Archive for the ‘Blog of the Rams’ Category

Taking on the Banks … and Winning

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

What do you do when a group of Nigerian scam artists defrauds you of thousands of euros, and your bank subsequently accuses you of negligence and refuses to refund you the money? Why, you simply counter-accuse the bank of GROSS negligence, present them with irrefutable evidence and await the refund.

In September 2007, two days into a one-month trip from Tokyo to Moscow, I found myself in Siberia without any money after discovering my credit card had been copied by a group of Nigerians in Tokyo who had maxed it out and defrauded me of circa. €3,500.

My return to Ireland marked the beginning of a tiresome and infuriating battle with the bank in an attempt to get the money refunded to my account. After countless phone calls and numerous letters, I eventually got most of the money back. The following excerpts are from my final five-page letter that demonstrates why you should never mess with a Cavan man and his money …

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Further to my comments in the letter dated 6 November 2007, let me enlighten you on credit card fraud scams that have been prevalent in the Roppongi and Shinjuku areas of Tokyo for the past five+ years. It is widely acknowledged that Nigerians, who own and run a number of bars in these areas, have been linked with “padding” credit card bills and committing other credit card crimes. Indeed, credit card fraud is rising fast throughout Asia. No doubt this will be news to your Financial Crime Prevention Unit (FCPU).

[Numerous paragraphs on the particulars of the case followed]

Negligence has, as the FCPU stated, been evident in this case. However, rather than negligence on my part, all such accusations can be pointed directly at [name of bank].

At the end of this letter I have attached a detailed account of transactions and attempted transactions on my credit card account from 9-25 September. The list is quite simply staggering.

I would like to know what sort of a primeval system [name of bank] has in place when the following can occur:

  • 18 transactions/attempted transactions in a two day period (9-10 Sep.) totaling the princely sum of 3,069,600 yen (€18,875.90 at the current exchange rate).
  • One of the aforementioned attempted transactions was for 1,000,000 yen (€6,149.31)
  • Debit information that clearly shows me to be in Tokyo (Japan) on 9 September, Kyoto (Japan) on 10 September, Ulan Bator (Mongolia) on 16 &19 September and Irkutsk (Russia) on 20 September. It then seems that I returned to Japan (and strangely enough to a city, Chiba, that I’ve never even heard of). It appears that I went shopping there on 21 September and completed my sojourn in Toyko later that day. Four days later (25 September) I resurfaced in Novosibirsk (Russia) where I made several attempts to withdraw money but to no avail.

Even the infamous Willy Fog would have had trouble keeping up with the travel itinerary that your records show. But apparently [name of bank] doesn’t have a system in place to spot major irregularities in the levels of activity showing on a customer’s account.

At no stage did [name of bank] attempt to contact me to find out why, over a two day period, €18,875.90 worth of transactions were attempted on a card with a limit of €4,700. Alarm bells should have been ringing from the moment the first debit was made from my account in Club 101, but instead [name of bank] sat idly by as I was defrauded again and again and again – the most recent fraudulent transaction occurring some 12 days after the first.

I don’t believe any other bank in the country has such a shambolic approach to customer care and security. I find it extremely ironic that the “Financial Crime Prevention Unit” is so named. My experience is that [name of bank] has done nothing to protect me and was grossly negligent in failing to spot the severe discrepancies on my account during the period 9-25 September. My credit card statements for the past few years show that all activities on my account during the aforementioned timeframe were totally at odds with the norm.

As an 11 year customer with [name of bank], I have been appalled by the efforts, or lack thereof, of the FCPU to properly investigate my case. It’s certainly easier to tick the “negligent” box and say “case closed”. However, I will not stand for that.

I have been robbed once by ruthless scam artists. Now it seems that [name of bank] would have me robbed a second time and charge me appropriately (via monthly insurance charges) for the pleasure.

The purpose of this letter is to afford [name of bank] a final opportunity to resolve this matter to my satisfaction. Failure to so in a timely manner will leave me with no other choice but to seek retribution through the Financial Services Ombudsman Bureau, the Director of Consumer Affairs or, if need be, my solicitor and the courts thereafter.

I look forward to your response and cooperation in this matter. Please also acknowledge the receipt of this letter at your earliest convenience.

Ronan Smith is the author of Munterconnaught’s best selling comedy memoir, Lord of the Rams. Described as “a real treat to read that you will devour” (The Irish Post), “a diverting and entertaining read” (Evening Herald) and “genuinely funny” (Books Ireland), the book can be purchased for €10 (including worldwide P&P) directly from the author via http://www.lordoftherams.com/buythebooksigned.htm. Read FREE extracts of the book at www.lordoftherams.com.

