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I’d wear a cape, if it was offered

A true story about saving a life

There’s a story behind this award.  

It’s not one of those joke awards for attending the most meetings.  

It’s not an award for being the top performer on my team.  

It’s not an award for never missing a day, or for always being on time. 

No, this award is for saving someone’s life.  

I saved someone’s life.  

I saved someone’s life, in the canteen at work.  

I saved someone’s life, in the canteen at work, on the second week in my new job. 

Starting a new job is incredibly difficult. You have to meet a lot of new people all at once. You have to get used to the new company’s way of doing things, or if you prefer – the corporate culture. (Ugh, I hate that phrase. There’s two words that really don’t fit together, corporate and culture.) New systems and processes have to be learned. It’s exhausting! 

When I started my new role, the company had hired a few people in key positions throughout the organisation to facilitate a period of rapid growth. (Man, that sentence looks like something ripped straight out of a terrible LinkedIn recruitment offer…) 

Anyway, there were a couple of newbies knocking about when I joined, and just like me, they were searching for a friendly face to talk to. I would talk to the devil himself. Who am I kidding? I work in sales, I’d do deals with the devil himself.  

On the day in question, I was sitting at a table on my own in the canteen having my lunch. There were two other people in the lunch-room, each also occupying a table to themselves. The atmosphere wasn’t as cold as the seating arrangement suggests – far from it – we all just happened to be sitting where we were for different reasons I suppose.  

One of the previously mentioned “newbies” entered and sat down beside me. We had sat beside each other in our induction and had chatted now and again when passing each other in the office. I won’t name the man, I don’t want to embarrass him.  

I was eating pasta, he had a sandwich. As far as I recall, we were talking about cars. I was nattering on about some new German beast that was on the market, and he was telling me that the engines were supposed to be terrible, when all of a sudden he stopped talking and went bright red. 

I didn’t react at first. I didn’t know the guy that well, and assumed it could have been some kind of tic he had, and didn’t want to say anything for fear of offending him. When he said “Help me!” in a raspy squeal I knew he was choking. Fuck! 

Readers, at this point I shall inform you that I have absolutely no first aid training whatsoever. I did some lifeguard training in secondary school, but this man was not trapped under some heavy imitation rubber bricks at the bottom of the 1.5 metre “deep” end in Cavan swimming pool. I’ve no first aid training, but thanks to years of being a lazy fucker, I have consumed every kind of cop-show, action film and medical drama you can think of. This situation required the Heimlich manoeuvre. 

I got behind him and began to administer what I assumed was the Heimlich manoeuvre. To the untrained eye it probably looked more like Andre the Giant trying to suffocate a regional jobber with a bear hug. To be honest, it felt like that too. I didn’t think I was having any effect at all.  

I was in a huge state of panic, but at the same time trying to remain calm. I’d screamed at the other two people in the lunch room to get help, call an ambulance or something. My colleague had gone a deep shade of purple at this stage. His eyes were popping out of his head. I was convinced that I was hurting him, so I stopped briefly, and he frantically shook his arms and head, getting me to continue. I just repeated what I had done, trying to give a powerful squeeze at the base of his diaphragm. I was really, really scared at this stage and nobody had come in with help yet. I could feel him beginning to faint, and I thought “No, this is not happening”. I mustered every ounce of strength in my body and gave an almighty final squeeze, lifting him clean off the floor, almost over my head, like a Brock Lesnar suplex. He gave a huge hacking cough and the chunk of sandwich that had caused the blockage went flying across the room. 

I’d done it. He was ok.  

He caught his breath and turned around and offered me his hand. “You saved my life. Thank you. Thank you so much!” 

I reacted in the way I only knew how, “Fuck off, no I didn’t. Sure you’re grand!” I tried laughing it off. 

I laughed it off because thinking of all the different ways that this scenario could have played out are terrifying. For weeks afterwards I had terrible nightmares, nightmares where I had sat frozen in my chair while various people I knew clawed at their throats pleading with me, and I wasn’t able to help. I had nightmares where I was the one choking, and people just sat and watched. I also had a nightmare where I lived in an alternate universe where people were being forced to go vegan by a tyrannical world government led by Roz Purcell, but I don’t think it was related to anything else. Or maybe it was, who am I? Freud? 

He told me the day after that he had lost all feeling in his limbs before he coughed. He told me that he could never thank me enough for what I’d done. He told me that he’d spent that night at home on the couch cradling his four month old child in his arms.  

The last bit buckled me.  

I did a good thing. I know I did. I’m not writing this for praise. I’m not writing this to brag. I’m writing this because it’s a story. It’s a true story. It’s something that actually happened. There aren’t many true stories being written anymore. 

This is one.

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I Almost Worked for a Cult 31

Ridiculous Suggestions, an ending

An English language compound.

Run by Russians.

In Korea.

Close to the DMZ.

Nothing dodgy about that, eh?

That was the first solid offer we had received since turning down Cambodia. We almost accepted it too, until I was offered a seemingly more legitimate position. It would be a position that I ended up accepting too, and one where herself would come on board as well after a few weeks.

Ok, I got a bit ahead of myself here. Please allow me to use a flashback, within a flashback. (Jaysus, you’re being spoiled with narrative devices, wha?)

We’d been pretty much drifting around Seoul for the three weeks or so after our horrific experience with Sunshine Academy. It was a combination of PTSD, severe back pain, and chronic procrastination. A deadly combination, in fact. I hate to always go on about money, but believe me, eating out all day and renting rooms in guest houses has a way of eating in to your funds. We were almost in to the “let’s get the fuck out of here” fund, before herself had what seemed like a strange proposition.

Have you heard of couch surfing before? I hadn’t. Apparently (this is how it was pitched to me) it was like Air BnB, but there was no charge. You could stay in someone’s house, free of charge, either on a couch, blow up mattress, or bed if you were lucky. Herself really gave it the soft sell (tainted love!), but all I could think about was being murdered in my sleep and an embarrassing photo of me turning up in the national newspapers. It would be my confirmation photo as well. The one where I have a blonde bowl cut and a beige denim jacket and check shirt. That was the ensemble that earned me my MilkyBar Kid nickname in secondary school. I like that photo, but years of abuse has made me hate it.

I didn’t know at the time, because I’m not a fucking psychic, but this suggestion would end up introducing us to our saviour in Korea, and a friend for life. I won’t use his real name, I wouldn’t want to embarrass the man. He knows who he is.

Let’s just say he was a kindly Brit who took us in to his home, gave us some incredible support and advice, and didn’t make us convert to Protestantism, or steal our land, or make us give him our potatoes. He really looked after us while we lived in his home. In fact, he looked out for us for our entire time in Korea. I’m not a religious guy at all, but this dude was our guardian angel. A Spurs fan, and a grandmother from Monaghan, but sure nobody’s perfect.

We got to know his kids, his circle of friends, and the fun side to Korea. If we hadn’t have met him, we would have returned to Ireland with a very bitter and twisted vision of a country that wasn’t that bad actually. It wasn’t a utopia, but sure, where the fuck is?

We were staying in his house in Illsan when I received my legitimate teaching job. Our British benefactor helped us move to our new town, kit out our apartment, and help us settle in. We finally had a sense of security in our new home. After a few months of weirdness, we were about to embark on a structured, calm, and settled year teaching Korean kids English.

I just read that sentence back, and laughed out loud. The year teaching was more fucking mental than the first few months. I have so many fucked up, crazy and weird tales to tell you about my time there, but it’ll be under a different title, and at a different time.

And now, dear reader, we come to the end of I Almost Worked for a Cult.

Thank you kindly for reading and following these stories for the past few weeks. It’s been incredibly cathartic writing about this experience. Herself could only bring herself (grammar check loved that sequence) to read this a few days ago. She had forgotten about a lot of what happened. She said she had blocked it out, possibly as a coping mechanism. It was mad, wasn’t it? Or are we over-reacting? Nah, we can’t be. The whole thing was fucking insane.

It’s affected me in a few different ways, both positive and negative. It’s really made me question why religious groups have so much power and are allowed to operate with virtually no regulation. That’s a hot take, but just have a think about it. In Ireland their influence is still great, and in my opinion, it shouldn’t be. Telling people how to live their lives based on a racist, homophobic and misogynistic book that was written in the dark ages (allegedly) is fucking bizarre. It’s mass hysteria (pardon the pun). Anyhoo, yeah, it strengthened my mistrust of religious groups.

I never want to have to interact with a religious organization like that ever again. I don’t think they should be outlawed or anything, each to their own and all that, but I just don’t want to have any part in their fantastical nonsense. And I don’t want their fantastical nonsense to have any impact on me or the way I live my life, educate my future children, or how my country’s health service is run.

Also, it really made me more cautious in my decision making and less trusting of people. I suppose the trust thing is sad, but naïveté caused a lot of issues here, we weren’t entirely blameless in this situation! From the outside, a smiling calm Mr Yun would seem like a stand-up guy. But he wasn’t. He was a fucking maniac. A control freak. A bully. All concealed behind a wall of bullshit religious piety, that in a way put us in a false sense of security. I’m sure some other poor fucker was taken in by this act, and I feel terribly sorry for them if they were.

Where are they all now? Who knows. Preaching the good word to gullible poor people, I presume. Business as usual.

Anytime I stay down in Herself’s parent’s house in Tipperary and hear the boy racers doing dough-nuts at the cross in the middle of the night, I always assume for a brief second that it’s Mrs Joy, she drove her Integra all the way to Ireland, and she’s found us.

She’s sitting in that bucket seat, smoking a fag, patting the glock decorated with crucifixes that’s strapped to her leg.

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I Almost Worked for a Cult 30

We try Cambodia

Cambodia would be calling soon. I knew a few bits and pieces about Cambodia. Most of it was pieced together from the Killing Fields, Apocalypse Now! and various other movies that made money off the suffering of the region.

Herself had actually spent some time there in 2011. She had said it was a beautiful place, lots of nice bits left over from the French colonial era (café’s, not guillotines) and the people were very friendly. She did say that the society was very un-equal. There was a lot of poverty and the Khmer Rouge had left a very lasting and damaging mark on the population. However, she did say if everything was legit, we’d have a great time.

Open eyes big lad, go in to the call with open eyes!

Our Skype call with the Cambodian school was very brief. The guy was just pure dodge. French dude, wore a pair of Gadhafi shades for the entire call. He spent more time telling us about how low our pay would be, than what would be required from us. Offered us the job before asking us about experience. The guy stank of desperation and there was a brief whiff of corruption. I didn’t like it, neither did herself.

It was a no from us. Fuck it anyway. The annoying thing about it was, they required fuck all paper work. We could literally show up and start work. I suppose the risk there was, if anything went wrong, we could be goosed. If things went to shit in Korea, a month’s wages would pay for our tickets home.

Time to deal with the most untrustworthy people on earth again. No, not Fine Gael (oooh! Political!); the Korean recruiters.

I’ve already gone in to a lot of detail about why I disliked Korean recruiters. I won’t again, let’s just say they’re bastards and leave it at that.

Next time: Ridiculous suggestions

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I Almost Worked for a Cult 29

Mao, Mao, don’t commit forgery!

Documents required to work in China that we had:

  • Degree scan
  • Police certs
  • Full medical
  • CV
  • Written references
  • Photos of us together (weird, but ok)

Documents required to work in China that we did not have:

  • AIDS tests
  • Chest x-rays

AIDS tests. Ok, they might be difficult to obtain. Where would you start to even find out how you’d get one done in Korea? It seemed to me like the kind of thing they’d deport you for over there.

“Hello, I, a foreigner, would like to apply for an AIDS test please.” I pictured two strong men injecting me with a heavy sedative and coming to in Heathrow. Why Heathrow? Well, the cunts would more than likely assume I was English, like everyone else in this country did.

The school had supplied a further medical questionnaire to be filled in by our doctor that would answer some fairly specific questions about our medical backgrounds. They were looking for history of debilitating diseases, mental health problems in the family, and counter-revolutionary tendencies. Ok, I made the last bit up.

I was going to have to engage an agent back in the home country to help us with this. Double O Mammy. Well, my mother. She was going to ask the family GP to fill the documents in for us and try get a negative AIDS test while she was at it.

It was a huge disaster. Mam tested positive for AIDS! Ah no, the doctor was terrified of creating an international incident, and would not fill in the forms without speaking to myself and herself first. I suspected there wouldn’t have been an issue if a large sum of cash was involved.

We were at an impasse. If an Irish doctor wouldn’t help, and a Korean doctor was out of the question, well then maybe forgery was the only answer?

I could mimic the signature of the doctor that had signed our original medical documents. However, my colouring skills did not include the ability to mimic a stamp from their surgery. Also, how the fuck can you forge a chest x-ray? Herself was good at art, maybe we could get some black photographic paper and white paint and draw a skeleton.

No, it was a ridiculous idea. The documents had to be brought by a family member to the Chinese embassy in Dublin for approval. We’d be hanging them, it wasn’t worth the risk. I can’t imagine my mam doing well in a Chinese jail. Dad on the other hand, he’d probably end up starting and coaching a GAA club made up of political prisoners.

No, the Chinese dream was over. Cambodia, we’d try Cambodia.

Next time: We try Cambodia

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I Almost Worked for a Cult 28

Hey! China thinks you’re cool.

Things were looking up! Job offers were flying in from all corners of the orient.

A school in China had emailed herself during the night. They wanted to speak to us as soon as possible. We were to Skype Francis, the principal, at ten o’clock Korean time on the following Monday morning for a brief chat.

We had also received some mails back from Cambodia and Korea. None from Japan though. That upset me. I always wanted to be big in Japan. Like respected big, not large. I could be large wherever I went…

We spent Sunday chilling locally. No massive expenditures. We’d extended our stay in the guesthouse for a further seven days, giving us the deadline of having a decision made by then.

Deadlines. I hate deadlines. You give me a time and a date to complete a task, I’ll get it done. It’ll ruin my life, but I’ll get it done. Time is something that makes an absolute bollox of me all of the…time. Like if I have an assignment to complete, I might miss work. Or if I’ve a big project due at work, I might miss pints. I’d hoped to meet this particular deadline, but something told me it may not be one that I’d hit.

Francis called us on Skype the next morning at ten. We were using herself’s iPhone 5c to do the call. We’d a pretty good Wi-Fi connection in the guesthouse. For the call we had set up one of the beds like a couch. I shaved again for the interview. Looked like a giant baby with a hormone disorder. For all the previous interviews I’d worn my full suit. Trousers and all. For this one I decided to be a bit more casual. Shirt and tie with boxer shorts. Business casual, or business sexy? I wasn’t sure which category my outfit fit in to. Anyway, the guy would only see my head.

Francis was Dutch. He’d worked in the school for three years and his wife and child lived with him. His office looked like a modern day university lecturer’s office. There were no weird religious iconography, no stains on the wall, just rows and rows of proper looking books! He asked us the regular interview questions, a few personal (but not probing) questions and then asked us what we required from them if we were to take the job. That was the first time anyone had asked us that!

We told him all we required was an apartment, wages (obviously!), help setting up phones and a bank account, and clear instructions regarding our working hours and holidays. Francis laughed at this request. He said of course he’d provide us with all the relevant information. Moving to a foreign country was scary, and he’d make sure we had everything we needed before agreeing to come aboard.

We both let out a collective sigh of relief. This seemed legit! Francis was bemused by our reaction. He asked if something had happened us. Rather than be negative, we just laughed and kept schtum, telling him that info was sometimes hard to get a hold of. He smiled, knowingly, and said he’d email all the required document on to us after the call ended. If we got the job there, got settled and had a few successful weeks under our belts working there I’d gladly fill him in in all that happened to us after a few pints. I just wasn’t prepared to scare him off just yet!

Herself opened the email that Francis had sent. She read the contracts first. Money was decent, holidays were good, and the hours weren’t too bad either. We’d have our own apartment close to the school, and there was no mention of ridiculous extra-curricular requirements. Chinese lessons would also be provided! This looked great!

Now, their requirements for us. Fuck. We needed a full medical with x-rays and blood work from our doctor to be stamped by the Chinese embassy in Dublin. Bollox.

How would we get around this?

Next time: Mao, Mao, don’t commit forgery!

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I Almost Worked for a Cult 27

Down and out in South East Asia

Herself was bed ridden for four days in absolute agony. We were treating it with paracetamol and ice. It worked for hangovers; surely it was a cure for severe back pain?

I was going out of my mind with boredom. I had no phone and no books to read. Apart from leaving the house to get us food, I had nothing to do. I’d returned to the 7/11 on our street corner in the hope that Charlie would be there to have a chat with, and maybe ask for advice, but I never saw him again. Maybe I had imagined him? No, that’s doubtful. Can stress make you imagine things? Can it lead to the mind losing grip with reality? Can it, like? I’m genuinely asking here! Maybe let me know next time you see me. Pinch me first though, so I know that you’re real.

On the fifth day of our stay near Ehwa, herself was able to get up and walk around. We decided to go to Itaewon and treat ourselves to some nice food. Unfortunately, this meant cracking in to our emergency flights fund. We’d have to stay in Korea and find work.

I was ok with this. Even though we had had a ridiculous experience, and almost worked for a cult (yay! The title of the story in the story!), I still had faith in Korea.

After having a really nice coffee in some chain café (hey, if they want to sponsor me, I’ll name them) we went up to a PC Bang to check the recruitment pages. There were loads of jobs available. There weren’t too many couples’ jobs, however. We decided to broaden our horizons. Our qualification meant that we could pretty much teach English in any Asian country. Herself applied for jobs for us in Cambodia, China and Japan. We had our paperwork with us; it’d just be a matter of scanning it across to the schools and arranging flights. Flights from South Korea were cheaper than a train ticket from Dublin to Cork, and the flights from South Korea to China were around the same price as that same train journey. You could get a ticket to Cambodia for a couple of hundred euros. We also applied for several jobs in Korea, making sure that none of the schools were affiliated with any religious orders.

After spending a few hours in PC Bang, we went for a stroll around Itaewon.

Itaewon’s a funny place, man. It’s beside a large US army base, so you’ll hear plenty of American accents and see lots of military families out for dinner. I remember one time pissing myself laughing at an American lady ordering an Americano in a café. She pronounced it “Ameri – cane- o” like it rhymed with volcano, and wasn’t being ironic. Myself and herself still say that to each other if we’re ordering coffee, just to see who laughs first. I always do – I’m weak.

The street market sellers in Itaewon really want you to feel body confident. They shout encouraging things at you like, “Hey! I have big sizes for you, make you look good!” Yeah, I always felt great about my appearance after walking down the street in Itaewon. Ironic smiley face.

That particular day, however, we stumbled upon an exciting discovery. We found an English language bookshop! I was so happy. I’d finished all the books that I’d brought with me and was going out of my mind with nothing to read. Also, there was no TV in our current guesthouse. Entertainment was rare! I picked up a couple of used paperbacks for very cheap. Amongst them were a few John Le Carré novels, a couple of Ray Bradbury’s and East of Eden by John Steinbeck. That would keep me going for a while!

That evening we dined in a Mexican restaurant, and had a couple of beers. We didn’t discuss anything stressful at all, just focussed on being in the moment and having a laugh. We bloody needed it after the couple of weeks we’d had.

Next time: Hey! China thinks you’re cool!

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I Almost Worked for a Cult 26

Paralysis and analysis

Our accommodation beside Ehwa Women’s University was impossible to find. We took a taxi from the subway station, but the driver couldn’t find the place, and instead of actually looking at the directions we showed him, he told us to get out! He didn’t take payment though, which I suppose was sound enough.

Herself was in agony. She could barely walk. We were tired, hungry and out of our minds with worry. It was late on Saturday night and the streets were filled with weekend partiers. We certainly stuck out like sore, homeless thumbs. A plastered American lady asked us if we were ok. I don’t know if it was dehydration, hunger, tiredness, or what; I started to tearfully tell her what had happened to us. It just came pouring out of me. I left out the bit about leaving the keys in a bag of shit. We had to be seen as purely sympathetic characters here. Ahem…

She listened, wide eyed, and when I had finished she just waved her hand and said “Oh, Korea!” in an ironic fashion, like this sort of shit happened on a daily basis! Maybe I needed that. She offered to help us find our guesthouse. Her phone had data, whereas we only had herself’s phone which still had its Irish SIM card.

She got us to the front door and bid us good luck.

I checked us in and brought our bags up to the room. The room had two beds, a bathroom and a working kitchen. It was big enough and comfortable. I went down to the 7/11 to buy some painkillers and ice for herself. I was having a mini panic attack about doing this. How do you ask for something you need in a language you can’t speak yet? Ugh. Well it turned out to be fine. The dude behind the counter was a big bald Californian called Charlie.

When I walked in he greeted me with “Hey, foreigner!”

It was delivered in a friendly, welcoming way. Not in a hostile, racist, Pegida way. We got chatting, he told me a bit about the area – where to eat, where to drink – all the basics. Nice guy that Charlie.

I brought back the painkillers, ice and some food for herself. Charlie had given me directions to a McDonalds. The first one I’d been to in Korea! It was glorious!

We ate our burgers in silence, and afterwards herself dozed off. I couldn’t sleep for ages. I had to process all the shit that happened in the space of 11 days or so.

Sunshine Academy, the Korean wing of a fundamentalist American “Christian” cult, had taken in what they thought to be two vulnerable Irish people to teach in their school and eventually become fully fledged brainwashed members of their organization. Their tactics to achieve this were based on guilt and shame. These were tactics that had been used by the Catholic Church, and proven to have been successful in Ireland, for hundreds of years. Sunshine Academy obviously weren’t up to date with the current condition of the Irish psyche. We were no longer a nation of people being strangled by the yoke of colonialism or the Catholic Church. No, we were a modern, enlightened and educated people who didn’t take no shit from nobody. We have Twitter. We are “woke”.

The only way you’ll pull the wool over an Irish person’s eyes nowadays is by throwing an IRA themed costume party.

I had this vision of Mr Yun, Mrs Joy and Mr Boyle in their staff room having a good ‘ol chuckle. Mr Yun snapping his fingers, “Gosh darn it, we almost had them!” He then calls the recruiter and tells him to send in the next two suckers for an interview.

I had another one of Mrs Joy turning to Mr Boyle saying, “I think they just didn’t get our sense of humour at all. I mean, was the wedding practical joke just a bit too zany?”

We never saw or heard from those cunts again. Although, I did, and still do, keep an eye out for them. I don’t think they were the forgiving type of Christians.

This part of our stay in Korea is always the bit that we kind of skip over when talking about our time there. It’s not that we’re ashamed by it or anything, nah – we were just too fucking traumatised to discuss it in detail until now. (Herself is actually too traumatised to read this, well that’s what she says…) Plus, it was only like eleven days of a ten month stay, so, you know -focus on the positives and all that.

This series will continue. There are loads more messed up stories to come. This is just the beginning! It’s just the end of our interaction with the seedy fundamentalist Christian underbelly of Korea.

Is this misery porn? It’s not meant to be.

It all works out in the end.

Trust me.

Persevere!

Next time: Down and out in South East Asia

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I Almost Worked for a Cult 25

A dash and an injury

The back-up plan was in place. It was solid. We were in agreement, if they tried any more funny shit we were gone – bye bye Korea!

We stayed in the PC Bang until a little after 2pm. Four hours should have been ample time for Mrs Joy and her henchmen to deliver the furniture to the apartment.

As we got closer to our building a blue half cab truck slowly approached us. It came to an abrupt halt beside us. The driver had a face that was so wrinkled I was convinced that he had been conceived, slept, and spent all of his spare time in an accordion. Either that or he was old as fuck. He rolled his window down and started shouting at us in Korean and pointing at our building. I couldn’t understand a fucking word he was saying. That was my fault, not his. Although, I had an inkling he wasn’t in the best of humours. I wasn’t really in the mood to engage with this accordion man, so I just gave him my biggest fake smile and a double thumbs up. Herself just completely ignored him and walked on.

We entered the building and cautiously made our way up the stairs. Maybe the old guy had been warning us? “Get out while you still can! They’re in the house! They brought anointing oil and a young priest! It’s an exorcism! Run, goddammit!”

