Thursday, December 13, 2012

On The Run

Have you been for a run lately? If not, I'm sure someone's told you all about how wonderful a passtime it is. That or you've been kept updated via Facebook of some runner's latest performance. They usually read something like this:

47.38! Delighted!!! Well done to everyone involved!! Now for that long awaited pint and crisps! :)”

As easy a target as such statements are, I'm going to refrain from poking fun at them. This is because I too like to run. And I understand someone wanting to share their satisfaction at meeting or beating a self-set goal. Even if broadcasting their achievement defies the inherently internal reasons for running in the first place.

For the record, my running career started in 2008 with some light jogging around a nearby green. In the intervening years, I have built up my distance to about 10km. Nothing special.

But I don't run as much as I used to. As with most exercise regimes, the deficit between effort and reward soon becomes a grievance. The problem is either running too hard or not hard enough. Too often, I find myself regretting not giving that little bit more or that little bit less, depending on whether or not I still feel a little restless, or so battered that any other activity is relegated from my day.

Low-frequency running has actually worked out well. The tedium of daily excursions has been replaced by a genuine anticipation of getting out in the elements. By strange coincidence, my runs have become a lot more eventful. 

Earlier this year, I was running in Castlecomer Discovery Park when a representative of the local wildlife (a very large duck) expressed disapproval at my choice of route. It was only after he spread his wings to a four-foot diameter and started to charge at me aggressively that I realised something was wrong. Nearby fishermen had a great time laughing at the sight of a grown man being chased from his preferred route by a duck, who's proud quack I took as some kind of jibe. 

More recently, I put my running to use in the mould of a concerned citizen. I was watching TV at home when, through the corner of my eye, I noticed a hooded figure dart across my front lawn. This was followed by what sounded like the attempted opening of my locked front door. The figure's quick reversal in direction convinced me that he was up to no good. Knowing that going upstairs to get the key would waste valuable seconds, I exited through the back door and ran around my house to give chase. By the time I was out on the road, he had been picked up by a red van. Still running, I gave the van's occupants an ironic wave, as if to warn them off trying anything like that again. But on my way back inside to contact local authorities, I noticed the latest issue of the Golden Pages by my front doorstep. Only then did I realise that the sound of the "burglar" trying to open my door was actually that of the Golden Pages hitting the ground. And that this wasn't a break in; it was a phone book delivery.

Another peculiarity happened just the other day. I was navigating the lanes surrounding St Canice's Cathedral when a dull sound of screaming caused me to stop. After ensuring that it wasn't another dose of acute paranoia, I ran onto Church grounds to investigate. Approaching the entrance, I deduced that the voices were those of young Americans. One male. One female.



The intermittent thudding on a small door signalled that the helpless cries were coming from inside the 9th century round-tower. I ran over to the bottom of the step ladder and announced my arrival.


Their response was instant. 


There was a moment of silence as I digested the news. The parallels with a Hollywood horror were glaring. 

This Christmas...Get ready...For The Dream Holiday...That Became...Their Worst Nightmare...In Ireland's Most Haunted Tower!

Eventually, I told them to "hold tight" while I went looking for help. 

I ran around the grounds a few times before coming across a teenage boy. He looked about sixteen. Disinterested. In everything. 

"Do you work here?" I asked.

"Wha.." he muttered.

"There's some people trapped in the tower!"

"Yeah?" he replied, in what sounded like indifference, but was probably just not up to the drama that my earlier exchanges with the Americans demanded. 

"I'm going to call into the vicar's house" I told him, already breaking into another run. "If you see anyone, let them know!"

My call to the attached house was fruitless. Much to my disappointment. I was kind of hoping for some sort of Dickensian exchange of information, in which I would bestow the news on the Vicar in a cockney accent, before being rewarded with a hot meal later that evening.  

When I ran back to the Cathedral, there was a gardener finishing up some raking. Somehow, he had missed my previous encirclements. He reacted with considerable calm and went to fetch the key. In the meantime, I went to let my American friends know that everything was going to be ok; that they were going to make it home for Christmas after all..

"THANK YOU! THANK YOU SO MUCH!!" they rejoiced. 

Before long, a woman from inside the Cathedral arrived with the key in hand. The beleaguered visitors exited the tower emitting a cacophony of sighs and exclamations of relief. They looked exactly how they sounded. Early twenties, college kids.

