The pot calling the kettle black

An item caught my eye the other day.

Authorities fume: 25% of cigarettes smuggled into Republic

Now I can't understand why the "authorities" are fuming over this.  Dame Enda is constantly telling us that the backbone of the country's economy is the indigenous small business so surely he must be delighted?  Here we have an example of entrepreneurs seeing a huge demand for a product and they are merely supplying that product at a price that people can afford.  I say fair play to those entrepreneurs, they're doing a brilliant job.

The gubmint, far from congratulating them are calling them "organised criminals".  I find that rich in the extreme.

Let's look at this so called "crime".  Is there anyone being harmed by this smuggling?  No.  Obviously it's an enterprise that people condone, else it wouldn't exist, so where is the "crime"?  Well, the only thing the gubmint loses is their excise duty, so basically they are just furious that they can't rip us off because they have been sidelined.

The gubmint considers it is justified in stealing from the customer an exorbitant and disproportionate tax on a product simply because that gubmint disapproves of that product.  They add a massive tax onto that product with no apology and have bragged that they are going to further increase that tax disproportionately.  Furthermore that same gubmint adds more and more taxes to their little revenue stream and if we disapprove and refuse to pay, they have given themselves the ability to dip into our pay packets and pensions and take whatever they feel like.  They take from me whatever they like and I have no chance to protest?  Is that not theft?  Is this not mugging under another name?  Is this not organised crime on a gargantuan scale?

There are those that will claim that the smugglers provide substandard goods.  Maybe so, but that is a matter of quality control and a case of caveat emptor, and has fuck all to do with the gubmint's complaint.  They are worried only about their revenue stream and frankly couldn't give a flying fuck about quality except as a bit of propaganda to try to dissuade people from using their competitors.

So here we have a gubmint condemning private enterprise, employing unfair trading practices and libeling their competitors, while at the same time ripping their own customers off left right and centre.

Who are the organised criminals here?

Dear Journal

I used to keep a diary.

Well, that's not strictly true – I used to keep a journal, because diaries are only kept by Victorian young ladies and Samuel Pepys.

Anyhows, I started writing one back in '82.  I used to get a day-a-page book at work where I was supposed to mark in appointments and shit like that, which I never did and the book used to get burned to supplement our modest coal supply.  In January '82 it snowed rather heavily and as usual the entire country ground to a standstill.  I was stuck at home, bored out of my skull when I saw the empty book full of empty pages and started writing.

I kept it up to date for the best part of thirty years and then I stopped again.

The reason I stopped was that it became intensely boring, particularly in the latter years when I was working for myself. 

"Got up.  Made a mug of tea.  Worked until 6.  After dinner went down the pub.  Bed at 1am."

Next day –


You can only write Ditto so many times before things get a little tedious.

Things were a tad more exciting back in the RTE days but not much.

"Up at 7.  Got into work late.  Boss is in a foul mood.  Fixed the network in the Radio Centre.  An hour and a half to get home through crap traffic.  Knackered.  Watched telly.  Bed".

Again, the routine became a routine in itself and was only lightened a bit if I had a blazing row with the boss, or someone in the office got carted off to the Funny Farm.  Sometimes someone would get electrocuted or stab themselves with a screwdriver, but the fun days were few and far between.

I can't even read the journals now they are so boring, but occasionally one comes in handy when I want to find out when I was last in court, or what year it was when I went to Dingle on my holidays, so I keep 'em.  If nothing else they look quite impressive taking up an entire shelf of a bookcase.

My biggest regret is that I didn't keep  journal during the Seventies.

Jayzus but they were great years!  College days, escapades first on my motorbike and then the car, the drinking and the carousing, playing on stage at the Cambridge Folk Festival and the Kilkenny Beer Festival [anyone remember that?].  Music sessions in pubs that carried on into the small hours.  There were whole weeks that disappeared in an alcohol induced haze which I could have read about after [except that my writing would have been illegible].  There was the craic we used to have in RTE in the Good Old Days before the organisation became overrun with bureaucrats and accountants.  There were the parties where you would get a great high just by inhaling the blue haze in the room.  I had better not mention the wimmin in case Herself reads this.

