Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Thing 252 Eyebrow Wax and Pluck

Considering how ridiculously anal some people have been about Project Things, and considering this is the internet, where people love correcting other people, I'm kind of surprised that no one has noticed that Thing 252 was missing all the time. It was never posted. Initially I stalled on posting it because Hang Man had gone to Mexico, and he was the one who had taken the photos, on his phone, and I didn't feel like blogging without them. Then just decided to skip it, like a little experiment to see would anyone notice. Nope. Then I nearly forgot about it, till I got all sentimental the other day and started looking back. Good thing I caught it. I just know you'd have been up all night dying to hear about my eyebrow plucking experience. No? Didn't think so. Okay then. Moving on. Ya, I don't know if you've noticed this or not, I'm hoping not, but every so often I have a trace of a uni brow. This is a difficult admission for me, but since disclosure is important, and I think we've become friends now, there's a shade of a few hairs right smack in between my eye brows. I do not own the necessary grooming products to remove this (save for my razor and that's not a smart way forward now is it?), so I decided, inspired by a dear uni-browless friend (who definitely does not own his own eye-brow waxing gear. Wink wink, nudge nudge...) to head to an eye-brow bar and clean up my eyebrow shagginess. Yes, I did say eyebrow bar. These things exist, and several can be found in Limerick. The number of men who turn up there is small enough that the girls there could remember the guy's name (yep, there was only one other besides me). Oddly enough though, they know how to tackle a dude's eyebrows to make them look better. In my case they thinned them out, waxed the middle, plucked underneath and above. I didn't cry, and there's no evidence in existence which suggests that I did. My eyes didn't even water and no court anywhere could ever convict me of the same. Ahem. Or something to that effect. Apparently women get this done all the time. The lengths you ladies go to in order to loook good is frightening. I applaud your non stop determination to look well. I go days without shaving and you're all only lucky that I bother showering every day. I jest, but I really do tip the hat, men will never understand the lengths you go to. I'd a good laugh with the girls who did the waxing/plucking too. They even had what looked like a torturre rack of equiptment. It'd put the frightners on you... honestly. Anyway... that's Thing 252. It's now officially one minute past midnight, making this officially my birthday. Project ends today. Then party starts tonight. Old Quarter in O'Connell's. You're more than welcome. Last ever day of The Project...

Thing 365 Mime Artist

Here's the reasons that this was a good Thing: It's visible, it's embarrassing, it's something you hear/see in pop culture but would never do, it gets me outside my comfort zone, and some of them told me that I'd never have the guts to do it.

Here's why it's not a good Thing: I have about five minutes worth of mime-artistry. Secondly, it's stupid. Thirdly, The Canuck hates it so much that it's unlikely that he'll speak to me for some time to come.

There's the invisible shrinking box thing, where you pretend to be trapped in an invisible box that gets smaller and smaller. There's the rope thing, where you pretend to tug on a rope that's not there, there's the ladder bit, where you pretend to climb a ladder, then there's the window/door thing, where you open and close a window or a door. Max seven minutes of usable material. After that it's just repeating the same crap over and over.

At a stretch I was there for twenty five minutes, after that, I was bored. If there was anyone taking any interest in that at all, I might have stayed longer, but instead I got a few smiles as people walked passed. Nothing more. Why? Because people hate mimes (unless they're REALLY good, which I'm not). The bit that I liked about the whole Thing was the ridiculous looking facepaint and the obligatory stripey black and white top. The down side to this was that I was in O'Connell's/Old Quarter having coffee when I decided to gear up, meaning that when I popped out of the bathroom all ready to go I looked like a more giant tool than when I was on the street.

If you're a street entertainer, then you've no business being dressed up in a pub or cafe. Mind you, I ought to be used to people looking at me funny. It's not the first time I've very publicly made a tool of myself. The weirdest bit is that I spent all day dreading this one. I don't know why. I wanted to do anything else except be a mime. I had to work up the courage for it. Which is weird, because it's not the worst thing I've done. Not by a long way. I stalled all day. Extra cup of coffee here, another cigarette. Just five more minutes.

By the time I got up to start the feckin thing, it was peanuts, and five minutes later I'd exhausted all my Mime Moves, and then I was bored. There's only so many times you can simulate climbing in and out of a window before you'll bore yourself to tears, much less the audience, if I had one, which I didn't.

So after that I just started walking about smoking an imaginary cigarette and miming to people passing by that I'd like an imaginary lighter. No one bit. I quit. Stupid miming. I liked the facepaint so much that I left it on for a little bit while I had a cup of coffee. Then I got some sense and went and cleaned myself up. Every so often I catch myself being a tool, the rest of the time I need you guys to remind me...

By the by, at the time of publishing it's sixty two minutes to birthday... Roll on party time!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Thing 364 The Hole in One

They said it couldn't be done. If I was feeling vindictive enough I'd publish the full list of names of people who said I couldn't do it. But that would be unsporting, ungentlemanly and down right nasty, so instead I'm going to simply say: Na-na-na-na-nah na. What you can't see is that I'm currently blowing a raspberry at the laptop screen and with my thumbs in my ears I'm flapping my hands.

I look stupid, but I feel good.

I played my first game of pitch and putt in Parteen so long ago that I can't even remember what age I was, but I know that it was before I was a teenager. So we're talking at least fifteen years. Never once a hole-in-one. Thorny Wire has two already. He does have all the sporting genes though. The lad could shoot holes-in-one while he solos a football and spins rugby passes and throws darts. He's got himself some talent. To be fair to myself, I can type and watch Boardwalk Empire at the same time. Take that...
So Toe-Knee set up my trip to Parteen. He's a top bloke, and I know he was thrilled for me when I finally pulled it off, but I'm going to spend some serious time slagging him over the texts I got yesterday. "Bring a packed lunch, you're going to need it" was my favourite. I'll also slag him over the laughing and guffawing he did on my first twenty or so "practice shots".

