LetsGetAlongerism Has Failed in USA and Britain…

When I joined Slugger (after some false starts) in early 2010, the Decade of Centenaries was all the rage, how we should shape the anniversaries such as the Ulster Covenant, the Somme, Easter Rising, as something that was shared history. I started using the term “LetsGetAlongerism”. A lot of people seem to find the word objectionable. At one level, it seems rather evident that getting along is an excellent thing, but I think it is not in itself a political …

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Journalism 101… Or How To Miss A Scoop…

In the olden days, Football was just a sport. Now it is a business and entertainment. In the olden days, Politics was about governance. Now it is a business and entertainment. And the means of reporting Football and Politics are now very different. The designated man (always a man) from the Manchester Evening News sat on the United coach. The designated men from the Liverpool Echo were on the Everton bus and the Liverpool bus. It was Access…the link between …

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Born to be mild on my funky moped…

It was a Saturday afternoon in 1977, and I was on the top deck of a bus going up the Whiterock Road. There was just me at the back and a group of lads at the front. And the bus passed a British Army foot patrol. And the lads started shouting abuse out the windows. So far… so normal. But the foot patrol gave chase, Ran after the bus shouting at the driver to stop. And as they gained ground, …

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Just A Dog

Let me be clear that I dont equate the lives of people and animals.

It makes me feel guilty that in the western world, we treat our pets better than we treat Humans in the Third World. And it disgusts me to see photographs of pampered dogs wearing jewelry in Beverley Hills.
But nevertheless many of you reading this will have pets. You might as a cat person be sitting there with Daisy between you and your lap top or you might as a dog person just be home from taking Rover for a walk.

And again I emphasise they are not human…not even close…but we grow attached.

We usually have cats.

It wasnt easy taking Alf on his last trip to the vet. Made harder by the vets callousness. But Alf was cremated and “sleeps” on our hearth.

It wasnt easy when Buffy went missing in action, probably to a predator that was flying about for days.
Keano will be 19 in the summer and is still going.

We have all been changed by the last few weeks. Family life totally disrupted up to the point that we cant even say goodbye to loved ones or even attend their funerals.

But Family Life is not just made up of Births, Marriages and Deaths. Thats just the headline events…hatching, matching and despatching.

Mostly it is routine, interupted by good stuff like a grandson being under 14 player of the year. Or bad stuff, the loss of a pet.

Our second son is a dog lover and a few years ago made the trip to the vet with Apollo.

Our granddaughter (7) was crying her eyes out when Simba (her kitten) went AOL for 24 hours. Happily he came back.

And this morning our first son (in 12 week lockdown with his family). Smokey their labrador has been in decline for over a year. My daughter in law got some medication from their vet this morning. And he didnt expect it to work. And it didnt work.

So before 10am, my son phoned me to say that the vet would be making a house call to see Smokey for the last time. We did not get the chance to see him one last time.

I will miss big lovable Smokey. In between houses, Smokey lived here and Keano and Smokey ignored each other happily.

But CoronaVirus intrudes on everything.

Smokey could not get up. Could not move at all.

So my son and grandsons put him on a blanket and brought him out to the back garden. The vet could not come inside the house. And he put Smokey “to sleep”

Again I emphasise that animals are not human.

The humanity is within us, caring for a creature and sharing fun and sharing (a degree of grief).

And around 1.30pm, the Family Whats Up group had a text “Smokey is playing with A****” (our other granddaughter).

A lot of people will get worse news today…a man, a woman, a child……or “an elderly person with underlying medical conditions”…that grotesque phrase that we now live with.

We are now in a world where grief is a community thing. Global even.

That should never be the case.

Grief should not be a daily event. A news story.

We need it to get it back to being personal…a family thing.

Like it was for us today.

But Smokey was…just a dog.

Not So Splendid Self Isolation…

So here I am self-isolating. It is not because of Boris Johnson. More to do with our adult children who are worried about us. We are not yet 70. Self-Isolation is terrible. The whole point of retirement is that it is true freedom. No more bosses. The ultimate lack of freedom is not being allowed out. There is too much news. Like for example, prison officers worry about overcrowding and lack of social distancing in their places of work. A …

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All dead but still alive, the comedians who keep us laughing…

Sometimes when I cannot sleep, I think about Dead People. Sometimes I think about Dead Footballers (George Best, David Herd, Shay Brennan….) or Dead Musicians (John Lennon, Brian Jones, Keith Moon…) but the most fun is Dead Comedians. It is a good game to play. The only rule is that I must actually remember them. So Max Miller who is in my lifetime but I don’t actually remember cannot be included. People who I remember from being on TV… and…. …

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Happy Birthday Ulster Television…

Ok, it is a few days late… but I have been carrying this card around for months. I suppose there are a few folks here who cannot remember live before Tinternet. I suppose there will be not so many who remember what life was like before TV. Do I? Well not really. I certainly watched the 1956 Cup Final in Uncle Jackies house (that’s the one where the Manchester City goalie Bert Trautmann broke his neck). And 1957 when the …

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The Unresolved Conflict Begins (August 1969)…

I am not sure why the early part of Thursday 14th August 1969 seems so ordinary. There was a certain feeling that the storm had passed. There was a sense of shame looking at the self-inflicted damage on the Falls Road after the night before. A certain excitement maybe that some of us had heard gunfire on Wednesday night. And a certain pleasure that the RUC had been defeated and humiliated in the Bogside. The news said they would be …

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August 1969: A New Football Season…

The priority for my family in August 1969 was getting a new house. Our house in that “mixed” street in West Belfast was falling down. Literally. As you walked into the street, you could see a row of houses lean backwards. The house, like most in the street was “condemned”. Sooner or later it would be knocked down, either as slum clearance or “for the road”. Ah yes, “the road” was a big thing in 1969. There were plans to …

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The 50th Anniversary of the Start of the Troubles and the Last “Normal” July…

As next month marks the 50th Anniversary of the Start of the Troubles, I expect there will be some reflective or revisionist discussion. As they say, if you can remember the 1960s, you were not there. And if you can remember the start of the Troubles….well it won’t stop people remembering even though they were still in their mother’s womb at the time. That’s the norm at events at An Féile anyway. Of course many will say the Troubles started …

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If You Were Cast Away On A Desert Island Which Eight Rebel Songs…?

A tip of the hat to Mr Roy Plomley and eight gramophone (sic) records and the Tyrone bus. People might be upset at the idea of rebel songs but this type of music, national defiance is long-established. If you sing along to “Who Do You Think You Are Kidding Mr Hitler”…you will see my point. And Vera Lynn and the Wolfe Tones have been doing this for years. So the decision that the Tyrone bus has been “cleared” will be …

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I Would Like Some Compensation… £2950 Will Do Nicely…

I walked home from work one night. That happened a lot forty odd years ago. No buses and too many people trying to get a black taxi. Larry McCoubrey was reading the news and he mentioned a robbery at my place of work. “Did you know about that” said my mother. “That was me mammy”. My mother never knew all the details. A gun was put into my mouth and the guy said he would blow my xxxxing head off. …

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