Wednesday, 23 December 2009

You know your Christmas holidays have started when.... start watching the new Star Trek movie at 8.30 in the morning.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Flying home for Christmas!

I WAS going to make this announcement a little earlier but those cantankerous cabin crew clowns over at BA briefly threw a spanner in the works which has since been removed and will now hopefully be used to beat them ferociously.

I'm coming home! Initially I'd hoped to keep this somewhat of a secret until my arrival but seeing as I'm only going to be at home for four days I thought it best to say it now so as to prevent missing out on meeting any old friends during my short stay.

A few weeks back, a gentle anticipatory quivering started inside my chest but it has since expanded into an all-over body tremble of excitement as the day draws closer. The flight home is going to be rough, leaving at 9pm on the 23rd from Vancouver and landing into Shannon at 9pm on Christmas Eve with a 7 hour layover in Heathrow along the way.

But I don't care. I'd travel home on a cart pulled by a three-legged, blind, cranky donkey via Baghdad if it meant getting to spend a few hours at home. I can already taste the turkey, the ham, the prawn cocktail, the pudding, the roast spuds, o Lord the steaming, crunchy, butter-drizzled roast spuds. Just typing about it here has left my keyboard covered in a thick veil of drool.

As well as looking forward to making a pig of myself at the dinner table, I am almost as excited about seeing those who will share the table with me and most likely have to wrestle with me for the food. Without a doubt there have been times when the family have tolerated my presence, as opposed to desired it, but being out of the coop for seven months combined with the shortness of my stay will mean that I will hopefully be granted the status of golden child during my brief return to Ballyneety.

And once my belly is full to the point of necessitating a cesarean (say that 10 times fast) I'm also looking forward to re-acquainting myself with the taste of a proper pint of Guinness in Fennessy's, perhaps after a day at the races in Patrickswell depending on my funds. If I like the taste of that first proper creamy since I left home, I might even have to try a few more, maybe in the White House, or Tom Collins', or Nancy's. I'm an equal opportunities festive drinker and no worthy establishment will be discriminated against.

In between gulps, I will occasionally come up for air and tell anyone that'll listen about life in Vancouver and while the glass is up to my lips they'll hopefully return the favour and recount what scandal I've missed at home since May.

Then, before I know it, the 28th will arrive and I will be gone again with a head full of happy (and in some cases hazy) memories. I don't even want to sleep a wink when I'm home so as to create and store as many of those memories as possible to bring back across the Atlantic with me. Only three days left!

Saturday, 12 December 2009

The bitter is back

UUUUUUGGGHH, I may as well just get this over and done with. I've been putting it off for days now but have finally summoned the will to recall the details of a rough period for The Hoge, starting with our losing the big final and finishing with Yours Truly lying unconscious in a blistering hot shower.

Having always been a competitive sort I've never taken losing well, but last weekend's loss really was a particularly vengeful square kick in the scrotum. In hindsight we probably got a little too anticipatory about the game - the evidence of that can be seen in the previous post - and it led to more than a little stage fright on the day.

This might sound strange coming from someone who bleeds Bruff yellow and only joined the Vancouver Rowers a few months ago but I was as keen as any long standing member of the club to win the game. 15-10 isn't a shameful scoreline by any stretch of the imagination but we should have won, plain and simple.

In fairness though, it was the first final the club had reached in over 10 years, thanks in part to the injection of no less than six Limerick lads to the squad. The above photo of the Shannonside contingent was taken at a club dinner the night of the final at which we were regularly reminded that there was always room for more Limerick players. Obviously they said it would be best if such players had learned their trade with Bruff but they would also kindly accept those who hadn't had such privileges in life.

A few days after the game, I emerged from the cranky dark hole in which I'd been dwelling and decided to go for a run so as to sweat out some of the excess and abuse of the previous weekend. The only problem with trying to sweat anything out in Vancouver in December though is that the temperature rarely ventures above freezing at any point in the day.

Looking back on it, going for a run wearing shorts and a long sleeved shirt with the temperature several degrees under zero displayed about as much intelligence as wearing nothing but sun cream. At no point during that hideous half an hour did my teeth stop chattering and when my feeble brain started to throb with the cold I realised that a lively pelt home was necessary.

I stood in the shower at home for twenty minutes doing my best impression of a violently shaking Kango drill as my bones thawed. Since my whole body had been numbed by the cold, I had opted only to turn on the hot tap in the hope of feeling returning that bit quicker to my frozen body. Bad idea.

Apparently I fainted as a result of hypertension, which occurred because of blood rushing back too quickly to my extremities as the almost boiling water heated them up. All I know is that I woke up on the floor with a bump on my forehead and the jets coming from the shower burning a layer off my now defrosted back.

Naturally I've taken to wearing several layers if I so much as poke my nose outside the door after that delightful episode.

It's a good thing too because the sub-zero temperatures mean there ain't much grass growing round here so my job title has changed from landscaper to ice-salter/snow clearer necessitating a 4am rise. God be with the days when I'd saunter into the Leader half conscious at 9 in the morning.

Like I said, it's been a rough few days but I must say there is some comfort in the familiarity of recovering my bitterness at the same time. Being content in myself was all well and good but what am I really without my whinge?

It's good to be back folks.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Pondering Finals Past

THIS weekend I will play in a cup final for the first time since I was just emerging from the spotty, cranky throes of puberty.

Unexpectedly, for this final I won't be donning the beautiful and well chosen yellow and wine colours of Bruff (although I won't be the only Bruffian playing) but instead the red, black and white of the Vancouver Rowing Club - which in Canada passes for the name of a rugby club.

And this week, while anticipating the Lower Mainland final, my mind has wandered back to my previous big final days back home in Limerick.

I'm almost sure that my first sporting final was in Croom at an Under 10s hurling tournament with South Liberties. It was memorable for us losing and my accidentally smacking our opponent's captain on the chin with the boss of my hurley during the clash. After the game, I tried to apologise to him for it as he showed his teammates the cup but he told me to get lost. Even at nine years-of-age I had a capacity for sourness that made me wish at the time that I'd cracked his chin into several pieces, thereby preventing his petulant reponse.

After that less than savoury introduction to cup finals, there were a few barren years but a team on which I featured once again climbed to the summit at Under 13s, this time in the oval ball code. For many years, Newport had been the bane of our young lives such was their dominance in our particular grade of underage rugby. That's what made it all the sweeter when we beat them in the North Munster Cup Final in Thomond Park.

I can still see our centre celebrating with his hand in the air even before he crossed the chalk after intercepting a Newport pass on the half way line. Even more clearly can I remember one of our player's parents roaring at him from the sideline to stop such classless carry-on as it was Thomond Park he was playing in and not Old Trafford.

The following year brought with it another final day, this time once again in hurling but unlike the Croom catastrophe, this time Liberties emerged victorious. There were however parental remonstrations again on this occasion however as we celebrated our win in the Klinsmann style that was fashionable with jackass 14-year-olds at the time. It was hugely disrespectful to the jersey, we were told, to cover it in muck by sliding along the ground, especially seen as the celebration had originated from a bloody soccer player.

Our Bruff team returned to Thomond Park again the next year for an Under 15s cup final showdown with Richmond but there was to be no repeat of our Under 13s heroics as we crumbled to the boot of one Wayne Murphy who could have dissected the posts with a kick taken from one of the ground's toilet cubicles that day.

Certainly there have been other finals since then that I have been involved in but on every occasion it has been as a splinter arsed substitute. That won't be the case this Saturday however when I'm hoping I'll be able to bring a bit of that Bruff Under 13s and South Liberties Under 14s luck to proceedings.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

A Happy Hoge

O GOD I really am in quite a lot of pain. We played a bruising, muddy, bloody semi-final today against the University of British Columbia, one of the two teams that had managed to beat us in this season's league stages.