Nah, I think he was screaming at us because he’d been the one given the shitty task of dragging the crap that had been left outside our door. It looked like all he had delivered was the outer frames for the beds. Perhaps the rest of the stuff was inside?

It wasn’t. There was no furniture or appliances in the apartment. Mrs Joy had been inside while we were gone. She had left a second bible, the wedding dress and the shoes in the middle of the floor beside the bag of shit. She had also gone to the trouble of leaving a note:

MJ – Your furniture is outside. You can bring it in. Church is at ten o’clock tomorrow morning at the school. I will talk to you then.

I handed the note to herself.

M – Well, that tells me where the priorities are dude.

H – I can’t believe she’s done this.

M – Really?

H – Well, no. I can believe it. What now?

M – Fuck this. Let’s go.

I propped open the door to the apartment with the new bible. Herself helped me attach the two large rucksacks to my person. I looked like an “early-thirties obese ninja turtle” with one rucksack on my front and the other in my back. Gobshite in a full-shell.

M – Can you manage the wheelie suitcase and a small bag?

H – Yeah. I’ll do my best.

M – Oh, shit. Where will we put the keys?

H – I’ve an idea.

She took the keys and dropped them in to the bag of human shit that Mrs Joy had conveniently left behind. A punishment fit for the crime? Sure, why not?

I’m not a big believer in karma. I don’t think that good things come to those who wait. Fate, luck; all that stuff is bullshit. Life is random. Shit happens. That’s what I believe.

Although, when herself badly hurt her back going down the stairs, I began to question my belief system. Perhaps it was wrong. We probably should have returned the keys.

We didn’t really have time to assess the damage properly at the time. I took the suitcase and herself carried the small bag, which still caused her pain. We took the luggage to the train station and waited for our train.

It was a very nervy two hour wait for that train back to civilization. Herself was in agony, and we were terrified that the cult would get us.

We were now officially on the run.

Fugitives.

Next time: Paralysis and analysis

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I Almost Worked for a Cult 24

Doing a runner

We went out on to the street and tried to find somewhere for lunch. There was a Paris Baguette café just around the corner from the apartment. It served good coffee and questionable sandwiches. We had a couple of gorgeous caramel macchiato and some disgusting sandwiches.

The staff in the café were staring at us the entire time, texting on their phones. It was unsettling. I was convinced that they were cult members and were informing on us. WhatsApping Mr Yun.

We finished up and set off to find a PC Bang. I had seen one that morning across the road from the train station. We cautiously made our way there, keen to avoid bumping in to Yun or Joy.

Every PC Bang that we had ever been in so far in Seoul had been jam-packed. They were always full of teenagers quaffing energy drinks and furiously playing StarCraft or Fifa. This one was deserted. It was equipped with all the latest and greatest in PC gaming technology. Best of all, it had a functioning air-con system. Oh, the cool air. How I missed thee!

There wasn’t a sinner in the place, though. We approached the counter to see if there was a bell or something that we could ring to get attention, when a door to the rear of the room flew open and a large bald man wearing a Bluetooth headset came in and started screaming at us.

M – Hey, we need to use the internet. How much for one hour?

BM- No! Closed! No internet! Closed! No Internet!

M – Relax, ya big galoot!

He pushed us towards the front door. We obliged. Another cult member, I presumed.

Herself suggested that we climb the hill to find another establishment. The decision was made to walk in the opposite direction of the school and train station. Somewhere that hadn’t been infected by the cult.

We soon came to a kind of square, well an open space, littered with western style pubs and a load of teenagers with skateboards. There was a giant, bustling PC bang on the corner. We went in and paid the money to the friendly staff. Nobody passed any remarks on us. They were too engrossed in their gaming sessions to care that a couple of distressed looking foreigners had entered.

We took our seats at side by side machines.

M – Ok, let’s look at some temporary accommodation first. Something that we can pay for in cash if we need to.

H – Ok. Good idea. No harm having a backup. Let’s price flights as well.

M – Really?

H – No harm. We’ll cover all bases. Just in case.

M – Ok, cool.

We booked accommodation close to Ehwa women’s university in Seoul. It was fairly cheap. €50 for five days. Our flights home would clear us out, but it was a hit that we were prepared to now take. Our minds were made up. Anymore shit from Yun or Joy, and we were out of here.

Back to the Emerald Isle.

Back to the land of living in sin without judgement!

Next time: A dash and an injury

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I Almost Worked for a Cult 23

We gotta go now!

( Dialogue key M – myself, H – herself, MJ – Mrs Joy)

I was shaking. I think I was in shock. It must have been shock. I felt freezing cold all of a sudden, and my arms were going numb. Maybe it was a stroke?

I walked around the apartment. No air conditioning unit was installed. The bathroom was fucking rank. Herself opened the fridge and a cock roach scuttled past her feet. The kitchen had no cooker, or any appliances for that matter. All it had was a sink and a few plastic cupboards.

I grabbed herself by the arm, told her to follow me, turned to Mrs Joy and said, “Give us a minute.”

I guided herself up a couple of flights of stairs to get out of Mrs Joy’s earshot.

M – Ok dude, we’re out of here. That’s all I can take.

H – Calm down. It’s bad, but just calm down. We’ll talk to her.

M – I’ll talk to her. We’re not staying here. The fucking state of the place! A bag of shit, like! A fucking bag of shit!!

H – Ok. Just take a breath before you do.

We went back down to the apartment. Mrs Joy wasn’t there. We waited for a few minutes and were about to leave when she arrived in the door with a large garment bag and a pair of hideous, white, women’s shoes.

MJ – This is your wedding dress. You can put it on now and see if it fits.

Herself jumped at Mrs Joy.

H – I will not be putting that dress on! Where the hell did you get that from?

MJ – It is my daughter-in-law’s. She is American. It is an American size.

I think that was supposed to be a reassuring comment, but it was delivered like a put down. I followed herself’s lead and got up in Mrs Joy’s grill.

M – Ok, this has gone too far. First of all, you can put that wedding dress back in your car. There will be no fucking wedding. Not on Monday, not the week after – never!

That’s right, I said fucking. I cursed at an old woman. I didn’t care. At that particular time, she represented every fucking mental thing that this school had done to us in the past week or so. I was letting out a few days of frustration. It felt good, man.

M – Here is what’s going to happen. We are going to leave until 2pm. In the meantime, there will be furniture delivered to this house. That means a bed, chairs, a table, and everything else that we need. You will have our contracts printed out for signature and on the table when we return. If you do not complete this, we will not be working for you. Do you understand?

Mrs Joy shook a cigarette out of her soft pack of Marlboro. She lit it, took a deep pull and said “Mm hmm” through squinted eyes. She turned on her heels and left myself and herself on our own.

H – Is she after leaving?

M – I think so.

I walked over to our balcony (oooh – luxury) and looked out on the road. I could see Mrs Joy’s Integra driving slowly in the direction of the school.

M – Yeah, she’s gone. We’ve a couple of hours. Let’s go find a PC bang.

H – Ok.

PC Bangs were 24 hour internet café’s. There was one in every street corner in Korea. Because we had no computer access (I broke my I-phone on week 2!) we relied heavily on the PC Bang to do our digital business.

We hadn’t openly said to each other that we were doing a runner, but at this stage we had each one foot out the door.

Next time: Doing a runner

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I Almost Worked for a Cult 22

Time to break free

Mrs Joy’s boot was goosed. (Once again, that’s trunk for those of you who speak American.) The crash had fucked up the mechanism for popping it open.

I had to drag our bags out through the lowered back seat from the front of the car. A lovely, awkward, sweaty endeavour. At least, I thought, I wouldn’t be doing this again for another while!

It took a couple of trips to carry all our gear up the three flights of stairs. The lift was conveniently out of order. Mrs Joy smoked a cigarette in the stairwell and watched me with interest. Probably was thinking of a way that my strength could be used for Christ. Beat the Jesus in to people, or something. I dunno. She was looking at me anyway. Made me uncomfortable.

Herself stood opposite her, giving me the occasional apologetic glance. She wanted to be able to help. I knew this, but I was happy enough to be the cart horse until her back healed. I’m fierce sound like that.

When all the gear was finally brought up, and Mrs Joy finished her fags, we were beckoned to the front door of our new home. Our first Korean home. Hopefully our only Korean home!

Mrs Joy opened the door and walked in, followed by herself. I was doing that lazy man action of trying to drag all the bags at once, so I didn’t really get the first glance at the interior. Herself had that honour.

I dropped the bags on the floor, had a look around, and left my jaw on the floor with the bags. This wasn’t an apartment. It was a crime scene. A crime scene from a Cronenberg movie.

The first thing that hit me was the smell of human shit. Not the smell of human possessions – actual human shit. Shit from an arse.

There was a fucking bag of human shit, from a human arse, in the middle of the fucking floor.

Now, we’ll take a brief segue in to toilet etiquette in Korea. Hooray!

People generally don’t flush their toilet roll in Korea. Something to do with the width of the pipes, I think. They have similar toilets to the ones we have in Ireland. Some places even have those electronic Japanese toilets that warm your arse, have USB ports to charge your phone, and best of all – play music to mask that “throwing a handful of gravel on a corrugated iron roof” sound that you’ll make after a heavy night on the Guinness. Most bathrooms are equipped with bins beside the toilet that you are supposed to place your used wipes in. Many of these in public bathrooms were overflowing with other people’s dirty leavings. I never once did this in my entire time in Korea. I flushed everything. I’d say I was personally responsible for 97% of toilet clogs in Seoul during the latter part of 2015. Fuck it, the alternative was fucking disgusting.

Anyway, that was the general Korean attitude to bum wiping. The previous occupants of our new home, well looking at this bag it was evident that they flushed no solids at all down their toilet. It looked like all the waste was binned instead. They must have been environmental engineers.

The second thing to hit me was the heat. It was fucking roasting in here. Between the heat and the stink, I was beginning to feel faint.

The third thing to hit me was the complete lack of furniture. No bed, no tables, no tv – nothing.

Oh wait; there was one thing – a bible. That solved one problem for us.

Mrs Joy handed us keys. “This is your apartment. Please move in and I will take you to dinner.”

Move in to what? This was a shell! A shell that stank of shit!

Next time: We gotta go now!

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I Almost Worked for a Cult 21

Moving on Out

We arrived in the town at 10am. Mrs Joy was there at the train station again to collect us.

It was some job trying to fit all our gear in to the boot (trunk, if you speak American) of her Honda Integra.

She drove us up a steep hill through a series of very narrow, dark streets. She pulled up outside a building that looked like a seven story cow-shed.

“This is your apartment!” she challenged.

We would reserve judgement until entering. We weren’t architectural snobs, in fact some of the nicest places we had been in Korea so far had looked like shit from the outside, but were magnificent internally. I don’t think the staff of Sunshine Academy knew the meaning of magnificent, unless it related to something Jesus allegedly said, but I’d have settled for adequate here.

Before we exited her car, Mrs Joy decided to have some fun. For some fucking ridiculous reason, if God exists only he/she knows why, Mrs Joy erratically reversed her car in to an oncoming jeep.

I was in the back seat and got a bit of a bang, nothing serious, just a slight fright more than anything else. Herself got a bit of a twinge in her back, but was fine. Mrs Joy didn’t show any emotion, or even ask if we were ok. Fucking battle-axe. She got out of the car to assess the carnage she had just caused.

The guy she had hit got out of the jeep. He was humongous! He was pointing at his bumper and began screaming and gesticulating wildly. He was going ballistic, he had every right to. Mrs Joy had reversed from the curb in to oncoming traffic without even looking. She was at fault here.

I had absolutely no idea what the guy was saying, but he was mad as hell. For the first few moments Mrs Joy didn’t react at all, and then she did something incredibly weird. She took out a large crucifix from her pocket, held it out in front of her and knelt on the ground. She started to bawl and shake uncontrollably. Floods of tears streamed down her face.

The situation changed immediately after this piece of performance art. The driver of the jeep stopped shouting at Mrs Joy, looked at us apologetically, got in to his jeep and drove off.

As soon as he was out of sight, Mrs Joy got back to her feet and resumed her usual emotionless expression.

“Take out your luggage. We will go to the house now.”

This entire incident from start to finish took about fifteen minutes. It felt like a week. I have never experienced something so odd in my life. I have seen people be hysterical at the scene of minor traffic accidents. Sure, we’ve all seen that. I’ve witnessed a nun apologize for hitting a cyclist near St Stephen’s Green. I’ve even witnessed a person turn on the waterworks to get their own way, I might have even done it myself as a small child (or spoiled adult). Mrs Joy behaved like she was exorcising a demon, rather than apologizing for crashing in to somebody’s car. It was just bizarre.

I looked at herself. She had a look of fear and bewilderment on her face.

We both laughed.

Baffled laughter – the fucking soundtrack to Korea.

Next time: Time to break free

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I Almost Worked for a Cult 20

Moving on up

Korean summers are hot. They’re really fucking hot, man. At home twenty-three degrees Celsius would be a heat-wave. We’d have to declare a national holiday and have ice flown in from Greenland to help us cope. We Irish cannot handle heat.

On our moving day, the temperature was in the mid-thirties.

The luggage that we had brought from home wasn’t exactly traveller friendly. We had two large rucksacks – one a cheap Northface knock off that herself had bought in Thailand, the other a cheap knock off that I had bought in Argos. We also had a giant wheelie suitcase and two smaller back-packs. These bags contained all our worldly possessions. I had read before coming here that clothes and shoes in my size would be difficult to source.  We both brought two pairs of runners, two pairs of work shoes and winter boots each. We had also bought two vintage German military coats (because we’re so fucking cool man!) at a thrift fair in Smithfield before we left. They were only €15 each. They saved our lives in the winter that was to come. (As it happens, they’re still with us!) Practical for the cold, not practical to carry around in the blistering heat.

Our luggage weighed around eighty kilos in total. I volunteered to carry the bulk of the load as herself had been having trouble with her back.

We weren’t sure what exactly was causing her these problems. The quality of beds in some of our accommodation was pretty poor. The mattresses were either incredible thin, or too soft and flimsy. We had yet to reach that “just right” Goldilocks moment. I didn’t mind doing the heavy lifting that Saturday morning. As far as I was concerned, it was going to be for the last time until we returned to Ireland.

Spatial awareness is a concept that has yet to catch on in South Korea. The more bags and awkward load you had to carry, the more people made it their business to walk in to you. It wasn’t like the streets were jammed either. I found the majority of footpaths in South Korea to be incredibly wide, I didn’t experience any of those crowded footpath crushes that I’d seen in old photos. People kept bumping in to me accidentally on purpose in the train station and knocking me off balance. I get claustrophobic in confined spaces sometimes. I get this really strong urge to break out, swing elbows, jump through ceilings like Superman. I hate being jostled and nudged when I’m in this condition. Having to carry a huge load (behave yourself) exacerbates this feeling.

I’m not proud of it, but I had to throw elbows that morning. One middle aged man shouted at me for giving him the stiff arm on a travellator. He was coming against me, the wrong fucking way, with acres of space to his right, but instead decided to walk straight in to me. At the best of times I’m my usual meek, non-confrontational self, but today with the heat, the large load (behave!), and the stress of signing up to a cult for a full year, I’d just had enough. I sent that ignorant Ajusshi flying. It felt good, man.

By the time I got on the train I was soaked with sweat. My t-shirt looked like I had taken a shower in it. Ew. I had to put up with a few stares in the carriage. I could take that. It was the pointing and laughing I had issue with.

Obviously, the travellers that morning had never seen a heavy-set Irish man carry his entire house on his back in blistering heat before.

They hadn’t lived!

Next time: Moving on out

If this is your fist time reading I Almost Worked for a Cult, catch up on the series at the below link:

I Almost Worked for a Cult…the story so far

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I Almost Worked for a Cult…the story so far

The Story so far, for new readers

Farewell Dublin

Remove the almost and replace the letter l with the letter n in the title of this series. Now you have the subtext for 90% of inspirational LinkedIn posts from covert recruiters.

Not a great way to start the series, a dig at LinkedIn. Although a recruiter is mostly to blame for this entire saga. Now, I’m not saying recruiters are inherently dishonest or anything like that. I’m sure a few of them have some kind of integrity.

The title of this series is a bold statement, and I know that people who know me personally will assume that I’m being hyperbolic. I assure you that I’m not. If I was, I would have called it, “Nazi’s made me work for an alien death cult!”, or something like that.

In this series, the names of people and institutions have been changed, for obvious reasons! I’ll use “herself” and “she” when referring to my partner, not because I’m a misogynist, but because I don’t feel comfortable making up another name for her. It’d be weird. I’ve also been given permission to do so, so trust me – it’s kosher.

Another reason for changing names is because to this day my partner and I still joke that the cult will track us down and carry out some kind of ritual sacrifice on us. Sure, the odds of this happening are quite high, but I’m not willing to take the chance.

Actually, can you imagine a parish priest explaining that at a funeral? That’d be great wouldn’t it? “And just like the early Christians, he was chopped up to tiny little pieces and fed to a herd of sheep. And he felt no pain, sure wasn’t God with him the entire time.” One thing that the Catholic Church and Marx did agree on – religion is the opium of the masses.

Sorry, I digress, it’s a bad habit.

In April 2015 my partner and I were fed up with the Dublin rat-race. We lived in a two-up two-down in the Liberties in Dublin 8. The rent was colossal. I was under the assumption that the house was sitting on top of a huge natural gas reserve to justify the price we paid each month. It certainly wasn’t for the crappy low-end IKEA furniture, the leaky stained ceilings, the toilet that never fucking flushed right, or the kitchen that was more of a fire hazard than a Californian hillside during a drought.

We were one of thousands of young Irish couples living in that state of social denial that you needed to be in the centre of Dublin to make a life for yourself. You needed to be in Dublin to remain relevant. Did you fuck. We weren’t seeing a penny of our wages and we were bloody miserable.

A change was needed.

A drastic one.

I’m not sure that I was ready at the time for how drastic that change would turn out to be.

 

Where, why & what

We’d had enough of Dublin. It was time to go.

But where?

We were both from opposite ends of the country and couldn’t decide on a new county to move to. We came to an obvious conclusion in our search for middle ground. We’d emigrate. Try living abroad for a while.

I never had a desire to leave Ireland for an extended period of time in my life. I loved home. I’d turned 30 in 2015, and I suppose I reckoned that if I didn’t at least try it now, I never would. Now that I have lived abroad, I think that it was one of the best things I’ve ever done. By immersing myself in a culture and environment that was completely alien to my own, I inherited a more open view of the world. I know that sounds like a big pile of wank, but your perspective really changes when you start to be treated as an outsider.

So where would we go? Well, the way we made this decision is bound to enrage the more uptight and meticulous planners who are reading this – we tossed a coin. Cool, right?

No. It wasn’t cool.

We should have been more conscientious with our planning, but fuck it, nobody died.

We had two destinations in mind, South Korea and Canada. Our Canadian visas had been approved in January, the South Korean visa would be approved once we arrived and started our jobs. We tossed the coin down in her parents’ house on the June bank holiday weekend. One toss. No take-backs.

I was secretly hoping for Canada to win. I’d never been to North America. Come to think of it, I hadn’t ever been to Asia either, but I spoke English, so I assumed Canada would be the best place for me, for us, to end up.

Of course, South Korea won the day. I let out a big exasperated sigh of joy. We would be off to the Far East. Honestly, I was excited, but also I was secretly shitting myself. I had absolutely no idea what to expect over there.

My partner sent me links to “wacky” American vloggers who documented their experiences in South Korea on YouTube. It really, really put me off. Their apartments looked tiny. The food looked shit. The American vloggers were loud, whiny and condescending. Like they were explaining everything to a deaf three year old with developmental issues. I didn’t want to have to put up with this nonsense for a full year. Look, if something is really different, or really shit, don’t explain it in a patronising, shocked manner. Make a joke, you cunt! The vloggers were pushed to one side. I’d do some old fashioned research myself. Actually, that’s something that I’ve yet to get around to doing…

So, Korea. What would we do for work? Well, teach English I suppose. My Korean language skills weren’t exactly up to scratch for getting a job in their Tesco equivalent.

Myself and herself completed a TEFL course from one of the more recognised TEFL organizations. I enjoyed the course. It really encouraged you to be as creative as possible in your lesson plans, and from the testimonials of other users, it seemed like a very rewarding and fun job. It was settling the anxiety that I’d brought upon myself by watching a particularly negative series of vlogs.

Teaching English. Couldn’t be too hard says you. Wha?

 

Promises to Claude

I handed my notice in at work on the first Monday in June. I was actually quite disappointed to be leaving. I really liked that job. I worked with some really cool people in an interesting industry.

The question I kept getting asked in the office was, “Are you mad? Why would you want to teach English in Korea?”

I suppose the most logical answer there would have been was: “Because as a non-Korean speaker, I’d be able to do fuck all else, unless there is a shortage of big hairy men to dance in fetish bars over there. And I know there isn’t. I looked it up. You’ve to go to Japan for that craic!”

We began the horrible process of packing up all our shit for our moving day. One of our friends was getting married in Malta roughly around the same time. We ended up moving out of our house and going to Malta on the same day.

I cannot describe how stressful it was for me to leave my car full of all of our most valuable possessions in a Dublin Airport carpark for seven days. There was a PC, all my books, clothes, our kitchen equipment, lamps, my PS3…the list goes on. We were like the Beverly Hillbillies arriving in to the long-term carpark.

After the wedding, I dropped herself to her parents’ house down the country and stayed a few days.

I was putting off going home for as long as I could. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to go home, I just hated the thoughts of living under someone else’s rules for a few days. Sharing with herself is fine, I’m used to the routine, but sharing with people I hadn’t lived with in years was bound to be a challenge.

As it turned out, it was really nice to stay in the house for a few weeks. I’d never actually spent an extended period of time there before. It wasn’t the house that I grew up in. My parents had moved there two years previously. It was never, and never will be, my home I suppose. It’s my parents’ house. Home for me is with herself.

The dog, Claude (he said I could use his real name and promised not to sue) had a few questions about Korea. Apparently he had read somewhere that they, the Koreans, had an appetite for dog-meat. In a frank and honest exchange, I assured him that I wouldn’t eat dog-meat while I was there. This pleased him. He agreed to give me his blessing and wished me the best of luck.

Five minutes later Claude said he’d take it back unless I gave him a piece of the sandwich that I was eating. I did, and the universe was balanced once more. Claude would repeat this series of ultimatums until the morning of my departure. He was a master of manipulation.

My parents dropped us to the airport. I was quite upset saying goodbye. They weren’t the best with technology and I was worried that we wouldn’t get to talk as often as I’d like. They assured me that they’d be better at texting and would figure out Skype. Herself was a great help. She assured me that everything would be fine and invited me to go for a disgusting pint of airport Guinness.

I got one last text on my phone before we left Ireland. It was from Claude.

It read: “Where’d you hide the food you prick?” The blessing was once again revoked.

 

Seoul Food

The flight over was the longest haul flight I’d ever taken. Previous to that, it had been an eight hour trip from Paris to Havana in 2008. This was an eight hour trip to Dubai, a three hour stopover, and then a further ten hours to Seoul.

The stop-over in Dubai was horrific. Let’s just leave it at that.

The first thing that I noticed when we landed in Incheon airport, I hadn’t been paying attention on the plane, was the amount of Irish priests and nuns that were queueing up in front of us to get through immigration. Surely Korea was Buddhist, no? I was confused. I was also uncomfortable. I tried very hard not to make any eye contact with the clergy. I was sure if they saw my big spud head they’d know I was Irish. I didn’t want to get in to any awkward conversations about mass.

We were staying in an apartment near Dongdaemon for our first few weeks. We carried all our impossibly awkward luggage on to the subway and set off on our two hour journey. We both fell asleep immediately on the train. Our stop was the last one, I think, so we were safe enough. The train played a little song when we reached our stop. That woke us up. I love that song. Actually, the train had a few different songs, one for transfers, one for end of the line, one for taking off. All of them were hits.

We met Kang, the apartment owner, in the train station. He very kindly offered to carry one of our bags up and down a series of extremely steep hills to our apartment. The heat was unbearable. It was in the high 30’s, Celsius, and it was close to 1 in the morning.

