Irish and Jewish mothers share a stereotype with one exception: they don’t temper their sense of guilt. With all the love in the world, an Irish mother can simultaneously worship the ground her son walks on and act with a deeper sadism than the bastard offspring of Jeffrey Dahlmer and John Wayne Gacy.
Growing up, the brother and me were pretty spoiled – it was more Enid Blyton (without the casual racism) than Angela’s Ashes , but Mam wielded the wooden spoon of guilt like Zorro felling Spaniards. When I went through a period of fibbing she tole me that my tongue would turn black and fall out if I lied. How did she know? That damned avian turncoat, the little bird, told on me. Every time. It must have been a stool pigeon.
The best ever was telling me that raising a hand to her would result in the offending member rising from the ground once buried, forming a gruesome, peeling tribute to the finale of Carrie. People will come from miles around, she said, to visit the slowly rotting hand and say “There lies a terrible child who was mean to his mother.”
Of course, we laugh about it now, but I still hate that bird.
I re-discovered something this weekend. I fucking hate go-karting.
We went on a team-building exercise at a go-karting track in Greenwich, which sounded like a good idea: we’d knock off work a couple of hours early, drive around a little bit, then start the weekend on a high. I’d done it before and it wasn’t too bad, even though the first time was outdoors in a rain storm.
There’s a particularly mean trick memory can play – mostly on women to convince them to give birth more than once – after a suitable period of recovery you forget just how much an event hurt.
After getting dressed up in a set of overalls that compressed my testicles into a pancake-like mess, we got shown a badly produced video featuring a cast of Inbetweeners lookalikes giving thumbs up signs. Not feeling confident that either my health or safety was of paramount importance the race was on.
Sweet suffering Jesus was the race on. I think it took twenty seconds before I went from my starting position to last and I was whacked by all twelve other drivers on the way. Do you know how annoying a polite hand wave is after you’ve been smashed up the bottom? VERY! After the fifth crash I was plotting to bring in Sharia law and cut that bloody hand off.
Once everyone got out of the way, though, I started to get the hang of it and even managed a couple of laps without crashing. Then it happened. Lapped! I got side-swiped, broad sided, bumped, smashed, and crunched again! And every two or three laps for the rest of the humiliation… I mean race.
By twenty minutes in, Einstein’s famous description of relativity came to mind: “When a man sits with a pretty girl for an hour, it seems like a minute. But let him sit on a hot stove for a minute and it’s longer than any hour.” I’d another ten minutes of stove to deal with and my arms had turned into the bingoest of wings, I’d bruises on the inside of either knee from bashing the steering column, and pride was but a distant and folorn memory.
Once the checkered flag came out and the ‘race’ ended I’d have kissed the marshall (with tongue), if only I wasn’t too busy rocking myself in that bucket seat reliving ALL OF THE POST TRAUMATIC STRESS. I had flashbacks to every Vietnam war movie made.
Coming last was inevitable. Being lapped five times by the next slowest driver? That was an achievement.
Laura Laker suggests that Cambridge is a model cycling city “with considerate drivers, dedicated bicycle parking and bike-friendly city planning.” Here are five real reasons cycling is so popular in the town:
Cyclists can ignore red lights: It’s a rare cyclist that actually stops for a red light except when they’re in danger of being hit by a car.
Keeping your hands in your pockets: Handlebars? Direction control? Who needs ’em?.
Cycling on the pavement: Even with miles of cycle lanes, the footpath is perfect for traveling at high speed. Move it Grandma, I’ve got to get to my yoga class.
Cycling two or three abreast: Hey, hey, we’re the Monkees. Never mind other road users when you’re carrying on your conversation. Of course that nail polish looks stunning.
Chatting on a mobile phone: Unlike those evil motorists using a mobile on a push bike has no effect at all and, best of all, if you get hit it’s always their fault.
In the early nineties (1985 in Ireland years) my uncle shipped a percolating coffee pot over from America, which sat in the middle of the kitchen as we tried to figure out what this Cray supercomputer of a kitchen implement was for. It looked like a giant kettle with piping that led up to a mesh basin, which is where the coffee went. Up until then coffee came in a jar, tasted like willow bark, and was only every drunk under protest. Even Anthony Head’s on-and-off romance over a jar of Gold Blend couldn’t make it any more palatable. Gold Blend? We weren’t made of money.
Once we’d found some ground coffee (what do you mean Arabica – I want coffee) the pot was watered, loaded, and put on the gas. Within ten minutes of hissing, pffting, and all manner of steampunk noises this Dr. Snuggles-like machine produced what I can only describe as stimulant heaven. No more Mellow Birds for me… until the mesh corroded.
Ever since, like a heroin addicted J.R. Hartley jonesing for one last fix, I’ve tried to find a replacement. Times have changed and all you can find are french presses, cafetieres, and coffee makers. Until now!
Thanks to the Argos of the middle classes I’ve found a replacement.