Celebrating Lord of the Rams Day

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

This Sunday 24 July 2011 will mark the three-year anniversary of the launch of Lord of the Rams.

To celebrate the most auspicious occasion that is Lord of the Rams Day, I have released a new Lord of the Rams story, which is available exclusively to followers of my Facebook page at www.facebook.com/lordoftherams.

Those of you who read Lord of the Rams may recall a story about a dog eating something vile that he shouldn’t have. A number of readers have mentioned this part of the book to me over the past few years, and some said I went too far – that I perhaps shared too much information.

So, if you are of a weak disposition, I must warn you. This new story is utterly disgusting. I like to call it “A Genuinely Shit Lord of the Rams Story”.

Until next time!

Ronan Smith is the author of Munterconnaught’s best selling comedy memoir, Lord of the Rams. Described as “a real treat to read that you will devour” (The Irish Post), “a diverting and entertaining read” (Evening Herald) and “genuinely funny” (Books Ireland), the book can be purchased for €10 (including worldwide P&P) directly from the author via http://www.lordoftherams.com/buythebooksigned.htm. Read FREE extracts of the book at www.lordoftherams.com.

Travelling the World—A Lot Done, More to Do

Thursday, May 19th, 2011

How many countries have you been to? And how many cities? What is your favourite place in the world?

It’s very seldom these days that you meet somebody who doesn’t like travelling. We are remarkably blessed to live in an era where we can travel to the other side of the world in less than 24 hours. Once you have money and time at your disposal, the world really is your oyster.

Anybody who read my comedy memoir, Lord of the Rams, will know that I was already 22 before I went on my first foreign trip. However, I’ve made up for a bit of lost time in the 11 years since then. Although I’ve never taken a year out to go travelling (as seems almost obligatory these days) I do try to get away as much as possible.

I’m also a sucker for statistics and, in researching my travel habits for the work-in-progress Lord of the Rams travel memoir, I’ve realised that I’ve:

  • Been on 44 foreign trips (an average of 4 per year) since 2000
  • Visited 23 countries
  • Visited 57 cities (plus many towns, villages, etc.)
  • Spent more time in London than any other city (43 nights over 17 visits)
  • Spent more time in England than any other country (50 nights over 19 visits)
  • Spent 219 nights outside Ireland, of which I have spent:
    • 127 nights in Europe
    • 36 nights in Asia
    • 33 nights in North America
    • 19 nights in South America
    • 4 nights in the air between continents

But of course travelling isn’t about statistics. It’s about new experiences, people and places.

Over the years, I’ve walked the Great Wall of China, peered into the Grand Canyon, trekked to Macchu Picchu, and rambled around the excavated city of Pompeii.

I’ve bob-sleighed in Sigulda (Latvia), hang-glided over Rio De Janeiro, segwayed around the streets of Copenhagen, gone horse and camel riding in Terelj (Mongolia), sea-fished in Mar Del Plata (Argentina) and Helsingborg (Sweden), rode the Bullet Train in Japan, travelled across great swathes of Siberia by train and retraced the steps of Vlad the Impaler in Transylvania.

I’ve stood atop the Empire State Building and the Sears Tower, walked under the city of Edinburgh, explored caves in Postojna (Slovenia), gambled in Las Vegas, stormed around Graceland in Nashville and treaded silently around Anne Frank’s house (Amsterdam). Museums, palaces, an unhealthy amount of European castles, and an almost endless list of tourist attractions have all been conquered in London, Saarlouis, Saarbrücken, Metz, New York, Manchester, Boston, Edinburgh, Amsterdam, Utrecht, Beijing, Xian, Chengdu, Hong Kong, Ljubljana, Postojna, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Antonio, Austin, Nashville, Memphis, Chicago, Riga, Cesis, Sigulda, Kaunas, Vilnius, Dusseldorf, Cologne, Eindhoven, Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Ulan Bator, Irkutsk, Novosibirsk, Ekaterinburg, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Berlin, Basle, Budapest, Brasov, Sighisoara, Rome, Assisi, Hamburg, Sorrento, Positano, Rio De Janeiro, Lima, Cusco, Aguas Calientes, Buenos Aires, Mar Del Plata, Swansea, Cardiff, Bath, Liverpool, Copenhagen, Helsingor, Helsingborg and Malmo.

But travelling isn’t always plain sailing. I’ve been defrauded of thousands of euros by Nigerians in Tokyo, witnessed sickening bouncer violence and police corruption in Cologne, slept outside in sub-zero temperatures in Basle, cracked several of my ribs in Copenhagen and—worst of all—been accused of being American or English on more than a few occasions J But you have to accept the rough with the smooth, or you might as well stay at home.