We thanked Kang for his help and collapsed on the bed in the apartment. There was a large Samsung air-con unit over the bed that herself figured out. We cooled off and begun to think about getting ourselves fed.

I was famished. We hadn’t eaten since the plane, a vile, cold, pasta dish. Herself said that there was a real 24 hour culture in Korea and we shouldn’t have to look too long for somewhere to eat. I had to take her word for it, I hadn’t done my research. We showered and changed and ventured out in to the sticky July Korean night.

Sticky July Korean night would be a great name for an electro band, wouldn’t it?

The biggest challenge we faced initially was not being able to use Google maps on our phones. Apparently it required a Korean ip address to gain access to Google servers in Korea. I tried using Apple maps instead to find a McDonalds, but it being Apple maps, we got lost in five minutes or so.

Herself took charge, and I was damn glad of it. We weren’t going to a McDonalds, we were getting Korean food. She chose a restaurant at random. I wasn’t convinced. It looked like a cross between a taxi office and a soup kitchen, but my God, the food was fucking delicious! I took back, silently, every ignorant assumption I’d made about the food in Korea. It cost the equivalent of four euro and was served with about five different side dishes. I’d never had kimchi before that night. It stank like farts, but tasted amazing.

Night one. Food’s good. Everything was going to be great!

Safety Dance

We explored our surroundings over the next couple of days, taking long (and musical) train rides to every corner of Seoul. I was amazed at how many crosses illuminated the sky at night. I also couldn’t figure out their obsession with Dunkin’ Donuts. Although, I did eventually succumb to the temptations of the latter.

The people were quite friendly and welcoming. It seemed like an extremely safe city. We never once experienced any violence or crime, and this was in one of the most densely populated cities in the world. Taxi drivers kept their entire float in the open compartment beside their gear sticks. That astounded me. Could you imagine a taxi-driver in Dublin doing that? I’d say not even the Monk himself would chance it.

We witnessed people withdrawing large sums of cash from ATM’s and walking nonchalantly up the street counting their huge, colourful wads of loot. In front of everyone!! Imagine that at home? You’d be dead before you got past the first note.

In train stations people plugged in their phones at communal docking stations and went off to get coffees, leaving the phones behind to charge. Nobody seemed to notice, or care.

We both suffered horrifically from jet-lag in the first couple of days. Our sleep pattern was all over the place. Luckily we didn’t have to stay in looking at the walls while we went through this. There were plenty of 24 hour amenities in the city.

We were walking home from one such amenity, when we witnessed something really strange. A businessman was fast asleep on a bench outside a pub. You could smell the strong soju fumes coming off him from fifty yards away.  He was on his back, snoring, and his wallet had fallen out of his pocket, exposing a huge wad of notes and all his cards. He must have just visited the ATM, there was a nice chunk of change in that wallet. His phone, a high-end Samsung, was lying precariously on his chest.

We were both shocked that this man was out in the open in the middle of the night in such a vulnerable state, and debated whether we should help him or not. I thought that if I shook him awake he might get a fright seeing my hairy spud head when he opened his eyes, so we decided to leave him be.

We spoke about it back in the apartment for an hour or so. It was just so strange to us. Later on, at four in the morning, I was still wide awake and decided to go for a stroll to tire myself out, maybe pop in to the 7/11 for a few bits. On my way down to the shop the business man was still on his bench, undisturbed. All his possessions were still there too. It was unbelievable.

I swear, if I ever had any ambitions as a criminal, I would have cleaned up in South Korea. This experience really made me feel very safe. It was a feeling I hadn’t ever experienced while living in Dublin.

 

John Bull Recruitment

Our “honeymoon period” ended after five weeks. We’d sort of acclimatized to our new surroundings, and it was time to start work. We’d siphoned off enough cash for two plane tickets home, just in case things didn’t work out.

Herself was an excellent money manager. She had worked out that we could spend another month tops, fluting around and seeing the country before admitting defeat and heading home. Although, we decided that defeat was not an option, and began to apply for jobs.

Do you like dealing with recruiters? I don’t. They’re usually full of shit. Recruiters for English language schools in Korea are the worst recruiters that I’ve ever had the misfortune of dealing with. They operated on a level of bullshit that would fertilize a 100 acre farm. They were also some of the most rude and insulting bastards that I’ve ever had a professional relationship with.

All of the recruitment calls were done through Skype. I had to turn my camera on so they could get a good look at me, and have a good judge of my abilities through my appearance. They never had their camera’s on, the fucks. None of their questions focussed on my previous work experience. All they were interested in were my looks and nationality. It was like a mixture of Your Face or Mine and Immigrants X-Factor.

One recruiter asked that I change my nationality to English so that the schools would look more favourably on me. I pushed him on this, asking why it’d make a difference. His response was that the Irish had a reputation for drinking too much and being unreliable. He obviously had never been on a stag weekend in Bristol, the cunt.

In fact, I really took issue with the alcoholism accusation. This dude must have been a recluse, because I have never in my life experienced the levels of drunkenness that I have on the streets of Seoul. The Koreans love to drink way more than us Irish. This isn’t a sweeping statement, it’s an undisputable fact – they are proper piss-heads. Maybe it was just that summer, but it was as if Seoul was hosting the projectile vomiting Olympics, and events were being held on the corner of every street.

We didn’t deal with that guy again. Nothing like being forced into calling yourself English to end a professional relationship.

Another charming guy informed me that I was too big, fat and hairy, and that I’d scare the children. I laugh about that now, but at the time I was genuinely hurt by it. I was wearing two t-shirts on that call. Ahem…

Both of us soon realized that we were making a silly mistake during this process. We were interviewing separately, when we should have been interviewing as a team. Interviewing for different jobs in different locations was not going to work. We thought it’d be like home and that we could commute from our apartment to wherever we eventually ended up working. It was naiveté on our part.

Herself looked up a solution to this problem and found out that some schools liked to hire couples. It saved the school money on apartment costs (they covered the rent and bills etc.) and probably guaranteed at least one full year of teaching service. As far as the schools were concerned, couples tended not to make any rash decisions. Well, most couples didn’t.

We did an interview on Skype for a couple’s position in an area not too far from the DMZ. The recruiter got back to us twenty minutes after the call ended to say the school would like to meet us.

Shit was about to get weird.

 

Shit gets weird

Ok, before shit gets weird, officially, I have to explain where we were at in terms of our immigrant status. Because we went out before securing employment, we entered the country on a 90 day tourist visa. We were about 45 -50 days in to this visa at this point. All the schools that we were talking to were going to fly us to Japan for our visa run and were covering our work permits. The school we were now going to visit were no different.

This school, let’s call it Sunshine Academy from here on out, offered to fly us to Japan for a week after term started, once we fulfilled all their requirements.

The morning of the interview was an absolute scorcher. I had brought a suit from home to wear on such an occasion. 100% wool.

I’d taken about six steps outside the apartment before that first cool bead of sweat started its doomed journey from the nape of my neck all the way down to the crack of my arse. By the time I got to the air conditioned train, it was way too late. My shirt was ruined. It was soaked through. I’d have to soldier on and wear my jacket over my soaking wet shirt.

I was incredibly uncomfortable and dehydrated. When I’m dehydrated I completely lose all connections with reality. I stare in to space, I don’t pay attention to people, I just generally disassociate. I think this was why I didn’t have a complete melt down later on in the day.

We were supposed to meet the school secretary, Mrs Joy (fake name, remember?) at the train station. On the way out we were treated to our first views of rural Korea. I say rural – there is something deeply unsettling upon viewing a fifty story apartment block out on its own surrounded by rice fields. It just didn’t seem right.

Our train stopped in a town that looked like a dystopian version of Mullingar. Well, a more dystopian version. There were neon church signs everywhere, lit up in the daytime. I could see the tower of a casino poking up behind a hospital that was so dirty if you looked at it long enough you’d get an eye infection. The pavements were all cracked and overgrown with weeds. Herself assumed that there must have been a refuse collector’s general strike. Rubbish bags were strewn on street corners and outside bars and restaurants. The town stank of rotting meat.

An elderly woman with heavily contoured makeup waved over at us. Herself asked me if it was Mrs Joy. I read a lot of crime fiction, but my skills of deduction are absolutely atrocious. I argued that it couldn’t be her. My reasoning? Well, I deduced that due to the fact that she was sitting on the bonnet of a modified two-door Honda Integra, smoking a fag, she couldn’t be a school secretary.

My poor judgement struck again.

Of course it was her.

Nothing about the next few weeks was going to be normal. Looking back, we should have turned on our heels there and then, but no, we were open to new and strange experiences. Our parochial Irish prejudices had to be left at home, where they belonged.

 

Shit gets weirder

We walked down to Mrs Joy, who introduced herself and gave us a lift up to the school in her boy racer car. She barely spoke on the way up, but almost wrapped the car around a lamppost while eyeballing me through the rear-view mirror.

We pulled up outside a filthy five story building that had a café on the ground floor. I assumed we were meeting everybody in the café. How metropolitan, I thought.

I had visions of myself discussing progressive pedagogic techniques while sipping espresso. Dehydration delirium I suppose. At this stage my suit was starting to itch really badly. I wanted nothing more than to get the hell out of here. Not because of the vibe I was getting, just because I was so physically uncomfortable.

Mrs Joy turned around. “This is the school. We are on the 2nd floor.” It was delivered like a challenge, rather than a statement of fact. So much for my poncey espresso fantasy.

We disembarked from the Integra, entered a stairwell and got in to a tiny, jerky lift.

Mrs Joy put us at ease by turning around to face us.

“This is a religious school. Are you Christian?”

Before I had the chance to profess my allegiance to glorious Satan, herself subtly dug me in the ribs and replied:

“We’re both Christians. We went to Catholic schools for both primary and secondary education”. She had assumed Mrs Joy would have been placated by this. She wasn’t.

“We’re Presbyterian. Have you got a problem with that?” Fucking hell, this was turning in to a Drumcree stand-off.

I wanted to go in to a long winded explanation about how organized religion was essentially this global scam set up to take people’s money by convincing them that they would become members of an exclusive club after they died if they followed certain rules…blah blah blah

To save time I just lied. “Nope, no problem at all”. Then added, “Sure isn’t it all the same craic anyway?” Mrs Joy just glared at me after the last comment. I’m sure she didn’t understand it, but my delivery and the wink after it must have conveyed my flippancy.

Mrs Joy brought us in to a small office where two smiling receptionists shook our hands and gave us warm welcomes. We were invited to sit down at a small round table where Mr Boyle, the head teacher, and Mr Yun, the principal, would come and meet us. (Fake names, remember?)

A generously proportioned American man came in to the room. He introduced himself as Mr Boyle and warmly thanked us for coming. He had a slight southern twang to his accent. Southern America, not Cork, boy. He asked us a few general job interview questions and a few general questions about ourselves. I instantly liked him. He seemed like a really gentle and nice guy.

After a few minutes a man who looked like a Kim Il Sung propaganda poster entered the room. He had the most dazzling and spectacular set of white teeth that I have ever seen. He introduced himself as Mr Yun. His accent was very neutral, and his voice was a smooth baritone. His speech pattern reminded me of Akira from The Simpsons. I think it was the way he paused in his sentence delivery, and his laugh that came out as a series of “Aaah’s”.

He was very heavy on the old religion though. He kept saying, “Praise the lord!” and “God will show me the way!”, and “Jesus has given me a sign!” Mad shit that I’ve only ever witnessed from an eccentric uncle, or being ridiculed in a Bill Hicks special.

We didn’t do all that praise be shit in Ireland. Well, not in any church I’ve ever been in. Phrases like “Please God!” and “God bless you!” after a sneeze are ingrained in the Irish lexicon, but that was about the height of it. I hadn’t believed in God in about 15 years. This guy’s full on spiel was making me very uncomfortable, and I think he knew it too.

 

Tour of Duty

I was squirming in my seat. I think Mr Boyle could sense my discomfort. He started to lavish us with praise. It was a nice change from praising Jesus.

“You seem like well-educated and wholesome folks. If nobody has any objections, I think you would be a great fit here.”

Both myself and herself let out a sigh of relief, looked at each other and laughed. Nice one. That was the job sorted. We could now focus on settling in and planning our year. Then Mr Yun asked a seemingly innocent question.

“Are you married?”

I blurted out, “No!” followed by, “We are engaged though.”

He contemplated this.

“Have you any plans to get married?”

Herself told him that, yes, we had, probably in a few years when we returned home on a holiday. Fair play to her for not saying, “When we get back to our real lives.”

Mr Yun smiled at this, held his hands out in front of us, and then said that God would help us find a way, whatever the fuck that meant. He then instructed Mr Boyle to take us on a tour of the school.

The school was filthy. The floors were all marked and chipped. Paint was peeling off the walls. It stank of stale kimchi and feet. Mr Boyle brought us in to all the rooms, telling us which room was for which year. It turned out that kids aged from four years old up to eighteen years old attended Sunshine Academy. They had ninety students over all. The school day started at 8:30 and finished at 18:00. Long enough day!

There was quite a lot of religious iconography hanging on the walls. JC himself, and quite a few paintings of saints that I’d never heard of before. I found this only slightly odd.

Why?

Well, the school that I went to for my secondary education used to be a priest’s training college. It was also on the grounds of the bishop’s residence (they called this a palace. The Catholic Church sure know how to ingratiate themselves with their congregation!) Our school was full of oil paintings of old priests and bishops. Creepy photographs where teenagers looked like fifty year old men, pictures of Jesus and Mary and all the lads having the craic in a white washed Israel.

There were also a couple of warning signs hung up throughout the older kids classrooms:

Anyone found listening to Christian Rock music will be immediately expelled!

Proper order too, I thought, that stuff was absolute shite.

Mr Boyle finished our tour of the filthy cramped classrooms and led us to the back of the school and a big set of wooden double doors. I assumed that this was a gym, or a canteen. Wrong again, detective dickhead!

He pushed open the doors to reveal a pristine chapel capable of seating a couple of hundred people.

I let out an audible, “What the fuck?”

Mr Boyle shifted on his feet and proclaimed that this was the community church. We would have service here every Sunday and teachers were required to attend. “Praise band” would lead prayers here every morning before class, along with several church services throughout the week.

I decided to re-engage my skills of detection. “So it’s a very religious school then, Mr Boyle?”

He smiled warmly, with a hint of an apology.

“Of course. This is a missionary school for the church of John Roberts (fake name!) All our students will become missionaries and travel the world preaching the good word to the non-believers.”

An explosion went off in my head. I glanced at herself. She was calmly smiling, but her eyes, her eyes said, “LET’S GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE!”

We both nodded politely and said “Aah, right. Great!”

 

Jewel of Denial

 

Mr Boyle ushered us back to the staff room where Mrs Joy was waiting to escort us to the train station. She dropped us off and said the recruiter would call with further instructions.

We navigated to the correct platform and didn’t say a word until the town was well out of sight.

I know it sounds ridiculous, but we were both paranoid that someone from the “school” would be on the train, tailing us, and would report our comments back to Mr Yun.

Hey, stranger things have happened!

We actually left our seats at one point and moved to a different carriage. I don’t think we were followed.

When we took our new seats we both looked at each other and burst out laughing. It was a release of the day’s craziness and tensions. What else could we do?

“What the fuck was that all about?” I said.

She shook her head. “I don’t know. It’s really fucking mad! It’s a job though. Once the contract is legit, I’m sure it’ll be ok. Plus, I think they might be more desperate than us. They were trying very hard to tone down the crazy.”

“I don’t know dude. It could be a giant head fuck.”

“Let’s just wait and see. If the money and terms are good, we can sign up. We can spend our weekends in Seoul. It’s just a job. Don’t worry.”

I wasn’t so sure. I had gotten an awful feeling out there, but maybe it had been due to severe dehydration. I deferred. Money, and more crucially, visas were running out. It would all become clearer later on, I supposed.

The recruiter called us later on that evening. Sunshine Academy loved us. They were prepared to offer us the equivalent of €2000 each per month, plus an apartment, phones, and sponsor our visa. However, an official contract wasn’t offered just yet. We had to go back out the next day to discuss terms.

The recruiter was insistent that it’d be a good idea to accept, as couple’s positions were few and far between. Herself thought it would be a good idea too. I was a bit apprehensive if I’m honest. I got a real ‘brainwash’ vibe in that school. I was conscious though of our situation, and decided that herself is usually more logical than me when it came to these kinds of decisions, so I agreed.

I mean, how bad could it be?

 

An offer from a gentleman

 

We went out the following morning on the train to meet with Mr Boyle. When we got to the school it was just himself and the two secretaries present. No sign of Mr Yun or Mrs Joy.

We were offered the job. No contract was issued, but he said Mrs Joy was taking care of that for us and would have it ready soon.

We would be staring on the following Monday and our apartment would be ready on the following Friday. This suited us just fine. We were paid up in our current accommodation until that date.

I was relieved that we got the offer. I didn’t want to have to admit defeat and return home so early in to our trip. It would have been awful trying to explain that to everyone.

It wouldn’t have been a huge failure. It’s not like we sold our house or anything, it’s just that people can be real dicks if they perceive failure in someone that has tried something different. Proper begrudging cunts. It’s one of the worst aspects of Irish people’s personalities – we’re slow to reward success, quick to point out failings.

As a nation, we can be right miserable fucks when we want to be!

On the way out of Mr Boyle’s office we were greeted by a young Korean mother and her two children. They ran to Mr Boyle, and he received them with a big hug, lifting the smaller one up on to his shoulders. It was actually a really nice moment. In Ireland a teacher would never do something like this, they’re not allowed. Why? Well, like everything that’s shit in Ireland, the Catholic Church acted the bollox and ruined platonic relationships between adults and young children for everyone. Cheers lads!

The kids and their mother seemed to really love Mr Boyle. He asked them a few questions and played a little game with the older one. It was like rock, paper, scissors. The kid won and Mr Boyle gave her a sweet that he had in his pocket.

He introduced us to the kid’s mother.

“This is Teacher (Me) and his wife, Teacher (Herself). They will be starting school in two weeks!”

“Aw”, I thought, followed by, “hang on a sec, I don’t have a wife.” I passed it off as a cultural misinterpretation and followed herself in to the lift.

On the train back to Seoul we discussed our plans for the next 12 months. We were both in agreement that the town we’d be living in was a shithole, BUT, we were only a train ride away from Seoul.

One of the best things in Korea was the availability of cheap, basic (but comfortable!) accommodation throughout the city. We could spend an entire weekend in Seoul from less than €20 and visit all the bars and restaurants we wanted to. Monday to Friday would be spent in the boonies, Friday, Saturday and Sunday would be spent in civilization.

We would go to Japan for Christmas and New Year’s, maybe visit China in the spring, and possibly try and get a trip to North Korea at some point.

The job would be treated as that – a job only. There was no need for us to get involved in their church, and we were sure they wouldn’t force us to.

Sure that would have made things awkward.

 

Ew, gimbap!

We spent the weekend before staring our new jobs in Itaewon. Itaewon was kind of the international area in Seoul. Actually, it is the international area in Seoul. If you wanted a taste of home, a big pair of jeans for your giant western arse, or to be attacked by a drunken American soldier, it was the place to be!

On the Saturday morning we visited a café owned by a Canadian couple for brunch. I had the most delicious French toast with bacon. It was so good! While we were digesting and enjoying our coffees, a group of Irish ladies entered, sat a few tables over from us, and started having a really loud conversation. Myself and herself stopped talking to have a nose.

It was fucking hilarious. It turned out that they were involved in the GAA set up over there. One of their team mates had gotten a bit too cocky for their liking, and they were tearing shreds off of her. I burst out laughing when one of them said, “She tells everyone that she’s from Terenure, but she’s Tallaght through and through!”  They glared at me, but then started laughing awkwardly. It was a really nice moment; it calmed me and made me feel that I wasn’t actually that far from home after all.

Our current apartment was roughly an hour and a half train ride from the school. On the morning of the first day we got up early and treated ourselves to a cronut and coffees from the train station Dunkin’ Donuts.

We normally ate gimbap for breakfast. Gimbap was kind of the Korean equivalent of an Irish breakfast roll. It was lot healthier than the Irish version too. Basically it was a long, segmented roll of sushi wrapped in tinfoil. It cost roughly 50 cent. It was very filling, very healthy, and very disgusting to eat first thing in the morning.

I could never get used to seaweed, rice and fish first thing in the morning. This bogman liked his porridge! It’d be grand for lunch, or an early evening snack, but my stomach always lurched on those early mornings. I’d have to close off my nostrils before taking my first bite, and keep them closed until the first segment was consumed. I liked the bitterness of the pickled radish, but the seaweed’s texture and taste always made me want to puke. Herself loved it. She vocalised her love of it even more when she used to see me struggling, just to wind me up. It worked.

Herself got us a couple of large bottles of water and a few notebooks and pens from the 7/11. Apparently the school would be providing us with a traditional ‘British’ lunch as a welcome. I was getting pig-sick of people telling us we were British, but a free lunch was a free lunch.

Actually, I have to elaborate on this point. I’m not speaking for everyone on the island of Ireland here, I’m speaking for myself. I’m sure it is an opinion though that a lot of Irish people will share. I fucking hate it when people of another nationality assume I’m British. Ireland is a separate country, with a completely different cultural identity, language and traditions. It’s a level of ignorance that I really have a hard time accepting.

I don’t hate the Brits. I bear them no ill will whatsoever; it’s just that I associate a lot of negative things to the word British. This includes (but is not limited to):

Flat, warm, flavourless beer and conversation

Complaints over trivial matters in holiday resorts

Destroying football stadiums

ITV

Look, we have some similarities, but we’re not the same. I’d apologize to my British friends for this hard-line standpoint, but they have yet to apologize to me for:

The Famine

Oliver Cromwell

The X Factor

So they can fuck off!

 

Let us pray

We arrived to the school at 9am. All the teachers were assembled in the largest of the classrooms. They all seemed to be quite young. They were probably only a couple of years out of university, some maybe just graduated. Mr Boyle and Mr Yun sat at the head of the assembled circle of tables, myself and herself happened to be facing them.

Mr Yun welcomed everyone to the first day of preparation for the new term, introduced both of us to the staff, and then asked that we all bow our heads and close our eyes for the morning prayer. It was unlike any prayer that we’d ever heard.

Mr Yun started off by thanking dear, beautiful Jesus (his exact words) for sending two blessings in the form of myself and herself. He then asked father God to help us find our way and to guide us for the school year. Dear blessed Jesus was also requested to guide us into his arms. Dear blessed Jesus would have some job achieving that. In fact, dear blessed Jesus would have been better served concentrating his efforts on preventing me from laughing.

The prayer continued for another ten excruciating minutes. Subtle digs were thrown at Mr Boyle’s health and weight issues, a lazy Math teacher was taken down, and a teacher who was absent was prayed for in an incredibly insincere fashion. Apparently Jesus was in charge of school discipline, staff welfare and performance reviews. In a nutshell, JC was the head of HR. Maybe I could have a quiet word with him about my employment contract…

The prayer finally finished with a communal amen. I said “Eamonn”, a bad habit I’d picked up from being forced to go to mass in secondary school. Nobody noticed.

Mr Yun then asked us to take out our bibles.

Bibles?

I turned to herself in absolute fucking shock horror. Nobody had asked us to bring a bible! I didn’t own a fucking bible. The only book I had on me at that time was a collection of short stories by Philip K Dick that I’d brought with me from home. I was beginning to think that I was a character in one of them.

This was going to be a tricky situation. I looked around the room. Some of the younger teachers were reading the eBook version on their smartphones. Everyone else was reading out of these magnificent leather bound volumes

Mr Boyle read out the passage in his gentle southern drawl. Myself and herself gave each other nervous glances. How would we approach this? We’d yet to discover an English language bookshop since our arrival. There was probably one in Itaewon, but would they have a bible? I panicked slightly. Maybe the school had a spare one somewhere that we could share. I wasn’t going to fork out cash for two copies of a book that I’d no interest in reading.

The passage ended and Mr Yun asked us all to go in peace and have a blessed and productive day. Myself and herself were asked to stay behind for a brief chat.

And so began the most insane, wacky conversation that I have ever been a party to.

Ah lads, I hate to end on a cliff-hanger, but this conversation requires its own dedicated post.

 

Get away ta fuck!