And while it never feels too delightful to have your back look like a crossword that's been filled in with a blood-red biro, it certainly feels all the better right now, knowing that we won the game and can look forward to a league final in a few weeks time. Having a bucketful of liquor in me at this stage also helps with the pain.

In a way, today's result was almost predicable in its sweetness. It's a happy Hoge you find writing to you this evening/morning folks. Don't get me wrong; I derive about as much fun from my current landscaping career as I would from an unanesthetised castration with a rusty scissors but life for me at the moment is undoubtedly good.

For the first time in a few years I'm starting for a rugby team, and while I've managed to hold on to my knack for throwing lineouts with the accuracy of a blind baboon, I'm actually playing well for the most part.

After a fortnight of heavy snowfall, the ski slopes can now be seen snaking their way down the mountains surrounding Vancouver. I've also spent a good share of my wages on a snow board and other gear so it shouldn't be too long before I'm making a complete tit of myself by travelling exclusively on my arse down a few of said slopes. I can't wait.

I have another reason for being happy too but it would be remiss of me to say anything more at this point than I have encountered a member of the fairer sex who can stand more than a few consecutive minutes of my company and who has had me smiling more often than not lately.

Happy people make for boring writers, I reckon, so you'll have to excuse me if this posting comes across as a little dull. Hopefully I'll have something to be bitter about again soon.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Canada, Episode 11; A band of renegade Shannonsiders

Right. Reason number one that I have been missing from the blogosphere these last few weeks has been that I have joined a renegade band of Shannonsiders that are currently seizing control of a rugby club here in Vancouver.

Between us we have managed to take the club from rank of bottom feeders last year to table-toppers this year.

No less than five of our team's panel of players hail from Limerick and on one occasion all five have started on the same side for the club. Last week we won our last game of the league stages - which encompasses clubs in Vancouver and the surrounding areas - which means we finished in first place. Because we finished first we get a bye this week and the semi finals take place next weekend.

Normally I refrain from using actual names here for fear of retribution, litigation and humiliation but on this occasion I don't think there's any shaming in naming.

So for the record, the famous five who have instilled a bit of Limerick grit into Vancouver rugby are Darren Harris, Ronan Pigott, John-Mark Griffin, Barry Laffan (a fellow Bruffian) and yours Truly.

Vancouver Rowers Club. You're welcome.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Canada, Episode 10; Guess whose back

ALL-NIGHT candlelit vigils took place. When they weren't enough, pilgrimages to Lourdes were organised. When that had no effect, the diehard fans threatened to stage a dirty protest on the gable end of the Omniplex all in the hope that it would stir The Hoge Spot back into action. But it wasn't until Moesy Joe sent me an email begging for my return that I decided enough was enough and the people had to get what they wanted.

"It has taken me quite a while to complete this email as I regularly must pause to wipe the keyboard free of the flowing mix of anguished snot and tears dripping from my visage as a result of your absence Hoge," wrote Joe in his impassioned email earlier this week.

"As well you know life has not been easy in Limerick for fans of fart jokes or ill-informed observation since your departure. However while your physical absence was testing for your fans, life was made somewhat tolerable thanks to your regular updates on your adventures in Canada via The Hoge Spot.

"But for over a month now there has been nothing. No posts. No updates. Nothing. How am I supposed to live vicariously through you if I don't know what the bloody hell you are doing?"

For much of the rest of the email it seemed like Moesy had merely resorted to bashing the keyboard in anger and frustration until the end when he promised that he would extract a pound of my own flesh using only a rusty spoon if things didn't change fast.

It's beyond two in the morning here so I don't even have the energy to fill you in on the reasons for my extended hiatus but all will be revealed in the coming days. Now for the love of Thor Moesy, put down the spoon.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Lafino makes his first media appearance

Four months I've been here, hunting out a job in journalism, desperate to feel that familiar ego massage that comes with seeing your name in print. All to no avail.

And then just to add a bag of salt to an already gaping, gangrenous wound, my fellow Bruffian Lafino makes an appearance in the local media before me.

There he is poking his head up from the back of the scrum against Capilanos RFC as seen in last weekend's North Shore news. Meanwhile my head is still stuck inside the sweaty, smelly boiler room that is the front row where no photographer will ever find me.

Life just isn't fair sometimes.

Friday, 18 September 2009

A healthy dose of perspective

AS I cycled to catch my bus yesterday morning at 6am in the lashing rain, I had already planned out my next blog posting in my head.

It was going to be a sort of 'woe-is-me' piece. A tongue in cheek whinge about how awful it was that I had to endure a bit of precipitation at such an unearthly hour. I even had a few hilarious (in my head at least) quips ready to use.

When I got on the bus, however, I got chatting to this elderly gentleman that I had seen before but never spoken to. As with all new acquaintances here, upon hearing my accent the man enquired as to where I was from. After I gave my reply he informed me that he was German but had been living in Canada since he was 14 after fleeing persecution from the Nazis in his home country.

On account of being Jewish, six of the man's family of eight were murdered but he was spared due to his age and his ability to milk a cow which made him more useful, he explained.

With the help of neighbours and friends of their deceased family, he and his 11-year-old sister managed to find their way into Britain. Despite not having a word of English between them, they then got work on a ship that brought them to Canada. He hasn't returned to Germany since and said he couldn't be made go back for all the money in the world.

Within a few years of arriving in Canada, the man's sister married a soldier from the Canadian army. Because of her age - 15 - and there being no possibility of getting her parents' consent, the couple had to receive a court's permission before the marriage could happen.

My new friend found work on the railroad and made his way to Vancouver where he would spent the next 40 years working in a mill on the docks. It was still very early in the morning so I didn't have enough wits about me to ask what kind of mill it was he had worked in or if he had started a family of his own in Canada.

I did find out though, that during all that time spent in the mill, he had cycled an hour and a half to and from work every morning and evening. He had enjoyed being active and having the chance to work, he explained, adding however that he is barely able to walk now and life had been made no easier by him developing cancer.

"It's a struggle, I might not be here to see you on the bus next week but I'm here now," he said with a smile, adding that it was nice to have met someone to talk to on the bus before disembarking at his stop. I hadn't even found out his name.

On my own again, I felt like the greatest jackass alive for even thinking about complaining about some bloody rain and having to cycle a couple of minutes to my bus in the morning.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Canada, Episode 9; In search of the soft life

MY FLIRTATION with manual labour, my friends, has soured and as leaves, rain and temperatures start to fall around Vancouver, the quest to weasel my way back into a cushy indoors job has begun.

The Whistler dream died a death earlier this week when I called the hostel manager to enquire if he fancied giving me a job. Perhaps he didn't like the look of me when we met or maybe business isn't panning out the way he'd hoped but either way he couldn't say for certain if he'd have work for me. A vague promise to call if something came up was made but I'm almost certain I"ll never hear from him again.

Cutting lawns and trimming hedges has done me fine for a summer that saw some of the highest temperatures ever recorded in Vancouver but in the last week, Mother Nature has thrown us a few hints of what's in store for the winter and I'm getting concerned.

Behind it all, you see, I'm as soft as a feather-filled cushion. I like my comforts, my lie-ins, my coffee breaks, my lengthy bouts of procrastination. But opportunities to lose myself in these passions are few and far between when you're getting up at six in the morning to go landscaping for the day.

To further add to my concern, I was told during the week that because there isn't much growth during the winter, landscapers spend a lot of their time clearing snow and salting icy roads, often starting as early as four in the morning. Balls. To. That.

I've been trawling through jobs websites looking for something suitably soft and even sent out a few CVs but there's been no bites as of yet. Apparently, there isn't much demand for writers of questionable talent in Vancouver.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Canada, Episode 8; What I've been up to

REJOICE my people for I have returned. With the Trojan Horse beaten, I am once again free to provide updates on the Canadian adventure thus far.

