Welcome to the Smooth Forest

Meticulous was the preparation. Horrifying, the execution.

As an officer and, no doubt, a gentleman, it behooved Captain Swayne to take all necessary precautions when administering the…technique. He and his assistants – men of the North Cork Militia – clad their bodies in the very latest protective garb to ensure that none of the boiling hot substances should harm them during the process. The object of the whole affair was, after all, to inflict suffering on the prisoner – not themselves.

Once the pitch or tar had reached a suitably scalding temperature, Swayne had the honour of pouring it onto the subject’s head. Well…not directly onto the subject’s head as such. The Captain’s assistants would have attached a linen cap around the poor unfortunate’s head, and this crown of sorts was conically-shaped so as to hold the liquid in place. After the mixture had cooled sufficiently, the cap was torn from the suspect’s head – taking with it a significant portion of the skin and tissue underneath.

Other methods had been inflicted, of course; flogging, half-hanging, picketing, dunking, nail-pulling… However, these were mild tortures when compared to the agony of this ‘pitch-capping’. The short, cropped hair of the rebels lent itself quite adequately to this action, providing as it did a sort of guide to where best the cap should be affixed.

Once all the skin and hair was ripped from the skull, the top of the head most closely resembled a clear-cut wood. Indeed, the effect was similar to that of the infamous scalping which both colonists and natives inflicted upon eachother in the Americas. The searing pitch had, at one ancient time or other, been poured into a victim’s orifices…but this often resulted in immediate death, and so was quite useless as a form of non-lethal torture.

Even this vicious cruelty did not distract the diligent Captain Swayne from the possibility of escape. Thus, he made sure to have one of the target’s ears cut off, so as to make identification easier. Should the individual break free from captivity, militiamen could readily discover the well-marked escapee in the surrounding area.

Suffice it to say that Captain Swayne attained all the required information regarding rebel movement in and around the area of Eastern Ireland, and the people of Prosperous were no longer terrorised by the so-called ‘United Irishmen’. The Wexford Rebels would be the next target, and the men of the North Cork Militia had all the tools with which to deal with them.

Civilization itself was at stake – the barbaric savagery of the croppies and their ilk could not be allowed to threaten the noble forces of law and order.

Solidarity, brothers & sisters…


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The Trickling Sads of Time

With every passing second, we grow further from our birth and closer to our demise. There’s an upbeat thought for you. From the age we are first able to create memories, we are building a tail – a tail of tales, if you will – that stretches out behind us, longer and longer with every event, presenting us with our past. Our present is fleeting, transient. Our past is set in stone, immovable.

In such meandering is how I introduce you to a particular form of depression. Probably not a very unique form… A kind of nostalgia-fueled sadness. The realisation of the fact that we can never recreate our youth, never relive those moments, never recapture the feelings, never right the wrongs. That realisation weighs heavily on me.

My dreams are of old houses in which my family used to reside, of old flames and old friends, and – most poignantly of all – my late father, departed over 10 years ago now. When I listen to music, I imagine myself performing the songs in front of my secondary school year – yeah, that woulda shown ’em I was cool! – but only if the records had been released in subsequent years. After all, gotta keep it realistic; so that, if time travel became available tomorrow, I could shoot back to the year 2000 and pretend that, oh I dunno, Srxt by Bloc Party was in fact written by yours truly. So afterwards when all my fellow teens clustered round and were like, “Did you write that awesome song?” I’d be all like, “Totally.”

What was I talking about? Oh right, yeah.

While this looking back has been with me for a long time, the most overpowering feeling of this nostalgia-depression was triggered by a recent reunion with mates from university. That a decade has flown by since we hung out in front of our alma mater, with subsequent weddings and whatnot, really hit home like a hammer blow.

I know, I know… “Time passes, get over it. You’re only 33, you loser!”

The speed at which so much time has zipped by is just alarming though. My teens were only, what, 7 years, but it seemed to pass much slower than the last 15. I didn’t even have half the experiences in school that most people had – which is, by the way, a fairly obvious contributing factor to the evident resentment I feel at not having made the most of my youth – but even so, I felt that I actually *lived* those years. Even though I’m with someone I love and have been for almost 6 years, it feels like the last decade has breezed by without me doing anything of note.

