Monday, December 21, 2009

Revelation of the (snowy) day

The Board greeted the sight of snow this morning with all the passion of a eunuch librarian at Spring Break.

In fact if it wasn't for the Caribbean juice waiting for me in my car, the Limerick Leader newsroom would be without my pithy wit this morning.

Havana Cultura - New Cuba Sound, the latest collection from BBC Radio One's Gilles Peterson, finally arrived in the post yesterday evening and immediately set about melting the God Damn Winter Morbidity that has become the soundtrack to my life.

By the time you hear Ipacuba with Danay, Julio Padron and Frances Del Rio, you'll be on a beach drinking rum, smoking cigars, watching cruiserweight boxing and eating fried chicken.

Get it. Get it now.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Oh how we laughed

From The Rut. Brilliant stuff.

The Bishop of Limerick resigns

I expected to write something harsh; something bitter. But for better or worse, that's not how today was. This piece is from tonight's Leader city edition:

After his speech, the Bishop turned and lit three candles on an advent wreath to remember the pain of the children who suffered. When it was done, he lowered the lit taper and glanced into the flame. At that moment, the world seemed to stop and a second lasted an eternity. Then, he cradled his left hand behind the flame and blew it out.

It was finished.

Dr Donal Murray had said from the beginning of this controversy that he would find his judgement here, before his congregation. On a Thursday morning, as the winter air pinched noses and numbed fingers, he found his shelter.

Outside St John’s Cathedral, as the cameras and the microphones gathered, the words were harsh. “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander,” says an old red face under a green flat cap, his Munster jacket zipped up to the last and his words whistling out through the gaps in his teeth. “They were all covering it up.”

Outside, there has been so much recrimination and fury about the Bishop of Limerick and his failure to pursue paedophile priests during his time as an Auxiliary Bishop in the Dublin Archdiocese. But inside, there were the soft keys of a harpsichord, the thatched roof of a nativity crib and the warm hearts of his flock.

In here, he found his shelter.

It was just after eleven when the Bishop stepped out of the sacristy, a phalanx of priests with dark overcoats and clasped hands around him. He delivered his resignation speech in a deep, thoughtful voice, the kind that shapes the last word of every sentence as if it were the end of a prayer.

“We are people who believe that God’s mercy and God’s healing are without limit,” he said, at the exact moment when the tower overhead began to strike out. The last words of his speech, his last words as Bishop, weaved through the air with the chimes of the bronze bells.

Once he had lit the candles, Dr Murray stepped back and bowed his head. Before an hour of prayer and music began, he walked away from the marble altar and sat amongst the rows of people who had come to listen. In his eyes, and maybe in theirs too, he was now just a member of a congregation again.

Outside, the cameras and microphones loiter and pounce on everyone who walks out. Around the corner, Phonsie Clifford from Garryowen glances at the bustle. He’s nearly 80, but he still remembers having to go and pray with the Holy Fathers at 6.30am everyday before work. “You had to do it,” he says. “They were different times.”

In his eyes, the Bishop had to go. “The thing here is the people who are still suffering. Lads have done away with themselves and everything over this, and the ones who are alive are going through awful pain. It’s a shame.” Later on, he’ll go out to St Camillus’ to collect his wife, who is in full-time care, and bring her back to John’s for an injection in her knee. “She has terrible pain. Age, I suppose.”

At the foot of the Cathedral wall, an electrician installing new lights kneels and digs through a web of cables spewing out of the ground. For a second he stops, rests his back against the deep stone and waits. Then he leans forward and starts digging again.

Knees, lights. Things change, but life carries on. But inside, the hymns disappear into the silver and glass and chestnut timber of the Bishop’s church. The lights are dimmed.

In here, he found his shelter.

A year in the life

The Board discovered this Thursday that not only has Facebook devoured his life, it has kept a tidy record of the process.

I share with you all, therefore, the highlights of my status updates in this year of years.

It's a depressing notion to realise that life is never as witty or exciting as we make it sound on social networking sites.

Alas, we all have crosses to bear.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Revelation of the day

Emily Blunt is beyond wonderful and proof, once again, that Michael Buble is a twat.

Budgets, booze and the Hamburglar

This time last year The Board sent himself into a state of purple apoplexy when he found himself, against every fibre of his being, agreeing with the Government and their Hamburglar budget.

"Fine. Take my cheese slice and limited edition Ben 10 figurine, Lenihan. Just get capital spending under control" - The Chalkboard, circa 2009.

Here we are 12 months later, balder, wiser and with torn ligaments in our thumb (thank you, UL Bohs), and we find that our opinions haven't changed.

What is Lenihan trying to do? Dull my fury about how this country has been run? He's going about it the right way.

With his perma-dour ties and sharp delivery, Lenihan is totally auditioning for the Fianna Fail leadership.
While Dermot Ahern turns white hurling copies of the Constitution at the GRA, Lenihan is becoming the Woman of Substance in Bertie's first wives club, aka the cabinet.

Wednesday was a mixed afternoon for The Board, who is not a public servant and must therefore contemplate every day the possibility of being sacked for one of his many indiscretions.

Petrol and alcohol are the fuel of my existence, so with one up and the other down, the next 12 months of The Chalky Brunel Experience will likely be revenue neutral.

Likewise, it was a mixed afternoon for the two causes he hoped would be spared the knife of fiscal responsibility - education spending and carer's allowance.