Brushing off the woman's apologies, they were bereft of any complaints or indignation. Upon further questioning, they told us their plight had lasted half an hour. They were a lot quieter now, for obvious reasons. It started getting awkward. What more was there to say? Or do? I bade them farewell and ran away home.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Siren and Me

I can't remember what the dream was exactly, only that it involved mushroom clouds on the horizon and me fleeing frantically to some underground shelter. Imagine then my first impression when I awoke to what sounded like the doomsday siren in the pre-dawn of a November morning. Apparently, its distinctive howl had incurred on my unconscious mind the scenarios that I associate most with it, before finally waking me into what seemed a surreal situation. I waited a few seconds to see if it was just the last sonic embers of my dream. But it wasn't long before I realised I was hearing this notorious sound in full cognition. In Kilkenny. At 4.45am.

If you've never heard the civil defence siren, you really should give it a listen. It is absolutely one of the most unsettling noises you are likely to encounter. Having spent a sizeable amount of my life engrossed in twentieth century history, its eerie bawl evokes in me images of Londoners crowding into tube stations during the Blitz, or sixties-era American school kids ducking and covering in preparation for a Soviet nuclear strike. In fact, just the other day I watched, and posted on Facebook, a video showing the siren in action in Tel Aviv, Israel.

But I've never heard it in little old Kilkenny. Why would I? This isn't exactly Checkpoint Charlie. Surely the Marble City could never be wiped off the map by a wave of atomic fire? Though I do remember my father telling me how his school drilled for the outbreak of World War 3 during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. But he could have been just making that up.

Whatever about that, I've always wondered how useful these sirens would be if Nuclear War actually did happen. Wouldn't they just terrorise people into realising that the human race is about to be annihilated and there's absolutely nothing they can do about it. Let us sleep I say.

Such considerations were redundant as I opened the window to hear the siren wailing across the outside air, where wind and rain only added to the fatalism of it all. Being alone in the house didn't help. There was no way of making myself feel empowered by shaking someone from their sleep whilst screaming hysterically: “It's Here! It's Here!”

Instead, I hurried downstairs to see if any neighbours had stepped outside to investigate. Standing in my driveway, I found the sound almost unbearable. I calculated its general direction and wondered if it was some kind of cataclysmic burglar alarm from the truck yard across the road, like one that would sound only when all the trucks were stolen. Not seeing anyone else around and with no traffic on the road, I went inside to contact Kilkenny Gardaí. As I passed by the television, I wondered if switching to Sky News would yield a graphic proclaiming: “BREAKING NEWS: WORLD ENDING”

There was a definite gaiety in the voice of the female officer that answered my call. It sounded like she was having an enjoyable morning on the switchboard.

“Hello, I'm on the Freshford Road. There's an extremely loud alarm coming from the direction of the truck yard across the road” I said, in the mode of a truly concerned citizen.

“It's actually from the army barracks” she responded cheerily. “We've had hundreds of calls. Someone's set off the civil defence siren and they don't know how to turn it off!”

At this point, I was fairly sure I could hear other Gardaí chuckling at her end of the line.

“Ah yes, the civil defence siren” I acknowledged, as if to convey myself as someone who had seen it all before. “I thought for a second we'd started World War 3” I continued, before deducing that I couldn't have been the first funnyman to tell her that joke this morning.

“No, you're safe enough” she reassured me. “Hopefully, they'll get it off soon”. That was that it seemed. 

Then, like all good men in the early twenty-first century, I took to Facebook and Twitter to tell everyone everything! Surprisingly, updates from sleep-deprived Kilkenny folk were minimal. I suppose most people in this town are such good sleepers that even the threat of societal destruction can't wake them. Though I did get a text off my sister, who lives outside town. Funny that she could hear it whilst others I've spoken to, some living within 500m of the base, slept through it soundly. My family must have some innate paranoia about Armageddon. 

After another ten minutes or so, the siren whimpered into silence. It was finally over. Or so I thought. Moments later, it started up again! I wondered what exactly was going on in the barracks that this could happen twice in one night.

“Are they all drunk or something?”

Eventually it stopped for good. And I went back to bed, secure in the knowledge that tomorrow would come.

This morning, I began investigating what had caused the siren to go off. I rang the military press office, where another female officer was hell bent on assuring me that I was still alive.