Right now I’m planning a trip to the east side of Canada this summer. And there’s still a tonne of other places I want to experience: Chile, Bolivia, Columbia, Poland, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam all come to mind; not to mention the unvisited continents of Africa and Australia! And there’s many places I would love to go back to: Rio, Cusco, New York, Texas, Mongolia, Beijing … the list goes on and on.

London, New York and Boston all featured in colourful detail in Lord of the Rams, and I’ve also posted stories from my time in Las Vegas and Latvia ( i.e. extracts from the work-in-progress follow-up) on this blog. I look forward to sharing more misadventures in the future.

In the meantime, it’s time to get back to planning Trip 45!

Ronan Smith is the author of Munterconnaught’s best selling comedy memoir, Lord of the Rams. Described as “a real treat to read that you will devour” (The Irish Post), “a diverting and entertaining read” (Evening Herald) and “genuinely funny” (Books Ireland), the book can be purchased for €10 (including worldwide P&P) directly from the author via http://www.lordoftherams.com/buythebooksigned.htm. Read FREE extracts of the book at www.lordoftherams.com.

Feel free to share your travel stories in the comments section below.

Writing a Best Man Speech: 7 Tricks of the Trade + Video

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

I was very honoured and proud when Stephen, one of my closest friends, asked me to be his Best Man a number of years ago. For me, the role of Best Man is perhaps the greatest honour one male friend can bestow upon another, so I was genuinely humbled and excited by the task ahead.

Obviously the Best Man has a number of roles, but the most important one is undoubtedly the speech. I had already attended a number of weddings but could remember very little of the Best Man speeches – i.e. many of them were instantly forgettable. For Stephen’s wedding, I wanted to deliver something that:

  • Would make the newly married couple and their families proud, without embarrassing or offending anybody
  • Would be original, entertaining and fondly recalled by the guests.

In the months leading up to the wedding, Stephen gave me a Best Man speech-writing book he owned. He and I both presumed it might be of use. Upon reading the book, however, my first thought was that it was rife with bland and clichéd examples, boring advice, and negligible humour. I knew there was virtually nothing in the book that I would use in my speech. Part of this probably stemmed from the fact that, for better or worse, I often tend to do things my way – by ignoring or tearing up the rulebook.

So that’s what I did. Right from the off, I envisaged doing something visual – perhaps telling a story via a PowerPoint presentation. This might seem like a brave move – one to be tackled only by somebody who is very at ease with public-speaking. But in fact the opposite was true. I had never spoken in front of 130 people before, and I dreaded the thought of standing in front of them – everybody staring at me as I draw a blank and forget my lines. If at all possible, I didn’t want to be relying on notes either – fumbling through them to find the next part of my speech (as I’d often seen at weddings).

A PowerPoint speech would help deflect the guests’ attention from me to a large screen. It would also act as a visual aid, helping me to remember my lines easier. Possible technical issues aside (with the laptop, projector and remote), the PowerPoint option seemed like the way to go.

So I began thinking of ideas for the speech – running them through in my head and then looking for images to bring the “story” to life. Despite my insistence of doing things my way, there were a number of “rules” that I tried to follow, and that I would advise others to follow when writing a Best Man’s speech.

1        Know your audience
There will be a broad range of people at any wedding: young children, elderly people, maybe a priest or two. With that in mind, make sure the speech is profanity-free and that you don’t talk about ex-girlfriends or how your friend was a big slut in a past life – this is neither clever nor funny.

2        Reach out to your audience
Your speech should appeal to a large demographic. Not everybody at the wedding will know the groom well, or the bride for that matter. Your job is to ensure that you talk about the groom in an entertaining way so that your stories paint him in a strong light and reveal something of his personal life. Even though the speech I wrote for Stephen’s wedding was a tongue-in-cheek sketch of sorts, I did manage to incorporate plenty of real-life facts such as Stephen’s school nickname, his achievements at school and college, his science background, the first date with his wife, etc.

3        Don’t forget about the bride and bridesmaids
Most Best Man speeches should begin with compliments, firstly to the bridesmaids and then to the bride (I edited this section out of my speech on YouTube in order to cut to the chase). Towards the end of the speech, you should try to introduce the bride into the proceedings – perhaps with a funny tale about how she and the groom met.

