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The Badger

Meet the Ma – comic boxer of small kids



Acclaimed comedian and writer Tommy Tiernan offers his unique perspective on the world at large in his column by ‘The Badger’.

I met my wife online, the Curraghline to be exact. She was selling Wexford strawberries by the side of the road and I was looking for something to fill a tart.  We got off together straight away and after that got on quite well together too. She’s one quarter Japanese, one quarter Inuit; the rest, she says, is up for grabs. And I grab it as often as I can.

We have a holiday home out beside Lackagh Quarries, the rhythm of the diggin and the explosions gives us great peace altogether. When the pace of life in Mountbellew gets too hectic for us, we always head up there.

Anyway, the mother came down last week to stay with us for a few days. She loves coming West during the summer. For the rain, she says. Tis a different class o’ rain than what she’d be used to up there in Meath.

Oh the Royal County rain is full of nutrients and vitamins, helps grass grow, good for dairy cattle and fast racehorses. I hear it’s a cure for baldness too. Bottles of the stuff being exported to China to keep the Oriental hairy.

Galway rain is an altogether more acidic beast. There do be days out West where it feels like pure vinegar falling from the sky. Tis the closest Mother Nature ever came to inventing her own bleach.

I know a man from Camus who shaves with it, tis that sharp out his way. Of a morning, he just leans the head out the bathroom window, no need of a razor blade at all, and the rain wipes the hair off his face. What women do be doing standing out in the nip in it is their own business.

Anyway the mother was down and a rare woman she is too. She worked in fairgrounds most of her life. Travelling the country twelve months of the year from Dungloe to Dingle and from Carlingford to Carna. She was a female comedy boxer and she used to fight children.

It was harmless enough for the first few years, the kids would pay a few quid and get into the ring with her.

She’s have big soft gloves and give them a soft clatter here and there, but nothing dangerous. She always let them win and they were delighted with themselves getting out of the ring after.

Around the menopause something changed. She got dark and started bateing the kids badly, often with the gloves off.

They had to let her go, too many wains getting seriously hurt and too many parents bringing their kids to get bet.

She went off to the Aran Islands to try and get her head together and met me father on the edge of a cliff on the longest night of the year, which out on Aran is every second night.

My father was a very sensitive creature who would get a fright clearing his own throat, but somehow this timid man and this woman in her wildness hit it off.

They decided to drive back to Dublin together stopping off to make love in every graveyard they passed on the way but they only got as far as Portumna.

He thrun her down on a grave in the sean reilig near the workhouse and mid-coitus realised the name on the headstone was the same as hers. She started laughing maniacally but it put the fear o’ God into him and he ran off, last to be seen stark naked on the sprint towards Ballinasloe.

Me mother went on alone, or so she thought. Miracles of miracles, there I was forming inside her, she thinking that she was beyond all that malarkey and she was most displeased.

She swung into the Garda barracks in Athlone and tried to have me arrested for trespassing on private property.

They said they couldn’t do that because she didn’t have a sign up and that at that early stage of my development I didn’t even have a head. The Guards have a strict rule of only arresting people with heads.

In order to appease her, they said that once I was born they’d have a word with me not to do it again. She accepted this and over the next nine months literally grew to love me. My lovely Mammy.

You know there’s a lot of talk these days about mothers’ rights and unborn babies’ rights and when does a person become a person? At what stage of cellular development do you become human?

My own personal opinion would be is that it’s not until you finish your Leaving Cert and a mother should have all options open to her up until that moment.

I’ll leave the implications of doing Transition Year and repeating the Leaving up to the courts.

I was born on the exact spot where the Boyne and the Blackwater meet, me mother had a leg in either river and out I popped on to the grassy gap.

She got a job punching cattle unconscious in the abattoir.

I had a fine childhood, but she asked me leave the house when I hit puberty. I did but I didn’t go very far, just out to the driveway and I stayed there til I was 18.

She’s happy enough now. She turns old rifles into pool cues for ex-IRA fellas, cos even though the war is over they still like shooting balls.

Anyways she was down last week, that’s all.

The Badger

Wherever you find my cat – that’s my home



Acclaimed comedian and writer Tommy Tiernan offers his unique perspective on the world at large in his column by ‘The Badger’.

