Monthly Archives: April 2022

The enduring Irish love for a bandwagon

(This was written for last weekend’s Irish Independent; I trust they won’t mind me firing it up here…)

Presumably, everyone reaches that age where they become neurologically incapable of understanding or retaining new instructions. The grey-matter computer just won’t process the information.

This could be how to programme a piece of unfamiliar technology, or engage with the latest social media app – or even grasp what the app is supposed to do. I knew I’d reached this point when my children tried to explain Ludo – “It’s a really simple game, you throw dice and move along the board” – and my tired old brain refused to compute.

This probably explains why I’ll never play Wordle. I’m sure it’s fantastic. I just can’t get my head around…well, any of it.

What’s the point again? Is it acronyms? A quiz? Or like Scrabble, but without the board and cute little “troughs” for resting your letters? It’s acronyms, right?

In short, head no get Wordle why point.

Also, as you age, you get less bothered about trying new stuff – I believe the technical term is “couldn’t be arsed” – so Wordle and I were, like Romeo and Juliet, doomed from the beginning.

As is often the case, however, I seem in the minority. Wordle is a bona fide phenomenon – and the Irish have embraced it our customary gusto for anything new.

Ireland was recently named as “the leading Wordle-playing country in the world”, after research by an “online gaming platform” found 13 percent of the population googled “Wordle” every month. Britain was well back in second, at 9.4 percent. This, we can assume, translates to higher gameplay per capita than other countries.

When I read that Irish people had got into Wordle more avidly than anyone else on the planet, my first thought was: of course they have. This was my second thought too, and all subsequent thoughts.

We love a bandwagon, and always have, whether good or bad. We go nuts for any new fad, wheeze, development or social-cultural trend. A recent example is our world-record embracing of masks, vaccinations and restrictions…until Government sounded the all-clear and then we abandoned them, equally zealously.

It’s not only modern life: Irish people, it seems, have always reacted wildly to changes in the weather, be that figurative or literal (this proven by our hysterical response to every bit of a storm).

Go back a few years and we had an enthusiastic public vote for legal abortion. But go back a few years before that, and you had an enthusiastic public vote against abortion.

During the Celtic Tiger we took more cocaine than anyone else, and went completely doolally for property. In the 1980s we went to Mass more than anyone else – but simultaneously swore, cheated, fought and generally broke the Ten Commandments at a rate not seen since the glory days of Sodom and Gomorrah.

We shout loudly about pride in the tradition and primacy of Irish nationhood, yet insist on playing the role of class swot within the EU – the mildest critique verboten in our public discourse.

Travel to the 19th century, and Ireland had one of the highest global rates of both drunkenness and temperance, at the same time. How does that even work? Far in the distant past, we took barely five minutes to throw off millennia-old paganism and become the most ardent Christians in Europe.

Our lemming-like rush to embrace the new is summed up by an amusing meme, captioned “I support the current thing” and festooned with masks, syringes, BLM symbol, rainbow colours, Ukraine flag and so on.

What explains this tempestuousness in our nature? Is it passionate national character, which wants to go all-in on everything? An insecurity compelling us to copy what other peoples are doing?

Maybe we’re just bored all the time, forever craving a dopamine hit of freshness and unfamiliarity. We’re certainly susceptible to that headlong rush to “be on the right side of history” (whatever that can possibly mean, if anything).

It’s funny…and kind of sad. Personally, I have more respect for someone who sticks to their guns, an authentic position they arrived at themselves – even if I disagree –than one who jumps on every passing bandwagon like Pavlov’s unusually stupid dog.

We should probably think things out for ourselves a little more. I don’t necessarily mean some big “do your own research” thing. Just stop, take a breath and use the God-given faculty of sense and logic inside your head to arrive at your own conclusions, not someone else’s.

Or, indeed, none at all. It’s okay to not “have a position” on every bloody development. Just like me and Wordle.


Shiver is resurrected from the dead . . . just like Sláine

Shiver the Whole Night Through – if you’ve read it, you’ll recognise the name and resurrection reference in that headline – was published in 2014. That’s seven and a bit years ago, which is both amazing and horrifying to me.

Anyway, the novel lives on to some extent. An excellent new book recommendation website called shepherd.com – kind of a nicer, less weird and less vicious (and way more attractively designed) version of goodreads – recently contacted me, asking if I’d like to write something to promote Shiver on there. How it works is that you nominate five books, on a theme somehow related to your own. So, for Shiver, I went for “Best books where the forest feels like a character in its own right” . . . which is one of the core elements in my own masterwork. My selection included Italo Calvino, Angela Carter, Tolkien, Ballard, bit of Twin Peaks . . .

But that’s enough yakking out of me. Read the full thing here.

Then come back to this website and read a piece I wrote in 2014 – that’s so long ago! – which goes into more detail on how surrounding forests profoundly influenced me when writing Shiver. And that piece, my friends, is right here . . .