Tag Archives: England

New Year’s Devolutions

As another year draws to a close we are left to look back on the events of the last twelve months, and assess their impact on our lives. Unfortunately, however, due to my reliance on modern technology, I have no memory whatsoever of anything that happened before yesterday. Therefore, until we manage to invent some sort of collated, easily accessible database of news through which we can record our history as it unfolds, any attempt at such reflection is pointless.

Instead, I will attempt to predict what may lie in store for the duration of our next revolution around the sun, which conveniently gives me even more scope for absurd exaggeration and crude humour. To that end, here follows a synopsis of what we can expect in the year 2014…

To domestic affairs first, as Ireland continues its upward trajectory out of the doldrums of recession. Normality returns in increments as shoddily built apartments are bought by the thousand, helicopters are dusted off to head down to the Galway Races, and solicitors start snorting cocaine before midday again.

In politics, Enda Kenny finally gives in to pressure to reform the Seanad, and appoints David Norris to take charge of the transition. Unfortunately, Norris chooses to make no changes whatsoever to the political structures or powers of the upper house, deciding instead to use millions of euro of taxpayers’ money to build an exact replica of an Ancient Roman Senate chamber, complete with annexed bath house, and opulently furnished in marble and gold leaf. The Taoiseach defends the developments by arguing that attendance in the house is at a record high average of 11%, a vast improvement on previous years.

Unfortunately for many of our émigrés, next year will also see Australia suffer a severe economic crash akin to the one that sent them there. Thousands of young Irish people are left floundering in a sweltering, barren wasteland, with no employment and no money to get home. As the last remaining Aussies leave their shores en masse to seek bar work in London, our hapless emigrants are left to fend for themselves in the desolate wilderness. Rule of law breaks down and society devolves into a post-apocalyptic nightmare, like Mad Max with more swearing and Offaly jerseys.

In the US, troublesome Republicans once again force a shutdown of the government, which lasts for over six months. The leadership claims it is due to Obama’s wish to implement stricter gun laws, but House insiders maintain it is predominantly a backlash to the dryness of the muffins in the Congress cafeteria. The country is thrown into chaos as millions are denied access to essential services. A deal is eventually brokered after military cutbacks contribute to a worrying breach in security in an army base in Kandahar, in which an enemy missile lands inside the perimeter. After eliminating the insurgents responsible, the missile turns out to be a football that had come from a nearby playing field, but military intelligence verifies that the deceased 12-year old boys were ‘a lot more terrorist-y than they looked.’

More revelations are forthcoming in 2014 from Edward Snowden regarding NSA monitoring of internet communications. In a somewhat tragic twist, it emerges that an entire subsection of intelligence operatives, who had been tasked with examining comments on YouTube to seek potential terrorists, take their own lives in what seems like a ritual mass suicide by self-immolation. NSA chiefs announce their grief and shock over the lost lives, especially since the group had just started their first day on the project.

In Britain, police continue to crack down on abusive behaviour on social networking sites. This policy reaches its zenith when a student is imprisoned for three months for calling Harry Styles a ‘gobshite’ on Twitter. When the presiding magistrate orders everyone who retweeted the offending message to be given the same sentence, thousands of hardened criminals are released onto the streets to make room for the hordes of potty-mouthed youngsters. This results in an unprecedented crime wave sweeping across the country, which the government announces is ‘probably something to do with immigrants.’ The Daily Mail takes a different approach and blames the situation on Ed Miliband’s dad.

In international news, North Korea follows China’s example by expanding their space program. They spend months ferrying men and supplies to the moon, much to the concern of the international community. When it is revealed that Kim Jong-un has built an enormous moonbase, fears grow over what kind of terrible weapon he might unleash. This alarm is soon allayed, however, when it transpires that Kim was simply remaking the movie Moonraker, starring himself as James Bond, and featuring Dennis Rodman as Jaws.

The winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, take place in February under the shadow of a decree from President Putin that absolutely no gay behaviour will be tolerated. Secret police are stationed around the ground to enforce the law, with security particularly heavy in the figure skating arena for some reason. Putin himself projects his usual uber-macho image by appearing at the games naked, save for the pelt of a bear that he had killed that morning, which he had come upon in the wild and hadn’t been tranquilised in any way, shape or form.

However, events take an unexpected turn at the speed skating track, when Putin’s attention is turned to a young Finnish athlete named Matthias. The Russian premier feels a strange sensation stirring in him as he watches the young man glide over the ice, his golden hair radiant, his enormous quadriceps rippling with every stride. To the alarm of his aides, Putin suddenly rushes onto the track, but trips on his bear suit and falls crashing to the ice. As he rises to his knees, a strong arm appears to help him up, and he finds himself gazing upon a set of chiselled Nordic features. Matthias lifts him into his arms and embraces him, and as the strains of Up Where We Belong begin to play over the PA system, the pair exit the arena to the cacophonous cheers of the assembled masses, and disappear into the setting sun.

Technology giant Apple’s reputation takes a hit next year after it is discovered that its iPhone 6, and its iPad Extra Mini Micro, are in fact the same device. Their PR troubles continue later in the year as a 16-year old worker in one of the company’s Beijing factories hacks the official Apple Twitter account. His strongly worded criticisms of working practices and his uploaded selfie of the effects of an unfortunate smelting accident are Tweeted for the world to see. Unfortunately for him, his revelations are overshadowed by the release of the iPad Pico, a tablet roughly the same size as a postage stamp, which is later revealed to be simply an actual stamp designed to look like a tablet.

Social media continues in the new year in its quest to rid the world of unuttered thoughts, comfortable silences and the last remaining semblances of privacy. Google introduces a controversial new app in which a drone follows the user’s daily movements and updates their Facebook status and Twitter feed accordingly, with observations like ‘Sarah has just been dumped and appears inconsolable’, ‘Paul is masturbating over a fire he just started’, and ‘Sally is bleeding profusely from a head wound caused by my malfunctioning gears’.

As collective attention spans continue to plummet, the fad of six-second long Vines becomes passé. They are replaced by Stems, videos lasting just one second. The most popular of the year is of a 2-year old child from Kansas saying the word ‘jam’ in an adorable fashion, which is shared by millions. The child is later mentioned in Barack Obama’s State of the Union address, which prompts knowing laughter and warm applause from the crowd, followed by an eighteen-minute chant of ‘USA, USA’.