 

Mr Yun sat down and smiled his big ‘I’m going to gently brainwash you’ smile.

“So Jesus came to me last night…”

I had no idea Jesus was in Korea. I thought he was usually in Costa Rica at this time of the year, appearing to somebody in the trunk of a felled tree.

“…and told me that I need to perform a wedding.”

I knew where this was going. My detective skills had been shit up to this point, but this time I was spot on. This crazy cunt was going to try and make us get married in his crack-pot church. Neither of us spoke, giving Mr Yun the space to elaborate.

“You guys will be married in our church before school next Monday. All the students and their parents will attend. Praise Jesus, it will be a blessed day!”

Well that was me done. I was getting up to strangle him when herself put her hand on my leg.

She said, “Why? We don’t need to be married to work here. This is a very strange and unusual request.”

Fair play to her. That was a more level-headed response compared to murder.

Mr Yun explained, “We are a conservative and hardworking people. We are not wicked and dishonest like Westerners. Our congregation will not accept an unmarried couple living together and working in our school.” He said all this with a serene smile on his face. This guy was a fucking maniac! Westerners might be wicked and dishonest, but we didn’t force people in to marriage to get jobs. Sure, we might have forced people to leave jobs for being married in the past, but that’s changed now. I think.

I knew that I would love herself forever when she replied to this statement. This was the woman that I would conquer the world with. Well, she’d conquer the world; I’d drive her from place to place and maybe do the dishes.

“Oh is that what this is about? Well if you’re worried about appearances, just get us two apartments. We don’t mind. The parents don’t need to know we’re a couple.”

A cracking reply!

Mr Yun soon correctly realized that I might be the weak link here. He started to work me over with the ‘ol psychological brass knucks.

“You seem uncomfortable. Do you not love her? Is that why you don’t want to get married?”

Fucking prick. I should have murdered him, or at least given him a Stone Cold Stunner.

“No”, I said through gritted teeth, “that’s not it at all. Our wedding should be at home, with our family and friends, not a thousand miles away in front of strangers.”

Mr Yun digested this for a second.

“But you could get married again when you go home. This will just be for Korea.”

Herself interjected.

“So it’s not a legal marriage then? It’s not in the eyes of the law? It’s just pretend?”

Mr Yun said, “You will be married in the eyes of the lord!”

I stood up, “Ah right, it’s only a pretend wedding so.”

She continued, “Look, let us think about it. We’re not agreeing to anything yet. It’s a strange request and you have to give us time to think about it.

Mr Yun threw his hands up in the air, looked to the sky and proclaimed, “Oh blessed day!”

What the fuck was going on here?

 

A British lunch

After that phenomenally fucked-up conversation we were shown to our personal classrooms and given our schedules and subjects.

I was going to be teaching English literature, US history and US civics. I wasn’t going to be teaching English as a foreign language at all! Herself would be teaching art, science and geography. All the subjects our three month TEFL course had prepared us for. For all the shite talk about Jesus showing people things in this school, you’d think he’d tell the cunts that we weren’t qualified to teach the kids these subjects.

I was still reeling from the morning’s indecent proposal. When I started to flick through the course books I was dealt a haymaker that almost had me KO’d.

All the books were from the “church’s” US based university press, and boy were they conservative! On page one of the senior class English literature text book this statement was printed:

Although we include the works of sinful writers such as James Joyce, who are now burning in the eternal fires of hell, their use of language and the stories they have written are important for you to know. Having knowledge of these works will assist you on your future mission.

I burst out laughing, mostly due to the ridiculousness of it, but partly because I was expected to teach this bullshit rhetoric. I grabbed the book and ran across the hall to herself’s class room to show her.

She was sitting on the edge of her desk reading a book, a look of shock on her face. Before I could tell her about my discovery she looked up and said, “I have to teach creationism!”

“For religion, like?”

“No!” she said, “Science!”

Ah yeah, that made perfect sense the way this day was going.

We both then did the most mature and academically correct method of critiquing these publications. We threw them on the floor and made wanker gestures at them. That was them told!

I had thought that this place was weird when they had an issue with sex before marriage, a little old fashioned perhaps. Not believing in evolution? That was just a tad too vintage for this wannabe hipster.

We didn’t have time to discuss it further. We were called in to the canteen for our British lunch. When I saw what was being served, I got past the ‘British’ tag fairly quickly. The kitchen staff had prepared giant, thick beef fillet steaks. It was served with fries and salad. European salad! Not a sign of kimchi anywhere. I hadn’t eaten beef like this since leaving Ireland. It was so tender, so juicy, so fucking good! If this was a brainwashing technique, well, I was absolutely fucked!

After being deprived of beef like this for so long I would happily refute the teachings of Darwin. James Joyce? May he burn in hell!

Fuck it, I’d even have a wedding! No, too far. It wasn’t that good.

Mr Boyle invited us to sit with him, and we were joined shortly by Mr Yun. We had brief small talk about baseball, root-beer and soccer for some reason. I had mentioned that I liked soccer just fine, but I was more of a rugby fan.

Mr Yun was nodding enthusiastically. You could see the wheels turning in the manipulative fuck’s head.

 

You’ll never Walk Alone

That afternoon was spent cleaning up and organizing our classrooms. There was a lot of work to do, so we didn’t really get to speak to each other until walking to the train that evening.

She asked me how I felt about everything. I decided that I wouldn’t just focus on the negatives.

Here’s a breakdown of my summations:

 The whole bible debacle and morning prayer routine were bizarre.

 Lunch was great.

 The fact that we were teaching creationism was ridiculous.

 Lunch was fantastic.

 Teaching kids that James Joyce was burning in hell was outrageous.

 Lunch was wonderful.

We purposefully avoided talking about our impending (doom) nuptials until disembarking from the train.

“A wedding girl. What the fuck was that all about?”

“I don’t know boy! It isn’t happening though. It’s really fucking mad!”

We were in quite the pickle. If we flat out refused to go through with this crack-pot Jesus freak’s idea of a wedding, he may renege on the job offer, but if we kept schtum and didn’t outwardly commit to anything, maybe we could sign our contract and then have a reasonable conversation regarding our opposition to forced marriages.

Our final decision was to say nothing till you hear more. Bury our heads in the sand. The Irish way of dealing with horrific circumstances. We assumed that honest hard-working church folk would be level-headed, flexible and open to negotiation.

Nope.

Not a chance.

Day two started as day one had with another passive aggressive prayer session. Mr Boyle asked Father God to help Mr Yun make the right decisions for the school. He asked Jesus to guide Mr Yun’s hand while planning for the year ahead.

These guys were using Jesus as a wall to hide behind while throwing insults at each other. Maybe I could ask Jesus to cancel the wedding. Or perhaps I could tell Mr Yun that Jesus came to me in a dream and said that the wedding was a bad idea, and for Mr Yun to get the fuck out of our personal lives. Perhaps he would respond to a request being made in the language that he was most used to.

Mr Yun asked us to stay behind again after the bible session. The bible session that we still had no bible for. A young Korean male teacher stayed back with us. Mr Yun introduced him as Mr Park (fake name of course). Mr Park was the music teacher. He was wearing a Spurs jersey, they were well supported in Korea because of the success of Son Heung-min.

Mr Park spoke with a perfect American accent. Apparently he had lived there for most of his life, returning to Korea as a teenager with his parents.

“I understand you’re a soccer fan?” he smiled.

I answered that I liked it just fine. Mr Yun’s presence was draining my enthusiasm for the game. The cunt was beaming, he had the satisfied look of a successful matchmaker on his face. A face that I would gladly have punched.

Mr Yun proclaimed “Mr Park is a very talented opera singer. He will be singing a song at your wedding on Monday.”

For fuck sake. The cunt now had the band booked. Jesus Christ. Was he going to surprise us with an organized lock-in for the second day next?

I turned to herself, and for the first time since landing did something that I considered previously to be quite rude; I spoke to her in Irish. I asked her why the fuck was this guy assuming that the wedding was going ahead like we had agreed to it. We hadn’t! She shrugged and said to wait until after to talk to Mr Yun. This really confused the lads. Park was giving Yun a “What’s this shit?” look, whereas Yun had a bemused look on his face.

Mr Park repeated “I understand you like soccer. I will sing the Liverpool song at your wedding, by Gerry and the Pacemakers.”

He then proceeded to blast out a deep, rich, operatic version of You’ll Never Walk Alone.

I was stunned. First of all for being accused of being a Liverpool fan, secondly, the man’s talent just blew me away. Mainly though, and most importantly, Mr Yun had casually mentioned that the wedding was going ahead.

Nope.

Not a chance.

 

Something Resembling Normality

 

Mr Park and Mr Yun walked on with hope in their hearts, while myself and herself walked through a storm in to our shitty classrooms. We had to begin our lesson plans.

I’d pretty much reached my quota of crazy for the year, so rather than doing actual work, I spent the first two hours building forts with the textbooks on my desk.

My desk was a piece of shit rickety table that was scarred with the frustrated carvings of its previous owner. He was either in to heavy metal, or a proponent of population control; Hatebreed was scrawled in a number of places deep in the pine. They weren’t in the Christian rock genre, so I suppose they were ok as far as the school were concerned.

We had lunch with the staff at 1pm. This time it was a traditional Korean dish, bibimbap, I think. ‘Twas grand, but it was no fillet of beef, I tell thee.

Mr Boyle joined myself and herself at our table. He was such a nice man, but an incredibly messy eater. His shirt was covered in most of his meal by the time he had finished. I’m a bit squeamish around messy eaters. I always imagine a bit of their meal falling out of their mouths and landing on my plate, and I’ll accidentally eat it and catch some kind of debilitating disease. This then ruins my appetite, and I love eating. Eating is great craic.

The rest of the day passed fairly uneventfully.

Wednesday and Thursday were spent familiarizing ourselves with planners, work schedules and exam preparation techniques. My general peace was interrupted every now and then with a distant operatic blast of You’ll Never Walk Alone coming from the music room down the hall.

It was the only reminder of the potential wedding. Mr Yun hadn’t been in the school for the past two days, so we assumed that maybe he had forgotten about it – the wedding, not the school.

Mrs Joy hadn’t been knocking about either. I assumed that she and her modified car gang were probably at some drifting event in the mountains. Maybe they’d fallen out with Vin Diesel again over something.

Her absence meant that we still had not been furnished with an official contract of employment. I suppose basic office admin was difficult to carry out when you were doing handbrakes in your Honda Integra.

It was great being able to focus on actual work and not being constantly distracted by Mr Yun’s shotgun wedding. We were both really looking forward to the kids starting on Monday. Our new careers as teachers were about to begin!

Sure, we were only qualified to teach English as a foreign language, and not specific subjects like we were now doing, but that was the most exciting part of it! I’ve always loved history and English. Being able to classify myself as an English and history teacher really instilled a sense of pride in me for some reason. Maybe it was because I had some good teachers for those subjects back in Saint Pat’s, lads that I respected and wanted to emulate. I don’t know. Anyway, I wasn’t qualified, I was probably about to ruin these kid’s lives. Finish off the job the cult had started.

I was really looking forward to getting cracking on Monday, making shite of the children’s futures.

The next two days events would drastically change this outlook.

 

Better Put A Ring On It

On the Friday morning of our first week, we were greeted by a very hoarse and pale Mr Yun.

He explained his condition before the morning prayer:

“You will have to excuse me this morning. I was partaking in a revival for the past few days. Mr Boyle will lead our morning prayers.”

Mr Boyle nodded graciously and prayed that God would heal Mr Yun’s voice. Yun smiled and took out a lozenge and popped it in his mouth, just to be sure.

How did I see this? Well, I had not been closing my eyes during “prayers” since the first meeting on Monday. Why? Well, I didn’t trust the cunts, that’s why!

I mean, this was a guy that was away for two days at a revival? A revival of what? Fucking Supertramp? This was evangelical shit. Events organized to convert (brainwash) new members of the church (cult) and bring them closer to Jesus (take all their money). No way was I closing my eyes around these lunatics!

After the meeting Mr Yun asked us to stay back. Great, I thought, more fucking wedding shit. He sat down in front of us.

“So guys, I think you should go out today and buy some rings for your wedding.”

Ha? Rings? Did this gowl fall off the stage at his revival and get a concussion?

“Excuse me?” asked herself.

Mr Yun chuckled “We can’t have a wedding without rings!”

I’d had enough of this bullshit. We were almost stone broke, in a strange land on the other side of the world, sitting in front of a smiling maniac who was suggesting that we buy rings for a wedding that we hadn’t fucking agreed to. If I had ever been exposed to a high concentration of gamma radiation as a child, it would be at this point that I’d have turned my purple trousers into rags with my exploding green muscles.

I put a hand up. “Listen Mr Yun, we are not spending money on rings for this so called wedding. We haven’t agreed to this. This entire suggestion is beyond ridiculous.”

Mr Yun inhaled, smiled, and turned around to herself.

“So, Mrs Joy has found a wedding dress for you and some nice shoes. Do you have time today to try it on?”

Herself blanched.

“A wedding dress? No, I do not have time to try on a dress. Please furnish us with our contracts and stop asking us to get married. It is not going to happen.”

Yun considered this. He took a step back and reloaded his brainwash shotgun with some guilt pellets.

“Bust everyone is invited. All the children are excited. All the teachers have prepared. You will get married before school and then teach your classes for the rest of the day.”

Wow. Way to upsell.

“You should not have invited anyone to a wedding or any event that we haven’t given consent to. You can go back to all these people and tell them it isn’t happening.” I roared.

The prick completely ignored me again and spoke directly to herself. It was an impressive technique to be fair. Don’t even acknowledge something that goes against your views. A proper fundamentalist.

“Your apartment will be ready tomorrow.”

Ah, he was using shock and awe tactics now. Clever.

“Mrs Joy will meet you in the morning and take you there.”

“And what about our contracts?” asked herself.

Yun waved his hand, “Talk to Mrs Joy about that, she looks after contracts.”

He turned to me.

“You look upset. What is wrong?”

Was this guy a fucking idiot, or just acting the bollox? I got up out of my seat to leave.

“I’ve work to do.” I walked out of the room and went straight to my classroom. It probably made me look like a petulant child, but I had to get out of there. I had such a strong urge to punch that man in the face. Give him a proper haymaker.

Herself followed me in to the room, locked the door and drew the blinds.

We had to hash this out immediately. Things had really gotten out of hand.

 

Crisis Talks

This edition is going to be a bit dialogue heavy, lads. To make it more legible, I’m going to format it thusly:  M – is myself talking, H – is herself talking.

Clear enough?

Great!

M – Dude. What the hell have we got ourselves into?

She sighed and walked over to the window, debating whether to close the street facing blinds. These guys were freaks, but I don’t think they had a laser listening device pointed at that room at this particular moment in time.

H – Do you think they can hear us?

M – I don’t know, but if Jesus is everywhere, I hope he can keep his mouth shut!

We both laughed. It was badly needed to break the tension. It was either laughter, or a good weep.

M – This wedding dude. It can’t go ahead. It’s like some form of abuse, isn’t it?

She nodded.

H – Yeah, it’s really fucking mad. Look, it’s not happening, ok? We just don’t have to go through with it.

M – I dunno dude. This guy just doesn’t take no for an answer. Did you see the way he just pretended I wasn’t in the room when I openly challenged him? That was fucked up.

H – Well, he’ll have to take no for an answer. Otherwise he’ll have no teachers. We can always leave, you know?

M – Yeah, but what about money? What about a place to live and work? The school year starts next week!

We both let that sink in. We were caught between a rock and a crazy place. The old cliché says that beggars can’t be choosers, and the way our finances were at the time, we definitely were more in the beggar category than the chooser category. We still had our get out of dodge money. We could return to Ireland, take our “I told you so!” lashes, and try and pick up the pieces.

Even though the whole situation had gone well beyond bizarre, I didn’t want to go home. Mostly due to pride.

A sin.

I’d learned nothing since I started in Sunshine Academy. Not a fucking thing.

H – Ok. Let’s stick to our original plan. We won’t do the wedding. That’s not happening. Let Yun make suggestions and plans all he wants, but we won’t go through with it. We’ll sign our contracts, move in, and we’ll work Monday to Friday. We won’t get involved in any of this church shit.

M – But dude, do you think we’ll be left alone like that? I mean, they don’t seem like the type to respect people’s wishes. They are forcibly arranging our wedding after all. And we only met the cunts last week! They don’t even know us!

H – Yeah, you’re right. They are going to wreck our fucking heads. We just have to resist as much as possible.

M – I’ll break. I’m weak. I just want a hassle free life! You know I’ll fold.

H – No, you’ll be strong. We’re a team. If we let them get inside our heads, we’re done for. I’d say the worst that can happen is a slap on the wrists. We have the advantage here. They just don’t know it yet.

A slap on the wrists? I wasn’t sure about that. They seemed more like the “burned at the stake” kind of people.

I felt awful. I felt afraid. Most of all, I felt homesick.

The Ireland that I left wasn’t perfect. The wages were shite, the rent was high, the weather was damp, but apart from the odd over-zealous aunt – nobody was forcing us to get married against our will at home.

If the wedding went ahead, I’d pull the plug. Fuck it; I’d take the “told-you-so’s!”

We gave it a go.

After work we met Mrs Joy in the corridor.

J – There is a church gathering tonight. We want you to come.

M & H – No! We’re busy.

A united front. That’s how we’d win!

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I Almost Worked for a Cult 19

Crisis Talks

This edition is going to be a bit dialogue heavy, lads. To make it more legible, I’m going to format it thusly:  M – is myself talking, H – is herself talking.

Clear enough?

Great!

M – Dude. What the hell have we got ourselves into?

She sighed and walked over to the window, debating whether to close the street facing blinds. These guys were freaks, but I don’t think they had a laser listening device pointed at that room at this particular moment in time.

H – Do you think they can hear us?

M – I don’t know, but if Jesus is everywhere, I hope he can keep his mouth shut!

We both laughed. It was badly needed to break the tension. It was either laughter, or a good weep.

M – This wedding dude. It can’t go ahead. It’s like some form of abuse, isn’t it?

She nodded.

H – Yeah, it’s really fucking mad. Look, it’s not happening, ok? We just don’t have to go through with it.

M – I dunno dude. This guy just doesn’t take no for an answer. Did you see the way he just pretended I wasn’t in the room when I openly challenged him? That was fucked up.

H – Well, he’ll have to take no for an answer. Otherwise he’ll have no teachers. We can always leave, you know?

M – Yeah, but what about money? What about a place to live and work? The school year starts next week!

We both let that sink in. We were caught between a rock and a crazy place. The old cliché says that beggars can’t be choosers, and the way our finances were at the time, we definitely were more in the beggar category than the chooser category. We still had our get out of dodge money. We could return to Ireland, take our “I told you so!” lashes, and try and pick up the pieces.

Even though the whole situation had gone well beyond bizarre, I didn’t want to go home. Mostly due to pride.

A sin.

I’d learned nothing since I started in Sunshine Academy. Not a fucking thing.

H – Ok. Let’s stick to our original plan. We won’t do the wedding. That’s not happening. Let Yun make suggestions and plans all he wants, but we won’t go through with it. We’ll sign our contracts, move in, and we’ll work Monday to Friday. We won’t get involved in any of this church shit.

M – But dude, do you think we’ll be left alone like that? I mean, they don’t seem like the type to respect people’s wishes. They are forcibly arranging our wedding after all. And we only met the cunts last week! They don’t even know us!

H – Yeah, you’re right. They are going to wreck our fucking heads. We just have to resist as much as possible.

M – I’ll break. I’m weak. I just want a hassle free life! You know I’ll fold.

H – No, you’ll be strong. We’re a team. If we let them get inside our heads, we’re done for. I’d say the worst that can happen is a slap on the wrists. We have the advantage here. They just don’t know it yet.

A slap on the wrists? I wasn’t sure about that. They seemed more like the “burned at the stake” kind of people.

I felt awful. I felt afraid. Most of all, I felt homesick.

The Ireland that I left wasn’t perfect. The wages were shite, the rent was high, the weather was damp, but apart from the odd over-zealous aunt – nobody was forcing us to get married against our will at home.

If the wedding went ahead, I’d pull the plug. Fuck it; I’d take the “told-you-so’s!”

We gave it a go.

After work we met Mrs Joy in the corridor.

J – There is a church gathering tonight. We want you to come.

M & H – No! We’re busy.

A united front. That’s how we’d win!

Next time: Moving on up

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I Almost Worked for a Cult 18

Better put a ring on it

On the Friday morning of our first week, we were greeted by a very hoarse and pale Mr Yun.

He explained his condition before the morning prayer:

“You will have to excuse me this morning. I was partaking in a revival for the past few days. Mr Boyle will lead our morning prayers.”

Mr Boyle nodded graciously and prayed that God would heal Mr Yun’s voice. Yun smiled and took out a lozenge and popped it in his mouth, just to be sure.

How did I see this? Well, I had not been closing my eyes during “prayers” since the first meeting on Monday. Why? Well, I didn’t trust the cunts, that’s why!

I mean, this was a guy that was away for two days at a revival? A revival of what? Fucking Supertramp? This was evangelical shit. Events organized to convert (brainwash) new members of the church (cult) and bring them closer to Jesus (take all their money). No way was I closing my eyes around these lunatics!

After the meeting Mr Yun asked us to stay back. Great, I thought, more fucking wedding shit. He sat down in front of us.

“So guys, I think you should go out today and buy some rings for your wedding.”

Ha? Rings? Did this gowl fall off the stage at his revival and get a concussion?

“Excuse me?” asked herself.

Mr Yun chuckled “We can’t have a wedding without rings!”

I’d had enough of this bullshit. We were almost stone broke, in a strange land on the other side of the world, sitting in front of a smiling maniac who was suggesting that we buy rings for a wedding that we hadn’t fucking agreed to. If I had ever been exposed to a high concentration of gamma radiation as a child, it would be at this point that I’d have turned my purple trousers into rags with my exploding green muscles.

I put a hand up. “Listen Mr Yun, we are not spending money on rings for this so called wedding. We haven’t agreed to this. This entire suggestion is beyond ridiculous.”

Mr Yun inhaled, smiled, and turned around to herself.

“So, Mrs Joy has found a wedding dress for you and some nice shoes. Do you have time today to try it on?”

Herself blanched.

“A wedding dress? No, I do not have time to try on a dress. Please furnish us with our contracts and stop asking us to get married. It is not going to happen.”

Yun considered this. He took a step back and reloaded his brainwash shotgun with some guilt pellets.

“But everyone is invited. All the children are excited. All the teachers have prepared. You will get married before school and then teach your classes for the rest of the day.”

Wow. Way to upsell.

“You should not have invited anyone to a wedding or any event that we haven’t given consent to. You can go back to all these people and tell them it isn’t happening.” I roared.

The prick completely ignored me again and spoke directly to herself. It was an impressive technique to be fair. Don’t even acknowledge something that goes against your views. A proper fundamentalist.

“Your apartment will be ready tomorrow.”

Ah, he was using shock and awe tactics now. Clever.

“Mrs Joy will meet you in the morning and take you there.”

“And what about our contracts?” asked herself.

Yun waved his hand, “Talk to Mrs Joy about that, she looks after contracts.”

He turned to me.

“You look upset. What is wrong?”

Was this guy a fucking idiot, or just acting the bollox? I got up out of my seat to leave.

“I’ve work to do.” I walked out of the room and went straight to my classroom. It probably made me look like a petulant child, but I had to get out of there. I had such a strong urge to punch that man in the face. Give him a proper haymaker.

Herself followed me in to the room, locked the door and drew the blinds.

We had to hash this out immediately. Things had really gotten out of hand.

Next time: Crisis Talks

Featured

I Almost Worked for a Cult 17

Something resembling normality

Mr Park and Mr Yun walked on with hope in their hearts, while myself and herself walked through a storm in to our shitty classrooms. We had to begin our lesson plans.

I’d pretty much reached my quota of crazy for the year, so rather than doing actual work, I spent the first two hours building forts with the textbooks on my desk.

My desk was a piece of shit rickety table that was scarred with the frustrated carvings of its previous owner. He was either in to heavy metal, or a proponent of population control; Hatebreed was scrawled in a number of places deep in the pine. They weren’t in the Christian rock genre, so I suppose they were ok as far as the school were concerned.

