Saturday, 13 February 2010

Not So Forward

Following in the recent trend of other people's writing and in the spirit of looking back, I discovered these comments about nostalgia in Vicky Coren's excellent poker memoir, 'For Richer or Poorer'.

"I think nostalgia is a primal emotion, like fear and anger and (maybe) love. It just seems otherwise , because it has a long name and is tricky to define out loud. So you might mistake it for one of those fiddly , sophisticated feelings like schadenfreude or low self-esteem. but nostalgia is simple, basic, instinctive and it was always there. You can see it in the face of a zoo monkey that once lived in the wild. Or even one that never did. It still knows that it has lost something."

Poker is something of a bittersweet pleasure for me at the moment. My lack of money means that I am playing far more than usual, and I am bonding with my poker friends more than usual. I have a regular Sunday night and Thursday night game, and have just had to turn down an invitation to a £10 rebuy event at a friend's in Attleborough (I really would have loved to go, live play is where it's at, after all, but I can't face the multitude problems of trying to find a new house, inevitable late night and ridiculous amounts of cigarette smoke all at once just now.) I am getting unlucky and playing badly, though I am doing enough not to lose money - I am just finding it hard to gain, which is frustrating in itself.

Despite enjoying my poker a lot, I am feeling a slight sadness at my own shortcomings at this time. My weekends should regularly consist of more than football scores and the odd push/pull dynamic at a loose 1c/2c table on Pokerstars. In less than two weeks, I will be 31 years old. In modern parlance, this is no excuse to stop acting like a teenager. Plenty of people I know do not own houses, do not have massively successful jobs or relationships. But unlike some, I have no excuse. I have the time, the intellect and a modicum of social awareness - I am simply too lazy to push myself for that better job, unwilling to spend those spare hours learning new things or going down the gym to work off that spare tyre. I am not a lonely man. I have learnt to enjoy my own company, have purposely chosen that this year should see no big celebration. Even so, I expect that I will have a busy week and getting to the pub, cinema and restaurants will require a bare minimum of browbeating. But I should be doing more, and it irritates me that I am still writing this instead.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

The Rocky Road to Dublin

In the merry month of May, from me home I started
Left the girls of Tuam nearly broken hearted, saluted father dear
Kissed me darlin' mother, drank a pint of beer
Me grief and tears to smother, then off to reap the corn
And leave where I was born, cut a stout blackthorn
To banish ghost and goblin
In a brand new pair of brogues
To rattle over the bogs, and frighten all the dogs
On the rocky road to Dublin
One, two, three, four, five

Hunt the hare and turn her
Down the rocky road
And all the way to Dublin

In Mullingar that night, I rested limbs so weary
Started by daylight, next mornin' light and airy
Took a drop of the pure to keep me heart from sinkin'
That's the Paddy's cure, whenever he's up for drinking
To see the lasses smile, laughing all the while, at me curious style
'Twould set your heart a-bubblin'
They asked if I was hired, and wages I required, till I was almost tired
Of the rocky road to Dublin
One, two, three, four, five

In Dublin next arrived, I thought it such a pity
To be so soon deprived, a view of that fine city
Then I took a stroll
All among the quality, me bundle it was stole
In a neat locality
Something crossed my mind, then I looked behind, no bundle could I find
Upon me stick a wobblin', enquirin' for the rogue
They said me Connacht brogue wasn't much in vogue
On the rocky road to Dublin
One, two, three, four, five

From there I got away, me spirits never failin'
Landed on the quay just as the ship was sailin'
Captain at me roared. Said that no room had he
But when I jumped aboard, a cabin found for Paddy
Down among the pigs, did some hearty rigs, played some hearty jigs
The water round me bubblin'
When off Holyhead, I wished meself was dead, or better far instead
On the rocky road to Dublin
One, two, three, four, five

The boys of Liverpool
When we safely landed, called meself a fool
I could no longer stand it, blood began to boil, temper I was losin'
Poor old Erin's isle, they began abusin'
"Hurrah me soul," says I, my shillelagh I let fly
Some Galway boys were by and saw that I was a-hobblin'
Then with a loud hurray they joined in the affray, quickly cleared the way
For the rocky road to Dublin
One, two, three, four, five.

- Words and tune traditional

I heard this tune for the first time since my childhood only a couple of weeks ago. It brings back memories of my own father, not to mention the wonderful Irish family who did so much for me when I was living in Dublin all those years ago. I don't know what a shillelagh is, except that I wouldn't want to be hit by one. Plus it has the line 'Whack-fol-lol-de-ra' in it, and yet still rocks. The Dubliners version of this song is available on iTunes, and I heartily recommend it.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Why looking back is where it's at

So now I see why those bloggers I follow only manage to get something on their blogs once every few months. Turns out it's not just laziness...composing your thoughts takes effort! This is the first day I've felt coherent in a couple of weeks, so I suppose it doesn't matter that it's taken this long. It helps to have exams out of the way, to have the flat (relatively) clean, not to mention being rid of the fugitive from the law that I've been harbouring here for a week. Pleasant as her company has been, it's nice to have my own space back again.

The last couple of weekends have seen me at a pie festival in St Albans (yep, a figure like this takes work, believe it or not) and sampling sushi in Bristol, and I am now the proud owner of a heated mattress cover that makes getting out of bed in the mornings all that much harder. I have also tried to revitalise my poker game somewhat, which was proving very successful till a major dose of tilt yesterday evening undid a week's good work in an hour. Lessons, as they say, are indeed extra in this cruel game.

Cinema too has been inherently unreliable - I have finally seen two films (Daybreakers, 500 Days of Summer) that I have been trying to see for ages, only to find them both mediocre and disappointing. Paradoxically, I went to see Sherlock Holmes with a heavy heart, expecting a staple from literary history to be dragged through the mire of Hollywood saccharine, and was amazed to find myself enjoying it immensely. Robert Downey Jr portrays a younger Holmes than TV might have previously done, but perfectly balances his burgeoning genius with a strong sense of whimsical melancholy. I look forward to seeing Holmes' arch enemy, Moriarty, in the inevitable sequel.

Poring over the BBC magazine for intersting articles this week, I came upon a major piece about nostalgia. I am not a fan of Take That and was never gifted with a Rubik's Cube, but I was always keen on Angel Delight, and would love to see it still available on our shelves. Scientists have proven that nostalgia can be a very healthy feeling that evokes youthful exuberance and provides us with a sense of belonging. This will probably not be news to you any more than it was to me, but I was amazed to find out that for years, scientists have viewed nostalgia as a bad thing.

Nostalgia, taken from the Greek 'nostos' (return) and 'algos' (pain), has been a concern for the psychological establishment for several years, with a 2006 report from Psychology Today magazine suggesting that 'overdoing' reminiscence leads to a failure to derive joy in the present. But then, were things in the past ever all that good? Now, in these days of economic recession and terrorist threat, are they really all that bad?

The Standard Life report that brings about the article suggests that you can complete a 'Nostalgia Workout', focusing on the positive memories that you have, listing them in your mind and expanding the images as a reminder of how life was at that time. Call me cynical, but this seems a little too much like effort to me. Instead, I'm going to enjoy a Wispa bar in front of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The original, of course.