New varieties of the ubiquitous selfie become popular with the babbling, androgynous masses that populate the trendiest corners of the internet, where they smear digital pictograms of the tedious minutiae of their lives across social networking sites, and heap scorn on those of us born before 1994 that still use words like ‘trendiest’. These include the ‘elfie’, a festive self-portrait, the ‘farewellfie’, an inappropriate picture taken at the service of a deceased relative, and the ‘continental shelfie’, photos taken in the shallow waters of the glacially eroded coastal plains of continental land masses. Okay, that last one doesn’t really become that popular.

In Hollywood news, the most anticipated film of the year, the third instalment of The Hobbit, is delayed as director Peter Jackson falls ill during filming. The only director available to take the reins at short notice is Michael Bay, who selflessly offers his services. Upon its release, many critics question the wisdom of Bay’s changes to the original script, including casting Samuel L. Jackson as Gandalf, replacing the eagles with a fleet of Chinook helicopters, and even contriving an entirely new female elven character called Tauriel to spice up proceedings. Well actually, that was Jackson, but it was Bay who decided she should be played by Eddie Murphy in drag as the film’s comic relief.

Most of the criticism, however, centres on the movie’s antagonist, Smaug Mohammed Smaug, who is portrayed as an Islamic oligarch who uses his obscene wealth to arm a sinister band of Yemeni terrorists. The film’s denouement sees the dragon and his insurgent colleagues consumed in the hellfires of US Army drones remotely piloted by a ragtag bunch of wisecracking dwarf grunts, who are all played by Robert Downey Jr. Empire magazine gives the film five stars, their review simply consisting of the words ‘high-octane action’ repeated seven hundred times, followed by an exclamation mark.

In the world of music, Miley Cyrus continues her crusade against subtlety with her new single, Dark Room Full of Middle-Aged Men. The raunchy video becomes a viral phenomenon, and gives rise to a new dance craze among adolescent girls the world over, affectionately called ‘the Miley’. This is much like the Macarena, except with less smiling, and more penetration using household objects. Twitter is abuzz for months with trending topics like ‘doing the Miley’, ‘My tongue is a feminist too’, and ‘late night emergency room visit’.

In hip-hop news, Kanye West releases an experimental 3-hour long album featuring the sounds of his infant child’s bowel movements, set to a snappy bassline from a little-known 1970s adult movie about a Ku Klux Klan Grand Dragon who falls in love with a sassy waitress named LaQuanza. It sells eighteen million copies, and is hailed by music critics as ‘the seminal post-racial artwork of this, or any, millennium’.

So ends my forecast for the year 2014. Some of these things may come to pass; some will not; some may even look tame when reflected in the reality that comes to meet us. The future is a puzzling thing; no less a man than George Orwell had a great fear of it, which manifested itself in his works. This sense of foreboding is nowhere better illustrated than in an achingly bleak line from 1984: ‘If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.’

While I don’t think I’ve quite reached the depths of Orwellian cynicism just yet, it must be said that the pain in my face seems to be increasing exponentially with each passing year. Happy New Year you shower of bastards.

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The Baby Subsequently Known as Prince (or Princess)

The royal baby is due to enter the world any day now, his or her arrival sure to herald a new age in mildly distracting chitchat among royalists, morning television presenters and baby enthusiasts everywhere. The world will be invited to gawk in collective wonder at his or her cute ickle shoes, cute ickle face, and cute ickle life of hollow luxury, haunted evermore by the terrible, oppressive burden of responsibilty it must bear until the end of its days. Oh, and the cute ickle hollow part of its head. That thing is weird, man.

The Prince or Princess of Cambridge is in for an eye-opening few weeks, as it becomes accustomed to its new but transient position as the most adorable news item of the day. This will pass, of course, and as the baby grows into its esteemed position, its lofty duties and obligations, and its enormous, beak-like nose (thanks a lot Grandad), it will be replaced by some new internet-based phenomenon, like a scruffy three-legged dog that rescues a family of endearing ducklings from the BNP. Or something.

For a while, however, this young child will be the focus of boundless attention on social media worldwide, and will be trending so much that even sensible people will become enamoured with its presence, so much so that they forget that trend is not a verb.

People the world over will sit agog at their screens, frothing at the mouth in a regally induced stupor as they vacantly tickle and cuddle the virtual image of this messianic child, singing and gurgling to its pixellated form until their own children have long since starved from neglect, and their carcasses are mere husks, laid as sacrifices on the altar of #RoyalBaby.

It is impossible to predict how the child will react to the adulation that will be showered over it like confetti over a hungry passing seagull, whose stomach will later explode after ingesting the celebratory detritus. I imagine if his or her impending majesty were to keep a diary of these hectic few weeks, it would look a little something like this…

Day 1:

Today I came out all covered in goo and I met Mumsie and Daddy. They are nice. Mumsie said that I only cost seven pounds ten, but that sounds like a lot of money. I think my name is Hair because the doctor said that I was the new Hair. I think I must be called Hair because I already have more than Daddy.

After I was cleaned off, I met the whole family. They are very nice, but most of them are very old. Uncle Harry is my favourite because he is very funny, and his hair is pointy. Mumsie pointed to the television in the room and told me that the man called Kay was talking about me on the News about the sky, but I didn’t understand what she meant.

Another man was there with a camera. I think his name was Magazine because I heard people say Hello Magazine to him. The man looked different to Mumsie and Daddy, his face was brown. Even browner than Auntie Pippa’s face. Great Grandad asked him where he had learnt to use a camera, and Great Grandma told him to shut up. I think ‘shut up’ means the same as ‘go to sleep’, because that’s what he did straight away. After a while I met Grandma Camilla too. She is very nice. Great Grandma says she is not part of my family but I think she was only joking, and Daddy told her to stop being awful.

Day 2:

Today I got my very own iPad. On the back it has a picture of a crown and the letters H.R.H. Uncle Harry says that stands for Harry’s Really Handsome, but I think he’s fibbing. I heard Great Grandad say that Uncle Harry was a waste of space, but I don’t really know what that means. I should Google it.