4        Rehearse – but wait until the day before the wedding so that the speech is fresh in your mind
I was fine-tuning the speech for Stephen’s wedding right up until the evening before the big day. Only then did I begin rehearsing it. First I rehearsed it using sheets of cardboard  (containing the entire text for the speech) and then I began rehearsing it without the notes – only referring to them when I got stuck or drew a blank. After I had delivered the speech about three times without forgetting any bits or leaving anything out, I was reasonably confident that the work was done and I was (almost) ready for the real thing. To rehearse any speech, I would recommend that you are in a room on your own, free from distractions. I also used the TV remote as a practice microphone to help with the rehearsal process – you’d be surprised how awkward a microphone-shy speaker can appear if he hasn’t held a mic before.

5        Accept that not everything will go right on the day
No matter how much you rehearse a speech, it’s unlikely that you will remember everything you intended to say. I’ve been fortunate enough to be Best Man at three weddings (Stephen’s was the first) and, for all three speeches, I can recall inadvertently omitting small-medium chunks. Fortunately, all my speeches were in the 10-15 minute range so when I forgot something, I just moved on – and my audience was usually none the wiser. And sometimes I didn’t even realise I had left out bits until afterwards. If you’ve practiced your speech enough, then you won’t forget anything critical on the day. There will always be natural wastage, but chances are you will add a few ad-lib pieces on the day, so it will all balance out.

6        Nerves are Normal
I was very nervous on the day of Stephen’s wedding – sweating like a pig in fact. And because my speech was dependant on the seamless integration of a laptop and projector, I had to worry about potential technical difficulties as well as fluffing my lines. Apart from a nervous start and almost tourettes-like use of “Em” throughout the speech (which I also put down to nerves), I think I delivered the speech as well as I could. But practice makes perfect, and by the time I delivered my third Best Man speech in June 2010, I can honestly say that I wasn’t nervous at all. Nerves are normal though. Try to ensure you open your speech with a witty one-liner/introduction – this will help put both the audience and you at ease. Then you can relax and charge on with the rest of your speech.

7        Enjoy the Experience!
Speaking in front of a large audience at a wedding can be a very rewarding experience. You will never have a more receptive audience – and the free-flowing wine at most Irish weddings certainly helps in this regards. Have a few drinks yourself to relax, but don’t overdo it. Once the speech is behind you, you can enjoy the rest of the night and hopefully bask in the glory – plus handshakes and multiple congratulations – of a job well done. Remember, your friend could have asked anybody in the world to be his Best Man, but he chose you. So you owe it to him to do your best. As my mother used to say when I was a young lad, ‘As long as you do your best, then I’ll be happy.’ Touché.

So, here’s my speech from 2006. I hope you enjoy watching it as much I enjoyed doing it.

Best Man Speech by the Lord of the Rams

Ronan Smith is the author of Munterconnaught’s best selling comedy memoir, Lord of the Rams. Described as “a real treat to read that you will devour” (The Irish Post), “a diverting and entertaining read” (Evening Herald) and “genuinely funny” (Books Ireland), the book can be purchased for €10 (including worldwide P&P) directly from the author via http://www.lordoftherams.com/buythebooksigned.htm. Read FREE extracts of the book at www.lordoftherams.com.

Getting on the Property Ladder

Saturday, August 14th, 2010

As mentioned in a previous blog, I recently purchased an apartment in Dublin. My new home is in Mountjoy Square, an area steeped in history and associated with a number of famous writers such as James Joyce, Sean O’Casey and WB Yeats. Lawyers, churchmen and politicians have also lived in the square in the past—and Joseph Napier, appointed Attorney General for Ireland in 1852, lived at my exact address—one of a number of Georgian buildings that have been redeveloped as apartments in recent years.

Arthur Guinness spent his later years in Mountjoy Square until his death in 1803. Dáil Éireann held meetings in the Mountjoy Square home of the republican Walter L Cole prior to the foundation of the Irish Free State. And most recently, the critically acclaimed movie Once was filmed in an apartment on the Square.

And it is in Mountjoy Square where I hope to continue my writing after a four-month break due to the stresses and trials thrown up by moving house. Although this is my first venture onto the property ladder, it reminds me of an episode from my life some time ago (as featured in Lord of the Rams).

I was about to start second year in college and had made the long two-bus journey from Cavan to Waterford to view prospective accommodation. Goosey, my flatmate from First Year and long-time friend, had stated clearly that I could get any place of my choosing so long as it was not Flat 4A—the infamous hovel we called ‘home’ the previous year …

Exclusive Extract from Lord of the Rams: The Greatest Story Never Told
Arriving in Waterford, the Rams had a little less than two hours to find a home. With the internet still in its infancy, the only way he could hope to spot anywhere remotely suitable would be by combing through the morning’s newspapers. Unfortunately, a few phone calls confirmed that most decent dwellings had been snapped up a few hours prior to his late-afternoon arrival in the city. At last, however, he happened upon an advertisement for a three-bedroom house, centrally located and within a few hundred yards from the phone box where he was standing.