That's what they were. I swear. The first twenty shots were complete disasters, now we're talking utter fails. I think I was closer to hitting the seventeenth green with a few then I was the first green, and let's just say they're not exactly side-by-side. Practice shots, all of them. I was getting into the swing of it you see... (pun intentional)

Practice makes something of you though. Toe Knee gave me a line to the green to aim at. The next twenty shots took the line, but fell about a foot either side of it. Getting better, but the heckling didn't help. There was more than a bit of it from behind me as the Green Keeper joined in with McK and Toe Knee's brother. To be fair, it was pretty funny. They kept calling for Thorny Wire to get up and give me a lesson.

We collected the twenty I'd just teed off, with Toe Knee preparing for a long day ahead. We bounced a few balls by the green to test the reaction and the roll of the green. Toe Knee found the spot. I went back up to the tee. The lads were sitting down to relax and brace themselves for a long day. The next sixteen were within a foot of the bounce spot. The seventeenth though...

It hit its mark, popped up over the lip, rolled on to the green and trickled... so slowly... down the hill... toward the hole... and slipped into the hole. It was so slow that Toe Knee had time to run on to the green, lift out the pin and he still had to wait. The noise it made when it dropped in to the hole was one of the most satisfying I ever heard.

Cue celebrations. Not just me, the lads all jumped in too. It had been almost exactly half an hour. Not all day. Not till seven in the evening. Not even past midday. Hooray! Get in there.

Ten minutes later the excitement had worn off. Project Thing done by twenty to eleven in the morning, now what the hell do I do? I spent the day sitting on the ass. It was nice... a taste of days to come after Thursday I think.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Thing 363 Soup Run

Alright, let's not get all wrapped up in serious here, and I'm not about to start making sweeping dramatic statements and indulging in stupidity (that is to say any worse stupidity than that which you're normally used to), but things have changed since I spent a night sleeping rough. It was only one night, but like I said before, it upset me, and like Red out of Shawshank Redemption said: "You get busy living or you get busy dying". Dammit - is there nothing Morgan Freeman can't teach us?

So I decided to get busy. McGarry House, and it's sister house the Brother Russell House are shelters for the homeless run by an organistation called Novas. They're what's commonly known as "low-threshold" hostels, which means that they tend to take in a large number of residents that other hostels won't take. They also have no closing time, no curfew and they never expel anyone permanently. They don't believe in that last one, because they always believe that people are worth another chance.

I think they might actually be living saints. Considering my appalling excess, and the general assholery of me and assorted companions (I'm not going to name names, you know who you are... Pony Boy...). These people would just put us to shame, and then be really nice about it.

Another part of what what they do is the Soup Run. You can see them, three days a week outside what used to be Ferguson's Chemist on O'Connell Street in Limerick with plastic bins full of sandwiches, taytos, cup-a-soups, chocolate bars, tea and coffee. They just stand there and wait for anyone who needs a meal. They tried walking around to find homeless people but it wasn't working out, so they just put the word out and asked others to come to them. They'll stroll a couple of blocks here and there to spots that they know some people are sleeping or hanging out and they'll bring what they can carry.

I went on the soup run yesterday, got a look inside the two houses as well. This Thing is a kind of a two-sided coin. On the one hand, the awful poverty and desperate conditions that some people are reduced to living in is frightening. The indignity they suffer, and the desperation, sometimes loud, but mostly all to quiet is heartbreaking to see. On the other hand, the care, compassion and dedication of the workers and volunteers in the homes, and the affection with which they're held by their clients would melt your heart.

I had a theory a few weeks ago, that the hunger and the coldness on the streets was matched at least by the indignity of being ignored. That as much as food and cigarettes were wanted, and needed, acknowledgement and a kind word would go just as far in the eyes of the people who have to live this kind of life. I think I was right.

One of the clients came to us last night crying, he'd had enough. He didn't want to live on the street anymore. He wanted another chance. Annette and Sinead calmed him down, got him a hot cup of soup, and Sinead went about making calls to see could she find him a place for the night (both houses were full). He didn't know me, had never met me before, so he asked, awkwardly if I minded him staying with me for a chat. Of course I told him. He was delighted. So we chatted. Every so often he'd cry quietly, but mostly, we chatted in a nice way.

Others started turning up, shaking hands when they'd stroll over. Hot sausages wrapped in tinfoil would be stowed in pockets for later. Sandwiches eaten with a cup of tea and a chat. All the time as grateful for the company as the food and something hot to drink. After a little while my first new friend had relaxed enough and a few of us were talking about music... a sing song broke out. Trust me to find a sing song on the street.

For about and hour and a half we waited there. Some came, took the food and left, but not many, in fact, I think there was only one who did that. The rest came for something to eat and stayed to talk. They talked a little about how life is tough, but mostly about everything else from music to books, to food and everything in between. Like I say, a double sided coin - I couldn't decide if I wanted to be heart warmed or heart broken.

So that's the start of my career as a volunteer. Long may it last.

P.S. On a much lighter note, an infinitely lighter note, I'm gonna lash out a few buckets to collect for McGarry House on Thursday night. It's my party (and I'll cry if I want to) at O'Connell's at The Old Quarter on Ellen Street in Limerick from seven. Consider yourself invited.

Thing 362 Make A Tyre Swing

Yep, there's nothing quite like making your niece and nephew grin like that. Well, very little, the feeling of swinging on a swing is also pretty cool. I'll tell you what's not cool: falling out of trees and dislocated thumbs. While none of the former happened, there was a distinct threat of the same. The latter on the other half is currently the case. The Canuck has to wear a weird modern day splint looking thing since he dislocated his thumb. He's the only person that I know who can dislocate almost every part of himself. Man is like a transformer or a Power Ranger Zoid thing. Wow, now there's a blast from the past. How did that pop into my head?

Sunday was supposed to be "Jump Out Of A Moving Car Thing". Sadly, there was a Pony Boy family reunion and it went all the way back to The Sluggery and rocked on till six in the morning, so that ruled out my driver for the next day. Mind you, I slept like a baby all the way through, I was beat up after the banter with the guns and the rugby. So this left me short of options. Back to the Leather Book. It has almost every idea I've ever had, or been given for a Project Thing. On page two... Make a Tyre Swing. Beano.