Mumsie helped me to download some apps. One is a game where you throw birds at pigs and everybody dies. It’s not great. I also got an app called the Guardian, which is full of stories, but they’re not very good. Some of the women who write the stories look like Grandma Camilla, and they seem to be very angry with somebody called Cameron. I think he might be on X-Factor. Mumsie said that his wife is a cow, but I think this was a joke because people can’t be married to animals.

Day 3:

Today Mumsie helped me to set up my Facebook and Twitter accounts. I have thousands of followers on Twitter already, and I got some very nice messages. I even got one from Adele, who is a famous singer. I downloaded his album this morning and he has a really nice voice. Even nicer than Grandad’s singing on the night after I was born when he drank lots of fizzy water and Great Grandma told him to be quiet and that he was an oaf. I don’t know what an oaf is but I think it means you have a nice voice, so I Tweeted Adele saying he was a nice oaf.

Later I got Tweets from men who Mumsie says are bad. A man called Piers said that the monarchy was a relic of a bygone age. I didn’t understand these words but I think it was about Great Grandad because before he went back to sleep he said that Piers talked out of his bum. I asked Uncle Harry and he said that this was true.

I also got a Tweet from someone called Frank Boyle, who said it was a shame that someone called Jim Fix It had died before I was born, because he would have liked me. I think it is a shame too because I Googled Jim Fix It and he wore funny suits and glasses, and he looks like a nice man.

Day 4:

Mumsie showed me the pictures that Magazine took of me. He put them in his shiny book and Mumsie said that people buy the shiny book so they can see me. There are seventy-eight pages of pictures and I look very shrivelled and purple in all of them. Mumsie said that Magazine got his lighting wrong. Maybe that is why his face was all dark.

Day 6:

Mumsie helped me to upload a picture on Instagram of me chewing on my toy crown. I like my toy crown because some of it crinkles and some of it has bells and some of it is shiny and some of it is fuzzy and some of it is squelchy. Mumsie said that lots of people shared my crown on their Facebooks, but it was still there when I went to bed, so I don’t mind.

Day 8:

On my Facebook today someone called LADBible posted a picture of Mumsie feeding me my milk, and they said that I was a breastfeeding LAD. I do not know what this means but Mumsie says she doesn’t like the picture, so I think maybe the lighting was wrong in it.

Day 11:

Today I was on Facebook and I found a page called ‘Like if you’re bored of Royal Baby’. It had lots of likes, and people had made me into a meme, and I cried when I saw it.

Mumsie told me to ignore it, and that the man on the News about the sky was still talking about me, but when I turned it on they were talking about somebody called Pervert Schoolteacher, who I’ve never heard of.

Day 13:

Today I looked at the Daily Mail website. I think it is a website about holidays because they have lots of pictures of people at the beach. They had a picture of Auntie Pippa changing my nappy, but they cut me out of the picture. All you can see are my socks which say H.R.H. and the rest of the picture is Pippa. I’ve decided I don’t really like Auntie Pippa, and she has nothing to do with holidays anyway.

Uncle Harry says that Auntie Pippa is ‘a goer’ but whenever I see her she is just sitting down and not going anywhere.

Day 16:

Nobody Tweeted me at all today, except for Kanye West, who sent me a picture of a Duplo Buckingham Palace that North made, and he said it was better than the real one where I lived, and that North was better at Duplo than me. Daddy says that Kanye is derivative, and Mumsie said that North’s Mumsie is a tramp. Tramps have no palaces to sleep in and live on benches in Hyde Park so I feel sorry for her. Great Grandad said something about Kanye too but Mumsie told me it was a bad word.

Day 19:

Nobody is talking about me on the internet at all today. Mumsie and Auntie Pippa have been talking about shoes for six hours and I am very bored. I wish Uncle Harry was here, but he had to fly his helicopter to a war to ask the people to stop fighting. I watched him for a while because I knew the News about the sky would show him in his helicopter. After they showed Uncle Harry they had a story about a man whose lighting was wrong who got shot with a gun. And they said that Pervert Schoolteacher is still at large, but in his picture he looks quite small.

Day 21:

Today I threw my iPad on the floor and it broke. I don’t like the internet anymore. Now I just like to play with my toy crown and listen to Uncle Harry’s funny stories about a girl he knows whose name is This Stripper. Or listen to Great Grandad read me his diary from a hundred years ago when he was in a war against some Germs.

Most of all I like to be with Mumsie and Daddy when they cuddle me and pretend that I am a cloud, and they say that I will rain some day.

Before I threw my iPad away I sent one last Tweet to the man called Piers after Uncle Harry had taught me a bold word and helped me to make a funny picture with Piers’ head and some tall men whose lighting is wrong with no clothes on. It made me giggle so much that I got sick on Harry, and he called me a stupid baby, which I think is like an oaf. I love my Uncle Harry, and I love all my family. I don’t need the internet to have fun. Now where’s my crown? My gums are sore…


Demolition Lady

Paddy O’Donnell stood motionless in the dock, his hands cuffed together at his waist, a scornful look of indifference etched on his scarred face as he stared fixedly at the judge who sat before him. His arms and neck were covered in a sprawl of black ink, his skin a patchwork of intricate Celtic symbols, murals of fallen comrades, and various words and phrases scrawled in old Irish script. Somewhat incongruously, he also bore quite a detailed tattoo on his forearm of Irish actor Colm Meaney as Chief O’Brien from Star Trek. The magistrate’s officious voice echoed around the grand chamber,

‘Mr. O’Donnell, you have been found guilty of each of the charges levelled against you. You have not shown an ounce of remorse for your heinous actions…’

As the judge continued to address him, O’Donnell’s lips curled into a sinister smirk.

‘…hereby sentenced to life imprisonment at the Royal British CryoPrison. You will be eligible for parole only after serving no less than fifty years in cryostasis.’

O’Donnell did not react but maintained his leering glare as the judge looked down at him over the rim of his glasses.

‘That is the judgement of the King’s Court on this, the third day of September 2029.’

As the judge’s gavel fell and the guards began to escort him out of the courtroom, O’Donnell turned to look at the magistrate once more.