Just in case you hadn’t grasped it already, I’m writing this completely stream-of-consciousness. So if it seems waffly, rambling, incoherent and self-indulgent…well, that’s because it is. Sorry ’bout that.

Sometimes I realise that a memory of something that feels like it was just yesterday actually happened 13 years ago, and I want to cry or throw up. Sometimes I just want time to stop so that I can get my bearings or get back on track (whatever that means). Sometimes I just want to scream, “WHAT THE FUCK HAPPENED?!” because, honestly, I feel like there’s a secret to living or some instruction manual that everyone else got and I’m totally lost.

Then there’s the regrets; I wish that I could have properly enjoyed myself in college, or had applied myself more, or worried less, or been able to get involved more with people/clubs/events/sports. That we can’t go back is one of the most basic things there is – so why does it cause sadness? Why is it so hard, seemingly to accept?

All the people that came into my life who I will never see again. All the nights hanging out, smoking and drinking and laughing, that I’ll never have again. All the dates that I had, or didn’t get to have, or had but didn’t go to plan, that I wish I could do over. All the mornings and afternoons and evenings at the Wall in UCD, chatting and smoking with the best people in the world…all just fragments of time.

I feel like I’m not expressing myself properly and, you know, that makes me saddest of all. I’m crying right now as I write this, that’s how sad it makes me. I lack the words or the sense to convey just how much regret and anger and disappointment and shame and self-hatred I have, just because time passed… I know, I know – I’m mentally ill, what else is new?

The weird thing is, I’ve loved the last 5 or 6 years; lost my virginity, got properly medicated, met the woman I want to marry, moved to the best city in the world, am living a life that I consider to be ideal. I guess it’s just some kind of weird, early midlife crisis or something, a desire to experience a specific period in time – from 13 years old to 25, say – even if the first time around wasn’t even that great. Maybe because the first time around wasn’t even that great.

Maybe ‘purpose’ is the word. Even though I hated getting up for school, my life had purpose. Even though I hated the essays and exams in university, my life had purpose. Even though I was perpetually single and sexless, desperately casting my rod (oo-er missus) around to see what’d bite, my life had purpose. Now I’m comfortable, and…what is the point of me, exactly?

I hate birthdays, and Christmases, and New Year’s, because they force you to reflect on where you are in life, and how many of those events you’ve experienced – a number that only ever goes up. These milestones have, for the better part of my existence, served to make me loath myself; for not accomplishing more, for not being in contact with loved ones enough, for not being a better person.

Fuck, I’m such a moany bastard.

I think I’ll add to this, and smooth it out, any time I’m feeling this way. It happens a lot – maybe there’s a book in it!

Solidarity, brothers & sisters…

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History is full of bad situations that turned out for the best. You could even argue that the entire human experience has been one of bad situations turning out for the best, or good situations turning out for the worst. In any case, often it is just a sad fact that circumstances have to get worse before they get better.

Think of life in France under Louis XVI; appalling hardship, famine, inequality, destitution, misery… However, without it could there have been the upsurge of political activity that led to the French Revolution? Which, of course, had its own horrors; the Terror, the wars, the guillotine, the suicides, the imprisonment, Napoleon… Nonetheless, even these setbacks led to the construction of a democratic republic. Yet this republic then embarked on imperial conquest, seizing territories around the world, subjugating millions of people under the Tricoleur…but, eventually, all the killing and suffering, the seemingly fruitless struggle for liberty, the fight for progress and freedom from oppression, in the end this all led to winning the World Cup on home soil in 1998.

Worth it.

Solidarity, brothers & sisters…

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St. Pauli at the World Cup

Should Aziz Bouhaddouz get onto the pitch for Morocco at this Summer’s FIFA World Cup, he will become the third footballer to represent his country at the quadrennial competition while under contract at FC St. Pauli. That there have been so few to have done so is unsurprising. Indeed, I was more surprised to find – after a bit of research – that there had been any St. Pauli players at a World Cup before! Not only that, but the two in question played at the same tournament, for the same country.