But before I get back into the business of writing aimlessly on whatever subject happens to have taken my fancy today, I should first give a recap of what's been happening in my corner of Vancouver.

Flaming Fords
; Two trucks at my employer's office were burnt to a cinder by a gang of arson enthusiasts the weekend before last. This meant we got work off for a day for the police to examine the scene. Believe it or not, the mounties missed a human-sized hole in the fence right beside the trucks and when one of my co-workers found it the next day, the cops said there was no point investigating all the torn clothes and hairs left on the fence around it, as they couldn't prove it wasn't us who made the hole.

Six became five
; With the summer drawing to a close, sadly our house lost one inhabitant, as Bo Bo returned home to resume his studies in Ireland.

Five became six; With the door still swinging from Bo Bo's departure, McGoo arrived on a two and a half week holiday. A week at the Galway races had been sacrificed for his holiday so the pressure was on to show him a good time if I valued our friendship. Thankfully, he wasn't disappointed and our friendship is still intact. My liver and I are no longer on speaking terms after McGoo's stay however.

Celebrity school; I found out the other day that the school only a few hundred yards from our doorstep - where we regularly kick ball in the evenings - was attended by none other than Seth Rogen. It was his experiences there with his buddy, Evan Goldberg, that inspired him to write Superbad. If you scroll up to the photo at the top of the page, you can see the school in the background.

Give a whistle; Probably my biggest piece of news from the last few days has been a trip to Whistler Mountain that myself, McGoo and Grief undertook at the weekend. The place is breathtakingly beautiful and will host the Winter Olympics in 2010. When checking in, I jokingly asked the owner of our lodge if he was looking for any workers and sure enough he said he was. Worryingly, he described the available position as a "lodge slave" and told me the money would be brutal but that food and accommodation would be thrown in. It would mean leaving my travel companions to move to the mountains and seriously cutting back on my expenses. At the same time though, there's a bit of me that thinks I'd regret not taking the job a lot more than I would if I were to stay put.

With that mindset, I sent the owner a CV at the weekend. Updates on how this next adventure (or non-adventure depending on my CV-compiling skills) unfurls will be a lot more regular than what they have been in recent weeks, I promise.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Trojan Invasion

Apologies for the lack of recent posting, my computer has been invaded by a Trojan Horse or some other class of animal, my IT team reliably informs me.

Normal service will resume soon, once the laptop doctor does his thing.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

From the front of this weekend's Globe and Mail in Canada. Hilarious!

I noticed this hilarious story on the front page of the Globe and Mail newspaper this morning over here. It'd be interesting to see if this prank could work anywhere else in the world besides America.

"Last February, a frantic call came through to a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant in Manchester, N.H., at the height of the lunchtime rush. It was from corporate headquarters and it was urgent: A toxic chemical had been released through the restaurant's sprinkler system.
Employees were told to strip down and urinate on each other to neutralize the chemical.
If they did not, everyone would die.

“I need you to be strong, I need you to be brave,” a man named Jeff Anderson told his panicked staff in Manchester.
“You need to do exactly what I say,” he urged, in a faint Southern drawl.
And so they did.

Police pulled in half an hour later to a bizarre scene: Naked women, doused in each other's urine, milling about the parking lot. There was no trace of the chemical. As it turned out, there was no Jeff Anderson. The entire call had been a hoax, orchestrated by “Dex,” a twentysomething Canadian prankster, who now finds himself at the centre of a controversy that highlights how our definitions of humour are evolving in a digital age, where the Internet provides anonymity and encourages an inflated sense of importance and extra distance from the consequences of action.

Increasingly, this is becoming less of a philosophical debate. This week, a Quebec father thought it was amusing to post a video of his seven-year-old son driving on YouTube until police and child services stepped in. Only then did he acknowledge his mistake.

Dex is the founder of Pranknet, an online chat group where members devise hoaxes and broadcast them live. Members can listen in, and rate the prank as it's being pulled, with the most popular attaining the status of “epic.”

In Pennsylvania, Pranknet called a hotel guest and told him there was a gas leak. The man was told to smash the window and television screen with a toilet tank lid to prevent an explosion. Another man in Nebraska was persuaded to drive his truck through the door of a hotel lobby to deactivate a fire alarm. A front-desk clerk at another hotel drank a guest's urine, after a Pranknet caller convinced her it was cider, and that the man who brought it – who thought he was providing a urine sample for the hotel doctor – was the representative of an apple juice company.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Movie Review: Gonzo; The Life and Work of Dr Hunter S Thompson

A part of me would love to live like Hunter S Thompson.

But having neither the talent, the constitution nor the testicular fortitude to follow a path like the father of Gonzo journalism, I have to settle for the odd glimpse into his life through his articles, books and - most recently - this gem of a movie.

Told by a variety of different voices, including that of Thompson himself and his close friend Johnny Depp (who played the writer in the movie adaptation of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and takes on the role of narrator here), Gonzo details the life of journalism's truest rebel from his humble beginnings in Kentucky up to his suicide in 2005.

Thompson first gained fame and notoriety with his book 'Hell's Angels' which was written after he spent a year living and riding with the motorcycle gang, an experience which culminated in a savage beating for the writer following a disagreement with a member. After experiencing and enjoying that first taste of literary stardom in 1966, he would rarely step out of the limelight for the rest of his life.

Video and audio clips along with both dated and recent interviews are used to recall the Great Doctor's many escapades, from his running for and almost winning an election to be Sheriff of a town in Aspen to his birthing and development of Gonzo journalism. A highlight of the retrieved footage is several of Thompson's many dictated recordings, more than a few of which were made during his legendary but all-too-common benders.

It's more than a little saddening for those working in journalism now to get a glimpse at a time when reporters could run up expense bills without a worry in the world. At one stage Thompson refused a Volkswagen hired for him by Rolling Stone while in Las Vegas. Only a Cadillac would do for a man writing a story on the American Dream, he had reasoned.

Throughout the feature, Thompson's anger (whether it be at injustice, misuse of power or downright incompetence amongst politicians) is a constant and cited by many as the source of his genius. His fondness for drugs of all shapes and sizes is also regularly alluded to in the many testimonies.

The darker side of the man's psyche isn't skimmed over either with both his wives and many friends speaking of his sometimes violent mood swings and infidelities. Nor do the makers shy away from the decline in volume and quality of Thompson's writing from the 1980s onward.

In fact, Thompson's detractors - including former Hell's Angel's tormentors and Nixon aides - feature almost as prominently as those who admired him, such as former American President Jimmy Carter, author Tom Wolfe and Ralph Steadman, the artist whose paintings helped bring Thompson's Gonzo reporting and imaginings to life.

A hellraiser to the end, Hunter S Thompson was also a man of groundbreaking talent. Gonzo is a must-have collector's item for fans of the man, while also providing a handy starting point for those not yet fortunate enough to be acquainted with his undoubted genius.

Hoge Rating 5/5 (Yes I've changed the rating system, marking out of 10 required too much thought)

Monday, 27 July 2009

What I miss about Limerick

MCGOO rang me the other morning.

Well, it was morning for me.

Well, it was morning for me on a Saturday so we'll say around noon in Vancouver and 8pm in Limerick.

"Well Johnny, what's the craic bull? Is it still roasting out there? I'm packing 12 bottles of baby oil for the beach for when I get there. Two weeks better be long enough to get the tan on kid!"

The two of us chatted for a bit about his upcoming trip to Canada - which I have been made promise will be as good if not better than a week at the Galway Races which McGoo is missing in lieu of the trip across the Atlantic. Before long, he had to go as he was meeting a few of the lads in Fennessy’s for a few “creamies”.

For a few moments, I became quite jealous of McGoo, making the short walk from his house up to the corner house at the junction of South Circular Road and New Street, where he would exchange friendly but nonetheless stern abuse with the bar staff until the wee hours of the morning. Don't get me wrong, I love it here, but even for a few hours it would have been nice to go up and spend one evening with the crew back home.

