In Complete Circles: The Memoirs & Travels of an Ageing Schoolboy…
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As some of you may know I’m currently writing a memoir concentrating mainly on my school days. Just over a year ago I published some early extracts on the blog. I’ve been working hard on it ever since and now hope to have the finished product out in time for Christmas. And before any smart remarks come in – yes I do mean Christmas 2012.
At the behest of our English teacher, a walrus-moustached Belfast man called Lawrence Muldoon, known among the pupils as Larry, a small group of us attempted (“attempted” being the operative word) to set up a film club. The idea was to hire a film projector and show selected films of the more artistic type like Casablanca or Citizen Kane and profound subtitled European films from the likes of Bergman, Fellini and Truffaut rather than the standard current Hollywood blockbuster to an audience of appreciative younger pupils.
We managed to procure some used film posters from the local cinema and stuck them up at various locations around the school to publicise the imminent formation (ahem!) of the club. Inevitably they were defaced. On the Steel Magnolias poster two drawing pins had been strategically stuck through each of Julia Roberts’ breasts, and another one further south.
Due to a combination of apathy and logistical problems the film club never saw the light of day, even though about 20 pupils (mostly gullible first and second years) had already paid the £1 a head membership fee. Where that money ended up remains a mystery to this day.
Larry like many of that particular generation of teachers born roughly between 1940 and 1955 was a bit of a character. He had nicknames for virtually all of his pupils based on agonisingly bad puns.
If we ever had him for a free period (or study periods as the principal preferred to call them – even though during these interludes we did anything but study) he would go around the class asking boys their names. A typical exchange would go like this.
Larry: What’s your name, boy?
Pupil A: Sir, Aidan Duddy.
Larry: Sir Aidan Duddy? Have you been knighted?
What’s your name? (Pointing to Pupil C)
Pupil D: Otis McAleer.
Larry: So what do they call you then? McAlnose?
Pupil D: No, they call me Curly because I’ve got curly hair.
Larry: Where are you from?
Pupil D: Ballygawley.
Larry: Is that Ballygawley, Tyrone or Ballygawley, Zambia?
Pupil D: Zambia.
Larry: What’s your name, son? (Turning his attention to Pupil B)
Pupil B: Sam Teague.
Larry: I just asked your name, not your religion. (To Pupil C) What’s your name?
Pupil C: Martin McTosser, sir.
Larry: Are you from Ballykilbollocks?
Pupil C: No, Killybastard.
Larry: I didn’t know there were any McTossers in Killybastard. Sure McTosser’s not a Killybastard name.
Pupil C: My da’s from Ballykilbollocks.
Larry: Is your da called Pat?
Pupil C: No, sir.
Pupil C: No.
Larry: What the hell is his buckin’ name then?
Pupil C: Frank.
Larry: Frank, the butcher?
Pupil C: No, he’s an electrician.
Larry: You mean electricity has actually reached Ballykilbollocks?
Pupil C (Unamused): I wouldn’t know, I’m from Killybastard.
Larry: You didn’t have a brother at the school a few years ago?
Pupil C: No, I don’t have any brothers.
Larry: And what’s your name?
Pupil X: Sergio McBastard
Larry: You’re not one of the Drumgallykilderrymore McBastards are you?
Pupil X: No, I’m one of the Castlegorfinmorebrack McBastards
Larry: You McBastards don’t half get around…
And so on…
There would be situations when certain troublesome pupils were making a nuisance of themselves in class. Larry would pretend to get angry and bang loudly on his desk, then say: “Get yourself down to Brother O’Loscan’s office now!” The miscreant in question would go out the door down the corridor and on his way to receive a bollocking or perhaps much worse from the Great Satan only for Larry to shake his head with a sigh and reveal his bluff, ordering a designated pupil to:
“Run after thon buckin’eejit and bring him back here!”
He would also indulge in the occasional spoonerism – If someone had left the door open he would bark at them – “Fose that cluckin’ door!!
Watch this space…
In the light of the current trial of former Liberian leader Charles Taylor at the War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague, in which bad-tempered model Naomi Campbell was so inconveniently called to give evidence, I was interested to read an article on the Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe in the July/August 2010 edition of Foreign Affairs (subscription required for full text) by Robert I. Rotberg from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government’s Program on Intrastate Conflict and President of the World Peace Founation.