‘He’s not my King, your honour,’ he spat contemptuously at him, although unfortunately this venomous riposte was negated slightly by the fact that the judge had already left his seat. As O’Donnell was led away he raised his head and crowed to the assembled masses, ‘Tiocfaidh ár lá’, his face still contorted in a fiendish grin as he was taken from the room.

Constable Jessica Phillips stared distractedly out of her hovercar window as the buildings of London rushed by in a glistening blur. It was early still, the roads almost empty and awash in a bluish neon haze of artificial light. As the car steered itself around the corner onto Simon Cowell Square she noticed a car that had been pulled over by two traffic drones. The driver had clearly tried to make a run for it, since he lay prostrate and unconscious on the kerb as the drones processed the vehicle.

The radio hummed quietly as the car glided towards its destination.

‘This is 20FM, your only station for non-stop 20th century music. That was I Will Survive, a huge hit for Gloria Gaynor in 1979. A hundred years old folks, and still a great tune. Stay with us, coming up after these short messages we’ve got a classic from Will Smith…’

‘Radio off,’ muttered Jessica as she continued to gaze out the window. The Captain’s phone call half an hour earlier had unsettled her. He was not a man given to panic, yet his voice had betrayed an anxiety that troubled her as the car cruised towards the imposing Metropolitan Police complex. Newer Scotland Yard was an impressive feat of architecture, its glass edifice shimmering in the dim morning light as the sun crept over the horizon.

She had met the Commissioner only once, briefly, at a fundraiser for the Science Academy a few years earlier. Something about cloning worker bees as part of their Pollination Project to alleviate food shortages. She remembered he kept making awful jokes about stinging and honey and hive minds, at which she had laughed heartily of course. Not that such fulsome indulgence had furthered her career in any way. Her superiors had always seemed wary of her obsession with the culture and history of the 20th century, as though she was somehow infected with the barbarity and lawlessness of the period. Eight years on the force and still a Constable. Perhaps this impromptu meeting was the opportunity she had been waiting for. This thought lifted her spirits, and she skipped up the marble steps to the entrance as the attendant drone guided her hovercar to its parking space.

The Commissioner’s office was, like that of most professionals, purely functional; all austere minimalism, white walls, straight lines, and gleaming chrome surfaces. The shelves were neatly stacked with masses of colossal grey volumes – legal reference material, political polemics, that kind of thing. She scanned some of the titles: Order from Chaos: Before and After the New Constitution, Civil Liberties: Bane of a Unified Society, Zen and the Art of Drone Maintenance. The only colour present in the room was the deep crimson in the swollen jowls of the man himself, a look of flustered anguish greeting her from behind an enormous desk as she entered. The Captain was already seated in front of him, and nodded curtly to her as she sat down.

‘Thank you for coming at such short notice Constable Phillips. Time is of the essence here so I’ll get right to the point.’

Jessica listened attentively as the Commissioner outlined the situation. It transpired that yesterday evening, during a routine parole hearing at the CryoPrison, a convicted terrorist had somehow escaped. He had also managed to free several of his comrades, after which they took control of an entire wing of the facility and barricaded themselves in. This O’Donnell character was one of the leaders of the Actual IRA, a group of revolutionaries from the early part of the century, who were very sensitive about confusion with other contemporary factions such as the Bona Fide IRA and Seriously, We’re the IRA. These terrorist organisations sprang up after economic difficulties forced the Irish government to sign the Act of Union II in 2023.

The Commissioner continued, ‘Which brings us to why you’re here, Constable. The Captain tells me you’re something of an enthusiast regarding the 20th century.’

‘Yes Sir, I studied the history and politics of the era as an optional module during my Citizenry Training. But the 21st century IRA was quite different to…’

The Commissioner held out his hand to stop her.

‘It’s not an expert on the terrorists we need, Constable. We unfroze our own last night, after the escape.’

Phillips looked from the Commissioner to the Captain in confusion.

‘I don’t understand Sir…’

‘You’re the expert on our expert, Constable Phillips. You’re to be her handler for as long as this situation takes to resolve.’

With these enigmatic remarks the Commissioner pushed a button on his desk and addressed his secretary in the hallway.

‘Sarah, please send in the Baroness.’

Jessica turned to face the door as it slid open with a hiss. A figure she instantly recognised swept into the room, her beady eyes surveying the three of them with a slight hint of curiosity, and no little amount of disdain. Her hair was immaculately coiffed, her overcoat prim and pristine. Her frail hands, more bone than skin and practically translucent, were tightly gripped around a small brown handbag.

‘Well it’s about bloody time. Woken up after sixty-odd years and left sitting out in the hall with only a frightfully dull woman and a flying robot for company. It’s a long way from 10 Downing Street, I’ll tell you that much. If Denis were here, he’d tell you…’

‘Ah, Mrs. Thatcher,’ began the Commissioner hesitantly, ‘I do hope the security drone didn’t bother you too much…’

‘Infernal Japanese invention no doubt. Of course you know what Ronald always said about the Japanese…’

‘Baroness,’ he interrupted again, ‘I’d like to introduce you to Constable Phillips. She’ll be taking care of you while you’re with us.’

Jessica, still in shock at what was happening before her, stood up and extended her hand.

‘It’s an honour, Ma’am.’

Thatcher looked her up and down with a contempt that wasn’t so much thinly veiled as stark bollock naked.

‘A woman? Couldn’t you find someone more…senior, Commissioner?’

‘I assure you Ma’am, the Constable is an expert on…’

‘Yes, yes, alright, she’ll have to do’ she snapped impatiently.

‘Although if I may say so dear, you’ll never be taken seriously walking around with all that slap on your face. I told Edwina Currie the same thing. Edwina, I said, if you act like a whore then you can expect to be treated…’

‘Yes, well, no time to lose,’ interjected the Commissioner hastily.

‘We have a Situation Room set up at the prison. Let’s get over there and see if we can sort out this mess.’

Jessica sat in the back of the hovercar, nervously trying to answer Mrs. Thatcher’s incessant questions to the best of her ability.