And it's so easy right? C'mon people, it's me we're talking about here, of course I made a complete hash of it... It wasn't easy at all.
First off, I though the bit of rope I'd bought for a previous Thing would do just fine, and the spare-spare tyre would do too. So I'd everything I needed except a tree. Wrong. The rope was crappy and unwound easily. The Canuck pointed out that this is fine for me and him, since we're bored of broken bones (him WAY more than me), but for the kids, a more safety appropriate rope would be required. Secondly, how the funk do you get the tyre off the wheel well? We tried everything, and by everything I of course mean: A screwdriver, a spade, a pair of clippers, a knife, part of an old shelf and the metal part of The Canuck's splint. We're like MacGyver except stupid, and one of us is Canadian.

So off to B&Q to get some rope. Which we couldn't find, and then of course, being us, we got bored and decided to have some fun. I asked the shop assistant with the straightest face I could pull, where was the rope, the shovels and the bags of lime... The Canuck shusshhed me very obviously. Then we both fake smiled. The dude looked nervous.

At Ci-Ci-Doo and Puc It Out's house, we picked the second least dangerous tree. Quickly realised that we couldn't climb it (Dad wouldn't let The Canuck, man that was hilarious). So we had to try something else. Here's what we came up with...
Yeah. That's a can of beans with our rope tied around it. MacGyver never used a tin of beans to make his contraptions did he? No. Us:1 MacGyver:0. We're winning. Or at least we would be if it had worked. It did not. So we moved on to the third least dangerous tree. I was nominated to climb on the grounds that we didn't want Dad to come out and ground The Canuck for two weeks without pocket money. I'm still laughing at that. I don't know why. If he told me not to I wouldn't either. So I shimmied my fat ass up the tree to the best of my ability, pulling large chunks down on top of me as I went. Got the rope into the tree climbed down... choked for a while and then sent The Canuck up to do it right...

The man is part monkey, even with a dislocated thumb. I coordinated, which is a fancy way of saying I didn't do much, but told others how it should be done. My only contribution was to think of ways of levering up the rope when it fell. I put all those honours in the leaving cert, four years of college and eighteen months of training for my current job to work and came up with this:

Tie the rope to a stick. Throw the stick.

Genius. After much labouring and messing, we finally had it. A rope swing. Too low for me or The Canuck to make use of it - after all the eldest of my sister and brother-in-law's kids is only seven (almost). But it hung, and we got the thumbs up from Spike and Looper up there in the top photo.
Job well done. Except for that photo. That's just embarrassing.

Out Nana's back garden there was a swing which was built buy one of her brothers for my Da and his sisters. All of us grandkids got the use out of it, in fact, we regularly fought over it, and we were reminded that it was built by hand.

I hope mine lasts. There's not a lot of Things that are going to stand the test of time, and I'd like to be able to call over to the gaff in seven years time when Grace is the same age as Ellen is now and say; yep, that was me. I did it. I hung that tyre swing.

God knows the "baking skills" I picked up during The Project aren't going to be the stuff of legend...

Thing 361 Shooting

Do not adjust your monitor. That picture is sideways. You're okay. I promise. I just though it looked all arty and shit. I've already covered this bit, but for the sake of reiteration, I love movies. I particularly love action movies. Sunday is a day for couch and action movies or old movies with more tea than is healthy. The Frenchman takes this to extremes, choosing only the worst of the worst in action movies. No plot, just explosions and guns. It's hilarious.

As a result of our combined fascinations, I've been exposed, like most of my generation to lots of shoot-em-up scenes. Guns shouldn't frighten me, or have any effect on me at this point, but they did. Not in a weird scary way, just that when your mate hands you a twelve guage shotgun and you feel the weight of it, and watch people duck out of your way when you swing around with it in your hand, well, you get a strange kind of feeling. This thing can kill people. It's only purpose is as a weapon. It's a tad unsettling.

Thankfully, we were only out to shoot clay discs, not anything alive, and though at the best of times I'm a clumsy moron, that strange feeling of knowing that this thing in your hand is a lethal killer, it makes you cautious, and considerate, and more than a little careful.
You wouldn't have guessed from the picture. Cameraman in the background is fishing for shotgun shells while Big Bar and Dr Frasier grin like idiots. I promise, we were being careful. Singer wasn't allowed to hold a shotgun. That would only lead to misery... I'm kidding, he's just as competent at not killing us as anyone else.

While the shooting was the main Thing for the day, it was all in all, quite the entertaining boys day out. Start off with some clay shooting by the lake in Kilaloe. Apparently, I'm not half bad at this, I hit a few of the targets. Big Bar frightened all and sundry by being shockingly accurate. Sure he looks like a tall smiley friendly giant, but don't piss him off if he's within arms reach of a gun.

We watched the Munster match (first time I've seen them playing in the Amlin Challenge Cup -so there's a Thing. Incidentally, Top Cat was at the game and it looked like awesome fun for the travelling faithful), then we popped down to Reddan's in Kilaloe and had a pint or two while we backed a gang of slow horses at the Grand National, then back to Kilaloe for the Leinster match. Top day.
This photo is included for effect only. It makes me look like a murderous hick. I can feel the Limerick jokes coming from all my Dublin mates. Go on then... get them over with...

As I said, I wasn't prepared for the feeling of holding a shotgun, I most certainly wasn't ready for the kick that comes with it. My shoulder is bruised and so's my arm. I'm not going to whinge about it or anything, but if you've never been shooting before then brace yourself for that. Recoil from a twelve guage is powerful and it hit the chubby flesh around my chubby shoulders fairly remorselessly.

The fun part was the success. You've to call "pull" (no dirty jokes perverts) and the shooter is released to throw the clay high into the air, it tends to curl, you've to swing that heavy gun around and shoot early. Because of the way shotguns work, the shell scatters, so the earlier you shoot, the better the chance of hitting the target.

Here are some not so instructional videos:

First there's me: Here and here.

Then there's Dr Frasier: He's here.

Can't leave out Bear: Here.

And of course, Big Bar... Here.

