MICHAEL MOYNIHAN: Searching for inspiration in November depths

Here we go. That time of the year again.

Here we go. That time of the year again.

Around about this date every year the rash of games and events, of press calls and meet-and-greets, the launches and the lunches, the announcements and arrivals . . . those dry up. You flick open your mail every morning and silence. Nothing. The odd communication, maybe, from tumbleweed@nothing.com which leads to opening that last drawer in the office desk, and then opening the folder underneath the 2009 desktop calendar and the blueberry muffin that you forgot, the folder with . . . close season ideas for pieces.

What’s in here?

It’s funny - you pull out the folder and realise that this is where you banked some of those ideas for a dry period, but it’s so long ago now that you can barely understand what you were thinking as you scribbled a few key terms, never mind the effect you were looking for.

Some of these ideas are more easily understood than others. There’s a napkin from a fast-food restaurant noting some now long-forgotten flash of inspiration over the curly fries: there are a few jottings across it - “Music > ending not start”, which rings a faint bell about national anthems, but nothing else.

Is it about national anthems being moved to the end of events, is it about general notions of music during sport? Who knows?

Then there’s the neatly printed-off email which unfortunately didn’t get configured properly ahead of printing.

As a result the list of ideas reads like this:

repares for a big game.
and Irish sportspeople - compare and contrast.
urret in diary form (but with humour, obv).

That ‘obv’ is my favourite part of the entire folder.

Beyond that there’s a list of people to interview, but the issue there is that it’s handwritten. True confession: my handwriting is hard to read, even by me, but even making those allowances I’m fairly sure that Langad O’Knnn is not a real athlete.

What use is that?

Another page has one word written on it. Anniversaries.

On the surface this looks promising, because there are always anniversaries (they come around regularly every year says you, ho ho).

The trouble is that if this is a dead time of the year traditionally, how many anniversaries can there be of all those things that don’t happen in the first place?

The next sheet is from a child’s exercise copy, which I know because on one side it has some earnestly-worked-out problems involving the principles of addition. On the other side is a weird shape, like the target in a shooting range, with words scattered around the shape at random intervals. It reminds me a lot of something I once read about Gay Talese and his writing process - the son of an Italian tailor, Talese would make notes on shirt cards, the cardboard inserts that you find inside shirts in shops. Having picked up the habit writing at home as a kid, he continued with it when he became a journalist.

In fact, after I interviewed Talese he sent on a note in the post written on one of the cards . . . and of course, remembering Talese’s note I realise that what I have in the folder. I surely decided to try to emulate the great man’s technique by plotting out a piece by tracing the outline of his shirt card on the page . ..

Well, I’m glad it worked for him.

Anything else in there?

A few flyers for some class of a pilates class. A bus ticket, Bristol-Portsmouth. A receipt from Brown Thomas for Creme de la Mer face cream. Wait up. My skin regime is unflagging, but Creme de la Mer face cream?

Is this my desk?

Because if it isn’t, where are those off-season ideas I’m relying on?

Tom Brady, I’m coming for you...

I don’t want to get anyone too worked up, but it looks like it’s on.

Me versus Tom Brady.

Regular readers will know of the long-running feud between me and the famous American football player, one which has its origins in (no, dear God, no — readers regular and irregular).

For reasons to become clear later in the week, I will soon visit Boston, Massachusetts. Where Mr Brady lives when not starring in the NFL with the New England Patriots.

Look, I’ve been in Boston before. Myself and a pal traipsed around most of its bars and restaurants in 1989 trying to get work before he got sense and headed for Cape Cod and I got sense and headed to Connecticut. It’s a big city, Boston. Couple of million people. I get it.

Have no doubt, though, I’ll meet Brady when I get there. Karma being what it is, I fully expect to be coming out of the International House of Pancakes some morning and to bump into Brady as he lowers some non-caffeinated beverage which does something ridiculous to his bicep muscle.

I’m a quiet man. I’m also an unfit man, and Brady is a professional athlete, so on the surface it looks an unequal conflict. He’s on home soil. I just had the buttermilk pancakes stuffed with a Denver omelette and endless refills.

But it’s still on, Brady. You have been warned.

Fans bordering on the creepy

I didn’t watch a lot of the big games on Saturday for a whole host of reasons but . . . Ronan O’Gara in a double-breasted suit jacket?

Is he going to coach in New Zealand or visiting the year 1984?

That was only the second-creepiest video going around, however.

Hundreds of Irish soccer fans drinking outside a women’s underwear shop in Copenhagen, cheering when women came out?

Nothing weird about that at all. Just a bit of fun. Who on earth could possibly find that creepy?

(For any literalists out there who may be taking the above at face value, this is the answer: absolutely everyone.)

Be prepared for return of Spanish flu

Pale Rider by Laura Spinney isn’t a novel — the clue is in the subtitle: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How It Changed the World.

It’s a terrific, absorbing account of the most terrifying plague ever to sweep the world; it struck almost a century ago and may have killed more than 50m people. Nobody knows for sure.

What’s frightening about this illness is that a repeat pandemic is seen as very likely, and would result in a similar death toll.

Spinner’s survival advice is to hoard your food and water and “ignore all pleas for help”.

By the way, Spanish flu is so called not because it started there, but because the King of Spain got the disease and it was widely reported upon in that country, where there was little wartime censorship. Hence the name.


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