“I'm just curious” I explained, trying to dissuade her clear supposition that I was a nervous wreck who spent too much time reading about doomsday scenarios on the internet.

She told me to email on my questions. So I did. And thankfully, the military press office delivered a prompt response. Here it is:


Almost all military barracks and facilities at home and overseas have some form of audible alarm system. It is either used to indicate a defensive requirement for the post or sometimes to re-call Military Personnel in the locality to the Barracks. Many barracks test these alarms for a few seconds from time to time and at a time of the day so as not to disturb local residents. In the case of Stephens Bks Kilkenny, a technical fault caused the alarm to sound in the early hours of the morning. I understand members of the garrison have been on local media apologising for this inconvenience. 


The Military

No need to apologise Military. This is easily the most exciting thing that's happened to me all year! The tale of a nightmare inducing siren on the sleeping people of Kilkenny. Well, on one of them anyway


Monday, April 23, 2012


He'd been a quiet companion, without the liveliness I was told to expect from a red setter. And yet, in those first few days, the absence of a wary scratch on my door each morning was as loud as it was silent. Unmistakably, I was alone.

Bridget's cherished rockery seemed as close to a headstone as I could offer him, as if death would make such a formality any more important to him.

“She wouldn't mind” I thought, despite the scoff with which she had always dismissed the idea of getting a dog. But even she couldn't have ignored Rua's gentle disposition when he sat tactfully with me at her graveside.

 “Do you see this?” I would ask her, “This is what keeps me going.”

How right I was. After a week without him, I had buckled under a tide of nostalgia, if such a word can be toned with regret. The memories were, at first, unremarkable. When returning from mass, I waited in vain to see a ginger silhouette moving erratically through the front door's frosted window. Then came more seminal recollections, like the forlorn expression with which he first looked at me through the shelter cage.

With a heart so heavy, Ciara and Rachel's visit today seemed less than ideal. It began routinely, as Ciara fidgeted with her phone at the kitchen table.

“They're called smart-phones Dad” she explained. “You can go online from anywhere.”

“Really” I replied half-heartedly, hoping to feign some sort of interest.

It didn't matter. She was too busy poking at something else to detect my lack of sincerity. Sometimes I think she'd be better off just sewing the phone to her hand.

Eventually I wandered out to the garden to find Rachel examining the upturned soil by the rockery. I stood for a moment and watched, remembering the accord she and Rua had enjoyed since, as an uncertain toddler, she first patted his long lean head. Then came her inevitable enquiry.

“What's that Grandad?” she asked.

“That's where Rua is” I replied bluntly, forgetting she had but the littlest understanding of life and death.

“Mum said Rua is in heaven” she retorted.

I smiled faintly, thinking it the most diplomatic response.

“I miss Rua” she continued, “It's so boring here now.”

My laboured grin gave way to a genuine chuckle. It was the first time I'd laughed in weeks.

“Rachel” I whispered, “I couldn't agree more.”

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Watching Wrestling

Lately, I've been spending considerable time indulging in one of the more outlandish pass-times of my younger years: watching wrestling. What can I say? Partial employment leaves ample time to over analyse things that seem like a complete waste of time. And pouring over old wrestling videos could certainly be qualified as such. Nevertheless, I suspect there may be something more to this nostalgia of nonsense. And at the risk of trying to intellectualise the unintellectual, I'm going to try and explain why.

For the benefit of readers who haven't experienced the madness of professional wrestling, allow me to provide a brief synopsis. Professional wrestling is a hybrid of athletics and theatrical performance in which any number of wrestlers engage in a contest that is pre-determined. The modern form of professional wrestling, popularised by the American based WWE, is an amalgamation of various forms from all over the world, some of which trace their origins to the 19th century. Since a boom in the 1980's, professional wrestling has evolved into a storyline driven phenomenon formatted for mass consumption via television.

I started watching wrestling in 1994, just as the WWE (or WWF as it was then known) was gearing up for its annual showpiece, Wrestlemania. In those days wrestling played up to the traditional struggle between “good guys” and “bad guys”. The former were characters with whom the audience had a natural empathy. They played by the rules, promoted wholesome living and were always portrayed as the superior wrestlers. Bad guys were dishonest, manipulative and usually relied on cheating to win. It doesn't take a genius to work out why this format was so successful. On a base level, it reflected the conflict between what life should be and what it actually is.