‘This looks promising,’ he thought, dialling the number included with the advert. A gentleman, who identified himself as an auctioneer named Joe, agreed to immediately meet the Rams on a city centre street.

Ten minutes passed by and the Rams was still waiting patiently for Joe to arrive. For the majority of that time a suited businessman had been leaning against a railing a few feet away, occasionally glancing over in Rams’s direction. Realising that time was against him, the Rams called out to the stranger, the returned greeting leaving him in no doubt that he was now speaking to the auctioneer. Joe seemed almost surprised that Rams was the same person he had conversed with over the phone, but the confused expression quickly gave way to one of cheer, and he spoke amicably with the Rams as the pair walked the short distance to a house around which Joe provided Rams with a grand tour before sitting down to talk business.

The house was nothing special, but it goes without saying that it was a definite improvement on Flat 4A. It had three reasonably sized bedrooms and its location was quite close to the part of the city the Rams was most accustomed to. Having asked the usual pre-rental questions regarding bills and utilities, Rams put the million-dollar question to the auctioneer.

‘So how much is this place per month?’ he asked.

‘It works out at 32 pounds each per week,’ replied Joe, alluding to Rams’s earlier comment that he would be moving two other people in with him. The rent was a little higher than Rams had hoped for but, with only 20 minutes remaining until the bus for Dublin departed, this was not the time to be playing hardball.

‘Well, I’d be fairly interested in taking the place. How much of a deposit are you looking for?’

‘Five percent of the value of the house and, once I receive that, I can hold the place if you’re waiting for your mortgage to be processed.’

‘What was that?’ gasped the Rams, scarcely comprehending what he was hearing and almost needing to hear it repeated lest his ears were deceiving him. ‘You said something about a mortgage there. Is this place not for renting?’ he asked.

‘Of course not,’ Joe replied, looking slightly peeved upon realising that he had wasted valuable time showboating the house to the poorest student in Ireland. ‘I was thinking you were a bit young to be buying the place,’ he added, before quickly showing Rams the door.

With mere moments remaining until the call of Cavan beckoned, Rams sprinted to a nearby phone box and dialled Mickey Rooney’s mobile number. It was the last thing he wanted to do but, given the circumstances, he didn’t see himself as having much of a choice.

Mickey’s phone rang for several seconds before an unmistakable gruff voice could be heard at the other end of the line. Rams rushed through the necessary small talk before asking if Mr. Conway had any properties other than Flat 4A available for renting at that time. Apparently Conway had a nice vacant town house, which would be perfect for the lads. But since Mickey was attending a horse racing event in Tramore that day and Rams was rushing back to Cavan, it was agreed that Rams would ring Mickey the following day to continue the conversation and perhaps—at least in Rams’s mind—provisionally agree to rent the property.

Unfortunately, the resultant telephone call squashed any hopes Rams had of living in anything other than squalor for the college year. Mickey, changing his story from the previous day, stated that the house was undergoing refurbishment and wouldn’t be ready before Christmas. All was not lost, however, because another property was available for renting immediately and at a fair price.

‘Goosey, how’s it going?’ yelled the Rams into the telephone receiver.

‘Not too bad. How did ya get on in Waterford?’

‘I have good news and I have bad news.’

‘What do you mean, Rams?’ asked Goosey, sounding slightly concerned.

‘The good news is that I found us a place to live in for the year.’

‘Nice one; for a minute there I thought you were going to say you got nothing.’

‘Well, the bad news is that it’s Flat 4A.’

And with that, the phone went dead.

Did you like this story? Maybe you’ll enjoy Lord of the Rams, featuring anecdotes and misadventures from my student apartment in Waterford in the late nineties. Purchase Lord of the Rams: The Greatest Story Never Told (with free worldwide post and packaging).

Moving House: Memories from Christchurch View

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

8 years. It’s a significant percentage of anyone’s life. And it’s a very long time to spend living in the same rented apartment.

It seems like only yesterday that I moved into an apartment in Christchurch, Dublin. I had been living in a cramped two-bedroom apartment nearby for two and a half years, but the time had come to move on.  The move to Christchurch turned out to be a great one.