And that got me thinking of some of the things that I miss about Limerick which I obviously felt the need to list here. So in no particular order;

Fennessy's: One of the nicest pints in the city, not to mention great company, and the Peony Court only across the road for when nothing will sit better on top of a few pints but a Chilli Chicken without the chilli.

Thomond Park: I was still only getting used to our superb new stadium when I left and will definitely be pining for its atmosphere when the Heineken Cup starts again (particularly this season, now that the maul is back and Munster are going to rip the rest of Europe a new one).
Limerick Hurling: It's bloody typical that they've started to do well now that I'm out of the country. In fact, they'll probably win the bloody thing this year and I'll only get to watch the highlights four days later when someone finally uploads the Sunday Game on to Youtube.

Bruff RFC: Thomond Park may have doubled its capacity and become one of the finest rugby stadiums in the world last year, but at the same time a burger stand was introduced in Kilballyowen Park and that just about tips the scales in favour of the latter ground when it comes to deciding which of the two provides the better match day experience. I most likely won't even be able to watch the highlights on Youtube when we get promoted to Division One this year unless they stick a studio beside the burger stand.

The Limerick Leader: The staff there may no longer claim knowledge of me but I'm still very grateful to them all for the two great years of guidance and friendship they gave to the gobshite work experience student who couldn't write a snappy intro to save his life.
That's all for now methinks, if I've left anything out feel free to point it out.

Update: Oh good God I almost forgot. Were I to come back to Limerick for one night only, I would of course also love to fit a few minutes in with my family if I could find time between drinking pints, gorging on Chinese food, going to rugby and hurling matches and reminiscing with my old workmates!

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Canada, Episode 7; The dreaded pajamas

THE LEADER'S entertertainment correspondent, OWENSY, recently complained about having to watch lads jump headfirst into piles of mud, wearing nothing but GAA shorts, at the recent Oxegen festival on which he was reporting (a.k.a. freeloading).

Ignore the fact that my ol' flower Owensy was most likely passing from the Champagne Bar to the Caviar Lounge reserved exclusively for the press when he witnessed the dung divers because, in fairness, his is a legitimate complaint. It can be irritating when your fellow festival-goers make uproarious asses of themselves and paint you and everyone else in the same moronic light.

My complaint, however, has somewhat more substance than my former esteemed colleague (from the time before I decided to mow lawns for a living). You see, my particular bone of contention paints not a few thousand festival fans as a gang of dribbling twits but our whole nation as a society of slobbish class-vacuums.

There I was on the bus home from work the other day, just about to pull up to my stop, when outside the window I saw an abomination that I thought I had left behind in Ireland.

Walking down the road, without a bit of shame, was the most blatantly Irish girl I have ever seen in my life.

I could live with her wearing the Cork goalkeepers jersey, although no girl has ever looked well wearing a GAA jersey in the history of the GAA or girls. Sorry ladies it's just a fact of life that you'll have to live with similar to me dealing with the reality that I will never look attractive in, say, hotpants.

But what really got my temple throbbing was that this little trollop was wearing her pajamas pants outside in the middle of the day, without the slightest hint of shame. Thankfully this vomitous trend hasn't caught on in Canada so I was horrified to see this wench bringing this particularly Irish failing over with her.

Once off the bus, I ran after the wench.

"No," I shouted. "No, you're not bringing this over with you. This bullshit is one of the reasons I left the country. You're outside for the love of god, wear outside clothes! Away home with you, you insufferable tramp!"

Well I wish that's what I did anyway. In reality, I just got off the bus, grinded my teeth a little and exchanged a pleasant smile with the pajamas wearer, dying a little inside in the process.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Canada, episode 6; The Hoge visits Stanley Park

TO look at the inhabitants of my house this morning, one could be forgiven for thinking there's been a Carbon Monoxide leak and I was the only one lucky enough to grab a gas mask.

Downstairs is Kielers, comatose in the living room, clutching the couch as if he expects to be flung clear at any point.

Afroman, who in fairness made it to his bed before collapsing, is not a picture of health either. Lying over the sheets on his bed, fully clothed with his arms and legs spread out as wide as possible, he looks like a cadaver waiting to be disected by a class of med students. The only sign of life is a just about noticeable tear creeping slowly down his cheek.

The Grief has done one better than the two sleeping beauties by going outside for a walk. However, his hangover has taken the form of liberal helpings of 'What am I doing with my life?' sentiments and the purpose of his stroll is to have an agonising rethink on what it's all about, possibly the worse sentence of the three.

And me? Having stayed in last night, I'm just sitting here enjoying the carnage and my imperviousness to it. Not wanting to crawl into a hole and die also means that I have the energy to put up a few pictures of my trip last weekend to Stanley Park, a 1,000 acre "evergreen oasis" located just outside Vancouver city centre.

It's not quite on the same pegging as People's Park but was fun nonetheless.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Movie review: Public Enemies

I've decided that I'm going to start posting the odd film review here now and again, starting off this week with Michael Mann's Public Enemies. Let me know what you think.

WHEN Michael Mann hinted a few months back that Public Enemies, his Depression era gangster flick, would be something akin to Heat - the director's best movie in my noble opinion - except it would be set in the 30s, I got more than a little excited.

For me, Heat was one of the great films of the 90s, a super story, featuring one of the last good performances from both Al Pacino and Robert De Niro, shot in Mann's distinctive handheld shaky-cam style that suited the sometimes frantic pace of the movie.

And while I was doubtful that Public Enemies would surpass Heat, I was intrigued to see what Mann could do with a story about one 0f the most notorious gangster's of the early 20th century, John Dillinger.

First off, I was right to be doubtful that Mann's new film could surpass Heat but his latest offering is certainly worth a look.

The kernel of the story involves the cat and mouse chase between Dillinger, played with the right amount of swagger and menace by Johnny Depp, and FBI agent Melvin Purvis, portrayed by a less impressive but nonetheless adequate Christian Bale.

After being imprisoned in 1924 for robbing a store, Dillinger was released nine years later, having learned the necessary criminal skills to become a prolific bank robber. He would also however become a Robin Hood style hero, renowned for his charm and taste for the finer things. Purvis was selected by head of the recently formed FBI, J Edgar Hoover, to tackle the booming crime wave in the 30s, spearheaded by bank robbers such as Dillinger.

Fans of the director will notice his trademark shakycam is again employed throughout Public Enemies and while this approach is overused these days, Mann uses it to great effect, particularly during the many shootout scenes, each of which is better than the last. And while car chases, fist fights and plenty of flying flesh features in the movie, it wouldn't be fair to categorise it as merely an action picture.

Although he isn't heard of half as much as his criminal contemporary, Al Capone, Dillinger was a more interesting character and who better to play him than Mr Depp. While the development of other sideline characters does suffer at times as a result, the vast majority of screentime features Dillinger as he juggles robberies, jailbreaks and a love affair with the beautiful and also perfectly cast Marion Cotillard. At the same time, he has to cope with the realisation that his is a dying trade, due to the development of crime-fighting techniques and the ease with which other criminals were making money at the time by running gambling rackets.

Public Enemies doesn't dwell on the fact that its main character was a cold-blooded killer, a ploy most likely used to make the viewer invest in the Depp Cotillard relationship, but the bias isn't enough to take too much away from the picture.

Christian Bale doesn't give one of his best performances as the under pressure Purvis. Maybe it's just me but I couldn't shake the feeling that I was watching Christian Bale acting, as opposed to one of Hoover's original G-men at work.

Mann recreates the 30s beautifully here. The costumes, cars, weapons and music are all used to great effect to give the piece an authentic feel from start to finish. One nitpicking problem I had, however, were the style of sunglasses that Depp wears at regular intervals in Public Enemies, which certainly didn't look like something that would have been worn in the 30s.

