Back in 1984, on what was then Ireland’s most-viewed programme (The Late Late Show), host Gay Byrne introduced the audience to Ballygowan, an Irish company that was going to sell bottled water*. Oh how we laughed. Roll the clock on a few years, and some execs sitting around a boardroom table pitched the idea of a TV show where we would get to sit on our arses watching ordinary folk sitting on their arses watching TV. Yes, I know. Crazy stuff. It would never work.
Except, of course, it did. With a current average audience of 4.5 million souls in the UK, and with a new Irish spin-off version, Gogglebox is the latest phenomenon in what we can categorise as reality TV. We’re all armchair critics these days, as well as pop psychologists (and virologists…) so I guess the appeal of the show is part of the modern trend of ‘wondering what the neighbours thought’. It’s an inclusivity placebo. It’s why social media in general is so popular and addictive. I guess humans do better when we’re not screaming into the void. Well, not screaming alone, if you get me.
I’m not a devotee of Gogglebox, but it does get watched here in our house, and therefore filters into my subconscious. All of which makes me an absolute snob, I admit. There’s some cracking stuff on occasion. And by cracking, I mean toe-curlingly awful. Witness last week’s exchange when some of the couch pundits were watching a documentary about UFO hunters.
In this show, the host visits various folk who purport to have encountered aliens on their travels. One gent showed the host various marks on his body. He also claimed they sawed the top of his skull off and fondled his brain with long, em, alien-like fingers… This we know because they brought in some regression-therapy expert who also did an artist’s sketch of said alien (which, oddly-enough, bore an uncanny likeness to the one described to the artist. Well done, sketch artist…)
To further ham up an already hammy show, they did some ropey ‘reconstructions’ of his abduction and subsequent probing, and one of the Gogglebox viewers kept asking who those alien hands belonged to, and how were they able to get the footage of the abduction? I mean, I’m screaming at the telly: “x-ray his f**king head! I’m pretty sure if aliens lopped the top of his head off like a boiled egg, the marks would show up on a scan…”
But your mileage may vary, of course. If you are a believer, then perhaps this is not the blog for you. At no stage in your interesting life has it ever occurred to you why the instances of alien-abduction AND anal probing Venn diagrams form a perfect circle. Did I travel fifty bazillion light years across the universe in my vastly superior technology just so I could abduct Hank and perform a colonoscopy? Why yes, yes I did. And take note, dear reader, because this never happens in Ireland. But if it did, I can guarantee you that the alien results would get to you quicker than an appointment for the same procedure from the Health Service Executive here in the sunny Emerald Isle.
Anyway, that was a longer-than-anticipated preamble to today’s blog, which is not, mercifully, about alien abduction, other than point out that the world has gone quite mad, and that there are some astounding people out there. ‘Astounding’ is doing Arnold Alois Schwarzenegger amounts of heavy lifting. In some parts of Ireland they would say these gullible people have been ‘touched by the hand of God’. In others, they might say they are ‘thick as shite in a bottle.’ Take your pick.
[DISCLAIMER: I should probably add in a quick nod to some potential new visitors from across the pond. That’s the big one to the left, and not the smaller channel to the right, by the way. As in the Atlantic. Anyway, my old friend Risa (blogging here at http://risaaratyr.com/blog/) gave me a very generous nod this week, and it might encourage a few new visitors; fair warning: this is mostly a blog about the trials of a fifty-something Irish geezer trying to keep fit and run a few races. In between, I careen wildly into various tenuously-connected topics such as history, heritage, ecology, politics and general ranting. And aliens.]
Since the Down to Town Marathon about a month ago, I've been nursing my legs. They are still, fortunately for me, attached to my body, and we're back on speaking terms. Up to last weekend, the most we had traveled together were short runs of about 6 or 7 kilometres, but on Sunday I figured it was time to give the rest period a rest, and we headed off on one of our favourite runs: out towards Castletown Demesne and on through Kilmacradock and joining up with my old friend, the Royal Canal.
I stayed on the towpath for about 4km which included the last leg of the recent marathon. A return to the scene of the crime, if you will. Without doubt, I was in much better shape yesterday than I was a month or so ago. Not that I was breaking any land speed records. I was bimbling along, really. But happy to get back in one piece; 18k (or 11.25 miles in old money) in about 1.44.