A month after I moved in, the lease-holder of the apartment bought a place and moved out. I was delighted—he had very little to say for himself and was one of those rare people I knew I would never get on with. That left me and Ed, a Dubliner who had been living there for a few years, on the look-out for a new tenant for the large double room. A Roscommon man,  a fellow Ronan, eventually moved in, and it wasn’t long before we began partying it up at Christchurch.

Ed moved to Boston to get married around May 2003, and all manner of people moved in, and moved on again, over the years—Leanne, Ian, Mark, Denise, Deborah, Kara, Julianne, Anke and Karen. Nicole and Danusia also lived there on and off at various stages. And Mark held the distinctive record of actually living in the apartment twice (following a year in between stays working in London). Ronan stayed at Christchurch for 5 1/2 years before eventually moving on, only to be replaced by Andrzej who stayed for over two years.

Dublin (and indeed Ireland) has, in some ways, gone from hero to zero in the past two years. And this has certainly been reflected in the rental market. Finding long-term tenants has become very difficult (the last four tenants were all visiting Dublin for just a just a matter of months) and so I recently decided to move out of the apartment along with my other housemates Andrzej (moving back to Poland) and Karen (going travelling).

I am currently in the process of purchasing an apartment and am hoping to move into it soon.

I left Christchurch with some happy memories and funny stories from my time there. And I’ll sign off today with just one recent story that remains fresh in my memory …

………………… Memories from Christchurch View …………………

It was April 2009. An Irish guy had arranged to view the spare room after Deborah had moved out. The rental market, however, had changed dramatically in the preceding few months. Where once 50 people might reply to a room advert on Daft.ie, now this number was closer to four or five. So I was delighted that John Joe (not his real name) was Irish—not because I’m anti-foreigners (far from it) but because I presumed he would be around for the long haul.

Anyway, John Joe shows up. And he’s fat—morbidly obese in fact. I’d say he’s about 25 stones (or 350 pounds). That’s fine; no big deal but I do start thinking that I might have to hide my Weetabix from this guy if he moves in. But I have no intention of moving him in. Why?

Well for a start, John Joe has brought his sister with him. She’s a rough diamond—looks like she could cut a man’s balls off just by looking at him. At first I think she’s John Joe’s mother—she’s got to be in her mid-sixties, but I suspect a diet of cigarettes and alcohol may have played their part in the ageing process. But John Joe is no spring chicken either. I reckon he’s nigh on 40. In truth, he seems a nice enough guy. He’s quiet, but then again he’s not getting much of a chance to put his views across since his sister is doing all the talking.

Maybe I’m assuming too much at this stage but I get the feeling that John Joe has lived in the nearby family home (or with his sister) for most of his life. And now the sister is forcing him out into the big bad world to fend for himself. Shame she didn’t do it sooner. John Joe moving out at 40 and viewing apartments with his dangerous looking sister doesn’t help ingratiate him as a prospective housemate with me.

Anyway, after showing John Joe and his sister around the living room, kitchen and bathroom, and making the same lame joke I always do about our two fridges (“One for food and one for beer”  Boom Boom!), I invite them to follow me up the spiral staircase to view the bedroom.

I steal a quick glance at John Joe’s massive frame and think: “There’s no way this guy is getting up these stairs.”

So the sister bounds up the stairs along with myself, and we enter the room. It soon becomes apparent, as I envisaged, that John Joe is having difficulties.

I keep the sister talking, or she keeps me talking—I’m not quite sure which. She is very interested in the room and apartment (Who’s moving in here? Her or John Joe? I’m beginning to wonder!).

“I can pay ya a deposit right here today,” she says, and I’m almost too scared to tell her that other people will be viewing the room and I would move a monkey in before living with her over-pampered, can’t even get up the stairs brother.

John Joe eventually makes it into the room after about a minute or so. He’s sweating profusely and I’m wondering what the legal implications might be if he drops dead in the apartment.

The sister at last asks him his opinion on the room, barely waits for his response and then tells me that, “We’re very interested in taking the room.”

Off she goes down the stairs, and John Joe follows. I’m hoping that gravity might help him with his return journey, but things don’t turn out that way. As John Joe rounds the first bend, he becomes stuck in the stairway. He looks to be well and truly wedged. I don’t know where to look (I’m standing upstairs just beside the top of the staircase) so I try to encourage him and make him feel better by telling him that it took me three or four months to get the hang of walking up and down the staircase.

After a good two or three minutes, John Joe manages to free himself and somehow gets to the bottom of the staircase without bringing it crashing to the floor.

The sister takes one look at her visibly tired and mentally traumatised brother, and she shouts up the stairs at me.

“It’s no good. He’s too big. He’ll never get up and down them stairs.”

