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COLM TOBIN: Trawling the dark web to keep fuelled up on dark winter nights

October 3rd, 2022 11:00 AM

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IT’S usually around this time of year that I start budgeting for the winter in earnest. It’s funny the way it seems to coincide with the government’s own decision to do the same.

Flathúilach Sunshine Colm, who spent the summer swanning around West Cork buying iced coffees on a whim and spending a fortune on last-minute midnight kayaking trips, has been replaced by Winter Tyres Colm, a miserable Scrooge by comparison, who emerges from the clay sometime in late September to begin a reign of misery over the household budget in the run-up to Christmas.

Winter Tyres Colm attacks the household finances like a nameless hedge fund, firing people left, right and centre, strips the house of assets via DoneDeal without really consulting anyone, and begins to implement what those who write in business sections might call ‘swingeing cuts’.

He’s a langer of the highest order.

It starts as the summer ends when I go about carefully ordering logs in for the stove, spending hours trawling the dark web to source supply from dodgy providers, usually in deepest Northern Ireland. It’s very likely the logs that I’m now using were put beyond use sometime in the late 90s.

I usually order huge pallet loads, too, enough to get me through a nuclear winter, which would usually be just a colourful turn of phrase but is, unfortunately, this year, a genuinely conceivable geopolitical event.

The misery reaches its zenith sometime in October when ‘homemade soup’ is first mentioned.

In the beginning, I start by feverishly downloading recipes from the ‘nternet, usually by searching things like ‘300 cost-slashing ways to incorporate beetroot into the weekly menu’.

But after a few weeks, it’s open season and literally anything can become a soup – discarded rashers, rogue coco pops, the dregs of Saturday’s wine .…

Everyone else thinks I’m losing my mind, of course, but to me, it’s just a normal part of the calendar as a modern, middle-class Dad.

In my experience, there’s no better way of dealing with the prospect of straightened times, both financially and psychologically, than by immersing oneself in the making of super-massive vats of piping hot soup, utilising the kind of Soviet-era containers they buried deep under the ground in Clon to deal with the flooding.

Any soup that doesn’t get eaten is frozen for the harsh winter ahead, of course. And when the freezer fills up, I start to deposit bits of it in the garden through holes in my pockets like your man in Shawshank Redemption.

It’s just part of my job, you see, as the man of the house, and to be honest, part of me thrives on this explosion of massively thrifty behaviour every autumn.

You see it is also around this time of year that you’ll find me in the bathroom, huddled over the toothpaste with scissors in hand, squeezing every last bit of oral protection out of the tube.

And it’s the very same urge, sewn into my DNA over centuries by ancestors battling off winter storms on the cliffs around the West Cork coast, that has me opting for that horrible mint shower gel every time I enter the bathroom.

Yes, it’s the same shower gel bought by impulse in a three-for-two special over six months ago in Lidl.

The one which the rest of the family completely refuse to use, and which I must now focus all my remaining willpower on finishing, even if it means going out into the world every day smelling like the victim of an explosion at a chewing gum factory.

These are just some of the self-sacrificing things Irish Dads like me do at this time of year to save a few quid, ladies and gentlemen, and with absolutely no thanks from anyone, to keep the whole flippin’ show on the road.

Not that I’m complaining, like.

And sure who’d listen anyway?

And who could even hear me over the screech of the hand blender?

Embracing diversity

IT’S been another week of historic change in Northern Ireland with the latest census confirming what has long been predicted – that the Catholic-identifying population would one day outnumber those who identify as Protestants.

So, in a way, the whole ban on contraception thing worked out in the long run, didn’t it?

Of course, all this comes at a time when these definitions feel like a throwback to an entirely different time and the really striking result of the census is the growing figure representing those who identify as Northern Irish, and neither exclusively Irish, nor British.  If anything, the census has shown how massively diverse and complex identity has become, both north and south of the border.

Something to be embraced and celebrated, if you ask me.

Golden days of sport!

WHAT a week of sporting triumph for West Cork!

The rowers bagged another World Championship, which seems to come along now as often as the bus to Cork city. In days gone by, we might have soaked up one victory and bathed in it for a decade.  We’ve now come to almost expect them to win.

Then we had the three West Cork heroes winning gold for Ireland in the World Surf Lifesaving Championships in Italy.

And I would be excommunicated from my parish if I didn’t mention the heroic triumph of the St James Junior footballers who now go on to become Premier League players next year!  Up The Mountain!

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