In a damning indictment on the Kimberley Process, Rotberg outlines Zimbabwe’s role in the conflict diamond trade:
“The toothless Kimberley Process, an international initiative meant to segregate “blood diamonds” from nonconflict diamonds has failed to stop stolen Zimbabwean diamonds from entering the world market. Many of these diamonds find their way into neighbouring Mozambique, and from there they often fall into the hands of Russian dealers, who buy and sell the stones on the international market. And in May, a Zimbabwean general began recruiting Chinese soldiers with Beijing’s approval, to help mine the diamonds.”
Another inglorious end to England’s overinflated World Cup dreams and the post mortems go on. Was it due to discord in the camp? Did Capello get the tactics wrong? Was it the disallowed goal that disrupted the flow of play? Were the players just worn out after a hectic Premiere League and Champions League schedule? Did manager and players just not connect?
At the end of the day it’s difficult to feel any sympathy for a bunch of overpaid, overrated, overindulged bunch of tattooed philandering underachievers who earn more in a week than most of their supporters earn in five years. The fans who travelled several thousand miles and spent several thousand miles deserve better. If Never has there been a stronger argument for the introduction of performance-related pay in football.
But whether England win or lose, the tabloid press always have a field day. The punning headlines never fail to impress, The front page of the Mirror screamed “ROUT OF AFRICA” (rather than the less politically correct KRAUT ROUT) on its front page and TORN TO FRITZ on its second page, while its back page responded with the line FABIGO. Even the more subtle Times got in on the act with EIN ZWEI DREI…YOUR TEARS.
But the possibilities are endless. We could also have had:
ENGLAND’S WÜRST EVER PERFORMANCE
THE END OF THE FRAULEIN FOR ENGLAND
ENGLAND HERR TODAY GONE TOMORROW
LAST OF THE SUMMER SCHWEIN
Or if an England fan had put money at the bookies on England to win the World Cup the headline could have read:
AUF WIEDERSEHEN BET!
If German Chancellor Angela Merkel had been at the match and a bad decision had gone against Germany she might have invaded the pitch to angrily remonstrate with the referee:
MAJOR FRAU ERUPTS.
And finally anyone who says the Germans have no sense of humour should check out this marvellously satirical and self-deprecatory song from the mid-‘80s by Udo Lindenberg, Lindenberg,a well known and respected rock musician in his own country plays on the stereotypical images of his compatriots – ie a highly efficient and hardworking, but ultimately dull and humourless people. But Lindenberg can hardly be described as dull or humourless.
The blond german Fräuleins are pretty, but vain
You say ‘Guten Tag’ and they say ‘Auf wiedersehen’
They’re very hard workers, from Monday to Friday
Make love on the weekends, and yodel like Heidi [This line followed by some very impressive yodelling]
Irish eyes were smiling today as the hand (pun very much intended!) of poetic justice saw France’s early exit from the World Cup.
Another glorious summer, another World Cup. And as usual the supermarkets, off-licences and pubs hope to make a killing – maybe quite literally in some cases – by a heart attack or cirrhosis of the liver.
Yes, during every World Cup we’re inundated with special offers on crates of beer, wine, pizzas, crisps and countless other junk foods to consume while we watch the football.
How ironic it is then that as the world’s elite of fit, athletic young men participate in a noble, healthy pursuit, many of those watching and cheering them on indulge in unhealthy, ignoble pursuits, guzzling beer by the can and stuffing their faces with crap. As the horizontally rich but follically poor comedian Alexei Sayle might say “It’s a funny old world”.
Up until a couple of weeks ago I thought Vuvuzela was an oil-rich South America country with a fat loud-mouthed clown as president whose team never qualifies for the World Cup.
Now it’s as if the football stadia in South Africa have been invaded by swarms of angry bees. Love them or hate them they’ve certainly created a buzz in the air at the World Cup. It’s not just Wayne Rooney who has a bee in his bonnet.
Having been following the World Cup quadrennially since I was a wide-eyed 8-year old back in 1982, I’ve noticed that in almost every tournament there’s at least one player with a funny name – ie one that would amuse a schoolboy or a “Carry On” film scriptwriter. Purely from memory I’ve compiled a selection:
1982 – Lopez Ufarte (Spain)
1986 – Cha Bum Kun (South Korea)
1994 – Stefan Kuntz (Germany)
1998 – Stefan Effenberg (Germany)
2002 – David Seaman (England)
2010 – Danny Shittu (Nigeria)
I’m splitting my sides just thinking about them.