Granted, those videos do not make for riveting viewing, and we were better than they let on. Honest. We just weren't filming the bits where we were kicking ass. Wow, that sounds like a lie no matter which way you slice it. I promise we're better than they let on. Also, I wish we'd a video of Cameraman shooting, because honestly, that'll make your blood cold. Someone's getting an invite on to my Zombie Apocolypse Survival Team.
My success rate was pretty good, I hit a three of them anyway, which out of twenty five shots, seems like a meagre return, but it was my first time. So, you know. The point wasn't winning though (spoken like a true person who didn't win, I really don't like the term loser), it was to know what it's like to shoot a gun. It's strange. Not bad, or good, just unusual. There's a power to it which is tempered with trepidation that things could go wrong if you're not careful. Sort of like having control of the remote in your living room, except instead of picking bad TV and getting slagged or given out to, you might kill someone if you're not careful.

Interesting thing to be able to say that I've done. Also, got me some new recruits for when zombie apocalypse arrives. When that does happen, you might want to stick close to Bear, Cameraman and Big Bar...

Thing 360 Swim in the Shannon

When I got back from my holiday in Australia, after twenty three hours or so of travelling, Blond Boss was all about the going home. I, on the other hand, had to get into town. I told everyone that it was because I was mad to see my mates that I hadn't seen in three weeks, but it was actually because I missed the River Shannon. How ultimate-sad-ass is that? I wanted to go have a look at the river. I told you that I love Limerick, I really wasn't kidding.

So, eh, after that highly embarrassing admission, it should be no surprise that I've always wanted to swim in the Shannon. Not just anywhere though, I didn't want to be diving into the river at Carrick on Shannon, or in Lough Derg, I wanted to go swimming in the city centre. Right in the bit of the Shannon that makes Limerick City look pretty.

The problem... floating menace...
Look at that face and tell me that you're not intimidated. I'm pretty sure he's planning to kill me.

It would be false to say that I've got a phobia of swans, I'm not that afraid of them, they just make me nervous. And when I see them gathering, in a little dangerous posse right at the edge of the steps where I'm trying to get into the water to swim, well, I start sweating a little.

When they refuse to leave that spot, and then start congregating in the new spot that I choose, I start considering swan-heavy conspiracy theories. How much do they know? How much do we really know about them? We know that they can brake peoples' arms, apparently. What else are they capable of?

Finally, they moved off, and having spent an age watching them, I considered chickening out. I didn't though. You can't walk across burning wood one day and then freak out about swans the next. Stupid swans.
The second thing that was concerning me was hepatitis. My Granda once spent six months in hospital after rat urine got into a small cut on his leg. Hepatitis can be a bitch. And while I think that the water is a little fast to be badly infested, well, cities are cities and rats are rats and the obvious is the obvious, so I was a little alarmed. That's only prudent really.

Here's what I hadn't considered, what with the swan-gang and the hepatitis on my mind, was that there's a nasty current running just out from the water's edge. You can swim relatively undisturbed for a bout ten feet, then it's all about the current, and it was dragging itself toward swans... fast.

You can see me looking nervous in this next photo... Holy crap. Those sinister looking swans are coming right at me.
So I had my swim, fulfilled a life long ambition, then got out to dry off only for Token Northy and Pony Boy to attempt to first de-towel me while I was in the nip, then try to drive off with the rest of my clothes. Gas men... and by gas men I mean gowl-bags.

Got to love the loyalty of The Frenchman. Stood his ground. He'd have helped me to walk home in the nip. Or at least lent me some pants.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Thing 359 Walk on Fire

Ammmm.... yeah. I just walked on fire. Eight hundred degrees hot burning wood embers. That photo behind there is a little dramatic, it wasn't burning like that when I walked across it. It was more like the third photo down. Go on, take a minute to scroll down and have a look see. I'll wait.

Still eight hundred degrees though. I went to the place knowing that I wanted to do it. You don't turn up at a fire-walk specifically not intending to walk. But I was waiting for the gimmick. The fake part that means that you're not really walking on fire. I was sure that bit was coming. It didn't. I was actually going to have to walk on fire. Actual fire.

Now if this was going to be the case, then some serious encouragement was needed. Duly provided by Brian Moore from Peak Potential. This guy is a motivational speaker. By the time we got around to walking on fire, we weren't nervous, hell, we were rearing to go and frankly, I think we scared ourselves a little with the intensity. More on that later.
The Barista took that photo after I'd gotten to the other side. It was awesome. He was actually the one who put me up to this. Into Arabica for a cup of coffee, sponsorship card for Special Olympics Ireland thrown into my hand, and an order to take part in the firewalk. The Barista is also the guy who using his neck, bent an 8mm diametre, six foot steel bar. With my help. I also used my neck to bend the steel bar.

I'm not kidding here guys. The whole point of the motivational speech was mind over matter. I'm entirely skeptical about these things so I tested the bar, it wasn't a fake, and it wasn't rigged, and I didn't use anything other than my neck to bend it. It was freaky. They'd psyched us up to the last. Positive thinking. It was a little freaky like I said. I got talked up to the point that I actually wanted to bend a steel bar with my neck. I wanted to put an 8mm bar into my throat and bend it without any help.
So after the talks, and the psyches up, and the positive thinking, and the encouragement, we walked out to that fourteen feet of burning hot coal embers, and if you'd tried to stop me I'd have pushed you out of the way. It was weird how intense we all were. There were eighty of us, ranging in all ages from about twenty to mid sixties.

I walked up to that burning pit, and when I was asked if I was ready I think I nearly shouted at the dude asking me. I walked, not too quickly, at a steady pace across the burning wood, looking straight ahead. It was room temperature at most. Honestly. I didn't feel a thing.

I bent a steel rod with my neck, and walked across burning wood embers without pain and without fear. I should have been afraid. Check out the disclaimer down below. I've to sign that in order to take part. It basically reads: If you get hurt walking on FIRE, and many people do get hurt WALKING ON FIRE, then it's not our fault because you agreed to WALK ON FIRE.

Alright, admittedly this blog is a little all over the place, mostly because I'm still kind of on a high from the walk. Tomorrow walking on normal ground is going to be boring.