We had lunch with the staff at 1pm. This time it was a traditional Korean dish, bibimbap, I think. ‘Twas grand, but it was no fillet of beef, I tell thee.

Mr Boyle joined myself and herself at our table. He was such a nice man, but an incredibly messy eater. His shirt was covered in most of his meal by the time he had finished. I’m a bit squeamish around messy eaters. I always imagine a bit of their meal falling out of their mouths and landing on my plate, and I’ll accidentally eat it and catch some kind of debilitating disease. This then ruins my appetite, and I love eating. Eating is great craic.

The rest of the day passed fairly uneventfully.

Wednesday and Thursday were spent familiarizing ourselves with planners, work schedules and exam preparation techniques. My general peace was interrupted every now and then with a distant operatic blast of You’ll Never Walk Alone coming from the music room down the hall.

It was the only reminder of the potential wedding. Mr Yun hadn’t been in the school for the past two days, so we assumed that maybe he had forgotten about it – the wedding, not the school.

Mrs Joy hadn’t been knocking about either. I assumed that she and her modified car gang were probably at some drifting event in the mountains. Maybe they’d fallen out with Vin Diesel again over something.

Her absence meant that we still had not been furnished with an official contract of employment. I suppose basic office admin was difficult to carry out when you were doing handbrakes in your Honda Integra.

It was great being able to focus on actual work and not being constantly distracted by Mr Yun’s shotgun wedding. We were both really looking forward to the kids starting on Monday. Our new careers as teachers were about to begin!

Sure, we were only qualified to teach English as a foreign language, and not specific subjects like we were now doing, but that was the most exciting part of it! I’ve always loved history and English. Being able to classify myself as an English and history teacher really instilled a sense of pride in me for some reason. Maybe it was because I had some good teachers for those subjects back in Saint Pat’s, lads that I respected and wanted to emulate. I don’t know. Anyway, I wasn’t qualified, I was probably about to ruin these kid’s lives. Finish off the job the cult had started.

I was really looking forward to getting cracking on Monday, making shite of the children’s futures.

The next two days events would drastically change this outlook.

Next time: Better put a ring on it

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I Almost Worked for a Cult 16

You’ll Never Walk Alone

That afternoon was spent cleaning up and organizing our classrooms. There was a lot of work to do, so we didn’t really get to speak to each other until walking to the train that evening.

She asked me how I felt about everything. I decided that I wouldn’t just focus on the negatives.

Here’s a breakdown of my summations:

 The whole bible debacle and morning prayer routine were bizarre.

 Lunch was great.

 The fact that we were teaching creationism was ridiculous.

 Lunch was fantastic.

 Teaching kids that James Joyce was burning in hell was outrageous.

 Lunch was wonderful.

We purposefully avoided talking about our impending (doom) nuptials until disembarking from the train.

“A wedding girl. What the fuck was that all about?”

“I don’t know boy! It isn’t happening though. It’s really fucking mad!”

We were in quite the pickle. If we flat out refused to go through with this crack-pot Jesus freak’s idea of a wedding, he may renege on the job offer, but if we kept schtum and didn’t outwardly commit to anything, maybe we could sign our contract and then have a reasonable conversation regarding our opposition to forced marriages.

Our final decision was to say nothing till you hear more. Bury our heads in the sand. The Irish way of dealing with horrific circumstances. We assumed that honest hard-working church folk would be level-headed, flexible and open to negotiation.

Nope.

Not a chance.

Day two started as day one had with another passive aggressive prayer session. Mr Boyle asked Father God to help Mr Yun make the right decisions for the school. He asked Jesus to guide Mr Yun’s hand while planning for the year ahead.

These guys were using Jesus as a wall to hide behind while throwing insults at each other. Maybe I could ask Jesus to cancel the wedding. Or perhaps I could tell Mr Yun that Jesus came to me in a dream and said that the wedding was a bad idea, and for Mr Yun to get the fuck out of our personal lives. Perhaps he would respond to a request being made in the language that he was most used to.

Mr Yun asked us to stay behind again after the bible session. The bible session that we still had no bible for. A young Korean male teacher stayed back with us. Mr Yun introduced him as Mr Park (fake name of course). Mr Park was the music teacher. He was wearing a Spurs jersey, they were well supported in Korea because of the success of Son Heung-min.

Mr Park spoke with a perfect American accent. Apparently he had lived there for most of his life, returning to Korea as a teenager with his parents.

“I understand you’re a soccer fan?” he smiled.

I answered that I liked it just fine. Mr Yun’s presence was draining my enthusiasm for the game. The cunt was beaming, he had the satisfied look of a successful matchmaker on his face. A face that I would gladly have punched.

Mr Yun proclaimed “Mr Park is a very talented opera singer. He will be singing a song at your wedding on Monday.”

For fuck sake. The cunt now had the band booked. Jesus Christ. Was he going to surprise us with an organized lock-in for the second day next?

I turned to herself, and for the first time since landing did something that I considered previously to be quite rude; I spoke to her in Irish. I asked her why the fuck was this guy assuming that the wedding was going ahead like we had agreed to it. We hadn’t! She shrugged and said to wait until after to talk to Mr Yun. This really confused the lads. Park was giving Yun a “What’s this shit?” look, whereas Yun had a bemused look on his face.

Mr Park repeated “I understand you like soccer. I will sing the Liverpool song at your wedding, by Gerry and the Pacemakers.”

He then proceeded to blast out a deep, rich, operatic version of You’ll Never Walk Alone.

I was stunned. First of all for being accused of being a Liverpool fan, secondly, the man’s talent just blew me away. Mainly though, and most importantly, Mr Yun had casually mentioned that the wedding was going ahead.

Nope.

Not a chance.

Next time: Something resembling normality

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I Almost Worked for a Cult 15

A British Lunch

After that phenomenally fucked-up conversation we were shown to our personal classrooms and given our schedules and subjects.

I was going to be teaching English literature, US history and US civics. I wasn’t going to be teaching English as a foreign language at all! Herself would be teaching art, science and geography. All the subjects our three month TEFL course had prepared us for. For all the shite talk about Jesus showing people things in this school, you’d think he’d tell the cunts that we weren’t qualified to teach the kids these subjects.

I was still reeling from the morning’s indecent proposal. When I started to flick through the course books I was dealt a haymaker that almost had me KO’d.

All the books were from the “church’s” US based university press, and boy were they conservative! On page one of the senior class English literature text book this statement was printed:

Although we include the works of sinful writers such as James Joyce, who are now burning in the eternal fires of hell, their use of language and the stories they have written are important for you to know. Having knowledge of these works will assist you on your future mission.

I burst out laughing, mostly due to the ridiculousness of it, but partly because I was expected to teach this bullshit rhetoric. I grabbed the book and ran across the hall to herself’s class room to show her.

She was sitting on the edge of her desk reading a book, a look of shock on her face. Before I could tell her about my discovery she looked up and said, “I have to teach creationism!”

“For religion, like?”

“No!” she said, “Science!”

Ah yeah, that made perfect sense the way this day was going.

We both then did the most mature and academically correct method of critiquing these publications. We threw them on the floor and made wanker gestures at them. That was them told!

I had thought that this place was weird when they had an issue with sex before marriage, a little old fashioned perhaps. Not believing in evolution? That was just a tad too vintage for this wannabe hipster.

We didn’t have time to discuss it further. We were called in to the canteen for our British lunch. When I saw what was being served, I got past the ‘British’ tag fairly quickly. The kitchen staff had prepared giant, thick beef fillet steaks. It was served with fries and salad. European salad! Not a sign of kimchi anywhere. I hadn’t eaten beef like this since leaving Ireland. It was so tender, so juicy, so fucking good! If this was a brainwashing technique, well, I was absolutely fucked!

After being deprived of beef like this for so long I would happily refute the teachings of Darwin. James Joyce? May he burn in hell!

Fuck it, I’d even have a wedding! No, too far. It wasn’t that good.

Mr Boyle invited us to sit with him, and we were joined shortly by Mr Yun. We had brief small talk about baseball, root-beer and soccer for some reason. I had mentioned that I liked soccer just fine, but I was more of a rugby fan.

Mr Yun was nodding enthusiastically. You could see the wheels turning in the manipulative fuck’s head.

Next time: You’ll Never Walk Alone

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I Almost Worked for a Cult 14

Get away ta fuck!

Mr Yun sat down and smiled his big ‘I’m going to gently brainwash you’ smile.

“So Jesus came to me last night…”

I had no idea Jesus was in Korea. I thought he was usually in Costa Rica at this time of the year, appearing to somebody in the trunk of a felled tree.

“…and told me that I need to perform a wedding.”

I knew where this was going. My detective skills had been shit up to this point, but this time I was spot on. This crazy cunt was going to try and make us get married in his crack-pot church. Neither of us spoke, giving Mr Yun the space to elaborate.

“You guys will be married in our church before school next Monday. All the students and their parents will attend. Praise Jesus, it will be a blessed day!”

Well that was me done. I was getting up to strangle him when herself put her hand on my leg.

She said, “Why? We don’t need to be married to work here. This is a very strange and unusual request.”

Fair play to her. That was a more level-headed response compared to murder.

Mr Yun explained, “We are a conservative and hardworking people. We are not wicked and dishonest like Westerners. Our congregation will not accept an unmarried couple living together and working in our school.” He said all this with a serene smile on his face. This guy was a fucking maniac! Westerners might be wicked and dishonest, but we didn’t force people in to marriage to get jobs. Sure, we might have forced people to leave jobs for being married in the past, but that’s changed now. I think.

I knew that I would love herself forever when she replied to this statement. This was the woman that I would conquer the world with. Well, she’d conquer the world; I’d drive her from place to place and maybe do the dishes.

“Oh is that what this is about? Well if you’re worried about appearances, just get us two apartments. We don’t mind. The parents don’t need to know we’re a couple.”

A cracking reply!

Mr Yun soon correctly realized that I might be the weak link here. He started to work me over with the ‘ol psychological brass knucks.

“You seem uncomfortable. Do you not love her? Is that why you don’t want to get married?”

Fucking prick. I should have murdered him, or at least given him a Stone Cold Stunner.

“No”, I said through gritted teeth, “that’s not it at all. Our wedding should be at home, with our family and friends, not a thousand miles away in front of strangers.”

Mr Yun digested this for a second.

“But you could get married again when you go home. This will just be for Korea.”

Herself interjected.

“So it’s not a legal marriage then? It’s not in the eyes of the law? It’s just pretend?”

Mr Yun said, “You will be married in the eyes of the lord!”

I stood up, “Ah right, it’s only a pretend wedding so.”

She continued, “Look, let us think about it. We’re not agreeing to anything yet. It’s a strange request and you have to give us time to think about it.

Mr Yun threw his hands up in the air, looked to the sky and proclaimed, “Oh blessed day!”

What the fuck was going on here?

Next time: A British lunch

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I Almost Worked for a Cult 13

Let us pray

We arrived to the school at 9am. All the teachers were assembled in the largest of the classrooms. They all seemed to be quite young. They were probably only a couple of years out of university, some maybe just graduated. Mr Boyle and Mr Yun sat at the head of the assembled circle of tables, myself and herself happened to be facing them.

Mr Yun welcomed everyone to the first day of preparation for the new term, introduced both of us to the staff, and then asked that we all bow our heads and close our eyes for the morning prayer. It was unlike any prayer that we’d ever heard.

Mr Yun started off by thanking dear, beautiful Jesus (his exact words) for sending two blessings in the form of myself and herself. He then asked father God to help us find our way and to guide us for the school year. Dear blessed Jesus was also requested to guide us into his arms. Dear blessed Jesus would have some job achieving that. In fact, dear blessed Jesus would have been better served concentrating his efforts on preventing me from laughing.

The prayer continued for another ten excruciating minutes. Subtle digs were thrown at Mr Boyle’s health and weight issues, a lazy Math teacher was taken down, and a teacher who was absent was prayed for in an incredibly insincere fashion. Apparently Jesus was in charge of school discipline, staff welfare and performance reviews. In a nutshell, JC was the head of HR. Maybe I could have a quiet word with him about my employment contract…

The prayer finally finished with a communal amen. I said “Eamonn”, a bad habit I’d picked up from being forced to go to mass in secondary school. Nobody noticed.

Mr Yun then asked us to take out our bibles. 

Bibles? 

I turned to herself in absolute fucking shock horror. Nobody had asked us to bring a bible! I didn’t own a fucking bible. The only book I had on me at that time was a collection of short stories by Philip K Dick that I’d brought with me from home. I was beginning to think that I was a character in one of them. 

This was going to be a tricky situation. I looked around the room. Some of the younger teachers were reading the eBook version on their smartphones. Everyone else was reading out of these magnificent leather bound volumes

Mr Boyle read out the passage in his gentle southern drawl. Myself and herself gave each other nervous glances. How would we approach this? We’d yet to discover an English language bookshop since our arrival. There was probably one in Itaewon, but would they have a bible? I panicked slightly. Maybe the school had a spare one somewhere that we could share. I wasn’t going to fork out cash for two copies of a book that I’d no interest in reading.

The passage ended and Mr Yun asked us all to go in peace and have a blessed and productive day. Myself and herself were asked to stay behind for a brief chat.

And so began the most insane, wacky conversation that I have ever been a party to.

Ah lads, I hate to end on a cliff-hanger, but this conversation requires its own dedicated post.

Next time: Get away ta fuck!

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I Almost Worked for a Cult 12

Ew, Gimbap!

We spent the weekend before staring our new jobs in Itaewon. Itaewon was kind of the international area in Seoul. Actually, it is the international area in Seoul. If you wanted a taste of home, a big pair of jeans for your giant western arse, or to be attacked by a drunken American soldier, it was the place to be!

On the Saturday morning we visited a café owned by a Canadian couple for brunch. I had the most delicious French toast with bacon. It was so good! While we were digesting and enjoying our coffees, a group of Irish ladies entered, sat a few tables over from us, and started having a really loud conversation. Myself and herself stopped talking to have a nose.

It was fucking hilarious. It turned out that they were involved in the GAA set up over there. One of their team mates had gotten a bit too cocky for their liking, and they were tearing shreds off of her. I burst out laughing when one of them said, “She tells everyone that she’s from Terenure, but she’s Tallaght through and through!”  They glared at me, but then started laughing awkwardly. It was a really nice moment; it calmed me and made me feel that I wasn’t actually that far from home after all.

Our current apartment was roughly an hour and a half train ride from the school. On the morning of the first day we got up early and treated ourselves to a cronut and coffees from the train station Dunkin’ Donuts.

We normally ate gimbap for breakfast. Gimbap was kind of the Korean equivalent of an Irish breakfast roll. It was lot healthier than the Irish version too. Basically it was a long, segmented roll of sushi wrapped in tinfoil. It cost roughly 50 cent. It was very filling, very healthy, and very disgusting to eat first thing in the morning.

I could never get used to seaweed, rice and fish first thing in the morning. This bogman liked his porridge! It’d be grand for lunch, or an early evening snack, but my stomach always lurched on those early mornings. I’d have to close off my nostrils before taking my first bite, and keep them closed until the first segment was consumed. I liked the bitterness of the pickled radish, but the seaweed’s texture and taste always made me want to puke. Herself loved it. She vocalised her love of it even more when she used to see me struggling, just to wind me up. It worked.

Herself got us a couple of large bottles of water and a few notebooks and pens from the 7/11. Apparently the school would be providing us with a traditional ‘British’ lunch as a welcome. I was getting pig-sick of people telling us we were British, but a free lunch was a free lunch.

Actually, I have to elaborate on this point. I’m not speaking for everyone on the island of Ireland here, I’m speaking for myself. I’m sure it is an opinion though that a lot of Irish people will share. I fucking hate it when people of another nationality assume I’m British. Ireland is a separate country, with a completely different cultural identity, language and traditions. It’s a level of ignorance that I really have a hard time accepting.

I don’t hate the Brits. I bear them no ill will whatsoever; it’s just that I associate a lot of negative things to the word British. This includes (but is not limited to):

  • Flat, warm, flavourless beer and conversation
  • Complaints over trivial matters in holiday resorts
  • Destroying football stadiums
  • ITV

Look, we have some similarities, but we’re not the same. I’d apologize to my British friends for this hard-line standpoint, but they have yet to apologize to me for:

  • The Famine
  • Oliver Cromwell
  • The X Factor

So they can fuck off!

Next time: Let us pray

Follow the series from the beginning:

I Almost Worked for a Cult 1

I Almost Worked for a Cult 2

I Almost Worked for a Cult 3

I Almost Worked for a Cult 4

I Almost Worked for a Cult 5

I Almost Worked for a Cult 6

I Almost Worked for a Cult 7

I Almost Worked for a Cult 8

I Almost Worked for a Cult 9

I Almost Worked for a Cult 10

I Almost Worked for a Cult 11

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I Almost Worked for a Cult 11

An offer from a gentle man

We went out the following morning on the train to meet with Mr Boyle. When we got to the school it was just himself and the two secretaries present. No sign of Mr Yun or Mrs Joy. 

We were offered the job. No contract was issued, but he said Mrs Joy was taking care of that for us and would have it ready soon.

We would be staring on the following Monday and our apartment would be ready on the following Friday. This suited us just fine. We were paid up in our current accommodation until that date.

I was relieved that we got the offer. I didn’t want to have to admit defeat and return home so early in to our trip. It would have been awful trying to explain that to everyone. 

It wouldn’t have been a huge failure. It’s not like we sold our house or anything, it’s just that people can be real dicks if they perceive failure in someone that has tried something different. Proper begrudging cunts. It’s one of the worst aspects of Irish people’s personalities – we’re slow to reward success, quick to point out failings.

As a nation, we can be right miserable fucks when we want to be!

On the way out of Mr Boyle’s office we were greeted by a young Korean mother and her two children. They ran to Mr Boyle, and he received them with a big hug, lifting the smaller one up on to his shoulders. It was actually a really nice moment. In Ireland a teacher would never do something like this, they’re not allowed. Why? Well, like everything that’s shit in Ireland, the Catholic Church acted the bollox and ruined platonic relationships between adults and young children for everyone. Cheers lads!

The kids and their mother seemed to really love Mr Boyle. He asked them a few questions and played a little game with the older one. It was like rock, paper, scissors. The kid won and Mr Boyle gave her a sweet that he had in his pocket.

He introduced us to the kid’s mother.

“This is Teacher (Me) and his wife, Teacher (Herself). They will be starting school in two weeks!”

“Aw”, I thought, followed by, “hang on a sec, I don’t have a wife.” I passed it off as a cultural misinterpretation and followed herself in to the lift.

On the train back to Seoul we discussed our plans for the next 12 months. We were both in agreement that the town we’d be living in was a shithole, BUT, we were only a train ride away from Seoul.

One of the best things in Korea was the availability of cheap, basic (but comfortable!) accommodation throughout the city. We could spend an entire weekend in Seoul from less than €20 and visit all the bars and restaurants we wanted to. Monday to Friday would be spent in the boonies, Friday, Saturday and Sunday would be spent in civilization.

We would go to Japan for Christmas and New Year’s, maybe visit China in the spring, and possibly try and get a trip to North Korea at some point.

The job would be treated as that – a job only. There was no need for us to get involved in their church, and we were sure they wouldn’t force us to.

Sure that would have made things awkward.

Next time: Ew, Gimbap!

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I Almost Worked for a Cult 10

Jewel of Denial

Mr Boyle ushered us back to the staff room where Mrs Joy was waiting to escort us to the train station. She dropped us off and said the recruiter would call with further instructions.

We navigated to the correct platform and didn’t say a word until the town was well out of sight. 

I know it sounds ridiculous, but we were both paranoid that someone from the “school” would be on the train, tailing us, and would report our comments back to Mr Yun. 

Hey, stranger things have happened! 

We actually left our seats at one point and moved to a different carriage. I don’t think we were followed.

When we took our new seats we both looked at each other and burst out laughing. It was a release of the day’s craziness and tensions. What else could we do?

“What the fuck was that all about?” I said.

She shook her head. “I don’t know. It’s really fucking mad! It’s a job though. Once the contract is legit, I’m sure it’ll be ok. Plus, I think they might be more desperate than us. They were trying very hard to tone down the crazy.”

“I don’t know dude. It could be a giant head fuck.”

“Let’s just wait and see. If the money and terms are good, we can sign up. We can spend our weekends in Seoul. It’s just a job. Don’t worry.”

I wasn’t so sure. I had gotten an awful feeling out there, but maybe it had been due to severe dehydration. I deferred. Money, and more crucially, visas were running out. It would all become clearer later on, I supposed.

The recruiter called us later on that evening. Sunshine Academy loved us. They were prepared to offer us the equivalent of €2000 each per month, plus an apartment, phones, and sponsor our visa. However, an official contract wasn’t offered just yet. We had to go back out the next day to discuss terms.

The recruiter was insistent that it’d be a good idea to accept, as couple’s positions were few and far between. Herself thought it would be a good idea too. I was a bit apprehensive if I’m honest. I got a real ‘brainwash’ vibe in that school. I was conscious though of our situation, and decided that herself is usually more logical than me when it came to these kinds of decisions, so I agreed.

I mean, how bad could it be?

Next time: An offer from a gentle man

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I Almost Worked for a Cult 9

Tour of Duty

I was squirming in my seat. I think Mr Boyle could sense my discomfort. He started to lavish us with praise. It was a nice change from praising Jesus.

“You seem like well-educated and wholesome folks. If nobody has any objections, I think you would be a great fit here.”

Both myself and herself let out a sigh of relief, looked at each other and laughed. Nice one. That was the job sorted. We could now focus on settling in and planning our year. Then Mr Yun asked a seemingly innocent question.

“Are you married?”

I blurted out, “No!” followed by, “We are engaged though.”

He contemplated this.

“Have you any plans to get married?”

Herself told him that, yes, we had, probably in a few years when we returned home on a holiday. Fair play to her for not saying, “When we get back to our real lives.”

Mr Yun smiled at this, held his hands out in front of us, and then said that God would help us find a way, whatever the fuck that meant. He then instructed Mr Boyle to take us on a tour of the school.

The school was filthy. The floors were all marked and chipped. Paint was peeling off the walls. It stank of stale kimchi and feet. Mr Boyle brought us in to all the rooms, telling us which room was for which year. It turned out that kids aged from four years old up to eighteen years old attended Sunshine Academy. They had ninety students over all. The school day started at 8:30 and finished at 18:00. Long enough day!

There was quite a lot of religious iconography hanging on the walls. JC himself, and quite a few paintings of saints that I’d never heard of before. I found this only slightly odd. 

Why? 

Well, the school that I went to for my secondary education used to be a priest’s training college. It was also on the grounds of the bishop’s residence (they called this a palace. The Catholic Church sure know how to ingratiate themselves with their congregation!) Our school was full of oil paintings of old priests and bishops. Creepy photographs where teenagers looked like fifty year old men, pictures of Jesus and Mary and all the lads having the craic in a white washed Israel.

There were also a couple of warning signs hung up throughout the older kids classrooms:

Anyone found listening to Christian Rock music will be immediately expelled! 

Proper order too, I thought, that stuff was absolute shite.

Mr Boyle finished our tour of the filthy cramped classrooms and led us to the back of the school and a big set of wooden double doors. I assumed that this was a gym, or a canteen. Wrong again, detective dickhead!

He pushed open the doors to reveal a pristine chapel capable of seating a couple of hundred people.

I let out an audible, “What the fuck?”

Mr Boyle shifted on his feet and proclaimed that this was the community church. We would have service here every Sunday and teachers were required to attend. “Praise band” would lead prayers here every morning before class, along with several church services throughout the week.

I decided to re-engage my skills of detection. “So it’s a very religious school then, Mr Boyle?”

He smiled warmly, with a hint of an apology.

“Of course. This is a missionary school for the church of John Roberts (fake name!) All our students will become missionaries and travel the world preaching the good word to the non-believers.”

An explosion went off in my head. I glanced at herself. She was calmly smiling, but her eyes, her eyes said, “LET’S GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE!”

We both nodded politely and said “Aah, right. Great!”

