Archive for November 26th, 2010

Every year on a Friday, some weeks before Christmas, RTE’s Late Late Show hosts The Toy Show. Running for over 35 years ago, it’s a rite-of-passage for Irish children growing up. Some Anti Room contributor’s share their memories…

As a child I, along with my many, many sisters and lone brother, was always allowed to stay up for The Late Late Toy Show. It was an occasion observed as faithfully as turkey for Christmas dinner. My memories date exclusively back to the reign of Uncle Gaybo. In fact, although I can’t be absolutely sure of this I seem to remember that all the early ones I saw were broadcast in black & white. We huddled in front of the telly: faces scrubbed clean, teeth hastily done, pyjamas on and wrapped in a variety of hastily gathered quilts and blankets. As the distinctive signature tune rang out mum and dad shouted “hurry up, you’ll miss it” and we scurried down the stairs. Of course we craved the toys and bitterly envied the children invited on to demonstrate them but, despite our excitement, we rarely made it all the way to the end. One by one we dropped off to sleep even as we insisted that we “weren’t tired at all” and were carried upstairs and tucked into bed. Naturally, now that I have my own two little lads, we observe the same ritual. Tonight we’ll be in our PJs in front of a roaring fire with hot chocolate, marshmallows and a tin of Quality Street (I have my instructions) watching Uncle Tubs. It might even be snowing. As for my husband Derek. Well he’s inexplicably turning his back on the occasion and heading into the Button Factory to hear Steve Ignorant belt out a few Crass tunes. Chacun à son goût! Eleanor Fitzsimons

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My Scottish husband is totally baffled by the Late Late Toy Show tradition. The poor man just doesn’t get that it’s practically the law that children be allowed to stay up in their jim-jams to watch a show that goes on till almost midnight. He thinks it’s just crass commercialism – perish the thought! The Toy Show is pure magic, as anyone who grew up in Ireland will tell you. My memories are also from the era of Uncle Gaybo. We were insanely jealous of the children who took part, though my mother, ever the cynic, would always point out that we could never get on the show because we weren’t related to anyone in RTE. I’m sure she was wrong about that… Catherine Crichton

When I think of childhood telly, it’s of the televisual holy trinity, i.e. the three shows we were allowed stay up late for every year: The Rose of Tralee (mostly for girls, even if my younger brother feigned a smidge of interest just to avoid going to bed), the Eurovision (when Ireland used to actually win the thing once in a while) and the ne plus ultra of all three – The Late Late Toy Show. It was bath, jammies, wet hair squeakily combed and no messing allowed, on pain of being frog-marched up the stairs and missing out. Our collective hearts thumped along with the familiar drums of the signature tune and there it was… a lavish, sparkly, tinsel-soaked set looking like Santa’s Grotto on crack. Oodles of toys, from the old skool to the faddish must-haves were heaped around Gay Byrne, who looked avuncular, jumpertastic and, it had to be said, in his element. How we envied the kids who got to demonstrate games and monsters, dolls and gadgets. If any of them fluffed their words or the toys wouldn’t work, myself and my brothers were united in our Schadenfreude glee of how WE would have done it better. The whirling dervish Billie Barrie kids both awed and frightened me, and we shamelessly fast-forwarded their set-pieces on the video when we watched the show back the next day. In this day and age, some might say it’s a gluttonous ode to consumerism. Not me. It’s 100% escapism, fantasy and fun, especially in the context of Ireland’s economic black hole. My own children are a little too young for the Toy Show this year, but it won’t be long before we’re sitting down to it, while squabbling over a bag of Maltesers and guffawing at Ryan Tubridy’s jumper. Sinéad Gleeson

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My memories of the Late Late Toy Show are dominated by a few things: the excitement of staying up late; the glamour of all those unobtainable toys (that often ended up broken – the waste!) and the Billie Barrie Kids. I was horribly jealous of the Billie Barries because I was also in a stage school and we didn’t get to go on the Show (didn’t even audition!). I thought the BB’s were such fakes with their dazzling smiles and superior costumes.