I was at a funeral last week.  A woman I used to know (God be with the days when I used to know women) had passed away. She had a long and protracted battle with cake and in the end the cake won. Tis an awful dose, cake and she had it bad.

A man came up to me.

Did you know the deceased? he said.

I did, I replied.

Was it the Sponge Cake or the Madeira that got her in the end?

A Fruit Crumble, I believe.

Jayzz. There’s so much self-raising flour in that woman, she’ll be the first one up on Judgment Day.

I was sitting in the church and I fell into a chat with a fella who kept falling asleep. He was awful tired on account of the anti-allergy tablets that he was on. They made him very drowsy, he said.

I asked what he was allergic to and he said stimulation and that the only way to cope with living somewhere as vibrant as Galway was to keep taking the tablets. I’d rather sleep somewhere exciting than be awake somewhere boring he said, before heading off to snooze through the 2020 celebrations.

Anyway the stimulation out this side of the country can get a bit too much, there’s always something happening. Tis a place of great distraction and for creatures of a contemplative nature it can at times become a bit overwhelming, so meself and the cat headed east in search of peace.

Not that they don’t have their pageantry back that way too, there’s a statue of Joe Dolan in Westmeath begod, and I think they built a town around it and there’s a book in Kells. They gather round it once a year to look at the pages and some of it is coloured-in too.

I took the train as far as Athlone (I hadn’t the strength to take it any further, me back was done in), past the Irish Official Space Authority (IOSA for short) or St Paul’s Cathedral as locals call it and decided to walk the rest of the way. Sure isn’t that what feet are for?

I hopped off into a field and, following no man-made track, made me way towards the town where I was born. The further east I went, the flatter and duller things became. I ploughed on and on til the mind had been robbed of anything to fixate upon and there it was. Navan.

Spelt the same way forwards as it backwards. Handy if passed the sign too fast, you could look back and still know where you were.

The High Kings of Ireland used to live there, in MacEvoy Avenue I think. Some of their relations are still about the place. Oh you’d know by them that they used to be something, dressed in buckskin, walking round with their wolfhounds and the doorbell that sounds like a harp.

Newgrange is nearby, nearly 4,000 years old but that’s nothing compared to Oldgrange which is so old that they haven’t found it yet.

I strolled on past the meat processing plant that used to sponsor the football team. They were some team back then, huge athletic bovine men fed on nothing but silage and growth hormones.

Side effects, sure there were a few. The bigger lads grew hooves and all of them mooed. A lot of them earned more for their families as cattle after their careers were done than they ever could have as people. I had a slice of a half-back once, a tasty wee player as they say.

My father was at home listening to the radio, as he always does, with the sound turned off. I went in the kitchen.

Well, the Badger, he said.

Well, Dad, says I.

And then we said nothing. He made a pot of tea using rainwater and me mother’s tears. He keeps them in a bowl near the window. At least we know we’ll never run out.

Any plans? says I.

We don’t talk about the future here, lad.

Oh. When did you decide that?

We don’t talk about the past either.

And then we said nothing again for a day-and-a-half.

What with all that silence I got to thinking which is – as the Nun said holding a head dress made from old venetian blinds – a dangerous habit. Anyway the subject of a united Ireland came into me head and what we might do if it ever comes to pass. Keep going is what I say. No need to stop there. Sure isn’t Scotland Celtic too? We could go after that and then Wales and Brittany would surely follow. There’d be no stopping us then!

On to Scandinavia and our Viking cousins and from there the Slavs and the Rooskies (most of them is from Roscommon) and sure half of Poland is here already and then the Turks. We’d use them to lever our way into Persia and then the Indians.

Momentum by this stage would be huge, China is only dying to be told what to do and don’t they have half of Africa in their pocket? Before you know we’d be in charge of everywhere. Imagine it folks, a United World. Sure how could the UNIONists object to that? The sound of me conclusions were rattling round me head.

I looked up at the aul lad.

I came east in search of peace, I told him.

He thought for a while and then replied: But sure everywhere is east of somewhere else isn’t it?


And sure everywhere is North of somewhere else or South or West.


Well then.

Well then, what?

No matter where you are, you’re everywhere. You needn’t have come here at all, you were here where you were. That’d be the Navan way of telling you to go home.

The cat got up and left. I followed shortly after.

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The Badger

Thinking is no help to your head space



Acclaimed comedian and writer Tommy Tiernan offers his unique perspective on the world at large in his column by ‘The Badger’.