Next time: Jewel of Denial

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I Almost Worked for a Cult 8

Shit gets weirder

We walked down to Mrs Joy, who introduced herself and gave us a lift up to the school in her boy racer car. She barely spoke on the way up, but almost wrapped the car around a lamppost while eyeballing me through the rear-view mirror.

We pulled up outside a filthy five story building that had a café on the ground floor. I assumed we were meeting everybody in the café. How metropolitan, I thought.

I had visions of myself discussing progressive pedagogic techniques while sipping espresso. Dehydration delirium I suppose. At this stage my suit was starting to itch really badly. I wanted nothing more than to get the hell out of here. Not because of the vibe I was getting, just because I was so physically uncomfortable.

Mrs Joy turned around. “This is the school. We are on the 2nd floor.” It was delivered like a challenge, rather than a statement of fact. So much for my poncey espresso fantasy.

We disembarked from the Integra, entered a stairwell and got in to a tiny, jerky lift.

Mrs Joy put us at ease by turning around to face us.

“This is a religious school. Are you Christian?”

Before I had the chance to profess my allegiance to glorious Satan, herself subtly dug me in the ribs and replied:

“We’re both Christians. We went to Catholic schools for both primary and secondary education”. She had assumed Mrs Joy would have been placated by this. She wasn’t.

“We’re Presbyterian. Have you got a problem with that?” Fucking hell, this was turning in to a Drumcree stand-off.

I wanted to go in to a long winded explanation about how organized religion was essentially this global scam set up to take people’s money by convincing them that they would become members of an exclusive club after they died if they followed certain rules…blah blah blah

To save time I just lied. “Nope, no problem at all”. Then added, “Sure isn’t it all the same craic anyway?” Mrs Joy just glared at me after the last comment. I’m sure she didn’t understand it, but my delivery and the wink after it must have conveyed my flippancy.

Mrs Joy brought us in to a small office where two smiling receptionists shook our hands and gave us warm welcomes. We were invited to sit down at a small round table where Mr Boyle, the head teacher, and Mr Yun, the principal, would come and meet us. (Fake names, remember?)

A generously proportioned American man came in to the room. He introduced himself as Mr Boyle and warmly thanked us for coming. He had a slight southern twang to his accent. Southern America, not Cork, boy. He asked us a few general job interview questions and a few general questions about ourselves. I instantly liked him. He seemed like a really gentle and nice guy.

After a few minutes a man who looked like a Kim Il Sung propaganda poster entered the room. He had the most dazzling and spectacular set of white teeth that I have ever seen. He introduced himself as Mr Yun. His accent was very neutral, and his voice was a smooth baritone. His speech pattern reminded me of Akira from The Simpsons. I think it was the way he paused in his sentence delivery, and his laugh that came out as a series of “Aaah’s”.

He was very heavy on the old religion though. He kept saying, “Praise the lord!” and “God will show me the way!”, and “Jesus has given me a sign!” Mad shit that I’ve only ever witnessed from an eccentric uncle, or being ridiculed in a Bill Hicks special.

We didn’t do all that praise be shit in Ireland. Well, not in any church I’ve ever been in. Phrases like “Please God!” and “God bless you!” after a sneeze are ingrained in the Irish lexicon, but that was about the height of it. I hadn’t believed in God in about 15 years. This guy’s full on spiel was making me very uncomfortable, and I think he knew it too.

Next time: Tour of duty

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I Almost Worked for a Cult 7

Shit gets weird

Ok, before shit gets weird, officially, I have to explain where we were at in terms of our immigrant status. Because we went out before securing employment, we entered the country on a 90 day tourist visa. We were about 45 -50 days in to this visa at this point. All the schools that we were talking to were going to fly us to Japan for our visa run and were covering our work permits. The school we were now going to visit were no different.

This school, let’s call it Sunshine Academy from here on out, offered to fly us to Japan for a week after term started, once we fulfilled all their requirements.

The morning of the interview was an absolute scorcher. I had brought a suit from home to wear on such an occasion. 100% wool.

I’d taken about six steps outside the apartment before that first cool bead of sweat started its doomed journey from the nape of my neck all the way down to the crack of my arse. By the time I got to the air conditioned train, it was way too late. My shirt was ruined. It was soaked through. I’d have to soldier on and wear my jacket over my soaking wet shirt.

I was incredibly uncomfortable and dehydrated. When I’m dehydrated I completely lose all connections with reality. I stare in to space, I don’t pay attention to people, I just generally disassociate. I think this was why I didn’t have a complete melt down later on in the day.

We were supposed to meet the school secretary, Mrs Joy (fake name, remember?) at the train station. On the way out we were treated to our first views of rural Korea. I say rural – there is something deeply unsettling upon viewing a fifty story apartment block out on its own surrounded by rice fields. It just didn’t seem right.

Our train stopped in a town that looked like a dystopian version of Mullingar. Well, a more dystopian version. There were neon church signs everywhere, lit up in the daytime. I could see the tower of a casino poking up behind a hospital that was so dirty if you looked at it long enough you’d get an eye infection. The pavements were all cracked and overgrown with weeds. Herself assumed that there must have been a refuse collector’s general strike. Rubbish bags were strewn on street corners and outside bars and restaurants. The town stank of rotting meat.

An elderly woman with heavily contoured makeup waved over at us. Herself asked me if it was Mrs Joy. I read a lot of crime fiction, but my skills of deduction are absolutely atrocious. I argued that it couldn’t be her. My reasoning? Well, I deduced that due to the fact that she was sitting on the bonnet of a modified two-door Honda Integra, smoking a fag, she couldn’t be a school secretary.

My poor judgement struck again.

Of course it was her.

Nothing about the next few weeks was going to be normal. Looking back, we should have turned on our heels there and then, but no, we were open to new and strange experiences. Our parochial Irish prejudices had to be left at home, where they belonged.
Next time: Shit gets weirder.

Follow the series from the beginning:

I Almost Worked for a Cult 1 

I Almost Worked for a Cult 2

I Almost Worked for a Cult 3

I Almost Worked for a Cult 4

I Almost Worked for a Cult 5

I Almost Worked for a Cult 6

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I Almost Worked for a Cult 6

John Bull Recruitment

Our “honeymoon period” ended after five weeks. We’d sort of acclimatized to our new surroundings, and it was time to start work. We’d siphoned off enough cash for two plane tickets home, just in case things didn’t work out.

Herself was an excellent money manager. She had worked out that we could spend another month tops, fluting around and seeing the country before admitting defeat and heading home. Although, we decided that defeat was not an option, and began to apply for jobs.

Do you like dealing with recruiters? I don’t. They’re usually full of shit. Recruiters for English language schools in Korea are the worst recruiters that I’ve ever had the misfortune of dealing with. They operated on a level of bullshit that would fertilize a 100 acre farm. They were also some of the most rude and insulting bastards that I’ve ever had a professional relationship with.

All of the recruitment calls were done through Skype. I had to turn my camera on so they could get a good look at me, and have a good judge of my abilities through my appearance. They never had their camera’s on, the fucks. None of their questions focussed on my previous work experience. All they were interested in were my looks and nationality. It was like a mixture of Your Face or Mine and Immigrants X-Factor.

One recruiter asked that I change my nationality to English so that the schools would look more favourably on me. I pushed him on this, asking why it’d make a difference. His response was that the Irish had a reputation for drinking too much and being unreliable. He obviously had never been on a stag weekend in Bristol, the cunt.

In fact, I really took issue with the alcoholism accusation. This dude must have been a recluse, because I have never in my life experienced the levels of drunkenness that I have on the streets of Seoul. The Koreans love to drink way more than us Irish. This isn’t a sweeping statement, it’s an undisputable fact – they are proper piss-heads. Maybe it was just that summer, but it was as if Seoul was hosting the projectile vomiting Olympics, and events were being held on the corner of every street.

We didn’t deal with that guy again. Nothing like being forced into calling yourself English to end a professional relationship.

Another charming guy informed me that I was too big, fat and hairy, and that I’d scare the children. I laugh about that now, but at the time I was genuinely hurt by it. I was wearing two t-shirts on that call. Ahem…

Both of us soon realized that we were making a silly mistake during this process. We were interviewing separately, when we should have been interviewing as a team. Interviewing for different jobs in different locations was not going to work. We thought it’d be like home and that we could commute from our apartment to wherever we eventually ended up working. It was naiveté on our part.

Herself looked up a solution to this problem and found out that some schools liked to hire couples. It saved the school money on apartment costs (they covered the rent and bills etc.) and probably guaranteed at least one full year of teaching service. As far as the schools were concerned, couples tended not to make any rash decisions. Well, most couples didn’t.

We did an interview on Skype for a couple’s position in an area not too far from the DMZ. The recruiter got back to us twenty minutes after the call ended to say the school would like to meet us.

Shit was about to get weird.

Next time: Shit gets weird.

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I Almost Worked for a Cult 5

Safety Dance

We explored our surroundings over the next couple of days, taking long (and musical) train rides to every corner of Seoul. I was amazed at how many crosses illuminated the sky at night. I also couldn’t figure out their obsession with Dunkin’ Donuts. Although, I did eventually succumb to the temptations of the latter.

The people were quite friendly and welcoming. It seemed like an extremely safe city. We never once experienced any violence or crime, and this was in one of the most densely populated cities in the world. Taxi drivers kept their entire float in the open compartment beside their gear sticks. That astounded me. Could you imagine a taxi-driver in Dublin doing that? I’d say not even the Monk himself would chance it.

We witnessed people withdrawing large sums of cash from ATM’s and walking nonchalantly up the street counting their huge, colourful wads of loot. In front of everyone!! Imagine that at home? You’d be dead before you got past the first note.

In train stations people plugged in their phones at communal docking stations and went off to get coffees, leaving the phones behind to charge. Nobody seemed to notice, or care.

We both suffered horrifically from jet-lag in the first couple of days. Our sleep pattern was all over the place. Luckily we didn’t have to stay in looking at the walls while we went through this. There were plenty of 24 hour amenities in the city.

We were walking home from one such amenity, when we witnessed something really strange. A businessman was fast asleep on a bench outside a pub. You could smell the strong soju fumes coming off him from fifty yards away.  He was on his back, snoring, and his wallet had fallen out of his pocket, exposing a huge wad of notes and all his cards. He must have just visited the ATM, there was a nice chunk of change in that wallet. His phone, a high-end Samsung, was lying precariously on his chest.

We were both shocked that this man was out in the open in the middle of the night in such a vulnerable state, and debated whether we should help him or not. I thought that if I shook him awake he might get a fright seeing my hairy spud head when he opened his eyes, so we decided to leave him be.

We spoke about it back in the apartment for an hour or so. It was just so strange to us. Later on, at four in the morning, I was still wide awake and decided to go for a stroll to tire myself out, maybe pop in to the 7/11 for a few bits. On my way down to the shop the business man was still on his bench, undisturbed. All his possessions were still there too. It was unbelievable.

I swear, if I ever had any ambitions as a criminal, I would have cleaned up in South Korea. This experience really made me feel very safe. It was a feeling I hadn’t ever experienced while living in Dublin.
Next time: John Bull Recruitment

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I Almost Worked for a Cult 4

Seoul Food

The flight over was the longest haul flight I’d ever taken. Previous to that, it had been an eight hour trip from Paris to Havana in 2008. This was an eight hour trip to Dubai, a three hour stopover, and then a further ten hours to Seoul.

The stop-over in Dubai was horrific. Let’s just leave it at that.

The first thing that I noticed when we landed in Incheon airport, I hadn’t been paying attention on the plane, was the amount of Irish priests and nuns that were queueing up in front of us to get through immigration. Surely Korea was Buddhist, no? I was confused. I was also uncomfortable. I tried very hard not to make any eye contact with the clergy. I was sure if they saw my big spud head they’d know I was Irish. I didn’t want to get in to any awkward conversations about mass.

We were staying in an apartment near Dongdaemon for our first few weeks. We carried all our impossibly awkward luggage on to the subway and set off on our two hour journey. We both fell asleep immediately on the train. Our stop was the last one, I think, so we were safe enough. The train played a little song when we reached our stop. That woke us up. I love that song. Actually, the train had a few different songs, one for transfers, one for end of the line, one for taking off. All of them were hits.

We met Kang, the apartment owner, in the train station. He very kindly offered to carry one of our bags up and down a series of extremely steep hills to our apartment. The heat was unbearable. It was in the high 30’s, Celsius, and it was close to 1 in the morning.

We thanked Kang for his help and collapsed on the bed in the apartment. There was a large Samsung air-con unit over the bed that herself figured out. We cooled off and begun to think about getting ourselves fed. 

I was famished. We hadn’t eaten since the plane, a vile, cold, pasta dish. Herself said that there was a real 24 hour culture in Korea and we shouldn’t have to look too long for somewhere to eat. I had to take her word for it, I hadn’t done my research. We showered and changed and ventured out in to the sticky July Korean night.

Sticky July Korean night would be a great name for an electro band, wouldn’t it?

The biggest challenge we faced initially was not being able to use Google maps on our phones. Apparently it required a Korean ip address to gain access to Google servers in Korea. I tried using Apple maps instead to find a McDonalds, but it being Apple maps, we got lost in five minutes or so.

Herself took charge, and I was damn glad of it. We weren’t going to a McDonalds, we were getting Korean food. She chose a restaurant at random. I wasn’t convinced. It looked like a cross between a taxi office and a soup kitchen, but my God, the food was fucking delicious! I took back, silently, every ignorant assumption I’d made about the food in Korea. It cost the equivalent of four euro and was served with about five different side dishes. I’d never had kimchi before that night. It stank like farts, but tasted amazing.

Night one. Food’s good. Everything was going to be great!

Next time: Safety Dance

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I Almost Worked for a Cult 3

Promises to Claude

I handed my notice in at work on the first Monday in June. I was actually quite disappointed to be leaving. I really liked that job. I worked with some really cool people in an interesting industry.

The question I kept getting asked in the office was, “Are you mad? Why would you want to teach English in Korea?”

I suppose the most logical answer there would have been was: “Because as a non-Korean speaker, I’d be able to do fuck all else, unless there is a shortage of big hairy men to dance in fetish bars over there. And I know there isn’t. I looked it up. You’ve to go to Japan for that craic!”

We began the horrible process of packing up all our shit for our moving day. One of our friends was getting married in Malta roughly around the same time. We ended up moving out of our house and going to Malta on the same day.

I cannot describe how stressful it was for me to leave my car full of all of our most valuable possessions in a Dublin Airport carpark for seven days. There was a PC, all my books, clothes, our kitchen equipment, lamps, my PS3…the list goes on. We were like the Beverly Hillbillies arriving in to the long-term carpark.

After the wedding, I dropped herself to her parents’ house down the country and stayed a few days.

I was putting off going home for as long as I could. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to go home, I just hated the thoughts of living under someone else’s rules for a few days. Sharing with herself is fine, I’m used to the routine, but sharing with people I hadn’t lived with in years was bound to be a challenge.

As it turned out, it was really nice to stay in the house for a few weeks. I’d never actually spent an extended period of time there before. It wasn’t the house that I grew up in. My parents had moved there two years previously. It was never, and never will be, my home I suppose. It’s my parents’ house. Home for me is with herself.

The dog, Claude (he said I could use his real name and promised not to sue) had a few questions about Korea. Apparently he had read somewhere that they, the Koreans, had an appetite for dog-meat. In a frank and honest exchange, I assured him that I wouldn’t eat dog-meat while I was there. This pleased him. He agreed to give me his blessing and wished me the best of luck.

Five minutes later Claude said he’d take it back unless I gave him a piece of the sandwich that I was eating. I did, and the universe was balanced once more. Claude would repeat this series of ultimatums until the morning of my departure. He was a master of manipulation.

My parents dropped us to the airport. I was quite upset saying goodbye. They weren’t the best with technology and I was worried that we wouldn’t get to talk as often as I’d like. They assured me that they’d be better at texting and would figure out Skype. Herself was a great help. She assured me that everything would be fine and invited me to go for a disgusting pint of airport Guinness.

I got one last text on my phone before we left Ireland. It was from Claude.

It read: “Where’d you hide the food you prick?” The blessing was once again revoked.

Next time: Seoul Food

Follow the series from the beginning:

I Almost Worked for a Cult 1

I Almost Worked for a Cult 2

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Mustard Tongue

I fucking curse a lot.

Probably too much for polite fucking company.

It can make people uncomfortable, but fuck it, I don’t care.

I fucking grew up listening to older men fucking cursing all the fucking time in fucking football pitches, on fucking building sites, and in the carparks of fucking churches.

Monkey see, monkey fucking do.

I don’t know any fucking better.

It’s just a fucking word.

Words don’t fucking matter anymore?

Do they?

No, they fucking don’t.

Nobody is fucking listening.

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I Almost Worked for a Cult 2

Where, why & what

We’d had enough of Dublin. It was time to go.

But where?

We were both from opposite ends of the country and couldn’t decide on a new county to move to. We came to an obvious conclusion in our search for middle ground. We’d emigrate. Try living abroad for a while.

I never had a desire to leave Ireland for an extended period of time in my life. I loved home. I’d turned 30 in 2015, and I suppose I reckoned that if I didn’t at least try it now, I never would. Now that I have lived abroad, I think that it was one of the best things I’ve ever done. By immersing myself in a culture and environment that was completely alien to my own, I inherited a more open view of the world. I know that sounds like a big pile of wank, but your perspective really changes when you start to be treated as an outsider.

So where would we go? Well, the way we made this decision is bound to enrage the more uptight and meticulous planners who are reading this – we tossed a coin. Cool, right?

No. It wasn’t cool.

We should have been more conscientious with our planning, but fuck it, nobody died.

We had two destinations in mind, South Korea and Canada. Our Canadian visas had been approved in January, the South Korean visa would be approved once we arrived and started our jobs. We tossed the coin down in her parents’ house on the June bank holiday weekend. One toss. No take-backs.

I was secretly hoping for Canada to win. I’d never been to North America. Come to think of it, I hadn’t ever been to Asia either, but I spoke English, so I assumed Canada would be the best place for me, for us, to end up.

Of course, South Korea won the day. I let out a big exasperated sigh of joy. We would be off to the Far East. Honestly, I was excited, but also I was secretly shitting myself. I had absolutely no idea what to expect over there.

My partner sent me links to “wacky” American vloggers who documented their experiences in South Korea on YouTube. It really, really put me off. Their apartments looked tiny. The food looked shit. The American vloggers were loud, whiny and condescending. Like they were explaining everything to a deaf three year old with developmental issues. I didn’t want to have to put up with this nonsense for a full year. Look, if something is really different, or really shit, don’t explain it in a patronising, shocked manner. Make a joke, you cunt! The vloggers were pushed to one side. I’d do some old fashioned research myself. Actually, that’s something that I’ve yet to get around to doing…

So, Korea. What would we do for work? Well, teach English I suppose. My Korean language skills weren’t exactly up to scratch for getting a job in their Tesco equivalent.

Myself and herself completed a TEFL course from one of the more recognised TEFL organizations. I enjoyed the course. It really encouraged you to be as creative as possible in your lesson plans, and from the testimonials of other users, it seemed like a very rewarding and fun job. It was settling the anxiety that I’d brought upon myself by watching a particularly negative series of vlogs.

Teaching English. Couldn’t be too hard says you. Wha?

Next time: Promises to Claude

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I Almost Worked for a Cult 1

Farewell Dublin

Remove the almost and replace the letter l with the letter n. Now you have the subtext for 90% of inspirational LinkedIn posts from covert recruiters.

Not a great way to start the series, a dig at LinkedIn. Although a recruiter is mostly to blame for this entire saga. Now, I’m not saying recruiters are inherently dishonest or anything like that. I’m sure a few of them have some kind of integrity.


The title of this series is a bold statement, and I know that people who know me personally will assume that I’m being hyperbolic. I assure you that I’m not. If I was, I would have called it, “Nazi’s made me work for an alien death cult!”, or something like that.

In this series, the names of people and institutions have been changed, for obvious reasons! I’ll use “herself” and “she” when referring to my partner, not because I’m a misogynist, but because I don’t feel comfortable making up another name for her. It’d be weird. I’ve also been given permission to do so, so trust me – it’s kosher.

Another reason for changing names is because to this day my partner and I still joke that the cult will track us down and carry out some kind of ritual sacrifice on us. Sure, the odds of this happening are quite high, but I’m not willing to take the chance. 

Actually, can you imagine a parish priest explaining that at a funeral? That’d be great wouldn’t it? “And just like the early Christians, he was chopped up to tiny little pieces and fed to a herd of sheep. And he felt no pain, sure wasn’t God with him the entire time.” One thing that the Catholic Church and Marx did agree on – religion is the opium of the masses.

Sorry, I digress, it’s a bad habit.
In April 2015 my partner and I were fed up with the Dublin rat-race. We lived in a two-up two-down in the Liberties in Dublin 8. The rent was colossal. I was under the assumption that the house was sitting on top of a huge natural gas reserve to justify the price we paid each month. It certainly wasn’t for the crappy low-end IKEA furniture, the leaky stained ceilings, the toilet that never fucking flushed right, or the kitchen that was more of a fire hazard than a Californian hillside during a drought. 

We were one of thousands of young Irish couples living in that state of social denial that you needed to be in the centre of Dublin to make a life for yourself. You needed to be in Dublin to remain relevant. Did you fuck. We weren’t seeing a penny of our wages and we were bloody miserable.

A change was needed.

A drastic one.

I’m not sure that I was ready at the time for how drastic that change would turn out to be.

Next time: Where, why & what.

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The Barber

A Short Tale of Horror

A Short Tale of Horror

There was a queue. Peter hated queue’s. His least favourite letter of the alphabet.

A stack of magazines and tabloid newspapers sat on top of the sturdy, low mahogany table. He wouldn’t be caught dead reading any of that basic drivel. As far as Peter was concerned it was just pointless small talk in print. These cheap publications did not deal with the real issues of the day.

He had a copy of this week’s Economist tucked under his arm. Peter was a socially conscious man and wanted to make sure everybody in his local town knew it. Sure, he was a country bumpkin, but he had spent time in the big city. He was better now. He had raised himself above his station – he would command respect. Peter adjusted his thick, non-prescription glasses and unfurled the crumpled magazine and began to read.

The barber called him to the chair just as he finished off an intriguing article on the worsening situation in Catalonia. He left his magazine on the table, removed his thick woolen jumper

“What can I do for you my friend?” drawled the barber in his broad country accent.

“I’ll have a number two on the back and sides, blend it in to the length on the top, keep the length on top please. Oh, and a beard trim, with scissors.”

The barber nodded and smiled and wrapped a tight smock around Peter’s shoulders.

An elderly man entered the shop, took a seat and picked up Peter’s copy of the Economist. Peter noticed this in the mirror as the barber worked on the side of his head.

“Sorry! Excuse me! That’s actually my own magazine that I brought from home!”

The old man raised a hand in apology and placed the magazine on the empty seat behind him. The barber gave Peter a look of disappointment, which Peter confused for jealousy.

“I have to bring that with me when I get my hair cut at home man, you know? I mean, the Mirror and the Sun? I couldn’t read that shite.”

The barber smiled. “Oh yeah? Why’s that?”

“It’s just so blaah! You know? Like, why would I care if some celebrity was doing coke off a midget’s head in a nightclub? That doesn’t concern me. I pay attention to the real issues. I pay attention to political situations in the world man, I pay attention to society. Leicester drew one all at Stoke? Who cares, man?”

The barber uh-huhed and ah-hahed, all the while working his razor on Peter’s head.

“People are starving in Sudan! Leo Varadkar runs half marathons? So what! Donald Trump is destroying America! These issues need to be paid attention to, you know?”

The barber grunted. Peter knew that he was educating the man. The barber placed his razor back on its hook.

“How’s the hair look?” he asked.

Peter turned his head from left to right. It was a fantastic hair-cut. If he did just as good a job on the beard, he’d be getting a tip, or maybe even a positive Google review.

“Perfect man!”

The barber took out his scissors from the sterilizing glass and commenced work on Peter’s balm-softened beard.

“What about people who read tabloids? What do you think of them?” asked the barber.

Peter mulled this over for a second.