Thing 358 Ignite Talks

Alright, I'll grant you that's a very grainy photo, but I don't think the ones that I took are any better, so Surfer Girl's come up with the goods, while Lou Lou has my camera. I'm a disorganised mess. Still, this is a cool event and it's a smashing idea. It's more of a Galway idea than a Limerick one, as in, it's the kind of thing you'd expect to find in Galway, but it was a sensation for Limerick. It's called Ignite Night.

Last night there were nine speakers. Each had a topic close to their heart. They each get five minutes to talk about their given topic while twenty different slides, each changing after fifteen seconds, play behind them. There's no longer than five minutes per speaker, so you can't possibly get bored, and every fifteen seconds you've a new photo/slide to look at.

If you're not getting the gist of what I'm saying, or couldn't be arsed exercising your imagination, then here's a little link that'll help. It's Ignite Night in Seattle, and a funny man is talking about how science is ruining his childhood... CLICKETY CLICK.

It's an amazing idea though, for a few reasons. Firstly, it's not for profit. No one makes money, miLKlabs, the collaborative responsible for setting up the event spent some serious money on putting it on, only to make no money. So if there's no money to be made, why is it on? Literally just so people can share ideas. Nothing else. Well, not nothing else, you're there to have some fun too, but mainly the idea sharing. No cover charge, free in.

Secondly, there's no limit or constraints on what gets talked about. It could literally be anything. In my case it was public humiliation in The Project. The guy on before me talked about weather information processed correctly can be turned into music through computers and programming. The guy before that talked about the music recording computer program he wrote. Try following two technical genii with some nonsense about embarrassing yourself in public. It was embarrassing, ironically enough.

Thirdly, the people there are there for the same reason you are, which is that they're interested in sharing something for no reason other than they think you might get a laugh. What the hell is wrong with that? Plus, it's another one of those alternative to drink things that are really out there if that's your thing.

Now for all the crap and junk in the Project that I've done that's embarrassing, and I talked about that stuff at length, you'd think there'd be nothing left in me to shame. Sadly, this is not true. I was terrified of the thing. I was freaking out over it. Me? Having a problem talking for five minutes? Are you serious? I never shut up. This should have been a cake walk. Instead I was freaking out and my palms were sweaty.

I was pleased about how it went though. I didn't completely fail, and there was some fun had. I want another one. I want Ignite talks. And not just so I can run my mouth, ones that I can turn up to and just see other people talking. Anyone hear of any in their area. Let me know.

Thing 357 Gone Fishin'

I badly wanted to hang a "Gone Fishin'" sign on the door of The Sluggery when I was leaving for this Thing. Except that's the dumbest idea in the entire world. That sign may as well say: "We're not home, rob us". Would it have been worth it just to hang that iconic sign? Probably not.

When I told Thorny Wire that fishing was my Thing for the day he asked me what kind of childhood I had. It was a strange question to come from my little brother. "The same childhood as you, oddball, and you didn't go fishing either...." Would have been a good point except that he's been fishing regularly since he was about nineteen.

It made me wonder how many other twenty somethings have never been fishing? I would have thought it's not that common a pastime that I should be mocked for never having done it, but then Dr Frasier put me to shame. I used to fish all the time he told me. With the greatest of respect to Dr Frasier, I really wasn't expecting that. He looks like the kind of guy who would have read every book on fishing ever, and be able to readily identify and tell you the history an genealogy of every fish you might come across, but I wasn't expecting that. It's funny how best friends can surprise you after years of hanging around.

He was as good as his word too. Or at least I think he was. Capable boat-rower, he also filled in the positions of Number One Officer, cabin boy, scullery maid and ship's doctor. Useful eh? I as the captain, obviously enough.

We went for a spot just outside Newmarket on Fergus, County Clare. It's called Rathlahine, and it's not hard to find from Limerick or Ennis. Thirty bucks a head gets you a boat for five hours, and you can rent lines if you need them. We only spent three hours out there. I assumed I'd be bored; you know, sitting around for three hours, nothing to do except cast and re cast for fish. It was a pretty fast three hours, and really relaxing.

I'm definitely getting old before my time. It was just so damn peaceful. Tranquil even. Wee just chilled out in our boat, waiting for fish to bite, shooting the breeze and not worrying. It was pretty cool. Think I'll do more of it. Except I'm expecting better results next time.

We caught, literally, nothing.

Not even an old tyre, boot or book of cliches. Nada. Which I think says a lot about our skills as fishermen. We were crap at it. Don't get me wrong, that didn't take from the event at all, but it would have been nice to have a fish or two to take home.

To add insult to injury, the pond itself was only restocked with fish a week before. I mean we literally had no excuse. Two oafs in a boat. We're not very outdoorsy, to be fair.
Next time I'm catching me something. Even if I've to use my hands to do it!!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Thing 356 Bell Ringing (Campanology)

When I was small, Nana used to bring me and Thorny Wire down to Clancy's Strand by the river. Across the Shannon, St Mary's Cathedral, which was built in 1168 (I tend to love old stuff, historical stuff) used to ring out every day. It wasn't just gong-gong nonsense, it was proper bell ringing, in tune and in time. I'd actually forgotten about that sound until Monday night.

Campanology is the art of bell ringing. It's not just pulling on a rope, any idiot with a pair of hands and half a brain who started a stupid Project can do that. This is an art, and it has competitions, serious teams who practice every week, and it's one of the oldest forms of art in the world. Also, it's another thing that Limerick people apparently kick ass at doing. The St Mary's Cathedral Bell-Ringers just won the South Division competition like three days ago. They won the All-Ireland in 2008. The Redemptorists Bellringers are several times champions.

The lightest of the bells in St Mary's is six hundred weight. The top weight bell is just over a ton and a quarter. That photo down below is not sideways, it's a ton a quarter of bell, re cast in 1907 being swung from a rope down below. Check it... a ton and a quarter...
The way it works: Eight bells, the smallest is called the "treble", the heaviest is the "tenor". Teble's away first with all the others in order of weight following after. The leader then calls a change, inserting one of the later bells in before an earlier one. For example a call of six-two, would mean the number six ringer now changes his tempo and beat to fit in ahead of the number two ringer. After a while, another change is called. Hence the proper, in tune bell ringing that actually takes years of practice.