Having come a long way from his days as “The Man with No Name” and “Dirty Harry”, veteran actor-turned director Clint Eastwood has proved that at nearly 80 he still has that magic touch.
You don’t have to be a rugby fan to enjoy this film, a highly uplifting morality tale on the strength of the human spirit and the concept of snatching victory from the jaws of defeat – in a sporting and psycholoogical sense.
One of the film’s opening scenes features archive footage of Nelson Mandela being released from his long incarceration with a voiceover making the statement “Mandela is now a free man” – surely an intentional pun on the name of the lead actor. Morgan Freeman is uncannily accurate in his portrayal of Mandela as the highly charismatic and charming individual that he was – and continues to be. Although it should be noted that such parts – ie the world weary wise old sage who has a knack of influencing those around him as in films like The Shawshank Redemption and Driving Miss Daisy – are his stock in trade.
John Carlin in his book Playing the Enemy on which Invictus is based sums up the spirit of worldwide revolution that was in the air in the lte1980s/early 90s:
“The world was changing fast. The anti-communist Solidarity movement had come to power in Poland; demonstrations in Tiananmen Square were calling for Chinese reform; the Soviet army ended its nine-year occupation of Afghanistan; the Berlin Wall was tottering. Apartheid belonged like, communism to another age.”
Mandela’s philosophy of in order to make progress you need to know your enemy is one of the central tenets of the film. Freeman is excellent in putting across Mandela’s extraordinary lack of bitterness towards his former oppressors following 27 years of incarceration.
When questioned by his black colleagues about his enthusiastic support for the Springboks who had previously represented the oppressive game of the white Afrikaner Mandela says “If I can’t change when circumstances demand how can I expect others to change?”
Despite the heavy overall message of Invictus its not wihtout its comic moments. A notable example is when the white presidential security guards who had previously worked for FW de Klerk under the apartheid regime report for duty to their boss who is now black – and suspects he is the victim of some kind of joke. But in reality it is all part of Mandela’s grand plan to heal the divisions and unite a once bitterlydivided nation which had not so long ago been on the brink of civil war.
Although Matt Damon doesn’t look like your average rugby player his portrayal of Springbok captain François Pienaar is convincing as is his Afrikaner accent. The scenes on he field of play are also well choreographed as are the reactions from the crowd.
The sickly sweet feelgood factor is perhpas a little overdone by the end of the film,with the final scenes of the jubilant team and their supporters now both white and black, but this doesn’t detract from what is a fantastic piece of cinema.
I landed at Belfast George Best airport on an icy Christmas eve afternoon, having just flown in from Stanstead. It was then that I noticed that the grounded Ryanair plane opposite the one I had just got off had laminated on its side an orange, white and green flag – ie that of the West African former French colony Ivory Coast – or to give it its proper French name Cote d’Ivoire
Unfortunately I don’t have a picture. I didn’t have a camera handy, but even if I had the chances are I would have been arrested on suspected terrorism/espionage charges as a potential spy for Easyjet. However the flag in question is illustrated below. As Ryanair just do short haul flights within Europe only, the Ivory Coast is somewhat outside its jurisdiction.
The only famous Ivoirien who springs to mind is the foul-mouthed, referee-abusing Chelsea centre forward Didier Drogba. A man who’s not short of a shilling or two. Is it possible that he’s done some kind of a deal with Ryanair – or does he have shares in the company?
Over-optimistic Irish soccer supporters who had already booked their tickets to South Africa for the World Cup needn’t worry. All they have to do is turn their flags around and support Ivory Coast. And Thierry Henry doesn’t play for them.
Shell Oil has agreed to an out-of-court settlement of $15.5 million with the Ogoni people of the Niger Delta in Nigeria after a legal battle lasting almost 14 years. In agreeing to this settlement Shell is effectively admitting guilt for human rights abuses, including complicity in the murder of Ogoni activist the writer Ken Sara Wiwa. This landmark victory sends out a powerful message to big multi-nationals with no regard for human rights or the environment who think they can run rough-shod over anyone who gets in the way of their blood-money making activities.