But a glossing over of Dillinger's less than finer points, a below average Bale performance and sunglasses aside, I enjoyed the pants off this one. Mann seemed to be coasting a little with Miami Vice but he's right back on top with Public Enemies and don't be too surprised if it gets a nod in the Best Picture category come Oscar time now that that section has been increased to 10 nominations.

Hoge rating: 8/10

Friday, 26 June 2009

I see dead people

Nobody will believe my next shocking disclosure so just to prove that I'm not lying, I've elected to pull out the only guaranteed way of proving one's honesty.

"Mother's life."

That's right I said it. The tried and trusted method employed in playgrounds the world over since time began just to ensure the sincerity of the speaker. Now you know I'm telling the truth when I say that I foresaw Michael Jackson's passing.

Now when I say I foresaw it, I don't mean I had a moment of revalation one day and predicted that Wacko would indeed die at some point in this millennium. No no, I had a dream about him dying only three days before the event happened.

I told all my new Canadian workmates that it happened and they all seemed pretty sceptical, even after I said; 'Mother's life lads, mother's life'.

But it's true. I did see this coming and if nobody here is gonna believe me, I may go south of the border and see if I can start up my very own cult in the States. Watch this space.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Canada, episode 5: The Hoge's great discovery

CAPTAIN James Hook, Christopher Columbus and Ferdinand Magellan can all shove over and welcome a new member to their exclusive clique of great discoverers. In fact they better make way for a new leader because my find is going to make Columbus discovering America seem like one of you finding a jelly tot down the back of the couch.

And what, you may ask, is it that I have discovered? Surely The Hoge hasn't come across a piece of unmapped territory off the coast of Canada? Hogania perhaps?

But mine isn't a discovery in the traditional sense. Where the seafaring explorers gone before me found new nations and cultures, I have had the misfortune to come across the most horrible person ever to set foot on this planet.

So horrible is this twit, with whom I have the ill-fortune of working with, that I think she may not even be of this planet. Either way it's a pretty impressive discovery though, right?

To call this woman a bitch would be an insult to canines everywhere. From day one, this conniving little she-devil - who is only 20 by the way - has for reasons best known to herself taken a disliking to me.

When we were introduced she told me that there was no point telling her my name because she'd forget it anyway. She then proceeded to tell me that the only other Irish person she ever knew had lived with her and not left a good impression and that she hoped I'd be better.

Right, nice to meet you too.

By a cruel twist of faith, myself and this gimp were put on the same lawn-mowing team, meaning spending every minute of the day listening to her moanings, except of course for when the sweet, deafening drone of the machines drown out her whine.

Initially, I thought she may have just been a bit of an annoying dumbass (annoying because of her blatant but unreasoned dislike of moi; a dumbass because she thinks Bolivia is in Spain) but in hindsight that was a very flattering first impression.

When I inevitably became popular amongst the other better judges of character on staff, the witch's feelings towards me seemed to go from passing contempt to vengeful hatred. Each week of work has been marked by several attempts to make a fool out of me in front of my co-workers or downright hang me with the bosses.

Case in point. Last Thursday, I left the truck for a few minutes while we were getting petrol (I'm still refusing to call it gas) at a station. I told my detester that I was going to the adjacent shop to buy a pair of gloves for my tender soft hands before we went weeding for the day. Seeing her chance once I had left the truck, she then proceeded to ring the main office and tell our boss that I had left without saying a word to her and she had no idea where I was. Upon my return to the truck, she told me I had to ring the boss who then proceeded to bollock me down the line for running off - while she sneered beside me.

That's just one example of many.

Today was my second time ever driving the truck and, because I had the temerity to ask her to wait until I was finished before I handed her the map, she refused to help me with one direction on the road all day. Picture that. An Irish eejit navigating a massive truck and trailer throughout Vancouver, clueless of the lay of the hand, while the local sitting beside him refuses to give one bit of advice on which turns we should be taking. And because the newby is driving the truck, of course he gets the blame for us being behind time.

So there you have it. If it continues like this, expect my posts to become a lot more spiteful (hopefully I won't become like that raging misogynist Bock). At least I can attempt to quell my rage with the knowledge that I, The Hoge, have discovered the greatest thundering shithead to ever grow opposable thumbs.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Canada, Episode 4: Norm and Michelle

THE drug-dealing grandfather emerged from the crack house just after 4am with glazed eyes and an unsteadiness in his step that hadn't been there when he had gone in a few minutes previously.

His wife, who had been looking for Norm, ignited when she saw him walking out the door of the shooting gallery across the road from their home, screaming at him that he would never set foot in the house again.

Lafino turned to me while Norm's wife unleashed her fury and gave me an "I don't think we're in Kansas anymore Toto" look.

Last Friday started out like any other, I went to celebrate the end of another week's work in my new landscaping career with Lafino and a few other pals. The Fraser Arms on West 70th Avenue in Vancouver had the pleasure of hosting us and all in all it was an enjoyable but uneventful night.
Uneventful that is, until myself and Laf accepted an invitation to a party from a group that we had been chatting with on occasion throughout the evening.
"Sure where's the harm in it?" asked I.
"There's none at all Hoge, order a taxi there," replied Lafino.
So, like the pair of 'off the boat' gombeens we truly are, we hopped into a taxi for the home of Norm and Michelle, a couple who from what we could tell were nice and normal. However, after a couple of minutes of chatting with Norm, I realised that nice they may well have been but they were about as regular as a constipated elephant.
For one thing, Norm and Michelle were granparents despite he being only 43 and her a year younger. Not that unusual you might say in this day and age but it was after I asked Norm his profession that the couple started to seem that bit more off the wall.
Myself and Laf politely chuckled when Norm told us he was a drug dealer but the laughter quickly dried up when we notice that he hadn't cracked a smile at all.
As if that wasn't disconcerting enough, Norm insisted that, while we could play games on his brand new pool table, we could only hold the cue in one hand. We didn't find out the reason for this stipulation because in fairness if a hulking potential drug dealer tells you to play with one hand, it's probably best off just to do so.
In between one-handed games, I got ballsy and decided to engage in some conversation with Norm outside on his front porch. I asked him about the dilapidated house across the road that, unusually for that time of the night, had had several scruffy visitors in the short time that we were there.
"That's a crack house man. They go in and out of there all night long. It sucks for us," he replied.
I decided against suggesting to Norm that, given his profession, the location of the house was actually incredibly convenient and just nodded nervously. Seeming to take my silence as his cue to leave, Norm told me he'd be back in a few minutes and to tell his wife that I hadn't seen him.
He walked straight across the road and followed yet another misfortune, this one in a wheel chair, into the house of junkies.
Seeing Norm leave my side, Lafino came over to enquire if I felt as put out by the whole drug-dealing grandparent, crack house, one-handed pool scenario as he did. I told him that the first two I could deal with, but anyone who insists on one-handed pool was a straight-up psycho and we should probably try and get a number for a taxi.
On our way back inside though, we were greeted by a somewhat panicky Michelle who was looking for her husband. For fear that Norm would use his pool cues (one or two handed) on me in a way that wasn't intended by the game's creators, I told her I hadn't a clue where he had gone to.
Then, just as she had started making her way down the road in search of her hubby, a very discombobulated Norm flung open the door of the crack house only to see his less-than-pleased spouse staring right back at him. So loud were Michelle's screeches at her husband that even a few bleary eyed crack heads poked their heads out the paint-peeled windows of the dwelling to see the ensuing argument.
"Norm, I told you, if it happens again you're out."
"O come on baby, it's alright."
"No Norm, it's not. You can sleep on the lawn tonight 'cos you're not coming back into that house."
"Woman if you think I'm sleeping on that grass you got another thing comin' to you."
I didn't really hear the rest of the argument over the sound of myself and Lafino's pounding footsteps away from Chateau de Crack.
In other news, the rest of the crew are settling in fine but they have insisted on a complete blog blackout on all matters rodent. That's all for now folks!