I started the decade in college without a clue where I was heading.

I ended it with a missus, a year old babby and only nineteen years to run on the mortgage.

Now that was a journey worth recording.

But I didn't.


The lighter side of business

A few months ago I mentioned my quest for a decent pipe lighter.

My Peterson and I have been very happy together, but as with all things that cross my path, things started to go wrong.  I decided to contact James Fox, which is the company where I bought it.

Dear Sirs,

Last December I bought a Peterson Pipe Lighter from your good selves [I’m actually recycling the old receipt here to save paper].

To say that I was delighted with my purchase is an understatement. Having worked my way through many lighters, none of which was quite up to standard I was glad at last to have a pipe lighter that worked consistently, didn't require endless clicking and lasted more than five minutes without a refill. I noticed at the time that the top assembly was slightly loose [it sort of rocks, but not in the way that modern youth uses the term], but I assumed then that it was just a "feature". Maybe it is? Maybe the fact is irrelevant to this letter?

Anyhows, my new lighter and I have been very happy together over the months, but unfortunately it started to act up a short while ago.

The first symptom was that the jet decided not to shoot out the side as it used to. It started swiveling and at one stage it blasted straight at the flint wheel, which made it sort of hot to touch. Somehow that seemed to rectify itself and it worked normally for a few days. It started getting fancy then and would shoot flames out in different directions, sometimes even in opposite directions. While the pyrotechnics were quite impressive it wasn't quite so successful at lighting my pipe. Then a few days ago it just seemed to give up the ghost.

I had an old Vector pipe-lighter which I managed to resurrect. It's a clunky somewhat unreliable yoke and burns gas faster than a Shuttle Launch but at least I could light my pipe [with regular trips to the local shop for gas]. I was messing around with the two lighters [as one does] and noticed something a tad alarming – if I went near the Peterson with a naked flame it sprang to life with a pretty blue flame dancing around the business end, even though the cap [or whatever you call it] was in the closed position. It looks lovely but isn't big enough to light my pipe. I would hazard a wild guess that there's a leak somewhere?

I was wondering if there was a quick fix for this? Is this a common problem? Is there a spot on it that I can hit with a lump hammer to jar it back into submission? I know all the spots to hit on my car, television and wife to thump to get them to work and was wondering if there was a lighter equivalent? I tried removing the base but there is nothing there of interest, and I would be scared to meddle with anything around the top.

Any ideas would be appreciated.

Thank you for your time,


I didn't really expect a reply.  Irish companies tend to be a bit forgetful once they have made the initial sale, but then the following popped into my mailbox.

Dear Grandad,

We would like to thank you for your kind letter, which we thoroughly enjoyed.

From the symptoms you describe and judging by my long experience of turning half broken lighters in totally useless pieces of hollow metal, I would think that the valve of your lighter is blocked.

While a hammer may not be a useful tool for it – just yet – , an old toothbrush would. When I say “old”, I mean the ones that have the softness of a paint stripping wire brush and make your gums bleed just by looking at it. If you wet the brush and give the valve a good scrub it may clean off the blockage and the lighter will spring back to life.

In regards to the rocking lid, this is something that happens after a while, as there is only a small screw holding the whole lid assembly together. It reminds me of my poor grandmother, God bless her soul, when her replacement hips became a little lose. Her doctor at the time said “She will be fine, we must have to tighten the screws”. I was not sure which screws he meant, but I guess this solution may work in the case of your lighter too for a while.

If any of these doesn’t work and your lighter keeps acting like a hormonal teenager, please return the lighter back to us for a replacement. It will not go to waste as I am sure Dublin City council would be more than happy to use it for the new year’s firework display on college green.