Ján Kocian and Ivo Knoflicek travelled to Italia 90 as members of the Czechoslovakian squad – the last World Cup squad to represent the country before it was split, in 1993, into the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Kocian played at sweeper, and did so with elan; he would be named Czechoslovakia’s Footballer of the Year after his exertions. He started 10 of the 13 matches his country played that year, only missing friendlies against Spain and Finland, as well as the final World Cup group game against hosts Italy when both had already qualified for the knockout stages (thus making it a ‘dead rubber’). In all, Kocian played 3 friendlies, 4 World Cup games, and 3 European Championship qualifiers for Czechoslovakia in 1990. It was his annus mirablis.

Knoflicek was a striker, and from 1984 to 1988 was pretty prolific; he averaged just under a goal every other game for Slavia Prague in this period. However, an extraordinary episode led to him – and Slavia teammate Lubos Kubik – missing almost a year of football. In July of 1988, the pair fled their club’s training camp in West Germany and were driven by friends to Belgium. They hoped to earn a contract with Derby County, then owned by Robert Maxwell – himself of Czechoslovakian origin – but Slavia refused to sign the necessary transfer papers. Finally, in May of 1989, the Czech club relented, and Kubik was allowed to sign for Fiorentina…and Knoflicek joined St. Pauli.

Their opening match at Italia 90 could not have gone better; Czechoslovakia hammered the United States by 5 goals to 1. Kocian played the full 90, while Knoflicek was withdrawn with a quarter of an hour left. In the following game, Czechoslovakia edged past Austria 1-0 via a penalty – this win together with Italy’s victory over the USA meant that the Czechoslovakians had made it through to the Round of 16. Once again, Kocian was on the pitch for the whole match and Knoflicek was taken off early – this time with 8 minutes to play. The inconsequential final group game saw Italy win 2-0 and, while Kocian took a well-earned rest, Knoflicek finally played all 90 minutes of a World Cup match.

Czechoslovakia breezed past Costa Rica in the Second Round – with both Kocian & Knoflicek playing the whole game – before coming unstuck against eventual winners West Germany in the last 8. Even then, it took a first-half penalty from Lothar Mattheus to separate the sides, sending Kocian & Knoflicek et al home at the Quarter Final stage. Despite this defeat – in which Kocian & Knoflicek once more played all 90 minutes – Czechoslovakia were one of the best stories of the tournament, along with the emergence of Cameroon and the Republic of Ireland’s exploits. Indeed, only the triumphant West Germans scored more goals at Italia 90 than Czechoslovakia.

Aziz Bouhaddouz has a lot to live up to. Let’s hope his tournament in Russia is even a fraction as successful as the World Cup enjoyed by his Braun-Weiss forerunners in 1990. Will he be the first St. Pauli player to score at a World Cup?


Solidarity, brothers & sisters…


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One Man’s Supervillain…

Comrades & Friends,

It is all a matter of perspective: The one that you think of as a hero – fighting crime, exposing corruption, upholding liberty for all decent, hard-working families… – is the same individual to us represents everything villainous about your world. We hate that person with every inch of our being, to our very core, with a blazing fury that cannot be extinguished. Your idol is the one obstacle between us and revolution.

What, after all, does one of your heroes do when he or she is saving the world and foiling outlandish plots? Essentially, this protector of the innocent is, in fact, protecting the status quo. The established order. The right people in the right places. Things as they are.

It’s true, isn’t it? You cannot deny the reality. Whether that inspirational figure is a rich orphan with an arsenal of hi-tech gadgetry at his disposal, or an alien who can call upon supernatural powers, or a mythological God come to life commanding forces of nature…whoever and whatever that symbol of supposed justice may be, their role is to safeguard the current situation. The here and now of all societal aspects; social, economic, political. Implicit is that the way things are is the way things ought to be.

Anyone who disagrees must be a villain.

Fine. If that is the way you want to see things, so be it. All we can do is lay things out for you. Explain the reasons for our position as clearly, rationally and emphatically as we can. You can lead a horse to water but cannot make it drink… Yours is the choice; continue to pour adulation upon the charlatans, or stand in solidarity with those who wish only for your liberation.