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Canada, episode 3: A moose (or rat) aboot the hoose

Well this has just gone and become a weekly apology folks but I guarantee that posting will become more regular from Thursday when we get the internet into our brand new house. More on that in just a moment.

Now where was I? O yes with the bloody Aussies in the Samesun Hostel.

Well it got a lot harder to put up with their whooping and hollering late at night after about a week at the hostel, as I got myself a job that requires me to get up at 5.30am.

I'm being a little dishonest when I say that I got myself the job as it was actually Chatty Garry that secured it. Chatty arrived over to Vancouver with Lafino and Dave the Scouse two weeks before me. The lads are all from roughly the same area as myself and Dave also works for Beaver Landscaping while Lafino is mowing lawns with one of our bitter rival landscapers.

Undoubtedly those of you who haven't developed their sense of humour since you were 12 will have had a chuckle by now at my employer's unusual company name. My mother reads this blog regularly so you can all make up your own individual filthy jokes and I'll just assure you that the job is with an actual landscaping company and not a beautician.

Anyways, having this job meant that I became all the more keen to get out of Oz-fest as I was only getting a few hours sleep a night and falling asleep at the wheel of the lawnmower worryingly often.

So I consulted Craiglist, a website/bible over here that features everything from house and job listings to a Douche of the Day section where random pictures of unsuspecting members of the public are posted, allowing others to ridicule them for their own enjoyment.

Myself and Nobbly looked at a number of places, including a one bedroom apartment that would have required us to share very close quarters and no doubt have our neighbours think that we were that cute gay couple from down the corridor. No thanks.

After a number of non-runners, however, we found a house in Kerrisdale, quite a swanky location which is inhabited almost completely by wealthy Asians. Being neither wealthy nor oriental meant that myself and Nobbly stuck out like a pair of poverty stricken and pale sore thumbs on our first walk around the town.

The place itself is a bit of a fixer-upper but seemed nice and in need of a small bit of work, mostly on the exterior. Most important was that it was a five bedroom, meaning it would be able to accommodate ourselves and the rest of our friends who were winging their way over in the next few days.

On our first night there however, we realised that we wouldn't have to wait for the rest of the gang to arrive to welcome a houseguest. As Nobbly sat on our front porch, a great big dirty rat (he claims) casually strolled up the tree out the front of the house, which leads straight up to the bedroom of poor Nobbly's room.

I attempted to calm down my quivering roommate after his encounter with the rodent. However, my coolness quickly evaporated when I opened a cupboard to find rodent droppings inside. A phone call to the landlord was made demanding that he recruit the most sadistic and thorough exterminator known to rats.

A few days have passed and we're still waiting on a reply from the landlord who we now suspect may be a dodgy character and not in the loveable Artful Dodger way either.

More before long on the arrival of the rest of the house and an update on how our relationship with the rats is developing.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Canada, episode 2. 'Drink-until-we-defecate' Aussies

ONCE again apologies for my lack of correspondence for a few days. Rest assured I have spent much time telling myself that I am a very naughty boy that needs a good spanking which due to the lack of willing participants I have also been self-administering.

After myself and Nobbly Stylez gave Teresa the slip at Vancouver International, we set about finding ourselves a taxi to the Samesun Hostel in the city which I had booked for our first night's stay. On entering the place, I thought we may have walked through some kind of portal to the surf club in Summer Bay such was the overflow of Aussies both on the staff and in the dorms at the hostel.

I have to say my opinions of Aussies took a bit of a hammering over the next few days. With a few exceptions, they each seemed to feel the need to announce their arrival into a room by hailing some 'bru' (or 'bro'. As in 'brother') and hollering for all to hear about how he drank so much he shat himself the night before.

Apart from the few exceptions, who were very pleasant it has to be said, the lads from Down Under seemed Cliquey, obnoxious and to a passing observer completely brainless.

It's just an observation. Hopefully I'll meet a few more Aussies who will change my perception.

Anyway besides those twits myself and Nobbly met some very interesting characters during our first few days at the Samesun.

Amongst them were Virgile, a stylish and Frencher-than-French Frenchman who claimed that he always wore a shirt and possessed a total of only three T-shirts, none of which he had brought with him. In four days Virgile had seen more of Vancouver than we are likely to see in the whole year. His enthusiasm was inspiring to behold.

Vigile was travelling around North America and had flown to Vancovuer from Toronto on the other side of Canada. He had said that he would have much preferred to have travelled by road where he could take in all the sites but amazingly, the cheapest bus ticket from Toronto to Vancouver was more expensive than the average flight ticket. Crazy stuff.

We also met Alex, a chirpy Kiwi who seeemed to share at least some of my disdain for the drink-until-we-defecate-and-then-tell-the-whole-room-about-it Aussies. Alex was a medic in the New Zealand army and had taken a year out of his service to come and work in oil mines a few hours away from Vancouver.

Then there was Simon, a friendly English chap who was mad for games of pool in the hostel's common area but who would not speak to his opponents until after the game, keeping his ipod on full blast at all times. Simon was big into boxing and told us that he belongs to the same gym as Ricky Hatton back home.

One of the redeeming Aussies that I spoke about was another hostel occupant called Christy who is an actress but hasn't appeared on Home & Away and no longer finds jokes about that funny at all after the first hour in myself and Nobbly's company. Christy showed the two of us where to go to to get out social insurance numbers which allow us to work and has promised to decorate our house.

That's right, I have found myself a house but it's almost 30 degrees outside and I can't be sitting in here writing about that for the next half an hour so you'll just have to wait until the third update which hopefully won't be so late in arriving. So long folks.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Canada, Episode 1: The wrath of Teresa

Phew, it's been a pretty mental week. I apologise for the lack of posting in recent days, I imagine it must have been a very tough period for all of you. But worry not, your saviour's back and I have the first update on my quest to conquer Canada.

Although there are six of us in total travelling to Canada, myself and Nobbly Stylez were the first two members of the party to depart last Wednesday. Being kind sorts, we've agreed to take on the responsibility of finding a house for all the other goons.

The flight over from Shannon to Heathrow on Wednesday morning was pretty uneventful but we'd great excitement upon arriving in London when Nobbly threw a wobbly after realising he'd forgotten his Visa forms and may not be allowed board the plane.

Thankfully, however, Nobbly had photocopied the forms and although the originals were on his kitchen table in Limerick, he had brought the copies. A burly prick of a security guard told us that there was no way we'd be allowed on to the plane with a copy but a much more shapely BA receptionist told us we should be alright.

So with no small amount of trepidation we approached the check-in desk but sure enough my travelling companion was allowed on. Although I had been looking forward to that extra little bit of leg room, I was glad that he got on as it would mean a bit of company for the nine hour flight.

After two minutes in our seats, I was even more grateful for Nobbly's company as a shockingly rude and miniscule old lady made it clear from the moment our arses landed next to hers that she was not happy with the seating arrangements.

Having no grasp of English whatsoever and only able to converse in Hindi, it was hard for the air hostesses to understand what request she was making when we sat down but after a few hand singles and eyes thrown up to heaven, it was clear she wanted to be moved.

Now we hadn't said a word to the lady, I hadn't boxed her in the ear as I slipped into my seat, Nobbly didn't knee her in the teeth while putting his bags into the overhead compartments so we were shocked that she had already decided we weren't worthy of sitting in the same row as her.

Despite her remonstrations, there wasn't a space left to be had on the plane and she was told that she would just have to put up with us and us with her. She made one more request to be moved before take off and another straight away after, at which point the air hostesses seemed to venture down our aisle far less often.

Safe in the knowledge that the lady wouldn't be able to tell her us her name and wouldn't even want to if she could, we decided to call her Teresa because of her uncanny similarity to the far less rude Mother Teresa.