Our address is as follows:

James Fox

119 Grafton Street

Dublin 2

D02 E620

The only problem in the case of an exchange is that the Chrome Stripe finish has become as hard to find as a hen’s tooth. The only ones that we have available at present are in Satin, Green, Blue and Red, so please let us know which colour you would be interested in.

Yours Truly,

Yiorgos Manesis

Being the adventurous sort, I thought I would give it a try.  I had nothing to loose and if I royally fucked it up I could always return it and blame the damage on the postal system?

Dear Mr Manesis,

Thank you for your very helpful reply.

I took your advice and attacked the lighter with a suitable toothbrush [I’m sure my wife won’t mind?] and in the process unearthed the little screw you mentioned.  Maybe you shouldn't have mentioned it as I then felt compelled to unscrew it?

To cut a long story short, I discovered that the bolt that the screw goes into wasn't quite as tight as it should be.  Also I managed to straighten the main cap which for some strange reason has always been bent.  I cleaned out the whole lot and reassembled it.  The cap no longer rocks!  Problem #1 is fixed!

With some trepidation I lit it and it works!  What's more, when I hold a flame near it nothing happens so the leaky thing seems to be history.

It seems to work perfectly now with just one small proviso – it shoots the flame sideways as it should, but it also shoots vertically, so it's now a dual purpose lighter in that I can light a pipe and a cigarette simultaneously.  While this might be a nice party trick I am still a tad nervous that the whole caboodle is about to explode.  I have attached a little snapshot of it in action, so you can see the quite impressive effect for yourself.

Dual flame lighter

If you can assure me that the device isn't likely to spontaneously explode then I am quite happy with it as it stands.

Thank you for all your help.


Dear Grandad,

You have done a damn good job with the lighter; this brings the term “Double Flame Lighter” to a whole new level. I would have asked to buy it off you, but I am afraid mingling it with my facial hair may not go down well.

I showed the photo to David McGrane, our resident lighter surgeon, who spoke some words that I would be too embarrassed to transcribe in this email. He said, though, that if you look closely (meaning with a magnifying glass that is as strong as NASA’s Kepler telescope) you will see there are two little holes in the valve, where the gas is jetted out. He reckons one of the two holes has some dirt stuck in it, which results in the gas escaping in all different directions. If you take a small pin and scrape it out, then the gas will go the way it is supposed to. He went on then for another two hours waffling about the anatomy of the lighter while drawing some sketches that looked like a combination of Chinese and Linear B.

Try that and see if you have any better luck with it. I doubt that there would be an explosion, just refrain from repairing it while cooking on the BBQ. If it still doesn’t work, please send it back to us and David will attempt to repair it, or we will send you a replacement of one in a beautiful colour that it is so bright that it could be seen from outer space.

Best Regards

Yiorgos Manesis

Dear Mr Manesis,

I hope Mr McGrane was criticising my photographic efforts rather than my attempts to fix the lighter?

I can guarantee that my dual flame is fully beard proof [which reminds me that mine needs a trim].  I know about the double hole gizmo as my eyesight is remarkably good when I'm not wearing my spectacles.  I cleaned out both with a pin but still have the dual flame effect.  My theory is that the gas is escaping around the side of the valve seating which is a little annoying but not life threatening.  I think I'll hold onto it and if it decides to misbehave again in a life threatening fashion I shall get back in touch.  I may actually buy a second one as I have a strange habit of losing things.

Thanks for everything, and regards to Mr McGrane.


So that's that.

Since then my lighter has reverted to behaving itself and now works as it did in the beginning with a single flame shooting out the side.  I don't know what happened to the second flame but it's gone.  Paradoxically, I miss it.

Herself never complained about her toothbrush being black.  I don't know how I got away with that one.  Maybe she has a second brush I didn't know about?

As for James Fox, what more can I say?  Excellent?  Brilliant?  Leastwise they have deserved a little place of honour on my sidebar, so if you're into pipes, cigars, whiskey or any of that stuff, nip over and take a look.