‘These flying contraptions must cost a tidy sum, dear? I hope you’re not paying through the nose for labour costs, they seem quite flimsy.’ The Baroness was fidgeting with the video screen in front of her and had managed to break it cleanly off its mount.

‘Well Ma’am, we don’t really deal in money anymore.’

‘No money?’ she exclaimed, aghast at the notion.

‘Why if old Major heard that one he’d chase you round the House with his cricket bat. No money indeed. How on earth do your companies function?’

‘There are no private companies anymore. Everything is run by the City Authorities.’

‘Sounds a lot like Communism to me dear,’ replied Thatcher, and spat on the floor of the car.

A flat, monotonous voice buzzed from the speaker overhead, ‘Expectoration in a municipal vehicle is a crime. A civil obedience drone has been dispatched to your…’

‘Override dispatchment. Authorisation code Phillips Bravo Foxtrot.’

After a slightly awkward pause Jessica went on,

‘People need control. There’s practically no crime anymore; any that does occur is taken care of by the drones. They can be quite a deterrent.’

‘And the whole country is like this now?’

‘The major cities are. Some outcasts prefer to stay in the wilderness, but it’s total chaos out there.’

‘So there’s no crime, no resistance, no trade unions to be faced down, no foreign dictators to be put in their place, nobody protesting or clamouring for change?’

Phillips shook her head.

Turning back to stare out the window, Thatcher muttered with a hint of sadness, ‘What on earth do you do for fun?’

The Situation Room bustled with activity as they entered, the Commissioner waiting for them in front of a screen that showed the interior of the prison wing. A breathless subordinate ran to greet them, evidently still finishing his lunch as he clutched a half-eaten sandwich and a glass of milk.

‘Mrs Thatcher, it’s an honour. It’s all go here as you can imagine. Anything I can get you?’

‘Yes, I’m thirsty,’ the Baroness replied coldly, and snatched the glass of milk from his hand. The Commissioner motioned to her and she strode across the room to where he stood, an audible hush having descended amongst the assembled crowd as every pair of eyes followed her regal march across the floor.

The Commissioner greeted her at the screen, ‘The leader of the terrorists is ready to talk, Baroness. As per your recommendation, we’ve disguised his real voice and replaced it with an alternate.’

‘Good. He’ll get no free publicity from me.’

‘Quite. We weren’t sure whose voice to impose on him, so we picked a prominent celebrity from your era. I hope you approve, Ma’am.’

‘Yes yes, let’s get on with it, shall we?’

She stepped up to the intercom and addressed the prisoner, ‘Mr. O’Donnell, this is Lady Thatcher. What exactly is it you want that’s so damned important?’

There was a short pause, then through the makeshift speakers that flanked the giant video screen came the unmistakeable voice of 1990s’ entertainment personality Mr. Blobby.

‘I’ve told your Commissioner what I want. I want equality. I want justice. I want…’

‘Oh shut up for a minute, you sound ridiculous,’ she snapped. She turned to the Commissioner and raised an eyebrow. ‘Well, what does he want? His country freed from oppression, I suppose. His children’s children released from the yoke of bondage most likely, yes? The lifeblood of his comrades in arms vindicated by the submission of…’

‘Eh, fag breaks,’ came the crackled voice over the intercom. Thatcher turned back to the microphone, a look of confusion on her face.

‘Excuse me?’

‘Fag breaks. Just a few a year or whatever. Gets bloody cold in that thing, you know.’

The Baroness swivelled and cast an accusatory glance at the Commissioner that would turn a lesser man to stone.

‘This…is what you brought me here for?’ she snarled at him. Before he could answer she turned on her heels and promptly marched out of the room, followed closely by Jessica.

‘Eh…is that a yes?’

The hovercar drifted through the evening fog towards the Citizens’ CryoFacility on the outskirts of the city. Phillips sat opposite the Baroness, who sat sedately silent in her seat.

‘You’re sure you don’t want to stay a few more days Ma’am?’

‘What’s the point? May as well get back to that blasted ice cube for another lifetime I suppose, until I’m needed again.’

Jessica sensed the resignation in her voice.

‘You might grow to like it here, after a while.’

‘I thrive on conflict dear. In a world without any, what good am I to anyone?’

Sighing to herself, she sat back in her seat, her eyes glazed and downcast. For the first time that day Jessica didn’t see a fearsome, indomitable force of nature, but a tired and lost old woman who felt discarded by the world.

‘Well there is one place I can think of Ma’am, but like I said, it’s total chaos.’

Thatcher looked up to meet her gaze, her wizened face betraying a trace of a smile.

When they reached the outer gate the Baroness turned to Jessica and shook her hand.

‘Thank you Constable. You’ve been very helpful. I shan’t imagine I’ll be seeing you again.’

‘You’re sure about this Mrs. Thatcher? Once you go out there there’s no turning back.’

The Baroness looked her in the eye,

‘Don’t worry dear. This lady’s not for turning.’

With that she shuffled through the gate and into the bleak terrain beyond. Leaning against her hovercar, Jessica watched the hunched figure disappear into the grey mist.

After a few moments she sat into the car and began her journey home. ‘Radio on.’

‘…back to 20FM folks, and here’s a song from the 1980s that captured the mood of an angry nation. I don’t know about you but I’m glad those dark days are behind us.’

As the car thrummed its way back along the grey highway into the sprawling cityscape, the opening bars of Ghost Town reverberated around the interior of the immense machine, and a tear rolled down Jessica’s cheek as she surveyed the dark, lifeless metropolis that awaited her return.


Éamon de Valera: Zombie Hunter

Another summer has arrived in Hollywood, and with it another slew of preposterous blockbusters aiming to make millions from the slack-jawed, gormless dribblers that pass for young people these days. As everyone now knows, a shady cabal of movie producers has been secretly building a giant particle accelerator under the Hollywood hills over the past few years. Only instead of using boring things like electrons and atoms, the boffins enter variables such as historical figures, supernatural creatures, absurd plot lines, and other such elements of successful films. Nine times out of ten the machine just churns out 3D remakes of ‘80s films with less dialogue and more explosions, toplessness, and Samuel L. Jackson.

