Sunburn, smoking, Taylor Swift, Bonfire Night

Week eight of my award-defying column, and yet no death threats. What am I doing wrong?

 

Our traditional Leaving Cert weather finally arrived at the weekend. Much like the pagans of old would sacrifice the young to appease the gods, we sacrifice the mental well-being of our teenagers by forcing them to sit State exams while we barbecue ourselves outside until we are burnt raw on the outside and pink and unwell on the inside.

 

The recent blast of hot weather – or Summer Paper I as it is also known, with Summer Paper II being scheduled for when the kids go back to school in September – was a reminder that we do not belong in the sun. The tan was once seen as the sign of the peasant, toasted by the sun from toiling upon the land, until Coco Chanel accidentally came home from holidays with a golden brown hue. She did not, however, walk around a shopping centre with straps down and shoulders burnt to the point that they look like two smoked hams, nor did she go ‘tops off’ at the first sign of sun, showing off her terrible tattoos and a Pointillist canopy of future melanomas. And it isn’t just one or two people on the street who are waddling around like newly liberated rotisserie chickens – huge numbers of us clearly have no idea how dangerous the sun actually is, or how quickly it can ruin your skin. Much like back in 2014 when it you woke up to the horrible realisation that everyone you knew was a closet Garth Brooks fan, people who previously seemed sensible were this week showing up to work with raw necks and red legs, explaining that while they slathered the factor 1,000,000 on the kids to the point where they looked like Casper The Friendly Ghost, they neglected to do themselves the same favour, thus significantly raising the chances of developing cancer and becoming an actual ghost.

 

But what can we do? No wonder we get so confused by the big orange ball in the sky, as much like Hale Bopp, it only appears once in a while. Like the panic that sets in when Aldi  gets an especially good batch of Special Buys, we dash headlong into it in the hope that we look more exotic. Perhap RTE could wheel out Theresa Mannion to wander along Portmarnock beach dressed as the grim reaper telling people that they should cancel all unnecessary journeys to the beach and divert to their local dermatologist. Just as we say for most of the rest of the year, this really would be a great country if only we could build a roof over it.

 

Speaking of the extermination of all human life as we know it – Taylor Swift. It’s hard to know how she achieved a level of unpopularity that has made her the ‘Isis Of Pop’ – all she did was sing a few songs and possibly make some frenemies – but few people in music today draw such absolute loathing. However, I for one stand with Tay Tay, because for two thirds of 2015, she kept me sane.

 

I picked up my redundancy cheque on New Year’s Eve 2014, and a few days later, I bought her opus, 1989. The existence it portrayed, of giddily launching yourself into a world filled with possibility, was a million miles from the dole queues of my situation, with four kids and no job. As I trudged from job activation meeting to job liaison session, I played 1989 over and over to lift my spirits and remind myself that the turgid hell I was stuck in would not last forever.

 

After eight long months of playing it on repeat while I sent out CVs, cold called disinterested HR departments, and was talked down to by tan-shoed recruitment goons, I finally got a job, and I never looked back. But I still love 1989, and am thus one of the millions currently awaiting news of her new album. So even though Tay Tay only seems to make headlines for her on-again, off-again relationship with Spotify (it’s back on) or her Tupac-and-Biggie-style blood feud with Katy Perry (Tay Tay’s relationship with Spotify went back on the same day Perry released her new album, in what the kids would call a sick burn), I will defend her to the hilt, because, for eight months in 2015, her shimmering pop stories about young love stopped me from turning into Travis Bickle. Although I might have got a job slightly sooner if I hadn’t been humming Shake It Off in every interview.

 

Millenials may be feeling anxious that their jobs are all going to be taken by smartypants robots, but if the main street of every town and city in Ireland is anything to go by, they will always find work in a Centra, Starbucks, phone repair shop, or that most gaudy of shopfronts, the vape store. The explosion in vaping has seen a shift in the habits of the young, from the toxic, deadly habit of smoking, to the vaguely unsettling habit of vaping. Sadly, some people simply cannot give up the leaf. Good news then from a firm with reassuringly cheesy name of 22nd Century, who are working on a genetically modified variation of the tobacco plant that will offer all of the lethal flavour but almost none of the nicotine. The same firm is also working on a version of medical cannabis that contains almost no THC – the active ingredient that gives the high associated with its social use – and only offers the medical benefits. No doubt these two products will be a huge success, mirroring the massive uptake in creations like non alcoholic beer, softcore pornography and unsalted crisps.

 

Bonfire Night is upon us again, the annual tradition in which the people of the Rebel County remember the Burning Of Cork by the Black and Tans. It is a tragic moment in the city’s history that is honoured by  locals dragging old suites of furniture, tyres, and bags of household refuse into the middle of the green before torching them whilst sitting around with cans as the toxic fumes cloud the sky. Except obviously, Bonfire Night has absolutely nothing to do with the Burning Of Cork at all – it is actually the ancient feast of St John’s Eve, a sacred time of year when John The Baptist would drag old scrolls, parchments, and bags of goat horns into the middle of the green before torching them, quaffing mead and later on that night, throwing rocks at the fire services. The celebration is a reminder that whether it’s our own skin, an old sofa, sweet tobacco leaf, or just poor auld Katy Perry, we all secretly love to watch things burn.

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