And I'm still contemplating buying a spare Petersons.

Preparing for an ice age

I have never believed in this man-made global warming shit.

From the start, logic alone told me that the influence that man has on the climate is miniscule at best.  It's like a supertanker's cat being afraid to go near the side of the ship in case his weight capsizes it. 

The Earth's climate is an vast intricate machine on a cosmic scale.  It would therefore take something on an equally cosmic size to affect it, and that is obviously the sun.  When you realise that the Sun constantly pumps something like 174,000 Terrawatts at the Earth [that’s 174,000,000,000,000,000 Watts, 24 hours a day] you realise the scale of things.

Of course the fact that the Sun is variable in its output is a boon to the Warble Gloamists as they can blame the variations on mankind and then spend billions [nay, trillions] on trying to fix the unfixable.  By the time mankind wakes up to the Big Con, it's too late and the fortunes have been made.

I read with interest Christopher Booker's latest where once again he debunks the latest frantic claims about ice caps shrinking and alarming warnings that the sky is about to fall on our heads.  The debunking of the alarming predictions is now as commonplace as the predictions themselves.

What caught my attention though was a wee link buried in the comments.

Irregular heartbeat of the Sun driven by double dynamo

Now here is an eminent society producing a model that predicts events with a 97% accuracy [compared to the 0% accuracy of the Warble Gloamists].  What's more, this is on a cosmic scale so if I were a betting man I would place my entire vast fortune betting that their predictions of climate change are damn near on the mark.

So they predict that in fifteen to twenty years we are going to experience another Maunder Minimum, or to put it in layman's terms – a mini ice-age.  This is going to upset the Gloamists considerably, but they'll probably just claim that the ice-age is due to the success of their efforts and demand more taxes.

So my advice is to get out those fossil fuel burners.  Burn as much crap as you can in your garden.  Bring back London Smog.  It won't make the blindest bit of difference to the climate but it might keep us warm enough to survive.

And if the Glaomists really want someone to blame for the disappearing ice caps, I suggest they look to Belfast.

There's a hotel there selling melted ice-cap [i.e. plain fucking water] at €37 a bottle

Another enterprise taking money off fools because of melting ice.

Not so smart

I quite like my mobile phone.

I believe it is classed as one of those "smart" phones, but frankly I can't work out why.

It does lots of interesting things like taking notes, acting as a stop watch [handy for boiling an egg], reminding me what bins to put out and when, and it even acts as a telephone.  It idles away the time if Herself is shopping as I can snoop around looking for wireless networks, or in extreme cases it can act as a SatNav which would be handy in a strange city to find my way back to the car [if I could remember where I parked it].

But none of the above is really what I would class as "smart".  After all, I still have to do all the work and tell it what to remind me about, or tell it how long to boil an egg.  Now if I were heading down to the village and it suddenly piped up and told me I had forgotten to put my trousers on, then that would be smart.

There are a couple of things I have learned to do with it.  The first is to disable Mobile Data as that chews up my credit.  The second is to disable WiFi [or Wiffy as our bold senator would have it] as that chews up the battery.  So in the normal course of a day, the only thing my phone is capable of doing is sending and receiving phone calls, which when you think about it, is its raison d'être? So no problems there.

So why is it that every time I wake my phone from its slumbers it bitches about being short of memory?  It tells me that my RAM is full [why does that make me think of Welsh hill-farmers?] and that I have to clear some memory immediately.  It then gives a list of programmes that are running.  It lists off shit like Chrome, Email, Twitter and a load of other crap that I haven't used in ages, if ever.  Now I have killed all these programmes as there is no point in them if I have disabled Mobile Data and WiFi, so why the blind fuck to they keep reappearing?  I kill them, and ten minutes later they're fucking back!  Why does it insist on launching these programmes behind my back?  Even worse, why is then complaining to me about something it has done?

Good phone?


Smart phone?

It's about as fucking smart as a stoned heroin addict in the gutter.