The main event of Wrestlemania X pitted the 500lb Yokozuna, a sumo wrestler whose waving of the Japanese flag stoked the flames of western xenophobia, against the hero character of Bret “Hitman” Hart. Having been beaten by his rogue brother Owen earlier in the evening, Bret was the perfect underdog. For most of the match, Yokozuna seemed to pound him into oblivion. Watching on, I was desperate for the hero to pull off the “unlikeliest” of victories over the villain. Imagine then my elation when Bret scored the 1-2-3 after Yokozuna, while poising himself for the deadly “banzai drop”, suddenly lost balance and fell from the ropes.

When I look back now, I can't believe how ridiculous this particular stunt looks. Yet Bret's post match celebration, in which he is joined by all his “good guy” friends and a host of invited celebrities is a little more interesting. The exhausted Hitman can barely stand, but with the WWF championship belt over his shoulder, all is right with the world again. I'll leave it to the ambiguities of human emotion to explain why, after eighteen years, something about this scene still appeals to me.

Yet, even at the age of eight, I was well aware that Bret Hart and Yokozuna were actually just actors playing out a convenient illusion. But it didn't matter. The ability of the wrestling audience to temporarily suspend disbelief is without equal. Watch any wrestling match and you will see people of all ages, genders, races and creeds embrace the spectacle with maximum enthusiasm. This really does work.

In fact, a few months after Wrestlemania X, I was so disturbed by the prospect of Bret losing the WWF belt to his "evil" brother that I prayed that it wouldn't happen. Not in a metaphorical sense. I remember actually being at Mass, receiving holy communion and begging God to ensure Bret's eventual victory. If ever there was evidence that the WWF was doing a good job, this was it. Though on that particular incident, they may have had some help from the Catholic Church.

After a year or so, the allure of wrestling started to wane. As it happened, I was so disillusioned after Bret lost the belt to Shawn Michaels, a former “bad guy” who had been positioned as the new hero, that I simply stopped watching. For me, that wasn't the way it was supposed to be.

In my teenage years, I tuned back in and found the WWF had become a much more violent spectacle in which a beer guzzling redneck, Stone Cold Steve Austin, had become the new favourite. This coincided with an era when the WWF enjoyed it's biggest commercial success to date. Consequentially, the wrestling world had become a lot more secure with opening up its workings to fans' long held curiosity.

This led to my viewing of a documentary which followed Bret Hart's last year in the WWF. Wrestling with Shadows still ranks as one of the most interesting films I have ever seen. Whilst mainly dealing with Bret's struggle to keep pace with the WWF's new direction, it also uncovers an even stranger backstage world where the line between fiction and reality becomes remarkably vague.

I haven't had much time for wrestling in the intervening years. Hyper communication via the world wide web has left wrestling's previously guarded secrets exposed for all to see. In turn, it is much harder for fans to abandon the knowledge that it's all just entertainment. 

I could also put my indifference towards the modern WWE down to the fact that in my ever expanding “maturity”, I've simply outgrown the senselessness of it all. But the fact that I've been spending so much time trying to reconnect with a world where right and wrong is so cut and dry seems to suggest otherwise. 

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Incredible Alternative

It was in the the relentlessness of Twitter this past Friday that I was made aware of Eamon Dunphy's concurrent appearance on The Late Late Show. As ever, the "maverick" broadcaster was causing quite the division of opinion, this time with his bleak assessment of Ireland's current predicament.

I usually have time for Eamon. Aside from enjoying his regular espousal of an agreeable sporting philosophy via RTÉ's soccer coverage, I always find his mediation of current affairs to be, at the very least, entertaining. It was then with some anticipation that I caught up with his Late Late appearance on the RTÉ Player. After watching, I was pleased to find that, once again, he had me thinking about the absolute "state" of the nation. But it wasn't toward the predictable scapegoats of Eamon's scorn that my antipathy was directed; instead, it was Dunphy's own skewed analysis of Ireland's woes.

