adventure of getting lost in the Fermanagh countryside. Sat-Nav is great and all that but only if you tell it to go to the right place.


Extended weekends rock. And it’s still only sunday morning.


April 2020