IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE
A life is a long time, hell I'm only a young(ish) lad and I feel like I've been going forever. If you were to ask me to sum up my existence so far you'd most likely have died of boredom yourself before my story's conclusion, and I'm really interesting! So when I meet my maker another hundred years (yes I intend to live that long) down the line I'll hopefully have left behind many a fond memory and cheerful anecdote, certainly enough to fill a funeral service I'd imagine. Because that's the bit we all remember about funerals isn't it? They are incredibly painful experiences but through those tears we can sometimes smile as a loved one recalls the lifetime of the dearly departed. It brings a human side to what can often feel like a clinical and impersonal goodbye to someone you cherish.
But not everyone agrees. Bishop of Meath Dr Michael Smith has moved to ban funeral eulogies in his diocese, his reasoning being that the ceremonies have become “dumbed down” as a result. And here was me thinking the Catholic church was out of touch with modern day society?! Clearly a balance has to be struck here, as much as I'd like to have Biggie Smalls played at my funeral I know it's never gonna happen. Instead I'll be more circumspect and plump for some Stevie Wonder, that's okay right? And herein lies the problem, the Church fully believes that secular material has no place in their house, but who decides what's appropriate and what's not?
It's not just music that they have a problem with however, Dr Smith has banned all texts devoid of a Christian context. So that beautiful poem which sums up everything great about your loved one? No we can't have that I'm afraid, why not read this indecipherable scripture instead? Sadly there is only one solution here, and it involves yet further distancing from the church. If the priest isn't willing to give the deceased the send-off they deserve then we'll just do it ourselves. And this is the way we're headed, most of the upcoming generation have no more than a passing interest in the Church and it's arcane ways. They see it as a decaying institution ravaged by scandal and unwillingness to change. Do you think this latest ban is going to change that? Of course not, it's just going to drive them away further. The times they are a' changing and if the Church doesn't keep up it's going to be left behind, way behind, until it's extinct.
IF A TREE FALLS IN AN EMPTY FOREST
Jimmy Magee, George Hamilton, even Ger Canning, they're all part of Irish folklore, and they've all helped define our sporting memories over the years. Whether it's Hamilton's “the nation holds it's breath”, Magee's listing of every Irish Olympic medallist as John Treacy won his and Ger Canning's...um...let's skip that one. When we think back on our favourite sporting moments it's inevitable that we remember the words that accompanied them, it wouldn't be the same without them. After all we don't prosper on the international scene all that often, so when we do we like to replay the moment over and over and over again, ad infinitum.
And yet as of today, just a few hours after Rob Heffernan became only the third Irish person to win gold at the World Athletics Championships, I have yet to see anything more than brief highlights of his joyous victory. And worse still those highlights were voiced not by Magee or any of his colleagues, they played out to the backbeat of a British commentator on Eurosport. When I first realised our state broadcaster would not be covering these championships I stated that it would hardly inspire our athletes to greater heights. The knowledge that their country's TV network couldn't be bothered televising their exploits must have been quite demoralising for the eleven Irish athletes competing in Moscow.
Or perhaps it had the opposite effect, maybe it served as a motivational tool – they think we're not worth showing? Well we'll show them! And while most of the Irish competitors performed exactly as those at RTÉ had expected one man has left them with large portions of egg on their face. Heffernan's gold should assure him of legendary status in his native Cork but really he should already be a national hero. We saw what the Olympics did for Katie Taylor and the sport of boxing so why shouldn't it be the same for Rob Heffernan and his discipline. Okay so the 50k walk might not be the most glamorous of events but the very fact we have the world's best proponent of it should count for something. But sadly it won't. If we're lucky we might get to see his medal ceremony tomorrow evening but that's about it. And if we want to relive his victory? I hope you have that mute button at the ready.
GINGER AND PROUD
Barely a week can go by in this country without a march of some description. Whether it’s gaudily attired Northerners, proud homosexuals or irate pro-lifers we’ve grown accustomed to seeing swathes of people troop up and down our main thoroughfares. For the most part these protests pass off peacefully and the intended message is received loud and clear. Indeed some might say that the Irish don’t gather in unison to state their collective case enough, we’re too laissez faire they say, we should be more like the French. But the problem is that despite being a tiny little island with a meagre population we possess numerous, wildly varying, opinions on the issues that matter. And as a result we can barely agree on things long enough to stand side by side for a second never mind organise a march.
But salvation is at hand. I don’t know the exact figures, but there is one thing that unites at least a quarter of the population. No it’s not the latest Gallup polls which show the re-emergence of Fianna Faíl, nor is it the shared belief that Giovanni Trappatoni should have been quietly escorted back to Italy after the debacle at last year’s European Championship, it’s something that thousands upon thousands of Irish people are born with, and something that they’re persecuted for during their every waking minute. Ginger hair.
We all know a few gingers, and we’ve all taken great delight in besmirching them for their unfortunate shade of follicle. But now they’re fighting back, and about time too. The first ever Ginger Pride March took place in Edinburgh this week, how fitting that it took place in a similarly plagued country, that of our carrot-topped Celtic cousins. It was a fairly low key event with just 100 participants, but this is surely only the start of a movement, even the civil rights action began as a small-scale event. And the ginger nation equals, if not outnumbers, that of it’s sinned against predecessors.
The worry now for us normal folk is that the gingers will find strength in numbers, they’ll come together and start a revolution. Their goal? The eradication of the sallow-skinned, raven-haired members of society. They’ll stop at nothing, and only when Ireland is restored to it’s rightful state – a country of pasty, freckled redheads – will they be sated. We’ve had our fun, we’ve made our jokes, but it looks like the last laugh will be on us.
The day I received my Leaving Cert results has long since receded from memory. I vaguely recall ripping open a piece of paper and shrugging my shoulders before asking one of the bigger lads to accompany me to the off-license, the rest of the day (and night) is something of a blur. The contents of that envelope just confirmed what I already knew, that I’d wasted my school years due to an apathy which completely overwhelmed me. Ho hum. It wasn’t that I considered myself too cool to try, and it certainly wasn’t down to being a bit fick (did I spell that right?), I just couldn’t be bothered. What a little shit I was.
It’s probably fair to say that Mark Berney is the polar opposite to my young self. The child prodigy was the only student in the country to receive nine A1s in his Leaving Cert results this week. And even more incredible he only took up one of his subjects in February! I wonder what he does for fun? Of course I’m just jealous, it took me another ten years before I realised that life required hard work if you were to prosper. Clearly Mark is way ahead of schedule on that count, he’s worked his clever little arse off and is now set to reap the benefits. I wish him every success in his future endeavours, not that he needs it.