Every now and then, however, it produces an inspired, original idea, such as has happened with the upcoming Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. The alternate historical angle is always ripe for entertainment, and coincidentally, this week in Ireland has seen the discovery of a secret journal kept by former Irish President, Taoiseach and very tall citizen, Éamon de Valera. It provides a fascinating insight into a hitherto unknown series of events that took place during the War of Independence. The following are some extracts from that journal.

December 16th, 1920, New York:

I have been over here for eighteen months now, and the effort of raising funds for our revolution back home is taking its toll. I’m feeling particularly dispirited after meeting with the American Secretary of State today, who advised me that there were probably better ways to earn money than performing an Irish dancing set outside the gates of the White House. Now he tells me.

My depression was not helped when I received a letter this morning from my Minister for Finance, Michael Collins, urging me to come home at once. It appears the British have sent a formidable force of soldiers to our shores to crush our rebellion once and for all. I have decided to set sail for Ireland at once, and I must admit to being concerned and puzzled by Michael’s description of this new squad of troops as ‘a bunch of unkillable, decaying feckers. They’re pure weird Dev.’ He even took a whole three pages to recount a rather crude anecdote about one of the British force feasting on poor Arthur Griffith’s brains. I depart tomorrow at dawn, with a troubled heart, a grave fear for my beloved country, and very sore feet.

January 14th, 1921, Dublin:

I have only been home for two weeks, and the situation here grows worse by the day. The British invasion has swept across the city, and ordinary Irish people seem to be joining their ranks for some inexplicable reason. The soldiers wander the streets night and day, groaning and muttering, occasionally shouting things like ‘God save King George’, or ‘It’s so temperate here compared to Calcutta’, although mostly they seem to talk about their penchant for brains. Their eyes are a deep crimson, and have the same glazed, empty appearance that seems to come over my colleagues whenever I speak in the Dáil. The pallor of their skin and their general sluggishness suggests that they are suffering from some ailment or other, perhaps Spanish flu, or possibly Protestantism.

Only myself, Michael, and a small band of men have so far escaped their advances, and we have taken refuge in St. James’s Gate brewery. Although its high walls offer us adequate protection, I fear we may be undone by the nightly seven-hour singsongs the men indulge in after sampling the massive quantities of Guinness, which are sure to attract attention sooner or later.

One among our group is a young man by the name of John Charles, who is studying to become a priest. He says he dreams of one day becoming a bishop, and even carries a giant crosier around with him. I have become particularly close with him since he saved my life just last week. I was on patrol when a young woman, clearly afflicted with the disease, attacked me from behind, shouting something about cockles, mussels, and brains.

As if from thin air, JC appeared, and smashed the poor girl’s head to smithereens with his crosier, all the while screaming ‘God wills it!’

‘Holy first communion Dev, that was a close one.’

‘I don’t know how to thank you JC, you saved me from being transformed into one of these beasts.’

‘To be honest Dev, I didn’t even notice she was one of them, it’s just that short skirt she’s wearing is so inappropriate to be out and about in.’

We walked away arm in arm, each of us content that whatever happened in this crazy war, at least we would have each other.

February 20th, 1921, Dublin:

These past few weeks we have lost many men to the enemy forces, and now only myself and JC remain. It was just yesterday that Michael met his gruesome end. The undead horde had breached the outer walls, and we were fleeing for our lives. With the brain-hungry masses descending on us in their hundreds, Michael turned back suddenly.

‘You go on ahead lads, I’ll hold them here.’

‘No Michael, you’ll never survive.’

With his hurl in his hand and that mad glint in his eye, he ignored our pleas as he sprinted into the frenzied crowd, pucking the heads off the vicious creatures left, right and centre.

‘Holy papal bulls Dev, that’s a brave man.’

‘The bravest,’ I whispered softly, wiping a tear from my cheek as we turned and ran for our lives. Amidst the horrific shrieking of the infected as they closed in on our fearless companion, I could have sworn I heard the proud, plaintive cry, ‘Up Cork!’ I am stricken with grief at his loss, and my only hope is that history will not judge me responsible for the death of my gallant comrade.

March 13th, 1921, Dublin:

Myself and JC have taken refuge in Trinity College these past few weeks after fighting our way across the city. In the college courtyard we were attacked by a group of infected scholars, who chanted bastardised Oscar Wilde quotes as they approached.

‘To love brains is the beginning of a life-long romance,’ moaned one of them, before JC sprang into action and quickly dispatched the erudite fiends.

‘Feckin’ Proddies,’ he muttered to himself as he cleaned the blood from his enormous bishop-stick. And from his crosier.

March 17th, 1921, Dublin:

Having barricaded ourselves into a room in the college, our enemies soon surrounded us, leaving us with no option but to stay here and wait for them to breach our defences. We had become resigned to our fate, and last night as we sat by the window overlooking the infested city streets, I sang a few bars of Come Out Ye Black and Tans, a rebel song that Michael had taught me, in an attempt to lift our spirits.

To our surprise the crowd outside instantly became agitated and began to drop to their knees, holding their heads and screeching wildly. As I continued to sing, one by one the zombies’ heads began to explode.

‘Holy First Vatican Council Dev, the feckers can’t hack the rebel tunes at all at all.’

I smiled wryly to myself as I surveyed the corpses below.

‘Let’s get a good night’s sleep JC, we’ve a big day ahead of us tomorrow.’

‘Fair enough Dev. You want to be big spoon or little spoon?’

And so it came to pass that today, on the day that we celebrate Saint Patrick driving the snakes from our shores, myself and JC set out to bring an end to the British invasion once and for all. We mounted one of the college’s speaker systems on an abandoned car in the courtyard, and crashed through the front gates onto the streets. From every direction came the hordes of enemies, loping towards the car with flesh-lust in their eyes. And then I began to sing.

We drove around the whole city, singing every rebel tune, lament and ballad we could think of, to a chorus of exploding heads and horrific screams from our vanquished foes. We ran out of fuel in front of the GPO, and in the spot where five short years ago we had proclaimed our independence, we finished off the remnants of the British forces with our bare hands.

As the sun was beginning to set, we stood there on the field of battle, breathless, exhausted, but victorious. I turned to my ally and friend,

‘You know something JC, this could be the start of a beautiful republic.’