“I feel sorry for them, man. They’re asleep, you know? They just live their mundane lives, not aware that there’s a whole world out there for them to explore and shape to their preference. They prefer to take it at face value. That upsets me, man.”

The barber nodded to the elderly man waiting for his hair cut. The old man got up, bolted the door of the barber shop and pulled down the blinds.

“Closing early?” asked Peter.

“Just not taking in anyone else until after I have my lunch. Now, I’ll just edge the rest of this with the straight razor.”

Peter was impressed with the authenticity of this beard trim. He couldn’t wait to tell his friends about this experience after work the next Thursday while sipping some micro-brewed nitro stout.

The barber finished off the shaping and asked Peter his opinion.

“I love it!”

The barber smiled. “Great, oh wait, I missed a bit!”

He grabbed Peter roughly by the hair, pulled it back and dug the blade deep in to Peter’s neck severing all his major arteries. The mirror was covered in blood. He turned to the old man, brandishing the razor with a manic grin on his face.

The old man chuckled, “Jaysus, you dragged that out Sweeney. Now, bring him downstairs and let’s eat. I’m starving!”

He took the copy of the Economist with him and threw it in the bin.

Check out some more chilling stories from The Gammy Eye here:

Sean Nós-feratu

Love, Vacuously

Three Short Tales of Horror

 

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Fitter? Flabbier? More Seductive?

Part 6 in A Brief History of My Sporting Failures

Weight.

What do you think about when you read the word weight?

Do you think about body weight?

Do you think about weights in a gym?

Do you think about delaying an action until a period of time has passed, because you paid very little attention in school and are now illiterate?

With me it’s a combination of one and two. I’ve always enjoyed weight training. It’s something that feels natural and rewarding.

Now, it’s not exactly something I do religiously. I tend to do it agnostically I suppose. I’m aware it’s there, and I’ll take part, but only if I really have to…usually when I get too fat to fit in to clothes that are available in in non-specialist shops.

I probably wouldn’t ever exercise if I lived in America. The ability to buy clothes in sizes with more x’s in it than a goodnight text from your ‘oul lass would make going to the gym a non-essential part of my life. I probably wouldn’t survive if I lived in America for that matter.

At the moment, I’m in a good phase of getting regular exercise.

(Before anyone decides to leave: This isn’t a “Hooray for me! I’m not as fat a bastard as I used to be” piece. Bear with me!)

My energy levels are good. My mood is good. I’m sleeping well. I’m feeling great, if I’m honest.

However, there is one thing bothering me.

Gyms.

I like going to the gym. I do. I just hate other people in the gym. Well, to specify, I hate certain other people in the gym.

First of all, I’ll explain what I’m like in the gym.

When I go to the gym I say hello to the guy at the check in desk. And that pretty much ends the human contact that I want to make in the gym. As you’ll no doubt know, if you’ve been reading my previous pieces, I’ve played quite a few team sports in my time. The gym isn’t a team sport, well unless you’re mental and do cross-fit, to me it’s a private and personal thing. I’m in there to achieve my own targets and goals. And that’s it.

I go in. I put on my headphones. I do my cardio. I stretch. I do my weight session. I stretch. I shower. I go home.

If I’m unsure whether a piece of equipment is in use, I’ll politely ask. I return my plates and dumbbells. I spray and wipe equipment. I bring a sweat towel.

I might take the odd photo of a significant milestone, like a big gain in a lift for example, but I’m not constantly wandering around aimlessly on my phone.

And that brings me to the first gym-gowlbag that annoys me. The person who is constantly on their phone, hogging benches or other equipment at busy times.

Yes, your hair is amazing. How would it not look amazing? You haven’t broken a sweat yet!

I remember one time asking a guy who was mid-way taking a selfie while lying down under a full barbell, if he was nearly finished using a bench. He said he wasn’t going to be for a while. I offered to take the photos for him while he lifted, then maybe I could use it when he finished. I expected a pissed-off passive aggressive response, but amazingly he said yes! I took a few snaps while he finished his set.

Not my best work if I’m honest, lighting was a bit harsh, and the lens didn’t give me many options to play around with depth of field. It was adequate at best.

The next gym-goon – the guy who thinks he owns the gym, and every other member is just a guest.

Do you know these people? The people who bagsy/call dibs/reserve (delete where appropriate) every single piece of equipment all at once. There’s a special place in hell reserved for these maniacs.

I remember one time sitting on one of those giant inflatable balls over near the stretching area, wondering, “What the fuck am I supposed to do with this yoke?”, when I observed a very strange interaction between two other members. A youngish guy went over to use the lat pull down machine. A high-pitched voice squealed, “Don’t use that! I’m using that!” I turned my head to see the source of the squeal: a gigantic meat-head who was hanging by his feet from a bar in the ceiling, doing upside down sit-ups like he was training for an athletics meet in Transylvania. The young guy, turned around and told ‘Count Jacked-ula’ to politely fuck off. Well, the big man did this amazing flip, landed on his feet, ran over to the machine, pushed the young guy off, put the pin in to the heaviest weight, and begun to effortlessly bang out at least twenty reps in quick succession. He then floated back up to his bar to continue another set of upside down crunches that was so extreme, and so intense, I got a brief contact-high six-pack.

It was impressive like, but what a wanker. He could have waited his turn like everyone else.

Last gym-gargoyle to suffer my ire – the smug-buff-strutter.

There is nothing more insufferable in a gym than that ridiculously ripped shit-head that walks around with a self-satisfied look on their face, sneering at all us normal fatties. You know the type – neon spandex, t-shirt that looks like it was crafted by an agitated tree surgeon, spray-tan, roid back-ne.

These guys shouldn’t be allowed in to gen-pop. They should be in the maximum-insecurity wing. Because that’s what that is at the end of the day – a manifestation of their own insecurities. Anyone who laughs at someone who is at the beginning of their fitness journey, or simply trying again after a few false-starts, is a massive dick.

A couple of weeks ago I was waiting to use the leg-press machine. The guy currently using it had all the gym-rat paraphernalia – a water bottle that could solve an Ethiopian drought, an arm-band for his phone/mp3 player, liquid chalk, belt, gloves, straps, and an outfit so brightly coloured and tight it would have made Macho Man Randy Savage blush back in the day. After he screamed through his last ten reps and wiped himself off, he got up, looked me up and down, and smirked. “You might want to take a few plates off there mate in case you hurt yourself!”

I’ll try and describe the rage I felt at that particular moment. Have you ever stepped on an upturned plug and slipped and fall at the same time? After making a very good point in an argument with your significant other? In front of them? It’s a complete loss of credibility, physical pain and embarrassment all at once. It’s an anger that is completely internalized, but furious and real, and usually expelled with a hurtful comment, or silent sobbing later in the car.

This guy had looked at my couch-bod and made an assumption. I had a glance at the load on the machine. It was a lot. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to lift it, but my ability had just been questioned. The need for revenge, mixed with pure ignorance, is better than any performance enhancing drug my friends.

I nonchalantly shrugged and settled in to the apparatus. I managed ten solid reps. My head nearly popped off my shoulders, but I wasn’t proving that dick right. I finished off the set, removing approx. forty kilos both times, finishing my last ten reps with a hundred kilos. When I was done, my legs were like jelly that had been hit by a nuclear warhead and shat on by a passing magpie.

Throughout the remainder of my workout I kept catching the guy looking over at me, grinning. He knew. He knew I’d almost given myself a coronary to save face.

The cunt.

I had to wait for Mr Wonderful to finish his workout and leave before I attempted to go home. I was genuinely concerned that I’d need to be airlifted out the window of the gym. The story would end up in the section of the newspapers reserved for the light-hearted and ridiculous events that occurred to the nation’s poor. I was sure my legs would buckle if I attempted the stairs. The last thirty minutes of my work out that day were spent over in the stretching area silently screaming in pain.

You’d think at my age I’d be comfortable enough in myself to ignore a stupid sleight like that. Who’s the bigger idiot here?

Me, obviously.

We have a toxic relationship, me and the gym. You see, if I had equipment of my own at home, I’d never use it. I need to be in a paid subscription service to get angry about not using and pressurise myself to attend weekly.

I just have to get bigger headphones and maybe some kind of asshole repellent spray, to give myself the solitary I require while exercising. It would negate my need to complain.

That, or I could just wake my fat ass up earlier in the morning and go when it’s quieter..

catch up on previous entries in this series here:

We bring the ruck, us!

Half-Nelson, Full-Nelson, Willie-Nelson

Full Kit Chancer

Ollie & Folly in The GAA

Should I have been a contender?

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Desk Hopping Fuck the World

A poem about the useless fucker in the office

Desk hopping is a fabulous way

For you to look like you’re busy throughout the work day

Have a visit to each department, be obnoxious and risqué

and block an unemployed graduate’s potential opportunity for pay

 

You can do what you like without any fears

Your contract’s watertight – you’ve been here for years

If you’re asked to return to work, just break down in tears

report the offender to HR and ruin their careers

 

Spend most of your time sampling colleagues’ free treats

and bore them to death with tales of your mundane weekend feats

Broadcast contrarian opinions on immigrants and ‘benefit cheats’

Then rush back for five minutes at your neglected spreadsheets

 

See more poetry from the Gammy Eye here:

Working weak

Wheels Coming off the Bandwagon

Faster than a speeding couplet

Sean Nós-feratu

Balls of Limerick

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Off-Season

I’m back, and as mediocre as ever!

Hi guys!

As you’re probably aware, I’ve been quite quiet for the previous four weeks.

This is due to some busy weeks in the ‘ol real world.

I won’t bore you with the details!

Anyway, this is just a brief post to let you know I’ve been working away on more material and will be back with more regular posts starting this evening.

Once again, thank you to everyone who has been reading everything so far.

Keep your eyes peeled for more tales of woe from my sporting career, terrible poetry and short stories.

It’s messy, it’s all over the shop, but here – at least it’s not Peig.

Dara

 

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We bring the ruck, us!

Part 5 in A Brief History of My Sporting Failures

Honestly, at this stage I’m beginning to realise that perhaps a life of professional sports may not have been for me.

The level of cringe that I attract could seriously damage the reputation of the club, team, or federation that I’d signed with.

This week’s piece tells the tale of a time where I didn’t do anything directly to embarrass myself, but a family member decided to intervene and make sure normal service resumed.

To begin this story, I must tell you about fourteen-year-old me. Fourteen-year-old me was a bit of a lost soul. I was in the second half of my second year in secondary (high) school in Saint Patrick’s College Cavan. All the seconds.

I hated ‘big’ school so far. It was too big. Plus, it was all boys. An all-boys school run by priests. It made Lord of the Flies look like an episode of Peppa Pig.

The homophobic bullying that went on in that school was ridiculous. I remember on my first day, fucking terrified as I was, I’d decided to go for a walk around the top two football pitches on the first break. Everyone else was walking in the opposite direction, and in my mind I’d made a good decision because I was trying to see if I could bump in to my older cousin for some guidance and protection. Every second person I met had a lovely greeting for me of ‘queer’ ‘gay boy’ ‘four-eyed queer’ etc. I didn’t know why they were doing this, I just assumed it was an unfriendly place in general. I wasn’t sure if I should be upset either. I was really, really confused by their reaction.

To be perfectly honest, when I was twelve, I didn’t quite know what gay meant (we’d no internet). I had an idea, it was the wrong idea, and I blame my mother for this. I remember when I was nine or ten I saw footage of a gay-pride march on the tv news. I asked mam what gay meant. My mother told me that being gay meant that you were very happy and special and she didn’t go in to any more important or vital details. She then proceeded to wrap me in another two layers of cotton wool.

I have an auntie with intellectual disabilities. My parents had always told us that she was special. My child’s brain picked up on the use of the word ‘special’ in my mother’s explanation and assumed that being ‘gay’ meant that you had special needs. I couldn’t believe that these animals in school were accusing someone of having special needs and laughing about it.

Fucking cavemen.

I eventually found my cousin and he informed me that I was walking around the ‘gay way’. You were supposed to walk around the same way as everyone else. He did say it didn’t make you gay, but it was best to do what everyone else was doing, otherwise you were liable to get abuse. And that pretty much summed up my first two years of secondary school, daily homophobic bullying for doing anything that was different from the crowd. Looking back, I can’t imagine how tough it must have been for anyone who was in that school and actually coming to terms with their own sexuality. It must have been absolute torture.

My decision to try and play rugby in the second half of second year gave the crowd even more ammo.

By the way, I finally learned what being gay meant when I was thirteen. I’ll thank Channel Four for that. Their late-night schedules were probably more responsible for Irish teenager’s sex-education in the 1990’s than any of the state’s educational authorities were.

Rugby. Rugby was the single best discovery of my teenage years. I loved it more than Limp Bizkit. I loved it more than a shift in the Carraig Springs. I loved it more than getting a quick glance at Lolo Ferarri on a Friday night in the small sitting room.

Finally, I’d found a sport that actually suited me. I always had fairly good hands. Catching and holding on to a ball was never a problem for me. Lightning fast pace was something I lacked though, and controlling a ball with my feet while running, well, let’s just say I wasn’t exactly proficient at it. So, rugby, where all you had to do was hold the ball and run, that bloody suited me.

I discovered something else about myself when playing the game. I found out that before I went in to a tackle, that if I lowered my shoulder just enough and drove upwards at the point of collision, I could knock my opponent on their arse. I think this was my favourite weapon in my arsenal while I played the game. Bouncing people was just so much fun. Not that I was an unstoppable force or anything, I just could do it now and again. The bigger the target the better. I loved the physical challenge. I relished it.

Playing rugby with County Cavan RFC was easily the best period in my teenage years and early twenties. It gave me huge confidence when I was in school, even though the gob-shites were giving me abuse for playing it, I knew that if any of them tried the game, I’d run over them in Swellan Park. I made some wonderful friends, I played all over the province of Ulster, and I drank a truck-load of beer every weekend. If I ever bothered my arse writing a sit-com, I could dip in to the characters from that club and it would be comedy gold. The wit, insanity and camaraderie in that club was just something else.

Just thinking of Finner, The Athlete, Kenny, Browne, Larry, The Ivers brothers, Shifty, Myles, Big Kris, Salesi, Cusky, Blackie, Hound, The King of The Wing, Winnie, Nigel, Wishbone, Fred, Eddie, Guus, The Pratts, Vance, Grant, all the Crowes, the Loughnanes, The Keenans, The Lacken darts team, Francie, The Jacksons, The Killeshandra boys, The Farrells, The Bennett & Beattie three, always makes me smile. Each one of them contributed in some way to some of the funniest stories of my early adulthood.

Anyway, enough of the sentimental shite. Let’s get in to what you all read this blog for, and it’s not my awful poetry! Yes, ladies & gentleman, here comes my single most embarrassing moment on a rugby field. And for once, it wasn’t my fault!

Monaghan are a shower of bastards. It’s not their fault really. They’re a poor man’s Cavan, or maybe even a rich man’s Longford. Anyway, they hate Cavan for some reason. Jealousy? I doubt it. That season we were probably on the same level as them. I think they just wanted to be better than us, and the day of The Battle of Swellan, they really let themselves down.

The Battle of Swellan was the first of many skirmishes in the wars between Cavan and Monaghan rugby clubs that season. It all started because of a nasty box received by our second-row, Blackie O’Reilly. Blackie is the Archduke Franz Ferdinand in this analogy.

Blackie was, is, a very powerful human being. A genius on the pitch, and a plumber off it. He was devastating with the ball in hand, and even more devastating in a pub quiz.

That day he was doing his usual bullocking through the Monaghan defence, and mid-way through the first half one of their centre’s finally snapped. With three Monaghan men trying, and failing, to pull Blackie down, the centre drew back and hit him an awful box in the jaw.

The shot heard around the world.

Blackie’s brother Paul Paul, so called because he loved repeating jokes, took umbrage to this assault and pummelled the Monaghan centre.

The ref was very inexperienced, and had the authority of a young substitute teacher. He had come in to our dressing room before the match to check our studs and was asking us if he could join us for pints in the town later that night. I never have, or since had, heard of a referee asking a team out for drinks before a match started. Surely it was a conflict of interest?

I think it was this invitation that led us to believe he may have been a bit of a soft touch. The way the Monaghan guys behaved that day, he must have invited them to his wedding or something. Because after Paul Paul threw that retaliation, the war of attrition turned nuclear.

Salesi, our Tongan super-hero, had pulled the jersey over the head of his opposite number and was dishing out some NHL style beatdown. Paul Paul and Blackie were cleaning house.

A disgusting incident occurred when the Monaghan full-back ran twenty yards and kicked Pierre, our full-back, in the face as he was lying prone on the ground.

I had been mostly trying to separate lads and fight fires, I’m not much of a fighter, but when I saw this all my conscientious objections washed away. I jogged over to the Monaghan full back and fore-armed him as hard as I could in the face. Buckled the prick. Pierre was a good mate, and he wasn’t a violent guy. He was a gentle, artistic soul – brilliant story teller. He wouldn’t have been up to any nasty shit and didn’t deserve a broken nose for losing his balance while trying to break up the kerfuffle.

As soon as I knocked over the Monaghan man I got clattered from behind. Cowards. I picked myself up, dusted myself off and turned around to see a familiar face on the field with my attacker by the throat.

“You’ll not hit my son!”

Dad.

On the pitch.

With a lad.

By the throat.

One-handed.

Every time the guy struggled, Dad lifted him higher off the ground. His feet were dangling in fresh air.

Later on, in the bar, I had learned that he had jumped the fence cleanly to get on the pitch. A five-foot box-jump. Not bad for a fifty-four-year-old man.

The ridiculousness of having a twenty-six-year-old man’s father run on the pitch to defend his son diffused the situation somewhat. That, and everyone was getting tired. I’d say at least 75% of the players had been on the beer the night before.

After getting a good scolding from the ‘oul-boy, the referee sent off the Monaghan full-back. (On a side note, this guy got banned for life for what he did). We went on to win the game in the end. Monaghan had a new kit the next time we played them. Salesi had torn off at least five player’s jerseys in the brawl.

We went for pints with the referee that night. I never saw him referee a match again. One of the lads must have thrown him in the Kenny Pottle river.

A few years later the French rugby player, Imanol Harinordoquy, found himself in a similar situation. His Dad ran on the pitch too to dispense some justice on his son’s behalf. I received a lot of texts that day asking if the ‘oul boy was on holidays in France.

People sometimes ask me; did I give out to my Dad for what he did that day? I always say no.

Sure the fucker had lifted a grown man with one hand! I’m not going to challenge a man capable of that.

I hope to instil those feelings of pride and fear in to my own children someday.

Next time on A Brief History of My Sporting Failures – hurling.

Cavan hurling.

The ultimate embarrassment.

read previous chapters in the series here:

Half-Nelson, Full-Nelson, Willie-Nelson

Full Kit Chancer

Ollie & Folly in The GAA

Should I have been a contender?

Featured

Wheels Coming off the Bandwagon

A poem for the casual sports fan

Throw the match on the telly,

We’re sure to win.

Jaysus, this jersey won’t go over my belly,

It’s only made for a lad that’s thin.

 

Who’s your man up front?

Has he played with us before?

That ref is a …. Clown.

Surely that was a score?

 

He’s a great wee mover,

Knows how to control a ball.

He’s in the box with that manoeuvre.

Jaysus, did he fall?

 

Not a hope that’s a peno!

Ref, you’re having a laugh.

Now that’s a terrible blow

At the end of the first half.

 

The atmosphere look’s great,

We’ll get back in for sure.

We can’t let them dictate,

Our boys will endure.

 

Oh, they’ve scored a second.

How long is left?

We aren’t as good as I reckoned.

The price of this jersey was theft.

If you enjoyed this, then check out some more of my poetry here:

Faster than a speeding couplet

Sean Nós-feratu

Lamb Couplets

Balls of Limerick

Featured

Party Politics

What happens at the Christmas party should never be spoken of

My fucking head was killing me. I had a pain in it the size of Zimbabwe.

And that wasn’t the only thing annoying me either.

I lost my job today. Well, I didn’t lose it per se. I was asked to leave. Fired, sacked, shit-canned, in a manner of speaking.

There were a few reasons.

To be fair, my eventual dismissal had been building up for a while. A number of unpleasant occurrences had, well, occurred in the weeks since Christmas. I blame my big mouth really. I blame it, and the fact that around November last year I just stopped giving a shit.

At the Christmas party a member of management, Gloria, had had one too many.

Gloria was always quite uptight in the office. She never really spoke to anyone on a personal level, and when she did it always seemed like it was coming off an autocue. You know? That robotic, “Hope you have a good weekend!” with no smile or intonation. If you had the misfortune of bumping in to her on the stairs on the way to the car park she’d rattle off this cold goodbye. It was as if the words were an unpleasant taste that she had to expel as efficiently as possible. If she was on a spectrum, it wasn’t a very colourful one.

I was having a good old time at the Christmas party. I love a nice pint now and again. One of life’s simplest and most rewarding pleasures.

I was enjoying a particularly crisp ice cold one when something weird happened. Gloria was calling my name and waving to me.

“Hey! Hey Paul!” I got a massive shock. She’d never addressed me by my first name before. And she was smiling. Freaked me the fuck out.

“Gloria. Hi. How’s your night going?” I’d asked. Shouldn’t have.

“Amazing! I just boned one of the project management interns in the disabled toilets. He gave me a right seeing to!”

I almost choked on my beer. Fucking hell. That intern, Dave I think he was called, was only 19! What was she at? A grown woman, taking the innocence of that poor child.

I then suppressed the good ‘ol Catholic guilt and thought, fuck it, they’re adults. Let them have their fun.

“Oh right, fair play!” I said, raising my pint and giving her a conspirator’s wink.

She put her hand on my shoulder and proceeded to lean in for a kiss.

I jumped back.

I recoiled.

I said “Ugh! Sick!” very loudly.

Not my proudest moment. She glared with me with all the hatred her robot brain could muster.

Bollox. I really should work on my winks. I didn’t want to give the impression that I was flirting with her at all. Things kind of spiralled from there.

Two weeks later I got an email from her questioning a decision I’d made in hiring a new receptionist. It was pointless really. She was mad that I’d hired the first person I’d interviewed and not gone through the list of twenty people that had applied like I was supposed to.

I hate being questioned. I always feel like it’s an attack on my intelligence. My ego can’t handle it. It probably makes me a bit of a dick, I don’t care, it happens very rarely. What really annoyed me here though was I knew Gloria was right. The new receptionist was hopeless. I think he lied on his CV about being computer literate, or literate for that matter.

Anyway, I was seething after this rebuke and went in to the small kitchen in the corner of the office to get a coffee. A couple of members of the project management team were in there deconstructing various people’s behaviour at the Christmas party. Bit late I thought, but I suppose most of us hadn’t seen each other since the holidays.

I joined in with the gossip. I love a bit of gossip me!

One of the guys brought up the intern, Dave, and his conquest. I snorted.

“Huh! Good man Dave. Had a spin in the Glory Hole!”

It was a stupid comment to make about a woman. It was a stupid comment to make about a colleague. It was a stupid comment to make about a human being.

It did get a good laugh though. A laugh big enough to quench my brief, but burning guilt.

I’d forgotten all about my rebuke and felt that making this mean comment behind Gloria’s back made us even now. Another three points and a win for me, putting me close to the top of the table in the dick-head league. If anyone had me in their dick-head fantasy team that week they’d have been delighted with my performance.

The next morning, I arrived in to Brian from HR sitting casually on the edge of my desk. Brian pretty much always wore the same outfit. A black woolly cardigan, black pants and white shirt. Combined with his long black hair and bushy black beard, he looked like a care-bear. If he was a care bear the symbol on his belly would be a tearful employee reading their P45.

“Paul, so glad you could make it in.” he said, sympathetically.

“I make it in here every morning Brian. I work here.” I said with a false chuckle, sitting down at my PC.

“Very good Paul, I love your sense of humour.”

No, you fucking don’t I thought. Actually, I said it too. Brian, of course, was very offended and appalled.

“Well, I was going to just have an informal chat Paul, but if you wish to use profanity I have to inform you that there will be a disciplinary hearing tomorrow at 3pm in my office. A member of staff has made a complaint.”

He gave me his best care bear stare and handed me a letter.