I was at home the other evening and I couldn’t relax. There was too much on the telly I couldn’t choose. I got the remote control and went at it with a screwdriver. I hacked off all the buttons bar the power one. I thought I’d leave it up to fate to decide what I’d watch, just switch the thing on whenever I got the inclination and see what turns up. Just be grateful for the distraction.

Well there I was anyway watching a documentary on Meath TV. There didn’t seem to be much of a storyline just lots of CCTV footage taken from around the Navan Shopping Centre mixed in with scenes from the Moynalty Steam Threshing Festival.

Then didn’t Tipperary TV come on after it and that was 45 minutes of watching a tap running in a kitchen in Nenagh. From there it hopped into Fermanagh TV where I saw a thing called The Life of a Sausage although in fairness it could equally have been called The Death of a Pig.

It followed a banbh from birth through frolicking about in the sty, ateing all round him happy as Larry, on to the factory into the slicer, some of him is rashers, some of him is black puddin, in to the cellophane wrapper and out on to the frying pan.

Quite an educational little piece. Very clever animals is pigs although looking back maybe not all that clever at all.

And all the time some beautiful country and western music playing in the background. Big Jim and The Ferret Snatchers sing the songs of Lulu.

I thought I was enjoying it but after about an hour I saw meself stand up and scream so I got out of the house quick.

I went down by the Docks. I’m always drawn to water in times of great stress. When things is getting tight upstairs I’ll often go into the toilet stick me head down and flush it a few times and let the water wash the hassle off me, oh the Cisterns of Mercy as Leonard Cohen used to sing, or stick me face repeatedly into the goldfish bowl for as long as I can hold me breath for.

Oh the kids know well enough to leave Daddy alone when they see him do that. If I’m out and about and things are getting on top of me, I head for water.

Well that’s easy enough if you live near the sea like we do but what if you’re someplace like Offaly or Poland? What do you do then? Is whisky water?

I was walking around thinking these things when what should I pass but a sign advertising a Meditation for Beginners. I had tried to read a meditation book one time. It said find somewhere quiet and comfortable to relax. Now close your eyes. So I went to bed and fell asleep for the day.

Just as I’m about to move on this fella comes out and he says to me.

Are you looking for relief?

I am says I, how did you know?

You’ve the look of a searcher, he says.

A lot of people say that about me. They say the look I have is a beguiling cross between naivety and pain. Balding and gormless would be another way of putting it.

Slip in here, he says pointing toward the meditation room, it’ll do you the power o’good.

Now I’m a man that knows me own mind and no one tells me what to do. I’d be possessed of a fierce independence, I’d go me own way and be known for it, comes across as stubbornness sometimes, but there you are.

No one tells me what to do, especially a stranger down by the Docks. So in I went.

Down the corridor, strange writing on the walls, although to call it writing was a bit of a stretch. The markings were rough and crude but it was a code of some sort for sure.

Is it Munster Irish? I enquired.

He put his fingers to his lips and beckoned me follow. We walked through a doorway into a large room with nothing in it ’cept 8 men sitting cross legged on the floor staring at the walls.

Pick a spot he says, and off he went.

I looked around, saw a space and sat down. I drew meself into the classic yogic position with me right leg over me left and me hip twisted back over the other side and me toes in me pocket.

I threw me left leg over the top of me head using me shin as a scarf and me calf as a hat and began staring at the wall. I sat there for twenty minutes staring at the wall.

All was going grand until I started thinking. With nothing to distract me the thoughts came fast and furious. A whirlwind of thinking. Me brain was ateing itself.

An unstoppable stampede of thinking. In order to stop meself going mad altogether I started humming classic TV theme tunes from the 70’s. Any port in a storm lads.

I had made me way through The Sweeney and was about start into Dallas when the fella beside me asked me to leave. I unravelled meself, but the contorting had taken its toll.

Me legs were now facing the other way entirely. I was like the back end of man horse and had to moonwalk to get out of the place coherently.

I made me way to the Myles Lee bar on the corner. I sat on a chair and got them to put a tea towel over me face, hold me head back and pour stout down me throat. I call it porterboarding.

There’s no peace anywhere.

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The Badger

Rise and fall of religion coming in from the side



Acclaimed comedian and writer Tommy Tiernan offers his unique perspective on the world at large in his column by ‘The Badger’.