And with that, she opens the door and drags her embarrassed brother out with her.

Did you like this story? Maybe you’ll enjoy Lord of the Rams,  featuring anecdotes and misadventures from my student apartment in Waterford in the late nineties. Purchase Lord of the Rams: The Greatest Story Never Told (with free worldwide post and packaging).

First Exclusive Extract (Draft) from Lord of the Rams 2

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

I’m off to Vegas tomorrow for a five-day trip, so I thought this might be a good time to share a short story from my first time in Sin City back in 2005. This is a draft excerpt from Lord of the Rams 2: A Tale of Four Continents (so it may undergo significant editing before publication). Coincidentally, all of the main characters in this extract will be joining me in Vegas this weekend. Who knows, maybe a new chapter will be written. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this wee story, which I think provides a small glimpse into some of the excesses associated with Vegas. Feel free to post your comments below.

…………………Draft excerpt from Lord of the Rams 2: A Tale of Four Continents…………………

Situated on the Las Vegas Strip, The Venetian Resort Hotel Casino was the largest AAA Five-Diamond resort in America. It boasted over 4,000 suites at an average size of 700 square feet; a 120,000 square feet casino; several large nightclubs and restaurants; a Madame Tussaud’s museum; and the 1,760-seat Blue Man Theatre, which played host to the world-famous Blue Man Group. Add in one gigantic shopping mall and canals on which one could avail of gondola rides, and it’s easy to see why The Venetian stood out in a city brimming with stand-out resorts.

The hotels in Vegas were designed so that one must pass through the wallet-emptying casinos en route to one’s room. And The Venetian was no exception. After successfully navigating the gauntlet with their wallets intact, the lads reached their twin suites, which impressed mainly due to their sheer size and the abundance of couches and chairs that helped make up the decor.

One hour later they were seated in one of the resort’s many restaurants. Rams had set a personal target of eating as many steaks as possible on the trip, so he was particularly looking forward to a good fillet of beef following the so-so meal in LA the previous evening. A well-dressed gentleman showed the lads to their table before introducing them to their waiter. This certainly wasn’t one of those restaurants where the man who greets you at the door also waits the tables, slaughters the cows out the back, cooks the food and washes the dishes. After ordering a beer each, the lads skipped straight to the mains.

A ravenous Rams ordered his usual—fillet steak, French fries and a side-order of fried onions. The waiter, just like his international counterpart in Ljubljana earlier that year, didn’t seem too sure about the onions part of the order, but he eventually nodded, gathered the menus and scuttled off in the direction of the kitchen.

Within half an hour the waiter returned to the table. Courteous almost to a fault, he circled the lads, presenting Goosey, Dowd and Hartley with their meals before placing a large plate in front of the Rams.

‘Where are my chips?’ thought the Rams, and then he realised there was a bigger problem at hand. The chips arrived a moment later as a side-dish but there, nestled on the dinner plate beside a succulent eight-ounce fillet, was a huge mother fucker of a lobster.

Rams stared aghast at the arthropod, silently wondering if ‘onions’ meant something else in Vegas. Goosey, sitting across from the Rams, was quick to quiz the waiter.

‘He didn’t order the lobster. What’s the story with that?’

Rams nodded in agreement, but the waiter simply shrugged his shoulders and said, ‘It’s all included,’ before disappearing almost in a puff of smoke.

‘Ah sure lobsters must be ten a penny over here,’ remarked Hartley as the lads began tucking into their first shared meal of the holiday.

Rams, ever the pervicacious diner, shovelled the sea creature onto Dowd’s waiting plate. The shameless one was beaming and licking his lips at the prospect of eating two meals for the price of one. And the gastronome was still polishing off the lobster when Hartley called for the bill.

‘Ah for fuck sake,’ bellowed the Rams upon picking up the bill. ‘Just over 360 dollars. Are these guys for real? Sure we only had two beers each and a main course.’

Unsurprisingly, Rams’s ‘all included’ steak-lobster combo had come in at over 80 dollars.

‘And I didn’t even eat the lobster,’ complained the Rams, but the tiny claw remnants protruding at that moment from Dowd’s cave-like mouth suggested that the lads would have little grounds on which to make a complaint. Dowd had done an admirable job of devouring the evidence, but at least he wouldn’t have to eat again for a few hours.

—END—

Purchase Lord of the Rams: The Greatest Story Never Told (with free worldwide postage and packaging)

Tracing Your Irish Roots

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009

Writing a book, even a comedy memoir such as Lord of the Rams, requires a certain amount of research—especially when you’re relying on memories from 20-odd years ago. Research can simply involve talking to family members and friends to confirm your recollections, or it can involve looking through books or websites to confirm facts and figures.