His first criticism was of Ireland's current leader, who drew ire this week for attributing the country's plight to a period of "mad borrowing" at the World Economic Forum. Eamon suggested that Enda Kenny doesn't have a genuine grasp of the debt crisis. A fair point perhaps. The Taoiseach doesn't always inspire confidence. But what national leader does these days? As Eamon himself later surmised, the current crisis is an international phenomenon. It has left leaders all over the world bereft of any tangible solution. Such is the puzzle of economics, a speculative discipline that is often mistaken for being scientific. Indeed, the only consensus that has been reached so far is that the global economic crisis will require an international solution that relegates domestic politics to a secondary tier.

But Eamon seemed more interested in recruiting a new type of Irish politician who approaches international diplomacy as if it was a "war". Michael O'Leary was his first suggestion. This isn't the first time we've heard the Ryanair chief's name being touted as someone who would do a good job in politics. However, without questioning Michael O'Leary's business acumen, the ruthless CEO of a budget airline is not someone I consider sensitive to the disadvantaged and dispossessed. This is a guy who disallows staff from charging their phones on Ryanair premises. O'Leary has also termed the European Commission as "morons" and the European project in general as "The Evil Empire". Yes he is good at what he does and yes he is Irish. But this doesn't qualify him as some kind of negotiator. A more glaring example of the “green jersey” mentality would be hard to find.

Dunphy then explained that his yearning for this new type of Irish politician stemmed from his disillusionment with the current standard of public servants. Basically, Eamon is tired of teachers being tasked with politics. Enda Kenny is a teacher. Michael Noonan is a teacher. Micheál Martin is a teacher. Teachers are the problem? If this wasn't what he meant, then he should have explained him self better. Instead, he delivered a half-baked critique on the political class, merely serving to simplify their shortcomings in the most plastic of ways.

But it was in the eventual excursion into Eamon's own participation in a McDonald's ad that his populist, unfocused and frankly, ridiculous vision became clear. Admitting that he had "sold out", Eamon justified his partaking in this shit advertisement by exclaiming that he needed something to "pay the rent". The very "gimme gimme" culture that has landed Ireland in this mess is the one he exudes by lending his name to the world's premier fast food outlet. "It was good for them and it was good for me" he explained. What better phrase would describe the attitude of politicians, bankers, developers and builders in pre-bust Ireland?

The only semblance of controversy came when he exclaimed that Ireland is "a dump". More depressingly, this is what solicited the biggest backlash on Twitter where counter arguments were best encapsulated by the phrase "I'm proud to be Irish!". Why are we offended by someone calling Ireland a dump? It's a sentiment I hear expressed regularly in everyday discourse. And it's not just Irish people. People all over the world regularly chastise the country they are living in. In fact, I would defend to the hills anyone's right to call Ireland a dump. This soundbite was the least annoying thing about Dunphy's interview.

What is annoying is that Eamon was clearly brought on the Late Late Show to represent a view opposed to that of the status quo. And whilst he may have identified the problems we face with considerable accuracy, he was woefully incapable of communicating a coherent vision. Instead, we had to navigate through a plethora of mixed messages and double standards that left an alternative looking as incredible as ever.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

January Blues: Live

There he is. The man himself. Mr Bryan O'Regan. Looks a little awestruck doesn't he? And well he should be; he's about to take to the stage to perform in Ryans' coveted open-mic session. But he'll be ok.

The real question is whether Ryans is ready for Bryan? Because he isn't getting up there to give his take on the jaded role of “singer-songwriter”; rather he is delivering a strange new adaptation of this blog's most recent entry- January Blues.

It ALL began last Monday night when Bryan showed up on my doorstep waving his new smartphone in my face. Accompanied by my dear friend Thomas, Bryan was boastful about how he had gotten such a good deal. I was keen to bring him back down to Earth.

Yeah yeah well done” I said. “You've sold yourself away to the illusion that your more communicable than ever but really all you have is a over hyped piece of plastic to delay the inevitable isolation of the hostile universe”.

Never a great listener, Bryan walked right past me and sat himself down at my kitchen table.

So I was down in Colm's today” he said while donning a wry smile. “And we we were thinking of doing some beat poetry in Ryans with that thing you wrote last week”.

Immediately exicited at the prospect of having something l wrote taken out of the blogsphere and into some sort of real-life situation, I was quick to express my approval.


It wasn't long before Bryan was reciting January Blues in the sort of way that made my dear friend Thomas and I want to shimmy around the kitchen in some lazy groove. I became ever more insistent that he get on stage.