We – there were 7 of us in my family – used to sit on Toy Show night finding fault with everything and everyone on the Show. My Ma would lament ‘You’re sooooooooooooo critical’, every ten minutes to which we would snarl with cynical, childish laughter. And I loved it. Year after year. Even now, with kids of my own from 17 to one-year-old, I feel excited at the prospect of the Toy Show. It’s a time marker, a lead up to the big day. I’m glad it has endured even if the toys are still mostly unobtainable. I think the talent may have improved though. Has it?! Nuala Ní Chonchúir

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Gold-digger Amnesty

Thoroughly depressed with the state of the nation, I decided to cheer myself up yesterday by listening to some nice, brainless pop music. I feel the qualifying adjective is important here, because there’s also very clever pop music out there, but that’s not of any use to me when I want myself opium’d up by dithering beats and sugarsnap lyrics, is it?

If there’s one thing stupid pop music has taught me, it’s that if there’s one career group more maligned than Fianna Fail politicians or IMFites, it’s gold-diggers. Yes. Young women (I calls ageism, for it appears biddies are disqualified from rushing men for the moolah) who are attracted to men more successful than themselves are terrible hussies altogether. Perhaps even responsible for a portion of our current economic woes! Gold-diggers: breaking bankers, one suit at a time.

See, I was bopping along to Cee-Lo Green’s wonderfully catchy “Fuck You” (“Forget You” to anyone still relying on the radio to get them their aural jollies) when I paused, took a breath, furrowed my brow. Cee-Lo’s complaint is that his ladyfriend left him for a much more affluent gentleman, one who owns a car and has no problem taking the lady for the odd spin in same. Seeing them spinning about the place makes Cee-Lo feel most disgruntled. If only he had the kind of money that could buy him a car! Then he could still be with the gold-digger, whom he still loves, but also really resents because she’s not turned on by penury.

At first I felt for Cee-Lo. As a wurkin’ class ladette, I understand how difficult it is to get by in life without a pot to piddle in. There’s, let’s see … underpaid jobs, holes in the arse of your pants, running out of restaurants without having paid and having to resort to getaway bicycles to avoid arrest. It’s a hard-knock life. I also know that there’s no law requiring a woman to get hot under the collar for a partner who’s just not cutting the wholegrain organic mustard when it comes to ambition and success. I’m much more likely to fancy a motivated, educated bright spark than a couch potato with a grudge; does that make me a gold-digger? I think not! Take that, Mr. Green!

Likewise, I am perplexed by Timbaland’s hip-pop song “The Way I Are”, which in a lyrical sense comprises of a gruff man barking out all of the reasons no one should touch him with a bargepole. “I can’t even buy you flowers!” he snaps, though without adding that he’s happy to grow or pick some instead. He is then mollycoddled by a husky female telling him that it’s grand, that so long as he’s got his mojo in the bedroom he can do without it in the real world, hinting that it’s more than his ego she’d like to massage. And this is just preposterous. You can’t reward the useless like that! Sure they’ll never learn if you keep telling them that despite their barely being able to afford the chips on their shoulders, catches of either gender will be only too happy to cast their kecks aside for a hop off them. Did I miss the memo about drive, integrity, and fiscal independence not being aphrodisiacs after all? No, I didn’t. Because they are. Huge big ones. Pulsating ones. Oh yes.

Hip-pop girls have retorted these points more melodiously than me, of course. Fado, fado (in the 90s), TLC, in their song No Scrubs, told layabout boys that they were going to have to do a little better than be roaring out random compliments from their mates’ cars if they wanted to pitch woo successfully; yet t’was far from gold-digging they were reared.

The funny thing is that hip-pop boyos have long rapped, yodelled and purred out the characteristics of their ideal ladyfriend, and having economic savvy, her own career, and half a brain were never on their To Do lists; gold-diggers are ok if you’ve got the money for them, but a right slap in the testicles if you’ve recently become a victim of the worldwide recession. Well, lads; reap the whirlwind. The gold-diggers have become accustomed to a certain level of achievement from their life-partners; there’s no point complaining about it now, not when she had to spend all that money on implants to impress your shallow arse in the first place.

Back to Cee-Lo, who pouts that his gold-digger’s new friend is “more an X-Box” while Cee-Lo himself is an “Atari”. I suppose he realises that Ataris were made redundant back in the dark ages. Certainly no amount of dewy-eyed sentimentality will convince me to trade in my next-gen console for one of them dinosaurs. And that doesn’t make me a gold-digger (or even a Digger T. Rock).

It makes me a prudent, prudent lady.

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This is my country, and I am not leaving.

I’m not a great patriot, nor even a Republican.