Thankfully, Teresa stayed asleep for most of the flight with the only drawback being that she was in the aisle seat and I"ve a bladder the size of an undergrown peanut. Inevitably I would need to go to the toilet, which would undoubtedly provoke the wrath of the sleeping beauty beside me when I asked her to get up.

After about two and a half hours - a new record for me - I decided that the floodgates would have to open and Teresa would have to hop it unless she wanted this journey to become considerably more uncomfortable for all of us.

But then Nobbly pointed out to me that, being a healthy young fella with feline-like agility, I could try and vault over Teresa without waking her. Using the back of the seat in front of her and the back of her own seat to support my body I could swing over her.

After sizing up the situation, I reckoned that this was a challenge I was up for. And it very nearly wasn't an absolute catastrophe.

The first stage of the vault was fine, I steadied myself on the two seats and lifted my legs safely over Teresa without making any contact. Unfortuantely, however, when I landed on the far side I lifted my hand from the back of her seat far too quickly, making the seat and its occupant shoot forward violently like a catapult.

Teresa woke up to find me standing on one side of her and Nobbly on the other with one leg on top of the seat in readiness to attempt the same ridiculous stunt that had woken her. Unsurprisingly this time, she made yet another request to be moved and was once again told that she had no option left to her.

We decided not to try the Teresa-vault again, instead opting to just put up with the snorts of disgust she made every time we asked her to move so we could use the facilities.

I considered asking her if we could swap numbers in case she wanted to meet up another time when we landed but decided that she probably wouldn't get the joke.

Another update to come in a few days folks, talk to you all again soon.

The Hoge

Friday, 22 May 2009

Normal service will resume soon

Don't worry, my plane didn't crash. I've just been awful busy setting up a bank account, getting a social insurance number and a house in Vancouver.

Don't even talk to me about getting a job, pickings seem to be slimmer here than I thought so I've been practising my street-walker routine in the mirror at night.

All the sordid details about my adventures in Vancouver thus far will be revealed before long though. Until then, chat amongst yourselves.

Friday, 15 May 2009

One hour left at work

Only one hour left to go and the only task I really have left to do is pack up all the clutter I've amassed in my two years at the Leader.

I'm a little sad, more than I thought I would be in fact, at the prospect of leaving my first ever full time job.

I've made more than a few good friends here and - no disrespect to my alma mater - I learned more in a month of work experience here than I did in a whole year of studying for a Masters in Journalism.

Being honest about it, I was completely terrified coming into the Leader. More than a small amount of bluffing had gotten me through college but this was the real world and people would, hopefully, be reading what I was writing for once.

From the very start I was made feel welcome by the other editorial staff who tolerated my numerous, repeated, dumb-ass questions with admirable patience.
Where do I file stories for the city edition?
How do I go about booking a photographer?
What's a vowel?
Just an example of the inquiries that spilled from my naive, gormless mouth in my fledgling weeks with the Leader. Within minutes of my arrival, they must have known I was a chancer extraordinaire.
But within a few weeks, I came to realise that being a chancer in editorial wasn't necessarily a bad thing. I mean chancer in the best sense of the word by the way, in the sense that many of them had come into the same office as wide-eyed and green as my good self and were still feeling their way in some regards.
My fellow chancers welcomed me to their collective bosom and I was introduced to our second home in the White House - for coffee at 11am and the creamy stuff after 5pm. Two years flew and, just like everyone else, I felt my way through my chosen career and grew to love it, thanks in no small part to the great gang of friends I made in 54 O'Connell Street.
Like I said I'll be sad to leave them but I suppose nobody has died and I'll be able to keep track of them from Vancouver as long as there's internet access in the homeless shelter where I will inevitably end up.
Well the desk is still a mess, this has taken up all my time. I suppose I better get clearing. Then over to the White House for some more creamies before it's time to go.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

The Hoge on Twitter

Not the most interesting of posts but I'll bet the pic of the Bikini-clad lady will mean my hits for the day will go flying up.

I've decided to conform with the masses by setting up a Twitter account so my particularly obsessed followers can keep track of my every cough, splutter and fart in real time as opposed to just checking the blog every so often.

Those wishing to sign up for updates should click here.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Some Galway nostalgia

SEEN as I'm in nostalgic form, it would be impossible for this soon-to-be unemployed immigrant to venture far down memory lane without making one of my regular stops in Galway.

Four years of my life were spent in the City of the Tribes and while I'm still only at the ripe age of 24 (and I'm pretty sure the best is yet to come) the most fun I've experienced so far was without doubt during that period spent out West.

Right from the start of my time in Galway, starting with the wild liberation of Hoge in Corrib Village, I was learning.

Among the things I discovered were how to have a well-oiled night out for less than a tenner, how to procrastinate like it's an Olympic sport and how to identify the one person in a class of several hundred most likely to give you notes a week before an exam.

Courtesy of a stint playing with Corinthians on the Tuam Road, I discovered that they had heard of rugby up in Connacht and, to my amazement, some of them could even play the game fairly well too.

Being honest about it, little of what I learned could be described as having much academic value - after all, how many colleges test their students' ability to watch movies and play board games until 7 in the morning - but my education sure was one big barrel of belly laughs.

Plus I made some great new friends and became much closer to those friends I'd already known who also came to Galway from Limerick - three of whom are joining me on the Canadian adventure.

It's hard to single some of the highlights from my time in Galway - not just because of the volume of memories but also because of their haziness - but here are just a small few which I can recall.

  • Setting off a rape alarm in Mondo McFlurry's room which we had hidden in his cupboard without telling him before he went to bed. This was early on in the Corrib Village era and was almost the first time I vomited due to laughter as I listened to him search his room in panic for the source of the unbearable noise.

  • Watching in disbelief as two of my pals, Larry Longshanks and Jay McKay, completely bound and gagged their smallest roommate Micheal, kidnapper style, before leaving him outside their neighbour's front door. The neighbour did not find it quite as hilarious as the gaggle of giggling idiots that watched his reaction from behind a nearby ditch as he opened the door.

  • Learning how to play Poker, Risk, 45, 21, Cup, King's Cup, Fuzzy Duck, the Name Game, Articulate, Mario Kart and Time Splitters but still not having much of a notion about Sociology despite studying it for three years and managing to get an honours degree.

  • Watching Bryan Adams performing in Pearse Stadium from the roof of a friend's house while sipping on Buckfast on the sunniest day I ever experienced in Galway before tipping into Roisin Dubh to see Republic of Loose.

There's plenty more memories I could recall but I'd be here all day and some of my antics may offend the sensibilities of the thin skinned.

Great place though. Hopefully Vancouver is its Canadian equivalent.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

A bit of elephantine nostalgia

With my departure only a week away now, I'm starting to grow a little nostalgic about my time with the Leader.

I've been spending more and more time casting my mind back two years ago to the day I came in here as a naive, wide-eyed college graduate, eager as a beaver on speed, and a sponge for knowledge.

And then think about myself today, a naive wide-eyed worker, lackadaisical as a tranquilized hippo and an utter repellant for new information seen as the knowledge tank filled up within a week of my arrival in 2007.

It was during one such nostalgia dawdle that I came across these pictures which were taken on the day that I achieved my very first front page story.

The gist of it was that this circus out in Castletroy was keeping two elephants in a field in the middle of a housing estate. I had suggested it as a potential story, more for the fact that an elephant next to a house in Limerick would make for a great photo than it would a Pullitzer-winning article.

After arriving out there though, it did become a story as the elephants escaped from the field within minutes of our getting there.

Now I know what you're thinking and the answer is a resounding no. No. No. No. A thousand times no. I did not release the elephants on to the road for the sake of my first front page. We were just lucky enough to be there to get the pictures when they did make their break.