The next night, after being laid low by Werner Herzog's Lessons of Darkness at Casa Del Michael Norton, I was treated to another rendition of the poem. This time Bryan was accompanied by the guitar wizardry of Colm O'Caoimh (Caladh Nua, RSAG). After several recitals, they seemed happy to let Ryans have it.

And so, on what was the quietest of Wednesday evenings, we ventured down to Friary Street's favourite haunt. With a few of Kilkenny's mid week stragglers in the audience, Bryan and Colm took to the stage and delivered their avant-garde piece. Their understated delivery was the perfect compliment to Ryans' sparse ambience.

Indeed, after trying to argue my way out of it for at least two hours, Bryan even managed to convince me to stand in between them and provide the poem's customary “pop”. Needless to say, I felt like a bit of a spare tyre. But the comedic element was certainly worth it.

Afterwards, they performed another poem based on an email Bryan had gotten from a female friend. Let's just say Ryans' open-mic will never be the same...

I managed to get a recording of January Blues by Bryan O'Regan and Colm O'Caoimh earlier in the night.

You can have little listen here-

Monday, January 2, 2012

January Blues

With 2012 now in official residence, you once again find yourself facing the annual challenge of surviving the post Christmas winter. More than any other time in the twelve month cycle, this time constitutes the most severe anti-climax in the societal vibe. So if you find yourself feeling a little deflated, you shouldn't be afraid to say so. After all, only a lucky few escape the January blues.

New Year's Day was the end of any fleeting attempt to hold onto the notion that you're still on holidays. You dug through the memories of New Year's Eve, wondering how you managed to spend so much money on those extra drinks that you really didn't need. You may have a few more days before you go back to work, college or the day to day struggle of unemployment. But it was in the scant daylight of January 1 that you realised that the holiday bubble had burst.

As the Christmas lights are taken down over the grey streets of your town, you may find yourself wondering what you should do now. And who could blame you? You've just spent three months being bombarded by the relentless commercialism of the holiday season, and now you find that previously championed items of materialism can be yours at a lesser expense to your volatile finances. But they don't seem so alluring anymore. Not without all the tinsel and jingle bell music. Indeed, with the woes of economic illness now firmly established, “January Sales” sounds more like the last desperate plea of a consumerism that can't accept that it's had its day.

Already the terms “downturn” and “debt crisis” are resuming their premier positions in the dreary news bulletin. Google isn't tracking Santa's sleigh anymore and dog pounds are being filled with pooches suffering the consequences of people's failure to grasp the age old proverb that begins with “A puppy isn't just for..”

Your emigrant friends have returned to the places that they spent most of Christmas describing to you with a wondrous glow in their eyes. “There's no place like home” now reads like some kind of disingenuous jibe that mocks the precarious foundations of your speculative career path. In destitute January, you may feel like you have more in common with the recent hysterics of the North Koreans than those few lucky enough to have the elusive “plan”.

In the next few days, you will find yourself reacquainting with people somehow absent from your Christmas mingling. Most of them will probably tell you they had a “quiet one”, conjuring up images of them sipping on a solitary glass of wine beside their modest Christmas tree. Those people were way too sensible to have gotten themselves involved in the spendthrift shenanigans of your hazy holiday. You wish you had their foresight.

Others will approach the new year under the desperate guise of “keeping the best side out”. They'll be all smiles and chat, informing you of their “wonderful” Christmas. They'll have probably got a new pair of jogging runners, complimented by a “really handy” new contraption to strap their ipod into. You'll be hard pressed to hear any “negative” (to you: honest) words from their mouths. Instead they'll be coping with the January blues contented in the knowledge that the new “The Secret” book has instructed them to think positively all the way to the promised land. You won't be able to relate to these people. Not because you don't appreciate the power of positive thinking, it's just that anyone who's fooled themselves into being positive at this time of year is clearly best left to themselves.

If you're lucky though, someone will be honest enough to tell you that they're feeling just as blue as you. Together, with an "all you can do is laugh" attitude, you will share the way through this miserable experience. Who knows, you might even enter into a pact, whereby you hold each other accountable for doing something just a little better than 2011. And then, as January changes to February, and the ones who had a “quiet Christmas” crumble under the boredom of their self-imposed sanctuary, and the “positive” fetishists succumb to the absurdity of their naive faith, life may seem that little bit more tolerable.