Friday, January 21, 2011

Is it Still the New Year?

I wrote this article for the Galway Now Magazine at the start of the year. I thought I'd put it up now that the month is coming to a near end, just to see how everyone is getting on with their resolutions...
It’s the New Year, and I’ve been thinking about resolutions. Luckily, this year I’ve only been thinking about them and not making them. It’s because I’ve realised that not only do I never keep them but that in making them I’m just setting myself up to fail in the first place. Let’s face it, I’ve proven more than once that I can’t stick to a diet, give up alcohol or go to the gym consistently, so why the hell do we all seem to believe that just because it’s January we are all going to set out on the path to a whole new lifestyle? Come on, it’s like, brrr… January: the bleakest month of the year with regards to both weather and finances and we’re still only getting over the guilt of having spent most of December eating, drinking and spending recklessly. Still, everyone else seems to make them, so I normally just tag along by picking out a few of my favourite guilty pleasures and pretending to myself that I’m going to give them up forever. Luckily though, everyone else soon start to break their resolutions, so I tag along with that too and feel good about reverting back to wine instead of herbal tea and watching telly instead of being a middle aged fatty on the treadmill surrounded by skinny young things who feel good when they look at me.

After all, most resolutions are not about what we want to do, rather we tend to set ourselves up with what we think we should do, or what we know other people would like us to do. It doesn’t take long before we get fed up with trying to square a circle, well at least I do, and the good thing about those resolutions is that about two weeks into them it’s the middle of January and I’ve usually run out of heating oil and don’t find the frosty winter landscape one bit romantic when I’m trying to cross the city on ice at two miles per hour. So what else can a body do other than revert to the comforting pleasures of fish and chips, sweet treats and a few hot whiskies?

Studies show that about half of all New Year’s resolutions don’t make it past the first two weeks of January, so my advice is this: just forget it, the timing is all wrong. You’re trying to get over Christmas, you already have enough to feel guilty about and summer is half a year away.

So rather than making New Year’s Resolutions, I’ve decided to go for a New Year’s no change plan. We’ve had enough cutbacks, so I’ve come up with a few things not to change. These days all of the self help books and life coaching gurus tell us to embrace ourselves as we are and I’m going to do just that. No changes. So I won’t be becoming a more polite driver who doesn’t shout obscenities at bus drivers and cyclists and I will continue to throw hissy fits at checkout attendants in the supermarket for overcharging me before realising that the discount has actually been amended at the end of the bill. I will then continue encountering the walk of shame out of the shop whilst muttering under my breath that we’re all being ripped off anyway. Luckily, I can still eat and drink as if every day were the last supper because in my head I’ll be convincing myself that because next week or some other vague time in the future I’ll be starting a diet, now is the time to pig out. And not only will I not feel guilty, I’ll embrace all that and give myself a pat on the back for being myself, because after all, if I’m being myself, surely I’ve reached the goal that we all want to reach by embracing who I am, and being the real me; the only person I can ever be.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Politically Correct NOT

I had this job once where I had to design and deliver induction training. Part of it was informing people about how the company was an equal opportunities employer and we embrace people of all races, religions, colours, genders and sexual orientation. It tied in to the behaviour policy and how we all had to be politically correct and not make comments, jokes or jibes that might offend anyone.

My boss was delighted with the training sessions I designed, even if she did remind me that it might be a good idea not to mention to anyone that I was gay, ‘for my own sake’.
We embraced diversity, even if, coincidentally, the only foreign nationals employed by the company were factory workers, while the Nigerian members of staff arrived in to clean the building when everyone else went home. There was a dwarf, and I bet you anything that dwarf is not the politically correct word for people who are small, but you know what I mean, and I don’t mean anything offensive. But that’s the thing, isn’t it? If you say something and somebody else feels offended by it, well if you didn’t mean anything offensive, can you be blamed? Surely the person who feels offended without good cause should just be told that they’re being too damn sensitive and to go get a life.
In the meantime, I had to deal with being on the parents' committee of a school that 'embaces those of all faiths and of none.' I got into trouble for suggesting having a Christmas fair. I was told that not everybody at the school celebrates Christmas so this is not inclusive. A woman from Algeria who had joined the committee was the only one who seemed puzzled, saying how much she loves Christmas back home, but there you go. The school do, of course, celebrate Ramadan and the Festival of Lights, and my daughter asked me once, when they had a poster with all different religions on it, why they didn't put Catholic on it as one. I just shrugged and told her that it probably wasn't sexy enough, but I decided against raising an issue with the school that it was a tad politically incorrect. 
In my case I wouldn’t consider myself to be prejudice or prone to incitement to hatred against anyone, but I do have a sense of humor despite being a fat aul lezzer. These days it seems that if you want to slag people off you have to be a professional at it, getting paid a few grand a night to take the piss out of people. The rest of us, who are only able to come up with about five minutes worth of derogatory comments, pay money to hear all of the things we’re not allowed to say, but we're allowed to laugh because it's in a controlled environment and for not more than 90 minutes.
At least thanks to politically correct behaviour I can rest assure that nobody will refer to me as a lump of lard with earrings, a fat lesbo, that cantankerous cretin or yer wan with the bad teeth, well at least not to my face. Policy demands that we all be polite to each other and spend our working lives treading on egg shells just in case somebody takes offence to somebody telling a joke or commenting that the sausage from the Polish shop stinks of garlic. And while all this is happening, we will be very politely taken for a ride, robbed, laughed out of it and treated like idiots by our leaders and politicians.
But they’re allowed to do that, because they are politicians, and politics, ultimately, is politically correct. Right?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Top of the Morning

It’s been a grand soft day with a great stretch in the evening and hopefully the wind is always at your back. There was a time that these sort of phrases appealed only to the returning diaspora on holiday and toothless farmers who have never left Spiddal. All the same, these comments on the weather are a great distraction from the current economic climate and if you are talking about the weather you can’t talk about corrupt politicians or paedophile priests or anything else that people want to call in to chat shows and complain about: “Joe, it’s shockin’ Joe…”
Luckily the weather of the last few weeks managed to take precedence over family Christmas arguments, the country falling apart and what they’re up to next door. But when you think about it, the weather actually is more important to our survival than anything else. I’ve been wondering what might happen if the snow and ice hadn’t melted? After about a week of it most people were out of water, pipes had burst. Trucks couldn’t get in and out of town and travel was almost impossible.
Now if we really were aul farmers who went around talking about the stretch in the evening, we would also have a stock of potatoes piled up outside in a shed and enough food to keep us going for the winter even if we can’t get past the door. And we’d have turf and logs too, instead of heaters that are not working. When you think of it, not living off the land is a bit of a risk, and it wouldn’t even take a whole winter to wipe us out if things got bad enough.
So it made me think about all of those greetings that actually make more sense than any of our long winded ‘going forward’ speeches.
So when someone at work said ‘top of the morning to you’ today at work, I surprised him by knowing the proper Irish reply: ‘and the rest of the day to yourself’.