I’m not a big GAA fan; I don’t drink Guinness; I’m not religious; I can’t sing The Lakes of Pontchartrain late into the night.

I’m not from a farming background; I haven’t read Peig Sayers; I’ve never been out in the bog.

I  was too young to be working for most of the Celtic Tiger years, and my family lived on one income for most of them.

I do not know what the Tiger looked like and I did not hear it roar.

I drink coffee; I have an iPhone; I have a job in the ‘meeja’. I have a nice car. I have a nice life. But it is not a moneyed life.

I make my own coffee; my iPhone is a cast-off from a wealthier friend; my car is nearly ten years old; and my job, though I love it, is not well paid.

My best friend from college lives in London. My best friend from school lives in Australia.

Two weeks ago, when the PriceWaterhouseCooper ‘story’ broke, internationally, my friend in London emailed me.

“Another awful story coming from Ireland. They are just pathetic.”

“They”, meaning “the Irish”. She is almost ashamed, now, to tell people where she comes from. She works in the City of London, and is surrounded daily by ridicule of our pathetic financial situation, our morally bankrupt politics and the bringing low of our once high-flying economy.

She has a law degree and a masters degree in PR. She is one of the highly educated workforce that is lost to our future.

One week ago, when the IMF were, then weren’t, then were, then weren’t, then were, taking over the budgetary strategy of my country, my friend in Australia emailed me.

“I want all the news! But not about the economy, thanks. I don’t want to know why I can’t come home.”

She has a chemistry degree and a master’s degree in chemistry. She is another of the highly educated workforce that is lost to our future. She followed every bit of advice about the knowledge economy; she has experience of working in the world’s top three pharmaceutical companies thanks to her excellent education; and she is in Australia because there is nothing for her here. She wanted to go for a year, maybe two. Six months in she has realised that it will be a long time before she comes home.

I was a student representative towards the tail end of the boom. Of the other five motivated, ambitious, articulate people who sat on that committee with me, three are in Australia. One has returned to her native Poland. My last comrade standing will leave Ireland for India in January.

These people are the doers – where will we be when all of them have left?

I am from a rural village where our GAA team is doing well for the first time that I can remember. This is a great thing, but the reason?

Most of the boys I went to school with are at home, and not working. It is wonderful that they are turning to sport rather than drink to take up their time, but it’s unlikely this will last forever.

I asked one of them, who is still working (in a factory which is earmarked for closure, and letting people go every week), why his friends hadn’t left.

Where would they get the money? Good point. It costs thousands of euro to go to Australia, and there isn’t much employment for unskilled workers any closer than that. They didn’t go to college, and worked in the construction trade in its dying days.

They were breakfast roll man, and now they are at home living with their parents in the houses they grew up in. When we were in primary school, there were 18 children in my class. Out of that 18, not even half of our fathers had jobs.

We’ve been here before. Yes, there are difference; we’re billions in debt and the international community is by turns laughing at us and outraged at having to bail us out of greed and stupidity of a few bankers.

You could be forgiven for thinking that yesterday’s four year plan was strategically designed as a kick in the arse out the door for my generation.

Those who aren’t gone already will have their wages cut (again); lose any tax breaks that are left; pay more for college; and have their social welfare cut.

We didn’t benefit from the boom. Many of us didn’t vote for Fianna Fáil. But we are being punished for the greed of our parents’ generation and an elite few.

It’s time for our generation to stand up. Leadership is needed, and the generation in power have completely failed us. They will not be paying for these mistakes for the rest of their working lives; we will. Those of us who are left.

Because, like I said, I’m not leaving.

I’m not leaving, because this is my home.

I’m not leaving, because I have done nothing wrong.

I’m not leaving, because I have worked hard to get where I am.

I’m not leaving, because I have not gambled recklessly with my finances and those of my country.

I’m not leaving, because my country needs me.

I’m not leaving, because our country needs our generation.

I’m not leaving, because it’s the people who stay who shape what a country becomes.

I’m not leaving, because we are the ones who can stop this from happening again.

I’m not leaving, because I don’t want my children to have to leave.

Deirdre O’Shaughnessy is editor of the Cork Independent newspaper, Cork’s largest circulating free weekly newspaper and a regular contributor to Newstalk 106-108fm. She blogs about society, politics, and media at http://www.deshocks.wordpress.com and makes up for a very short attention span with youthful exuberance, sometimes.

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