There's also a rhythm and this where yours truly falls down. Left hand to pull the rope, right hand to catch it, only on the upswing, and guide it down for the next pull. Or something to that effect. I think. Bless 'em, the Ringers in St Mary's were determined that I get it right. So they kept me going back up for practice over and over in between their ringing.

They have a set of practice bells. They're not in the next picture, the next one is me covering my ears to protect me from the sound of the tenor bell in St Mary's, with us standing right next to it...
These are the practice bells. And these are some of the St Mary's campanologists...
The sound of their ringing transported me back to being a child with Nana and Thorny Wire feeding the ducks and swans on the Shannon just by Curragower Falls. It's hard to explain. Things that I think are cool, are not really cool, most people think that they're daft and ridiculous, but I thought bell ringing was amazing. Not just the history of the church, or my own personal history, but the art and ease that these guys did a pretty complex job. The whole thing really.
Mind you, the narrow ass stairs was properly claustrophobic. Worth it for the view from the top. In Limerick and with nothing to do about the town; I highly recommend a visit to St Mary's Cathedral. It's cool. And by that I mean I think it's cool, and you may not.

Thing 355 Walk a Cat

Don't be absurd Daniel. You don't take cats for walks. They're cats, which as everyone knows, are not the same as dogs. They're different things, and as such, come with different behaviours. For example: Dogs love people, while cats are conspiring to kill you when they're not just tolerating your existence. Dogs are loyal to a fault, while cats are still trying to figure out how to use a knife just so they can jam it in your back. It's these fundamental differences that mean that they shouldn't be expected to operate in the same way under specific circumstances, like putting a lead on them.

Alright, I'm aware of the above, but I have a fondness for the absurd, it's why I once wore braids in my hair... Yeah, I'll publicly admit to that now. I may as well, it's not like the lads don't tell that story all the time to embarrass me anyway. I like taking the normal things in life, and moving them about a bit and shaking them also in order to make something different, and to provoke a reaction. Like wearing odd shoes for a day, or wearing fake nails for a day, or dressing like a woman...

So when Keano suggested that I should get myself a "cat-lead" I said: "Don't be ridiculous Keano, that product doesn't exist". But when it turned out that it does exist, I said: "Cool, I'm in". Wow. They were oddly specific quotes weren't they?
So Cat Lady provided me with Fidel Catstro. Isn't she sweet? She doesn't like me very much, I think she suspected me from the word go, and was instantly suspicious of me. That or I didn't leave my prejudice about cats at the door and was looking for the knife. I tried to pet Fidel Catstro to put her at ease. Went down like a lead balloon.

Nothing for it but to jam a leash on the little thing, hope she doesn't scratch the face off me (or my ugly mug, I'm not bitter about that at all), and go for a walk.

Problem 1: Cat claws are excellent for sticking to carpets. They also make an atrocious noise when you try to remove said cat from the ground by leash alone.
Problem 2: When a cat doesn't want to walk, it drops to its haunches meaning that walking the cat actually becomes "dragging a cat".
Problem 3: When people see you dragging a cat they judge the shit out of you, and no arguments about trying to get the cat out into some fresh air, or an improvement of its exercise regime will cut any mustard.
Poor Fidel Catstro. We picked her up and carried her to the end of the block, tried to coax her without dragging her back, while trying to avoid hedges she could hide in and the eternal judgement of all who passed us by. Don't worry, before you go calling the ISPCA, we ended up spending most of twenty minutes not moving, just five minutes trying to drag her to her feet, and then she ended up dragging me all the way back to the house.

Cat can really move.

Cat Lady tells me that Fidel will not speak to her for a week. She thinks that's bad? I'm sleeping with one eye open and I've planned all my escape routes out of town... that cat is coming for me. I'm damn sure of it.

Never try to make a cat do what it doesn't want to, ultimately you'll fail, and you'll have earned eternal hatred...

Monday, April 4, 2011

Thing 354 Carrying the Flag

Now, you see that? That's me on the pitch at Thomond Park. This is commonly referred to as "being a jammy git". It's what happens when nice people find your stupid blog to be mildly amusing and offer to help you out for funsies, and then through mates of theirs manage to get you the chance to walk on to Thomond Park just before the biggest game in Irish Provincial Rugby, in the most historically rich stadium in Europe, waving a giant Munster flag.

Thomond Park is well known for two things at match time: The awesome and incredible noise level as the fans get sucked into the game, and the equally deafening silence that comes with each kick. While on that note, a tip of the hat to the clown who gives Leinster fans a bad name with his "Sexton for Ireland" chant in the run up to O'Gara's kick. If you're reading this, I hope you tripped comically on a banana peel on your way out of the stadium.

There's no place to get a better idea of the noise level then right down on the pitch. The roar as the team came out gave me shivers. You think it's loud in your section of the stand? Trying be on the pitch, where an absolute tidal wave of screams batters you. It's no wonder so many professionals don't like playing against Munster here. That shit is intimidating.

It's part of the pre-match festivities. Members of the Munster's Supporters Club, and the Supporters Club Choir (who are class by the way) sing, beat drums and carry flags onto the pitch. I got to carry one of them there flags and was within whispering distance of the players. I didn't whisper though. That would have been weird.
That there is a nice picture of the legends that organised the whole Thing for me. Aren't they lovely? And die hard Munster fans. How could you not love them?

The Ozzie came with me, because I thought it would be nice for him to see a game of skill and aggression. He's used to watching Ozzie Rules Football, which is, let's be honest, a complete mystery to everyone, including the people who play it. I don't think he was prepared for the atmosphere. Standing in the old players' entrance just prior to taking the pitch. I wondered was this what it felt like for the pros? Then I remembered I was carrying a flag and at no time was I going to be asked to tackle Jamie Heaslip, and I came to my senses.

There was more than a touch of awe to the whole thing. Because, you know, I get all weepy over Munster. I wish that was a joke. I cried both times we won the Heineken Cup.