He turned to me and smiled. ‘God wills it, Dev. God wills it.’ And with that we walked, hand in hand, down the street, towards our future. Towards hope, and freedom. Towards a better tomorrow.


Yacht a Girl Wants

Britain’s education secretary Michael Gove found himself at the centre of some controversy this week after suggesting that the Queen should be presented with a new royal yacht in honour of her diamond jubilee, a gift that would cost the taxpayers of Britain around £60 million. Quite apart from how ludicrous it is to consider such an ostentatious present in these frugal times, he also clearly didn’t think through how much effort it would require to wrap the thing.

Gove is just the latest example of a Conservative politician who is hopelessly out of touch with reality. The landed gentry image that the current crop of Tory ministers evoke isn’t that far off the mark; many of them are, in fact, extremely wealthy landowners. One imagines the life of a typical Tory like Gove revolves mainly around foxhunting, drinking brandy after foxhunting, and picking out new tweed jackets to wear while shooting the local urchins for sport. And also while foxhunting. Their home life is essentially like an episode of Downton Abbey, only instead of the frisson of unrequited love and stately elegance in the air, there’s just a stench of upper class disdain and an aloof ambivalence to the plight of anyone who doesn’t have a hereditary title. As well as the stench coming from the unkempt moat that was paid for by the taxpayer. Those things can be so hard to maintain.

However, this image is something that ‘Call me Dave’ is doing his very best to try to eradicate, by attempting to appear just as frightfully common as the rest of us. He’s stopped arriving at the House of Commons in that horse-drawn carriage of his, for a start. He now travels everywhere in a humble chauffeured Rolls Royce, which even has a sticker on the window voicing support for his local polo team, to show everyone how ordinary he is. He has also taken to wearing jeans around the house in the evenings, despite the jolly good ribbing he gets from his old Etonian chums at dinner parties, especially on Tuxedo Thursdays. He even went out to the supermarket to do his own shopping last week, but unfortunately had to return empty-handed after he saw someone in a hoody and got scared.

Perhaps the most ridiculous thing about Cameron and his ilk is that they seem to be unashamedly royalist. They just can’t get enough of archaic constitutional monarchies, they’re batshit crazy about them. The fact that the whole idea of a monarchy didn’t die out long ago along with smallpox, slavery and decent Robert De Niro films is a source of puzzlement, but not as perplexing as the fascination with the whole affair shown by the British, in particular. Any sensible person would treat such an uninteresting family of wealthy layabouts with mild indifference, but the fervour displayed by some royal enthusiasts lies somewhere between the shameless fawning of a screeching pre-pubescent girl at a Westlife book signing, and the obsequious, unquestioning adoration that one imagines may have preceded the consumption of all that delicious Kool-Aid at Jonestown.

The public histrionics that accompany the likes of last year’s royal wedding, or the death of Diana, show just how obsessed people are with the royal family. The Queen can’t even fart without some middle-aged woman from Wigan blubbering into a tissue and throwing roses out into the street at her for some reason. Oh look, it’s Elizabeth Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, she’s really rich and she owns all the swans. Who gives a shit?

Speaking of old Lizzie herself, surely there were some more interesting proposals put forward as to what to buy her to celebrate 60 years on the throne. If she were to get a yacht, Harry would have it written off within the week anyway after trying to invade France on it and crashing into the London Eye after a night out on the sauce.

Perhaps the Irish people could get together and present the Queen with a present to mark the occasion. How about offering to take Northern Ireland back from her? It would only be fair after the con that rascal Michael Collins pulled when he convinced the Brits they actually wanted to keep such a barren wasteland as part of their empire. Nobody had the heart to tell them all they’d get in return was an unruly shower of rally-driving, mural-painting sectarians and an astronomical annual social welfare bill. Come to think of it, taking back such a burden might be a bit too generous. Let’s just leave it until the next jubilee and then reassess the situation.

Failing that, maybe something simple like the new iPhone would be a welcome gift, something to bring the monarchy into the digital age and allow the Queen to get into social networking. I can just see the status updates now: Liz checked in at The Royal Variety Show with Prince Philip and CharliePrinceOfWales69xx. ‘One is very bored with these performing peasants. But totally worth it to hear Phil’s comments about the Asian dancing troupe that was just on. Rofl! #LittleYellowBastards.’

Although the yacht idea will no doubt never come to fruition, the fact that a government minister even proposed it in the first place is an indictment  not only of a severe lack of judgement and common sense on his part, but also of a society stuck in the dark ages and still in thrall to its less than useless royal family. When the two most interesting things concerning the royals in the recent past have been jokes about Princess Diana and pictures of Pippa Middleton’s arse, perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate the importance of the British monarchy. Then the sycophantic royalists like Gove will just have to find another wealthy, tedious and completely redundant family to revere. I wonder if he watches Keeping Up with the Kardashians


National Anathema

Watching the Irish rugby matches over the past few weeks I’ve been reminded of just how awful our national anthem is when compared to those of other nations. Considering Amhrán na bhFiann is all about soldiers, conflict and beating back hordes of thieving Saxons, you would expect it to be a bit more rousing and exciting. As it is, the monotonous dirge that is usually droned along to in a half-hearted fashion couldn’t be any less inspirational. Apparently Yeats was right; romantic Ireland’s dead and gone, it’s with O’Leary…who didn’t even make the squad. To be fair, our anthem is still significantly better than that Phil Coulter abomination that we have to sing to placate the Ulster lads, but that’s hardly a ringing endorsement.

Written in 1907, the song soon became a popular marching tune for the Irish Volunteers. It was also sung by the rebels in the GPO during the Easter Rising. Funnily enough, the song wasn’t translated into Irish until after 1916. The image of young, rebellious Irish freedom fighters singing a nationalistic war tune in the King’s English seems a bit incongruous. Then again, that entire conflict was basically a suicide mission dreamed up by some deranged homosexual poets who wanted to die a bloody and glorious death and bring as many innocent, impressionable Irish kids with them as possible. So I suppose it wasn’t the strangest part of those few days.