And just to prove that I didn't risk the lives of Castletroy's children in the name of a good scoop, I've included a pic of one of them actually stepping out over the fence while the wide-eyed naive reporter stands gawping!

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Shame on us

Jody has a bit of a rant today about 'plastic fans' which I don't agree with 100% but is still worth a look.

Much worse than the plastic fans that Jody is bemoaning however are these buffoons who have decided they are going to do all they can to spite Leinster by selling their match tickets and accommodation bookings to Leicester fans for the Heineken Cup final. Seriously, grow up.

This story appeared in the Leader today as well as a few others and it really gets on my tits to see this (hopefully) minority of Munster fans giving the rest of us a bad name.

Surely, Munster supporters can appreciate better than anyone else how much winning on Saturday must have meant to Leinster. Having said that, even those of us who empathise most with our Blue-blooded Eastern cousins' joy on Saturday probably still can't really imagine how good it must have felt.

Because, you see, even during our darkest days on the roller coaster ride that has been following Munster, we could almost always console ourselves with the fact that what we had achieved, Leinster could only dream of.

And it was as comforting as a hug from your mammy to know that even though we may have crashed out of the H-Cup in heartbreaking fashion, Leinster's exit always seemed that bit more shameful.

Munster lose the final? Don't worry Leinster didn't get out of their group.

Munster lost the semi final? Sure at least we're not Leinster getting hammered in the quarters.

Remember when we lost to Toulouse in a tightly fought semi-final in France in 2003? Well I can still recall the soothing feeling I got the next day when Leinster completely and utterly flopped against an unfancied Perpignan side that had brought a mini bus-load of supporters to Lansdowne Road. It just didn't seem so bad when we were knocked out in a gallant fashion at least.

Well, just as I drew consolation from Leinster collapsing in such spectacular annual fashion, for my Leinster counterparts, it must have been a regular source of temple-busting fury.

Which must have made the weekend all the more satisfying for them. Yes because it was us they were finally getting a Heineken Cup victory over after so many years of bridesmaiding but also because, they're much maligned but undoubtedly talented team finally delivered when every variable, pundit and odd seemed so stacked against them.

Leinster have suffered enough for the love of Buddha and besides, the Heineken Cup needs a variety of winners to stay attractive. If anything they've done us a favour because if I know Munster there should be a mother-in-law of a backlash come the start of next season.

The boys in blue deserve their European final and I bloody hope they win it because players as good as Brian O'Driscoll, Luke Fitzgerald and Gordon Darcy deserve to have Heineken Cup medals to their name when their career ends.

Most of all, they deserve our support because we, more than anyone else, should know how they will feel if they do emerge victorious in the final. Shame on us if we can't grant them that much.

Thursday, 30 April 2009

Sir Lancelot, the Chariot of Liberation

Without a shadow of a doubt, the saddest event of 2009 (for The Hoge at least) occurred last week. I've only summoned up the resolve to write about it now and even still, I can't promise that I won't be wailing like a banshee by the end.

This is Lance. On the surface he may seem like a pretty average nine-year-old Mitsubishi Lancer with undersized, paint-chipped alloys.

But to me, my first car was a chariot of liberation.

After saving for the whole summer of 2006 and still not having enough money to buy a car, I begged my father to accompany me to an auction in Newbridge and provide the necessary financial clout to get a half decent motor.

Only after I assured him that Christmas and birthdays would no longer apply to me did Mr Hoge agree to the trip and stump up for half the price.

Upon arriving at the auction, we surveyed the array of Garda cars, reclaimed vehicles and 'quick sells' from dealerships around the country that would go under the hammer that day. A few possible purchases were identified but Lance wasn't one of them. We hadn't spotted him among the crowd due to his understated, classic beauty.

As the auction unfolded, each one of the cars we had earmarked climbed up to prices out of the range we had agreed upon on the way up from Limerick. My heart crumbled when the last one we had noted was swept out of my hands. I would be going home in the passenger seat of my father's car, the same way I arrived.

And then; my first ever car came into the auction showroom. Lance didn't turn too many heads at first but mine did a positive 360 around the top of my spine.

"We're getting that one dad."
"I don't know, we didn't even look at that, it could fall apart on the way home."
"NO! It's perfect, we'll get that one."

After a bidding war with a young couple who had also spotted the potential in the dirty Lancer, we took it home for €2,300. There was no radio in the car when we bought it, but who the bloody hell needs one when you're singing triumphantly all the way home?

Having Lance meant no more asking my parents for lifts or paying to get on a smelly bus, not to mention the end of kissing the arse of passing acquaintances in exchange for a lift. Now mine was the squeaky clean arse as a result of all the kisses it was enjoying on a daily basis.

Over the next three years, not a peep, not so much as an unwelcome puff of smoke eminated from under Lance's bonnet. And this despite my initially less than diligent approach to caring for the car.

On more than one (on more than ten being honest about it) occasions, Lance also served as a bed to me and several of my pals - when laziness or being broke meant that more traditional accommodation arrangements weren't an option.

I still remember waking up in the passenger seat in a car park in Lahinch one morning, looking out at the beautiful sea and thinking; 'You can shove your hostel up your arse'.

And now he's gone. Plane tickets to Canada don't come cheap so I sold Lance to a young fella from Kerry who also spotted the Lancer's potential only a day after I put it up for sale on Carzone.

It was his first car too and he had the same look of delirious excitement in his eyes when I handed him the keys.

Of course when I sold Lance to the young fella, a radio had by now been installed. But I'm almost certain I could hear the new owner singing triumphantly to himself as he pulled my beloved first car out of my driveway for the very last time.

Monday, 27 April 2009

Some housekeeping

A FEW matters have arisen over the last few days, that need tending to before I go any further.

As I've said before, I'm leaving and there's nothing you can do about it. I announced my departure to Canada a while back right here on The Spot and within minutes of the posting, a gent calling himself 'chaoloughlin' left a comment, offering to answer any questions I may have prior to my departure for Vancouver.

He turned out to be a fellow Bruff-ite (although one whose acquaintance I hadn't yet made) and an absolute gentleman to boot who has already been a great help. He may well regret having offered his expertise, however, after I spend the next three weeks besieging him with wave after wave of the same banal, mind-numbing questions.

Anyway, I just thought it warranted mentioning. It's soul-warming to get the odd reminder that not everyone is a clueless, self-server with their cranium permanently situated in their rectum.

Speaking of which.

At the start of the month I posted my Lions XV and while it may not have been everybody's cup of Bovril, it was reasonably well received by the diverse barstool-pundit brigade in Limerick. Looking back on it there's definitely a few changes I'd have to make (Wally in, Martyn Williams out) but one decision I certainly wouldn't change is my selection of Stephen Ferris at six.

After a Six Nations that put him on to several Teams of the Season, nobody found it surprising that I would pick the barstorming Ulsterman on the flank. Nobody, that is, until scottishpride voiced his displeasure in the comments section on the post this week.

"you dont know what you are on about, stephen ferris shouldnt be in the squad let alone the starting line up, cwatson, s.burger, j.smith, k.kankowski and peirre spies would absolutly nail him, he wouldnt stand a chance out there."

Even without the ridiculous name (apparently you can take pride in being a poor man's Ireland), scottishpride would still seem to be from the loony strain of toons.

How anyone watching Ferris in action in the Six Nations could possibly think he is anything other than a Lions frontrunner is beyond even my simple mind.

Even those viewing with absolutely no knowledge of the game would have told you he was clearly one of the best backrowers in Europe.

Even a monk from the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism who has spent the last 50 years massaging the Dalai Lama's corns and emerged to see his first ever game of rugby this February would say;

"Hory Shit! He's got the Rions jersey in the bag!"

Perhaps scottishpride would have preferred if one of the Scottish backrow made the tour, bringing the nation's entire Lions representation up to three. Not even your fellow Scotsman (and Lions head coach) Ian McGeechan would agree with you though.