Then, of all the things to happen... me and the Ozzie got the television....
What you're looking at in that photo is a post-manly-hug-smile. It's an awkward moment for all concerned, but I was too happy about winning to care.

It was hilarious. I think just about everyone I know who wasn't at the match texted to tell me that they saw my "ugly mug" on the telly. Seriously, I think like 90% of them used that exact phrase. "Ugly mug"!! Jerkbags, my mom says I'm handsome. So I got like thirty seconds of TV exposure, and I got to walk out the giant Munster flags before kick off. Awesome Thing.

Thing 353 Singles on Segways

I signed up for this Thing when I wasn't single, that was easy. It's easy to turn up to a single's event when you're in a relationship, you can be smug. People in relationships are smug. It's what they do. Being single made this one slightly more daunting. Because now I can't be smug... It's a tough old world out there for singletons. And I really hate being deprived of the opportunity to be smug.

This was really two Things in one. First of all there was the Singles on Segways bit, and then there was the Mingle part. Both of which were in Galway, which as everyone in Ireland knows, is the country's most lovely city. It also has more tourists per capita then any other part of the world, with an estimated five tourists for every local (estimate made up entirely on the spot. Reference required). It also has the world's largest collection of stag and hen nights only being outshone by Templebar in Dublin.

So if you're in Galway and you fancy an interesting date, then I highly recommend Segway Adventures. Sure you're going to look a little silly in the helmet, but you get to ride around on a segway dammit. I want one. I want it so I can glide in and out of the living room and kitchen telling everyone what's what. I want to wear a suit on one and glide about telling people what to do. It's cool... Mind you, we did get heckled a little. Six people riding around Galway on their segways, feeling mildly self conscious about the high vis reflectors and the helmet which barely fits on my giant head.
Thankfully Dr Frasier and The Ozzie looked equally silly... this makes me feel better about myself.

The whole thing was organised by Another It's a dating website, and a friend making website, in case you didn't get that part from the title. I'm assuming you did, because you're not stupid. Internet dating just isn't as taboo as it once was. There's still a bit of a stigma there, but not like there was before. Mind you, for all of my lack of shame, the idea of driving around on Segways as a way to meet a lady... well... You get where I'm going.

I still think it would make an interesting date though. A little on the unusual side, but that's not something to be given out about. If you feel like a sneak peak at Another Friend, you can CLICK HERE.
One of the events and stuff that they do, as I very recently learned, is called a "Mingle". Basically, they invite members to a bar, all on a specific night to have some drinks and pick at some finger food. None of that awkward first date business, because everyone's in a large bunch. Mind you, I still found it a little strange. So I brought a gang. Little Sister, The Canuck, Dr Frasier, The Ozzie and The Singer all came with.

As events go, I'm sure the people at were psyched about it, it was a success, sadly, we didn't mingle. We ended up sitting on the outside of the group just shooting the breeze and talking nonsense to each other. It's actually one of our strongest suits. Utter nonsense talking is an art form amongst my mates.

So things learned from this Thing. Segways are awesome. Internet dating, while not for everyone, is certainly no bad way to meet someone, and Galway is an awesome spot for a night out...

Alright I already knew that last one.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Thing 352 Reality TV House

That there is a screen-shot of our kitchen. It's one of the recordings made while we were streaming. Emsie made the suggestion that since I hate reality TV so much, I should rig up my own reality TV show here in The Sluggery. Genius. Invite the entire world to watch me scratching my junk on the couch while I watch old action movies. Who doesn't want to watch that eh?

So we set up three webcams; One in the living room to watch us while we recline. One in the kitchen to watch us making dinner. One on the kitchen window-sill to watch us smoking cigarettes on the deck. Big Brother eat your heart out. Now if only we had a Geordie to commentate on everything we were doing it would have been aces.

After the initial excitement of getting everything set up it got kind of boring pretty quick. Dr Frasier was watching from home. He got bored after fifteen minutes and started urging everyone to kiss each other to liven the whole thing up. Think he's got some voyeur issues.

We tried to liven up the every day tasks. Making lunch while on a unicycle was interesting. Token Northy's combination of unicycle and crutches made for fun viewing. Particularly when he fell. That's always comic gold. We tried wearing funny hats and wigs while we watched television, and I did a little shaking of my rump while I cooked. But it was all pretty lame. I mean, there's only so much you can do to spice up what are pretty ordinary tasks.

I felt we were getting a little boring. I turned on the ustream channel to see the number of viewers. At any one time there were about fifteen people viewing. Fifteen people watching me shake my ass while I made fajitas. It's not an especially fine ass, there's little in the way of excitement or eroticism to this. Big Red described it as the "worst porn ever". He's an absolute gent of a charmer. Smiley face.

We played pictionary and chilled out, while eighteen people watched us. It's a strange ass feeling knowing that people are watching you chill in your living room. We all pretended we weren't self conscious, but I totally was. Pony Boy left and headed for Little Flower's house. I know that he says it was because he wanted to, but I'm thinking it was to get out of the glare of public attention. He couldn't deal with the fame. Stardom is too much for some people.

Mates were texting me all day to tell me that they could see me and found it too voyeuristic to continue watching. Some people stayed tune though. So we had some wine and we cracked out the guitars and the harmonicas and started a jamming session. Hell, we even took requests from people, that's the kind of decent giving people we are.

Total Views of The Deck: 154
Total Views of The Living Room: 484
Total Views of The Kitchen: 314.

That's a lot of people watching nothing but us. Apparently reality TV is just that enthralling.

About the height of the excitement was spotted by Little Sister and I don't think a whole lot of other people. It was about half one in the morning. Lady Northy cracked out the Sing Star, she sang It's Raining Men with me, Token Northy and The Frenchman as back up dancers.

God I hope no one was recording that one... One thing is for sure, I definitely don't like reality TV any more now than I did before.

Thing 351 The Early House

Firstly, to be clear, I've been in an early house before, this is not a new thing. It's kind of a Limerick tradition that after your debs, you head for the Horse and Hound for breakfast and a pint. The difference that makes this a Thing for The Project is that I've never gone into an early house for my first pint of the day. I've been up drinking all night (I've had an adventurous and slightly debauched youth) and gone to an early house, and I've had pints in the morning hours before, but not like this.