People often ask me how I feel about religion. Not what I think of it, but how I feel, and I always tell them this little story.

I was on a Laudanum bender with my very good friend The Archbishop of Choom. Laudanum is a heroin-based cough suppressant and my pal was thinking of using it at Mass instead of the wine.

We had studied theatrics together in Belmullet in the early 1980s. Twas just the two of us living in a caravan at the time, translating Ibsen into Old Irish and then putting the plays on in the town. Fair to say we were unloved.

We did a two-man Gaelic version of An Enemy of the People, renamed An t-Asshole, on the back of a truck driving round the parish.

We drove through every estate and down each boithrín within an eight-mile radius of the youth cub. Twas hard going. The roads are bumpy up there and we were probably being driven a bit too fast for anyone to be able to keep up with the story. We fell off a good few times.

He was a star though. Even back then I knew he was destined for greatness, his ability to conjure meaning out of nothing and make everything he said sound believable was truly awe-inspiring. Little did I know that he was destined to the religious life.

Of course he had dilly-dallied with the fairer sex, but in Belmullet the fairer sex is rough enough. Couples often take it in turns to be the fairer sex and tis many the Monday morning you’d see big men a little unsteady on their feet and jumping every time a door opened.

From there he went to France to live in a cave with six Dominican nuns and emerged a year later with a one-man show entitled Christ Almighty, What Was That! which went on to get a special mention in the drama section of the Ploughing Championships.

Such was the depth of his ecclesiastical knowledge and such was the width of his wisdom that it wasn’t long before he came to the attention of the mystical wing of the Catholic Church, men, and women disguised as men, who travel so deep into the bowels of the mind that they drop below dogma and rules and a lot of the time below coherence.

What they needed was a vessel who could travel far under the surface of things and yet emerge understandable. They believed that Milo was their man. He wasn’t up to much so he said he’d give it a lash confiding to me over the phone ‘it’s a gig Tom, it’s a gig’.

We often speak over a phone and if it rings, we take it in turns to answer. He did the seven years training in a fortnight and only spent an hour being a priest before being promoted up the ranks and handed the Archdiocese of Choom which was often thought of by the powers that be of being an incidental parish on the outskirts of Europe where experiments of a theological nature could take place without anybody really knowing, least of all the inhabitants.

They knew well enough though and said nathin, content in that age old Irish tradition of playing dumb in order to be left alone.

Milo took chances with Mass, he used to say it sideways. Music could only be played on animals that were still alive and he made a point of baptising cattle and hedges and attending conceptions.

He blessed petrol, wore transparent plastic trousers and during Lent ate only magic mushrooms and drank only cold Barry’s tea. He was working hard at the coalface of perception.

He spent a year walking backwards, only to end up right where he started. He had a mask made of his own face which he used to wear on himself, sometimes to the back sometimes to the front.

He had his right hand amputated and grafted on to his left wrist and his left hand taken off and put on his right.

A fine enough idea but once he had it done he couldn’t shuffle cards or deal a hand of 25. He’d be looking straight at you, aiming for you and throwing cards left and right onto the floor. And at dinner would often send his fork into his ear and him aiming for his mouth.

Three days of the week he muttered inaudibly to himself in Hebrew, a language he didn’t understand but somehow spoke fluently. Of course the parishioners sometimes sickened of him and used to throw him down a well for a few days when they saw him getting a bit hyper and leave him there til he came back to himself. But most of the time he was cherished.

Anyway there we were the two of us, leaning over the phone, yapping. The laudanum was by now wearing off and we had resorted to poitín to help take the edge off our comedown.

It had been brought to him by the children of the local primary school who had made it themselves as part of a project on rural disobedience. It was tough stuff.

A hint of apple at the front with a jammy aftertaste and the middle bit tasting like fermented Lynx. We were on our fifth glass when he said to me:

I think I need to lie down

I told him he was already lying down and then he said

Well then I need to get up

He stood up and almost immediately collapsed back down again

Well, he said, that didn’t work out quite the way I had it planned

You’d be as well off staying where you are now I told him

I am Chumbawumba he declared struggling up again

And thus proceeded an awful half hour of rising and falling, rising and falling

I haven’t the knees for this, he said

And that’s how I feel about religion, I don’t have the knees for it.

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