Glancing at the Total Distance graph report from Garmin Connect, I can see the bars are dropping since August with a giddy peak of 270k. With less than 65k in the bag for November, it’s unlikely I will break into triple figures. No matter. Traditionally, November has been a fallow month, as it often followed Dublin Marathon at the end of October. Now, we are building towards the half-marathon on New Year’s Eve, and then the more daunting Donadea 50k. Unironedman devotees will know all about my last tangle with this fun race. Use the search bar, ya lazy bums; I can’t do everything for you…
And of course, the Donadea 50k is a training run for the real ultra which may or may not take place on July 24th next year. This is St. Declan’s Day, and I have successfully registered St. Declan’s Way as an FKT, or Fastest Known Time. It’s 115k and in fairness, the inclusion of ‘fastest’ here may be something of an oxymoron. I plan to complete the distance, and simply by virtue of the fact that I’ll (hopefully) be the first to do it, I will have the fastest known time. Simples, as they say. But it won’t be fast. Not by ultra-running standards. But that’s okay, because my new running philosophy is to make up my own races. They may be long or short, challenging or easy, but they’ll be something I decide to do, and there’ll be no need for medals or T shirts at the end. (Perhaps I should add, for those who believe unironedman is a mysterious character with no back story; well, sorry. Check out the about section, and note how the true name is revealed).
But just to prove that I’m as much of a junkie to the junk as the next man, I have just ordered a new Garmin watch. This will be my fourth from Garmin. The first three were bought second-hand. (What? No gags about watches and second-hands? Really? ed.). I can’t remember what the first one was, and I have since shifted it on to a new home. It was basic and did the job perfectly well without much fuss. The second one was the Forerunner 610, and whilst this was a better piece of tech, it was not without its problems. The main one was charging; the magnetic cradle with its fussy little spring-loaded pins were a disaster. Then it was loading up via a USB stick, and that would sit down and refuse to work as often as a French train driver. It also had a touch screen, and that’s just not going to work when you’re running. Or even if you are sitting quietly in a well-lit room, come to think of it.
My third I acquired on a buy and sell site, and I bought it specifically for the Royal Canal Triathlon when I knew I needed something with a decent battery life, and was waterproof to boot. Meet the 910XT which is a classic bullet-proof model favoured by water sports enthusiasts and long-distance triathletes. Again, though, it has a less than stellar charging cradle, and issues talking to the computer at times. And it’s rather hefty by today’s standards.
So as a combined birthday/Christmas present, the family are treating me to a Garmin Forerunner 55.
It’s waterproof, and has a 20 hour battery life when in use with GPS. As I don’t plan doing anything that requires that long to finish, this should last me for a long time (no pun intended). Of course, I say I won’t do anything longer, and I do genuinely mean it, but I couldn’t absolutely swear that I won’t do something silly again, like the Connemara 100. Because every now and again, you have to do something silly, just to prove you are alive…
The watch also charges through a USB cable. Hallelujah! And it uploads directly to your phone via Bluetooth. Let’s have another hallelujah! These two features alone are worth the money. And yes, I did plump for the one with the white strap, ‘coz I’m nothing if not unconventional.
In other news, I have revamped my office. This is peripheral unironedman news as it is the very nerve centre of the operation where all the best creative writing takes place (sorry, what? ed.). It was a chance to do some spring cleaning (in Winter), and install a built-in standing desk which was made out of reclaimed scaffolding planks. It has worked out well, and where I am currently perched.
Recently, S and I went down to see our great friend Fiona who lost her husband Ciaran at the end of September to cancer. It was a strange visit. Ciaran was always the best of hosts, so his absence was keenly felt. And before we left for home, Fiona produced a couple of bags of his shoes and asked me if I would like to take any with me. So I am now the proud owner of several pairs of Ciaran’s shoes, and we’ve been out for a few runs together since. It’s still all rather hard to believe, so I can’t begin to imagine what life is like for Fiona and the family at the moment.
Yesterday was World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims. Damn shame we need such a thing, but sadly we do. Each fire station around the country pulled out its engines onto the apron and put on the blues for a half hour. Here’s our station:
And that’s all for now, folks. Tea and some telly, and then bed, I think. Though unlike the below image, I will try and get the first few hours without a greyhound for a bedwarmer… The mo I am sporting is part of our Movember challenge in the station, and look, I am not a fan of the shakedown, but the cause is a good one, and you are welcome to throw in a few quid if you have some to spare. But honestly, we won’t fall out, you and I. Here’s the link: https://ie.movember.com/mospace/827056
* Warning! Dodgy joke ahead: At least 85% of the bottled water sold in Ireland is still water. As in, I can’t believe people still buy bottled water, ha ha!