We, the downtrodden masses who labour and suffer under the lashes of your vicious system, do not care what pretty words your may utilise to justify its existence. We abhor the rhetorical dishonesty that elevates that system’s boot-boys, watch-dogs and lackeys to the status of heroes. We loathe anyone – and everyone – who contributes to that oppressive system’s continued survival.

You can call us anything you like; thuggish criminals, devious masterminds, common thieves, utter scumbags, simple plebs, madmen, terrorists, proles, chavs, knackers, gypsies, trannies, retards, lunatics, faggots, whores, niggers, villains… It does not matter. For one, solitary reason:

When we unite, we will bury you.

We. Will. Bury you.

Solidarity, brothers & sisters…

Leveller De Guerre


P.S. Please, call me ‘Lev’.

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Of Dubious Reliability

“When I confronted him, he denied that he’d ever said anything of the sort.”

Dieter looked confused at this point, so Walter added, “And it’s not like the guy was lying – at least, I don’t think he was – but more as if he genuinely couldn’t remember.”

After a second or two of staring into space, presumably while picturing the exchange, Dieter scratched his chin thoughtfully. Clearing his throat, he began, “Have you considered the possibility…however slight…that perhaps…he did not say what you think he said?”

Now it was Walter’s turn to look perplexed.

“No… I’m telling you, he denied ever saying it, he was completely adamant…”

Dieter interrupted him with a raised palm.

“Ha, you misunderstand me – I meant that, perhaps, he was denying it because, well, he never actually said it. Is that…is that completely out of the question?”

This rocked Walter back in his chair. He felt poleaxed. A lifelong cinephile, Walter now had images from Gaslight flashing through his head. Not for the briefest moment did he believe in the tiniest chance that he had misheard, or misconstrued, or misinterpreted the earlier conversation with their mutual friend. Erstwhile friend, at any rate. Now, however, he was having to face the reality that certain people, given the choice, would rather not come to terms with the truth of events if that truth was unpalatable to them. Instead, they would opt for an alternative, more comforting explanation, regardless of its unlikelihood.

Clearly, Dieter preferred to question Walter’s version of what transpired, as opposed to acknowledging that – by the man’s own words – their supposed ‘friend’ was really a scoundrel. Dieter, a close ally, a longtime comrade, the person most likely to place great faith in Walter’s testimony…even he was so immersed in a culture that covered up revelations of this nature, that he could not break free. This culture. This rape culture.

Walter and Dieter’s tete-a-tete showed that, even when a rapist explicitly admits to his crimes against women, people just do not want to know.

Solidarity, brothers & sisters…

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Polite Conversation At Dinner

Big family. Big table. Big opinions. Big voices. Big arguments.

Dad slowly having a meltdown as he realises how much of his hard-earned money is being greedily shoveled into his brood’s ungrateful faces. Mom shushing his nervous remonstrations while she lovingly regards her feeding flock. The kids, used to their father’s dinner-time denunciations, take no notice as they continue holding court on the weightier issues of the day. In between mouthfuls.

“There’s no God…”

“Is too! You slow or somethin’?! You just had your confirmation-”

“How can he be all-good, all-knowing and all-powerful?”

“Well, he’s… It’s…”

“If he’s all those things, how come suffering exists?”

“Why’d you say the Pledge of Allegiance, then?”

At this the youngest interjects with her own philosophical conundrum.

“What’s a ‘lee-junts’?”

Know-it-all brother, having been slightly stumped by the previous question, is grateful for the sidebar.

“It’s when you stick with something – or someone – no matter what. Like, a leader or an idea; if you pledge ‘allegiance’ to them, you’re promising to be loyal – even if they’re wrong.”

“Even if they’re wrong?!”

Sister wide-eyed in confused disbelief. Informative brother nods.

“That’s dumb.”

Her elder laughs adoringly. “Well duh!”

Dad desists his financial worries at last, raising a finger authoritatively. With surprising immediacy, his vocal children cut out, looking at their father.

“That’s…not quite right. Allegiance means that your leader, or idea, or whatever it may be…cannot be wrong. You are swearing before any and all witnesses that you will believe in their rightness – their righteousness – until the end.”

Pater familias paused slightly, to let this sink in, before conceding;

“Still dumb though.”

The whole table burst out laughing.

Solidarity, brothers & sisters…

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