2010 will still see €579 million for the school building project, including that slippery €72 million that Batt just couldn't get rid of this year. Likewise, there'll be €12 million for 500 extra teachers over the next three years, and another €14 million for 600 primary and 330 post-primary teachers specifically for the school year beginning in September 2010.


Carer's benefit is down from €221.20 to €213, while carer's allowance is down from €220.50 to €212.


Whether it enraged or merely disappointed you, the Budget was at least decisive. It won't save Brian Cowen or Fianna Fail, who need, deserve and maybe even want a spell in the Opposition to reflect on the frivolous monster they became.

But when the party do decide to look for a leader who can embody the prudence and diligence that were anathema to Bertie Ahern, Budget 2010 may well become Brian Lenihan's job application.

On this evidence, I'd give it to him.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A fluid Christmas

They're starting to put the tree back in the river this morning. It'll be in Ballysteen by six o'clock.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Shooting at Gary Oldman

Who here remembers going to see Lost in Space?

Don't you dare lie. Don't pretend that you had anything better to do in 1998 than go see Joey shoot some intergalactic crabs. It was a riot; a feast of blunt science fiction metaphors that required that Gary Oldman turn into a space mutant.

Anyway, it's easy to forget that the point of all that was the premise that Earth was dying from pollution and only William Hurt and a poindexter robot could save us.

The Board isn't sure if Hurt, whose past roles include a drug dealer, impotent Vietnam veteran and radio psychologist - all in The Big Chill - will be in Copenhagen this week.

Maybe he should go and add some sardonic commentary on the proceedings. Because Lord knows its going to be an otherwise uneventful 14 days in bacon country.

Yes, climate change is our silent pariah. Yes, it is the marriage of our collective sins that will kill us all - except for John Cusack, the smug fecker - in 2012.

But will there really be a new carbon emissions deal? Will Copenhagen do anything to dispel the notion that nothing will ever be done to tackle climate change until it's too late?

Today, 56 newspapers in 45 countries published a joint editorial calling for the UN climate change summit to become an era- defining moment; the time and place when the hands of power joined together to mend the ways of the world. It may or may not transpire as such.

But what is most galling are the recent poll figures in a Nielsen/Oxford University survey of 27,000 internet users in 54 countries which found that the number of people "very concerned" by climate change had fallen from 41 to 37 per cent since 2007. In the US, this number has fallen further, from 34 to 25 per cent.

How can anyone, least of all the editors of these 56 newspapers, expect world leaders to press for reform in how they burn fuel if their citizens do not force them?

Why do we always wait to react to something, rather than act first and stave off the worse effects?

Why do many Americans continue to deny that climate change is taking place, even as the Louisiana bayou disappears into the sea at a rate of miles every month?

Until the tremendous urgency of the climate issue enters the mind of every man, woman and child in the 192 countries that will take part in the Copenhagen debate, debates are all we will be left with.

Call me a sceptic, but The Board will be oiling his crab gun and begging John Cusack for a spot on his Cessna sooner rather than later.

Where power lays its head

If you have half an hour to burn, as The Board inevitably does on a Monday morning as he dusts the lethargy of a weekend off of his head, then read this fascinating insight into how President Obama considered, challenged and counselled before making that decision on Afghanistan.

Brilliant stuff from the New York Times, as ever.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Revelation of the day

George Lee is turning on the Christmas lights in Newcastle West tomorrow. The Board is looking forward to finding out how tall he really is.

The 9/11 of 1859

History, as always, holds the keys to the future.

Two days after President Obama announced that he was sending 30,000 extra troops to Afghanistan, Tony Horwitz draws a fascinating parallel in the New York Times between Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the architect of 9/11 (and as such, one of the instigators of this war) and John Brown, the American anti-slavery terrorist who was hanged on this day in 1859, 18 months before the outbreak of the civil war.

Brown's lesson on the cause and effect of violence is more poignant and striking than ever.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The sins of the father

David Simon's magnificent series 'The Wire' is many things to many people. But to Simon, a former Baltimore Sun reporter who had seen the rotten underbelly of urban America, it was about institutions.

Institutions take good men and bad men and destroy them both in turn. Humans are honest and decent, but there is nothing human in the institutions they build.

Simon's wisdom resonates stronger than ever this week, as Bishop of Limerick Donal Murray faces into an abyss.

Everything he has achieved as a man - his entire life's work as a priest - is now lost forever. He will always be the man who failed to defend the defenceless; the auxiliary bishop in the Dublin archdiocese who listened to but did not act upon allegations of child abuse by members of his clergy. In a way, it is almost unfair.

In the wake of the Murphy report, the Bishop has become a convenient scapegoat for those who seek one, be they the terrified church hierarchy, the populist politicians or the families of the thousands whose lives were destroyed by perverted, molesting priests.

It is not fair that Bishop Murray is in this position alone, without the entire church facing judgement alongside him. But it is where he finds himself nonetheless.

He should resign, because he failed in his duty. He will resign, because he is not a man so brazen as to ignore a wave of public ire.

But in this, the true horror of the institutions of the Church is now apparent - not just through Bishop Murray, but through the hundreds of priests and bishops and lay people who have taken part in, one way or another, the greatest social crime ever committed in this country.

For generations, the Church chose to forget one of the most basic of human instincts, the protection of children, to preserve its own power and authority.

The Catholic Church in this country will never be forgiven. They must never be forgiven.