Among other rugby nations, in particular, our anthem falls disappointingly short. The Six Nations tournament boasts some seriously impressive anthems. God Save the Queen, while inherently akin to fingernails on a blackboard for Irish people, does in fairness have a certain bombastic quality. The lyrics may be imperialistic nonsense that belongs in the dark ages, but it’s a catchy tune. The Welsh anthem is similarly pleasing to the ear, helped greatly by the fact that every Welshman is blessed with an incredible singing voice. And the fact that Katherine Jenkins is often the one singing it.

The Scots touch on similar themes to us, but in a much more violent fashion. Flower of Scotland is basically a history lesson and an Anglophobic hate crime rolled up into a Highlands tune, which is why everyone loves it so much. The French have La Marseillaise, possibly the catchiest anthem of them all. It’s a stirring and upbeat tune that is always sung with great gusto and passion, and best of all it ensures that two whole minutes can pass without the French booing their own players. Finally we have the Italian anthem, which, while a little dated at this stage, is still a great sing-along tune, and accurately encapsulates the Italian personality.

Our own national song definitely needs some updating if it’s to compete with its contemporaries. A competition to find a worthy replacement would appear to be in order, and could take the place of our ridiculous annual search for new victims to send to the Eastern Bloc love-in that is the Eurovision. I’ll give you a heads-up lads, if we’ve never had a genocidal dictator then we’re not going to win. Those depressingly generic landlocked Soviet abortions of countries have it all sewn up. They all give each other douze points every year, and in return they have a free trade between themselves in worker donkeys, landmine detectors and framed photographs of Stalin that they can hang over their cooking pot and spit on whenever they pass by. That’s what the Western European media tells me anyway, I don’t see why they’d lie.

If we couldn’t find a suitable entry from Ireland, we could always get some professional help. Perhaps we could pool together what little cash we have left and pay Hans Zimmer or John Williams or the like to compose a dramatic new piece that would be the envy of the anthem community. Although the Garda band might have to expand its ranks a little in order to do it justice. Walking all those cellos onto the Croke Park pitch every weekend would be a bit of a chore.

The other alternative, of course, would be to adopt an existing song as our new anthem. Something that reflects the direction we’re heading in, like this Talking Heads number. Having it sung at national occasions would hardly be uplifting, but at least it would show a realistic approach to our current situation. In a few years we’ll probably be forced into adopting some sort of happy-clappy pan-European anthem anyway, so we might as well enjoy our autonomy while it lasts, and have a bit of fun with our new anthem. Just make sure nobody tells Phil Coulter about it.


The Kids Aren’t Alright

After nearly a week of wanton destruction and violence, the riots that spread across England have come to a close. At this stage the young criminals who’ve been vandalising their own communities have probably run out of glass to smash, or trainers to steal, or perhaps just run out of energy considering most of them probably exist solely on fast food. They’ll still kick in a McDonalds window if they get the chance though. If you’re wondering what that smell is, it’s the concept of irony being set alight and kicked to death by a group of thugs from Birmingham. Only after they stole his trainers though.

Aside from piles of rubble and hilarious photoshopped scenes from the riots, the one thing we have an excess of in the wake of the past week’s events is questions. What made thousands of kids angry enough to set fire to everything in sight? Why was David Cameron on holiday when his crystal ball had told him there’d be riots when he was away? Where can I get that slick grey hoody that guy with the handful of iPods was wearing?

Over the last number of days there has been much written in the media in an attempt to answer the question of why this happened. Russell Brand wrote an interesting article in The Guardian which criticised the portrayal of the rioters and looters as animals and monsters, and he makes a good point. It is natural for people to distance humanity from terrible acts but if societal problems are ever going to be tackled successfully, they must first be understood.

The youths committing these acts have the same capacity for violence, greed and stupidity as the rest of us. They also share our capacity for kindness, empathy and all the other traits that were displayed by those who rallied together to clean up their communities after they had been devastated. Which of these qualities come to the fore in a young person is dependent on millions of variables, and it is their development and growth and the experiences they have that will ultimately shape them. Calling them monsters is a cowardly way of avoiding the fact that massive sections of western civilised society are breeding grounds for young men, in particular, full of hate and malice.

Kevin Myers wrote an article this week in which he noted that the vast majority of the rioters were Afro-Caribbean. He went on to cite the lack of father figures in the lives of these young men as a contributing factor, given the massive amount of single mothers in the areas affected. He also recognised that it was a failed immigration policy that resulted in the breakdown of community in these areas, and led to disenfranchisement of massive groups of young people.

There are many other relevant factors that affect these groups of people and cause violent tendencies, such as poverty, peer pressure, lack of education, boredom, alienation from society, early exposure to criminality, to name but a few. Myers is absolutely correct, however, in his assertions that a lack of parental control and the unbelievably poorly conceived immigration policies of successive governments have greatly contributed to the situation. This is true not just in Britain, but across the world.

Of course, because Mr. Myers has a history of making somewhat incendiary and controversial comments, and because we live in a society so laden with sanctimony masquerading as political correctness, these comments have been branded by many as racist and offensive. Apparently just noticing that the rioting crowd was predominantly ethnic, something that is demonstrably true, is now in itself a racist act. What a pathetic world we live in where adults cannot even discuss issues with clarity, never mind attempt to solve our society’s ills, without having a label thrown at them to discredit their argument.

What we must not do, however, when asking why this happened, is confuse explanation for justification. Nobody needs a father figure to tell them it is wrong to steal from a kid lying at the side of the road with a broken jaw. No amount of government money spent on playgrounds and youth centres will stop a certain element in society from taking any excuse to get out in the streets, burn down people’s homes and livelihoods, and throw rocks at the police. And no policy changes from the Tories, who everyone seems to be singularly blaming for this crisis despite the fact that Labour were in power as these young people grew up, will change the fact that some people do not want to be educated, or informed, or bettered in any way. They are quite happy to simply remain as they are and continue to blame everyone but themselves.

The only thing more depressing than watching the horrific scenes of the riots on television, and seeing the fear on the faces of the innocent people affected, is listening to the debate that is ongoing in their aftermath. Because it is abundantly clear to anyone listening that nothing is going to change. If there is one universal truth about our species, it is that we do not learn from history. This is the society we’ve made for ourselves, and it’s one we’re going to have to live with for a very long time.