Of course research can be a fascinating hobby in its own right:

A work colleague recently sent me a link to the National Archives’ Census of Ireland 1911 (http://www.census.nationalarchives.ie/) website. And once I began looking up my ancestors, I was hooked.

This amazing digitisation of the Census results from 1911 provides information such as name, age, sex, relationship to head of the household, religion, occupation, marital status, and county or country of birth.

Despite the fact that only one of my four grandparents were alive in 1911 (and only one survives today), I was able to track down the Census information for all of their immediate families.

Tracking down my grandfather Smith’s ancestors was especially fun. My grandfather, John Smith, was born in 1912—one year after the Census took place. However, his father’s name was also John. But that didn’t make my search any easier. Anyone with a passing knowledge of Cavan will know that Smith is one of the most common names in the county to this day—and few names more popular it would seem than John Smith. In fact, the census site records 250 John Smiths in Cavan in 1911.

Fortunately, after asking my father a few questions, I was able to narrow down my search by townland and I eventually identified my grandfather’s family for certain by the names of his brothers and sisters (thanks again to my father’s vague but useful memories). And in an eerie twist, my great-grandfather’s handwriting on the Census form was almost identical to my father’s—the resemblance was uncanny.

The Census site also provides other fascinating information on land/buildings owned by a family and the number of children born alive vs. the number still living. It’s an amazing insight into life in Ireland almost 100 years ago. The 1901 Census information will be released in due course. In the meantime, start digging up the past from 1911 at http://www.census.nationalarchives.ie/.


Lord of the Rams heading to Le Chéile and The Virginia Show

Friday, July 17th, 2009

To celebrate the 1st year anniversary of the release of Lord of the Rams, here’s two big dates for your diary if you’re in Meath or Cavan over the next few weeks and still haven’t picked up a copy of Lord of the Rams.

As mentioned in the recent Cavan Post article, I will be selling and signing copies of my book at Le Chéile on Sunday 2 August and The Virginia Show on Wednesday 19 August.

Le Chéile is an arts and music festival, which has been taking place in Oldcastle, Co. Meath for over a decade. Past music acts include The Blizzards, The Frames and The Undertones, with renowned comedians such as Des Bishop, Barry Murphy and Neil Delamere providing the laughs.

This year’s line-up is no less exciting with Lisa Hannigan, Delorentes, Mundy, and funny man Jason Byrne amongst the strong line-up over the course of the 4-day festival. For more information, see www.lecheile.com. And keep an eye out for me at the event on Sunday afternoon 2 August – drop by and pick up a copy of my book.

With a 68-year history, The Virginia Show is one of the longest running and largest agricultural shows in Ireland, with over 20,000 attendees in 2009. I will be selling copies of Lord of the Rams in Virginia on the day – so there’s no excuse for not buying a copy if you’re at the show!

Check the Lord of the Rams website in a few weeks for photos from the events.

Lordoftherams.com – 1 Year Anniversary

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

Well it’s hard to believe it but this website and blog went live one year ago this week. It’s been an interesting 12 months to say the least.

Marketing and selling Lord of the Rams has proven to be a tougher job than I imagined when I launched the site, but the past year has served as an invaluable learning experience, which will no doubt stand to me in the future.

Whilst reviews of Lord of the Rams have been largely favourable, ultimately it’s the opinion of the readers—the people who spend their hard-earned money on the book—that count.

Today, I’m going to share some of the comments I’ve received from readers over the past year. It’s always nice to receive positive feedback and, whilst I have no doubt that there are those who didn’t like the book, such individuals have thus far chosen to be silent for the most part.

Some Feedback from Readers of Lord of the Rams:

“I am getting strange looks on the Tube as I’m pissing myself laughing.”

“This is the first book I have read from front cover to back, I think it should be part of the leaving cert novels. Well done, very good and enjoyable to read.”

“I loved your book. Very funny.”

“My mate from Cavan read your book – he said it was very clever and that you might be a bit mad!”

“You have a storytelling talent.”

“Had to actually pretend to have a coughing fit on the Dart to hide my laughing at your book.”

“It’s really good, very funny and very enjoyable … kinda similar to some of Roddy Doyle’s stuff … It’s well written, very easy to visualise and very entertaining.”

Keep the comments coming – good or bad!

By the way, Lord of the Rams will be on sale at two large outdoor events in Meath and Cavan  later in the Summer – more info to follow in a future blog!

Lord of the Rams can be purchased via Amazon, Play and most online book retailers.


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