One of my pet hates about shift work is that I don't have a Friday night. For those working nine-to-five (and now you're singing Dolly Parton, I just know you are), there's Friday night to look forward to. When I lived in Dublin, Friday evenings in Harcourt Street's bars were just choc-a-bloc with suits as everyone started the weekend unwind. Pints after work. It's an institution. Friday night is where it's at these days.

Since my normal shift pattern ends on a night shift, and can end on any day of the week, my Friday night is usually on a weekday morning at about eight o'clock. It's not fair. I gripe, but no one listens. Ever since I started shift-working I've been promising myself a morning like this one. Breakfast in the Horse and Hound with a few pints. I'll have my Friday night while you're all having your Wednesday morning...

Hee Hee works with me and Token Northy, and he's game for a laugh, so I recruited him to help with the excess. That way I'm not walking into an early house at eight in the morning to drink on my own, which could probably be considered problematic. Thanks be to Hee Hee for covering me on this one.

We were in place in the bar for the eight o'clock news. Outside the door traffic was building up as people started their midweek commerce. Kids were on the way to school, street cleaners were busy making the city presentable and truck drivers were making their deliveries for the day's business. Inside, two clowns were sitting down to a massive feed and a nice creamy pint.

We shot the breeze and talked about this and that like anyone does on a Friday after work, but it just wasn't the same. In fact, it was a little weird and slightly unsettling. We weren't the only ones drinking, which I thought was odd. It's really not a time for it, and the day just keeps getting brighter. We moved on at about ten or half past to another early house not far away.

It was heaving. Wedged with people drinking and chatting. At half ten in the morning. It's just not something I'm used to seeing. One chap with a thick London accent kept insisting he was from Cork and began slagging and berating all the Limerick people. He was beyond drunk and the atmosphere was turning a little unpleasant. I was still trying to compute the amount of people who were drinking heavily by the time half past midday rolled around.

Hee Hee and I headed for Austin's. My favouritest of favourite pubs. At this point I was feeling massively self-conscious. We were passing people with kids, out for their lunch, we walked passed people running errands and taking a break from their working days, and at this point we'd been drinking for four and a half hours.

We had a few more, because, hey, we're out now, we may as well drive on. But it got more and more uncomfortable and less and less fun. The moral of the story? Drinking is only fun when everyone else is doing it. I can safely say I won't be doing that style of "Friday night" again in a hurry.

Thing 350 War Fleet Bid

Observe, if you will, the HMS Ark Royal. It's an air craft carrier. Bet you've never tried to buy one of these bad boys? I put in a handsome bid of two hundred euro. Dr Frasier estimates that when it does get sold, it'll be for somewhere about the two-billion mark. Mine is a tad short of that, but I get the feeling they're going to be badly stuck for buyers, so I'm hoping they'll give my bid some serious consideration.

I didn't stop there though. What on earth is the point in having your own aircraft carrier if you can't put out a few destroyers to back up your flagship. So I bid fifty euro each on the HMS Exeter, the HMS Southampton and the HMS Nottingham. I'm going to have the best private fleet in the whole of Ireland.

You can definitely pick up chicks in an aircraft carrier...

Here's a funny story for you, and I can't for the life of me find a link to it, but it is a true story, I can 100% guarantee that (not a guarantee, terms and conditions apply, story probably true though, and if not, it should be). In the '90's the US was selling decommissioned military facilities, which included a nuclear bomb plant. A guy bought it. A week later the US Government realised their mistake. They'd accidentally made a guy into one of the world's nuclear superpowers.

Imagine the God-Complex that comes with that one. Hi, I'm Jim, and I'm a nuclear superpower. If your dog ever shits on my lawn again, there's going to be some serious repercussions... You definitely don't want to be the guy that cuts him off in traffic.

So here's hoping the British Government makes the same mistakes that the Yanks did way back when. Then I'll have a bigger fleet than the Irish Navy. At which point I'll make subjects of all of you, and turn The Sluggery into the capital of Ireland. Pony Boy can be the Minister for Fun.

I find it odd, and even a tiny bit alarming that this kind of firepower is so readily available on a public website. If you fancy buying yourself several destroyers and an air craft carrier, here's your chance...

So, loyal subjects to be, you better start currying for favour now, because not everyone is going to make the cut when I've got my own air craft carrier to kick all of your asses... Be afraid, be very afraid.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Thing 349 Wax Fireball

Curse you interwebs, you're a constant disappointment to me and millions of others. I hate when the internet lets me down. Remember Thing 2? It was Coke and Mentos Thing. It was supposed to be an explosion of cola and minty goodness that would have had the local kids sticky and covered in the freshest cola they ever had the misfortune of having rain down on them. It was supposed to be monumental in its explosiveness.

It was not.

It was instead, a slightly mellow waterspout of brown something that barely reached higher than my knee. Why? Because the internets lied to me. It showed me YouTube videos of fountains of cola that hit at least ten feet in the air and refused to ever come down. Much the same with the coke and mentos, the Wax Fireball turned out to be a massive disappointment.
Look!! I even boiled wax over the stove. Here's how the recipe for mediocrity goes. Melt wax, put it over an open flame, let it ignite, add water. Hey presto; fireball. God knows where the science behind this is, but if candle wax hits a certain point of temperature, it ignites and then it's forced to burst into flames. Melted candlewax hates water, or so I'm told, so if you add that, you've got yourself a fireball of epic proportions.

Yeah right. More like a fireball of mediocre proportions.
That's not a photo of the fireball, thank god, it actually got past knee height, just about. I got this suggestion from Spoon, and I thought it was awesome. Last minute Project stuff. I thought it'd be cool and stuff and that it'd be worthy of making a Thing by virtue of how many of my eyelashes it would singe off me. Total: ZERO.

Once the water was poured in it flared up to thigh height and only served to make me and Token Northy feel slightly depressed. Next time I'm adding dynamite. That might rock it out a little...