I glanced over it quickly. Blah, blah, gross misconduct, blah, blah, professional integrity, blah, blah, sexual harassment etc.

So, the robot did have a heart.

I was furious. A throwaway comment in the coffee dock was getting me in this much trouble?

Fuck that. Revenge. Revenge is the only way to settle this in a mature, professional way.

I strolled down to Gloria’s office. She hadn’t come in yet. What I did next was fairly stupid, a bit over the top you might say, but at the time it made perfect sense to me.

I started a fire on her desk. It wasn’t a big one really. I just burned a few post-its. Wasn’t my fault that our cheap-ass supply manager had purchased flammable office furniture from a dodgy crowd over the border. It also wasn’t my fault that someone left a window open and the breeze caught the flames and spread the fire through the office. And it definitely wasn’t my fault that nobody could get an outside line to call the fire brigade because our dangerously under-qualified receptionist had jammed the phone system.

When someone eventually remembered that they had a mobile phone, the fire brigade arrived and got the blaze under control.

Thankfully nobody got seriously hurt.

A couple of people were huddled around Gloria in the car-park and were pointing at me. I knew what was coming.

Gloria made her way over to me. I couldn’t tell if she was annoyed or delighted. Couldn’t read her at all. Standard Gloria.

“Paul, I believe this fire was started by you. I don’t think there is any need really for you to come back. Brian will be in touch.”

I wanted to say, “You got what was coming to you!” or something triumphant. I wanted her to know why I’d done it. She probably wouldn’t have reacted anyway; her CPU wouldn’t have processed the information in a normal way. I still wanted to say it.

I didn’t get a chance to. I took a massive thump in the back of the head and crashed to the tarmac.

“Fuckin’ prick! I heard what you said about me bird! Fuckin middle-aged office wanker.”

Dave was standing over me, clearing his throat for a nice phlegmy spit.

Ah, Dave!

He made the complaint. Made sense.

Fair play to him. I’d have done the same. He saw his chance and he took it.

Can’t begrudge him that!

Featured

Faster than a speeding couplet

Five two-line poems, for the reader with the busy lifestyle

Censorbilities

Political discourse has been stagnating of late.

The rest of this poem has been censored by the state.

 

Hip Hippo

Being an ageing, overweight, unfit hipster requires some skill,

Especially while navigating a fixie bike up a steep hill.

Stranger Danger

As you stared angrily at me while you unbuttoned your blouse,

I wondered, who are you, and how did you get in to my house?

Rejection           

I told you I loved you, you didn’t say it back.

You floated away and said, “Quack quack”. 

Power Move

Look, I’m not going to be the person to tell you that you can’t

Give a Tombstone Piledriver to an irritating aunt.

Featured

Half-Nelson, Full-Nelson, Willie-Nelson

Part 4 in A Brief History of My Sporting Failures

Will I ever successfully defend the WWE Heavyweight Title at Croke Park?

I don’t know.

I might.

I’ve a lot on at the moment.

Like, the missus has to be dropped in to work and collected later on. The bins need to be put out. The bloody cobwebs in the utility room need doing again.

I’m just so busy right now that a title defence is the last thing on my mind…

I’ve previously spoken about embarrassing moments on the Gaelic football field and the soccer field, mainly involving my stupid big head. This chapter is going to deal with a sporting pursuit (hobby?) of mine that the majority of the civilised world finds embarrassing – pro wrestling. It won’t necessarily deal with personal public humiliation. I know that’s what people want, thankfully I’ve never done this publicly! However, when you look at the overall content it probably will satisfy your urge for schadenfreude.

IT’S FAKE!”, you scream.

“I FUCKING KNOW IT’S FAKE!”, I scream back, followed by a perfectly executed figure four leg-lock. WOOOOOOOO!!!

My love for wrestling started at a young age. It was handed down to me by an older townie cousin who had cable television.

I remember seeing Hulk Hogan for the first time and thinking, “Who the fuck is this guy? He’s got a moustache and receding hairline like Dad, but he’s fucking huge!” His energetic gibberish was hypnotizing my seven-year-old mind. He was flexing his huge muscles and screaming at the camera to some ‘oul boy called Mean Gene about prayers and vitamins and training and other nonsense. I couldn’t follow it, but I liked all those things. I mean I was an altar boy, I loved those tangy orange vitamins and football training on Saturday mornings. It felt like this Hogan lad was speaking directly to me!

Of course, as I got older and began to understand more about wrestling, I realised that this was a promo. He was talking to the audience, not me personally.

My Dad hated wrestling. Despised it. Knew it was a fake construct designed purely to take your money, and reminded me and my brother of the fact constantly. However, he made us go to mass every Sunday and gave the church a portion of his wages every month. The cheek. The irony. He was a monster heel – The Irony Sheikh.

Jesus, that was a terrible pun. I apologise profusely.

Most of my early consumption of wrestling was either in my cousin’s house or on VHS. It wasn’t until 2001 when we got satellite TV at home that we were able to watch Raw and Smackdown regularly. The sports package was initially added as a means to watch the British & Irish Lions tour in Australia that year. Wrestling was just an added bonus.

I was sixteen in 2001. My brother was fourteen. Nu-metal, Jackass and skateboard fashion were really popular in 2001 for some reason. Pro-wrestling also seemed to embrace this at the time. Entrance music had a nu-metal flavour. Some wrestlers wore baggy jeans. The matches sometimes had a stunt-like feel to them. There were lot of bandanas and motorbikes knocking about too.

I liked nu-metal music and the ‘ol baggy jeans and skate shoes. Could I skate though? Could I fuck! I had a skate-board for a bit, but we didn’t really have the smooth tarmac required to master the skills required. Gravel paths just didn’t allow you to gain enough velocity to perfect your balance on a board. I mostly just stood on it in the kitchen, holding the back of a kitchen chair and moving left to right. Tony fucking Hawk.

Wrestling had become ultra-violent. Blood, weapons, heavy metal etc. and I loved it. Although, being a source of ‘entertainment’ from America, they were constantly warning you to not try anything you watched at home. What a pointless warning! That was the best part, practicing moves on each other.

After a couple of years with satellite TV and access to wrestling around the clock my parents made a terrible error.

They bought my youngest sister a trampoline.

They may as well have enrolled us in wrestling school.

Adding fuel to this, WWE had just screened two seasons of the show Tough Enough where they put prospects through a gruelling training regime to become the next big WWE superstar. They showed you how to do the moves, then warned you not to do them. Bit of a contradiction there lads!

Our back garden was now Madison Square Garden.

Dreams were realised on that trampoline. Hearts were broken on that trampoline. Every move you can think of was executed on that trampoline. Power bombs, spine busters, moon-saults, back body drops, DDT’s, and if someone didn’t have the manners to call a move before performing it – there was always room for a good old-fashioned puck on the jaw.

One time we recorded our own pay per view. We had a camcorder and a CD with all the wrestlers theme songs. We took turns being King and JR when not ‘performing’. We even went north to get fireworks for the entrances. It was the most fun I’ve ever had, although watching it back now can make for disturbing viewing.

Not that anything disturbing actually happened.

The ‘main-event’ between my brother and I took place late in the evening. We didn’t have a light in the back yard and our camera didn’t really adapt well to the lack of one. Visually the match looks like two shadows jumping around the place. It’s the audio that is disturbing really. My brother’s voice was still in the process of breaking and was quite high-pitched when excited, whereas I had my deep manly man’s voice that I still have today. What was actually a high-octane, edge of your seat grudge match between two battle-weary competitors, sounds awfully like a sustained sexual assault thanks to my brother’s pleads of “No!”, “Stop!”, and “Jesus, that was too hard!”.

The commentary team of my little sister and cousin didn’t really help to tell the actual story either. For some reason they were very quiet throughout the match. I assure you this was due to the quality of the performance, and we’ll leave it at that.

Every good wrestler needs a proper enemy to be successful. The Rock had Stone Cold, Hulk Hogan had André the Giant, and Chris Benoit had his mind.

My enemy was my brother. Well, we weren’t enemy enemies, we just clashed a bit – like all brothers do.

My favourite move during our adolescence was ‘The Sly Dig’. I usually administered it when he was concentrating on reading or something. It drove him mad. His signature move was a combination of Rhino’s ‘Gore’ and Kane’s ‘Chokeslam’. He usually administered it after being provoked by me.

One time he nearly killed me. Well, no, I’m exaggerating here. He ‘kayfabe’ nearly killed me. (He actually just winded me!) He was looking for something in a cupboard beside our bathroom. I was in the kitchen getting a glass of water and asked him what he was doing. He didn’t respond. I took that as disrespecting his elder and proceeded to administer ‘The Sly Dig’. I regretted it instantly.

He fucking burst me.

A point to make before explaining what went down. We both played rugby. At the time, I was lanky for my age and played in the back row. The brother wasn’t yet at his full height, but was at full strength. He played in the front row and was used to dishing out pain and suffering in close quarters. I was more into being creative and dishing out pain from a distance. The brother had a serious temper on him when crossed. A bear that did not like being baited.

Hitting him ‘The Sly Dig’ in a close quarters situation was a massive error of judgement. He spun on his heels, got in to a low crouch, grabbed me by the shoulders and engaged. There was no pause. He was ahead of his time in that respect. Pushing off from his legs he rammed me through the closed bathroom door and through the glass shower door. Thankfully the glass didn’t shatter, just came free of the runners. I think the force of what he’d done shocked him more than it had shocked me, he just pointed at me and said, ‘I’ll kill you next time’. He meant it too. He had a crazy look in his eye that told me not to mess with him again. I considered it, but of course in my heart of hearts, I knew that I’d tackle him again.

Unfortunately, this incident occurred on a Saturday. A wet Saturday. That meant Dad was in the house. And he heard the commotion. How could he not? His six foot, fifteen stone (those were the Halcyon days!) first born son had just been rammed through two doors by his Tasmanian Devil second born son.

Well the brother had disappeared, I was just catching my breath and trying to figure out a way to spin this story in my favour if he ever told anyone about it, when Dad came in to the bathroom and witnessed the destruction. Man, I don’t know what’s worse, getting your ass handed to you by your brother, or the look of absolute bewilderment and disappointment that a parent gives you when you’ve been involved in something completely idiotic.

Dad blamed wrestling of course. I blamed letting the young fella play rugby. That accusation only made things worse.

That Friday night we couldn’t watch RAW, we had to watch the Late-Late show.

The ‘oul boy could be a monster heel when he wanted to.

Reading this back, it is pretty embarrassing actually. What the fuck was I at buying a skateboard?

 

Read previous chapters in this series here:

Full Kit Chancer

Ollie & Folly in The GAA

Should I have been a contender?

Featured

Sean Nós-feratu

A story, in rhyme, about respecting your traditions.

Waking up on a Sunday after taking a sup

I couldn’t move a muscle, couldn’t get up

The missus came in and said “Give up drinking ale!”

But conceded after my protests that I looked unusually pale.

 

Now, I’m not a man that gets into terrible states from drink

And my unusual condition this morning made me think

About anything strange or unusual that happened me last night

To make me awaken feeling like I’d eaten dog shite.

 

So, I was in the local with the regular blokes

And had six pints, no whiskey, and one or two smokes

I didn’t leave my pint unattended, so I know I wasn’t spiked

And I didn’t go to the chipper, so it wasn’t a burger that my insides disliked.

 

My energy levels were terrible, I felt unnaturally weak

It took a massive effort to reach the kitchen to wet my beak

Perhaps my tolerance for booze was beginning to wear out?

No that couldn’t be it, sure I’m a demon for stout.

 

I forgot about it for the next few days

And time passed quickly, my thoughts in a haze

Until the following dark Thursday night driving past the cemetery

I spotted a man in black, and he was staring straight at me.

 

My first reaction of course, was to beep the horn and wave

Never thinking it odd, that the lad was getting out of a grave

How do I know him? I put my brain through the wringer

Bejaysyus! That’s yer man from the other night! The Sean Nós singer.

 

He was in the local the previous Saturday and sang a couple of tunes

And I remember in the smoking area his lighter was made of bone, and decorated with ancient runes

I told him how his constant interruptions were being the ruination

Of the craic we were having in the pub, and my friends and I conversation.

 

Was it my imagination, or did his eyes then glow red?

Or is this the usual post hangover anxious build up of dread?

Perhaps he’s just one of those alternative trad reformers

That add gimmicks to their act to be more memorable performers.

 

Something didn’t feel right, I decided to call my spouse

But a stranger answered the phone. The cunt was in the house!

I stalled the car, it wouldn’t go in to the right gear

So I jumped out and ran, fueled by my fear.

 

When I got to the house my terror increased

The music of Foster & Allen was blaring, what is this strange beast?

I could barge in the door, or use tactics of stealth

But first things first, I had to arm myself.

 

What would be best, a close combat weapon, or one of range?

Or harness trad singers’ biggest fear – change?

I laughed at my joke, that lightened the mood

Then was sobered by the fact that my wife was being held captive by this dude.

 

So I picked up the closest thing to hand

An old wooden hurley, sure this’ll do grand.

I entered the house screaming my wife’s name

Throwing stealth out the window, to save my eternal flame

 

The beast appeared in front of me, a grin on his pale face

And raised his hands in welcome, as if he owned the fucking place.

Usually this is the part where the villain explains his motives and final plan,

But I didn’t have time to listen to his shite, I’m a busy man.

 

So before he had time to open his evil mouth

I swung the hurl as hard as I could and knocked him clean out.

When he fell, I ran to the sitting room and turned off the racket,

Then found my sobbing wife and wrapped her in my jacket

 

She was cold from fright, despite being tied up in front of the fire

Wouldn’t you be if you were attacked by a fucking vampire?

She was fine, she hadn’t been bit or hurt in any way

And I told her that we’d both live to fight, laugh and love another day.

 

But would you Adam and Eve it, I spoke too soon

The beast reappeared, making me feel like a goon.

His long fangs were bared and his cape billowed around his back

I thought, Jesus, such a load of hassle to go through every night for a snack.

 

He advanced on me, obviously revitalised from his brief rest

When all of a sudden the wife shoved a poker through his chest.

He disintegrated immediately into a cloud of dust

And I don’t want to admit this, but I suppose I must:

 

I’m now writing a Sean Nós song about the Vampire and how my wife was triumphant,

and if a trad singer interrupts the craic in the pub, it’s best to reserve judgement.

Because, it happened to me and could happen to you,

Be targeted for death by a dreaded Sean Nósferatu.

Featured

Lamb Couplets

Five two line poems (couplets) from The Gammy Eye

Balance

You can have a business suit, an iPad, big headphones and an expensive looking watch,

But travelling a bumpy road on a bus, no man looks dignified balancing a messenger bag on his crotch.

 

Knock on

You ran your fingers through my hair and pinched me on the bum.

I have to say, that’s the weirdest thing that a referee ever did to me at a scrum.

 

Hello dear one

If I was the King of Togo, and I took you as my Queen,

You’d have to bring your laptop, so we can spam email everyone in Aberdeen.

 

Not just for Christmas

A pet dog has many uses, companionship being one of those,

But don’t misread an Andrex ad and use Spot to blow your nose.

 

Secret to longevity   

If you want to live a long life, exercise and eat plenty of fruit and veg.

Avoid smoking and stressful situations like driving your car off a cliff ledge.

Featured

You Go First

A poem about brothers

Do you think it looks safe?

I don’t know if I will

It’s really high up

You go first Phil

 

No, I promise I’m not scared

I’m sure it’ll be brill

You’re older than me

You go first Phil

 

I’ll push you so that

You don’t roll down the hill

Show me how it’s done

You go first Phil

 

Wow! That looked like fun

Was it a thrill?

I’ll take my turn now

Give me a push Phil

Featured

Can Dogs Play The Trombone?

A poem for children, or simpletons

Can dogs play the trombone?

Or are their paws too small?

Could we make a jazz band

With Labradors at all?

 

Lions make good lead singers

The way that they can roar

And pigeons playing the piano

Is something we all adore

 

Bears only play the drums

In heavy metal bands

And chimps are super funk bassists

Big thumbs, you understands

 

There was also this marmalade cat

Who would make a pleasing din

By using his tail as a bow

And playing his whiskers like a violin

 

The above is interesting information

But it’s something I’ve always known

However it doesn’t answer my question;

Can dogs play the trombone?

Featured

Full Kit Chancer

Part 3 in A Brief History of My Sporting Failures

Do kids still ask their parents (Santa) for full kits for Christmas? Or has modern society evolved correctly? The concept seems ridiculous to me.

I had a couple of Manchester United kits as a child. I was a ridiculous child to be fair.

I don’t really support Manchester United anymore. My interest in soccer has diminished over the years. I like it just fine, but I’d never lose my shit over a result, or change plans to see a game. I’d do that for rugby, but only the international side. Soccer is something that I like to stumble upon and pleasantly enjoy now and again. Like a random café on a wet Tuesday, the film’s of Vin Diesel, or a chipper on the way home from a night out.

I’d be more of a well-wisher now than a fully fledged fan. I don’t own any memorabilia from the current era, but I wouldn’t say no to an ‘aul vintage jersey if I was offered one.

Why Man U you ask? Well, I suppose my earliest memory of Man U involved a Kevin Moran red card and me shitting myself. Actually, I was only four months old, and I don’t remember it. Family members like to tell the story though, as if me defecating in my own nappy as a baby would somehow embarrass me now. It doesn’t.

You need to have actual self-esteem in the first place for it to be lowered.

Anyway, what happened was, Kevin Moran was sent off in the 1985 FA Cup Final for fouling Peter Reid who was through on goal. I think Dad, a massive United fan, took umbrage with this decision and made his feelings known to the referee. I disagreed with both, and promptly shat myself. I think I also may have voiced concerns after Norman Whiteside scored the winner, I’m not entirely sure.

So, the love for Manchester United came from Dad. My Mam’s side all supported Liverpool and Tottenham, and a couple of slow cousins were Everton fans. The Liverpool fans always like to remind me and my brother of Liverpool’s previous successes, and laughed when we’d get frustrated and cry. The same cousin’s phone never seemed to be in service if I wanted to call for a friendly chat after a Liverpool defeat to United. This was incredibly strange as their dad, my uncle, was an engineer for the phone company.

Playing soccer. Now this was a different story.

Most of the soccer I’ve played was either in someone’s back garden, or on a tarmac yard in school. Oh yeah, indoor soccer and astro-turf 5-a-side. I’ve done that too. The walls and fenced in enclosures of these settings can be very forgiving to someone with an awful first touch.

Like Gaelic football, I was either a defender or a goalie. I’s not that I didn’t want to play up front, I just loved a theatrical dive or a big slide tackle. Nine times out of ten these manoeuvres were performed no-where near a ball. Ankles and shins were usually targeted in the back garden. That’s mainly because I fancied myself to come out on top in a scrap with my younger brother. I shouldn’t have. He fought dirty, like every younger brother does. It’s their right I suppose. The fucker was strong too…

I’ve only ever played 11-a-side soccer once. And this was as a 27-year-old adult. My college had a Northside v Southside charity match as part of RAG week. I played centre-back for the Southside team (my campus was on the Southside of Dublin).

All the Northsiders were in the college of engineering and construction. Real men. Men who could play ball. All the guys on my team were from the college of Media, Arts and Tourism. Dreamers, poets… saps.

RTÉ were also there to speak to our student union president in relation to fees and student accommodation. The pricks recorded some of the match and showed highlights on the news that night.

One of the highlights shown? Me scoring an own-goal with my massive fucking head. I swear to God; this melon gets me in to more trouble than it’s worth.

Philip Bromwell, the reporter, had set up the camera behind our goals as we were defending a corner. I happened to be the tallest guy in the box, I was close to being the widest as well. The ball was floated perfectly in to the area by the Northside full-back. Our “coach” screamed: ‘GET YOUR HEAD ON THE END OF THAT BRADY!”

I was incredibly hungover. (It was RAG week after all!) The previous night was €2 bottles in Dicey’s. The fact that I’d drank around 12 bottles of Desperado’s followed by some shots meant that it was a miracle I even got my head through the jersey that morning.

My severely dehydrated and cramping legs decided to leap with all the power I possessed to meet the ball. I got my head on it alright. I just wasn’t facing the right way. If it had have been up the other end, it would have been a finish that Duncan Ferguson would have been proud of. I blasted it past our keeper, and took him and several defenders out in the process. If it was possible to win the game by knocking members of your own team in to the goal, the ref would have blown it up there and then.

Philip Bromwell from RTÉ was absolutely pissing himself behind the goals. He nearly knocked over his camera. It’s a pity he hadn’t been standing closer to the goal mouth. If I had collided with it, I would have made shite of his equipment. I would have made sure to have destroyed the footage as well.

The fiasco of my only ever 11-a-side game aired on the six-one news that night and was repeated on the nine o’clock news. None of my clearances, my big tackles or my probing balls (behave yourself) were featured. Just my big, clumsy, oafish own-goal.

Fucking RTÉ, man. Just knowing that footage exists in their archive makes me very uncomfortable. If I ever get caught for not paying my TV licence, I’ll get my solicitor to have the footage of my performance erased as part of my plea bargain.

As sporting failures go, it doesn’t get much worse than having one broadcast on national television.

Or does it?

Yes, yes of course it does.

Find out how next time on A Brief History of My Sporting Failures.

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Ollie & Folly in The GAA

Part 2 in A Brief History of My Sporting Failures

You have of course heard of Lacken Celtic GFC. It would be highly ignorant of me to assume that you haven’t.

I’m sure that you are aware of the senior championship victory in 1908, the intermediate victory of 1997, and the time the under -13’s were robbed of a semi-final victory in Cornafean in the same year (more on that fiasco later in the series).

I’m certain that Joseph Crowe Memorial Park is a venue that you and your family visit regularly.

Therefore, there is no real need for me to delve in to the complicated and convoluted origin story of my first sporting club. You can find that on Wikipedia. It begins in Scotland, and ends up in Corlismore or something.

My introduction to Lacken Celtic was at a very young age. As the first grandson on the Brady side of the family, I assumed there was some kind of Lion King moment where I was presented to the parish as a confused baby, held aloft over the 13 metre line as the future and new hope of the club, as the sounds of tribal music blared in the background.

More than likely, it was in a basket in a covered stand that stank of piss and Benson & Hedges, neither of which were mine, to the sound of some disgruntled neighbour screaming, ‘Agh! Fuck ya ref, ya whore’s tramp’s bastard!’

Ollie, or dada (or possibly gurgle gurgle burp), as I knew him at the time, was an ‘aul whore for the football. He still is. It consumes him. It’s his only vice. He was quite good apparently. Played a bit of county at under-age, had a few schools medals, some county league medals for the club.

A neighbour once told me at my uncle’s 50th, that Dad was the hardiest bastard he ever played with. Tough, but fair. Even tempered, but likely to lose it if provoked. Like all good GAA club defenders, he’d hit you a skite, but only if you deserved it, and never in a false way. A good, honest box in the jaw. It was a nasty business in the full-back line. A dark business. It ruined many men. But at least it had a code of honour. If you stuck by the code, your ability to function in real society remained with you.

The expectation on me was that I’d follow in his footsteps and begin what would be an incredibly storied career, ending in Cavan’s first All-Ireland victory since the 1960’s. I remember back in 1997, after Cavan lost an All-Ireland semi-final to Kerry, I asked Dad, ‘Will we ever win an All-Ireland?’

He replied, misty eyed, ‘Of course son. When you and Daniel and your cousin Paul are playing senior. We’ll win one then.’

That didn’t quite happen. Here’s why:

I was shit.

Maybe that’s a harsh assessment. I was mediocre at best. The fundamentals came easily to me. It was speed that I lacked. I never had that blistering pace that could skin a corner back and fire the ball in to the top corner. The compromise that the club and I came to was that I’d be a back. Like Dad.

Nothing more honourable than being responsible for defending the lines of the parish under-10 team in a community games tournament. I assume. I wouldn’t know. I wasn’t fucking picked. The reason given to me at the time was, I was 9, and I had another year of playing left when I turned 10. I thought it was a harsh decision from the manager to be fair, making his first born son a sub.

But it didn’t dampen my spirits. I bloody loved the game. Absolutely loved it. Some of my best memories are wearing the sky blue and navy of Lacken and playing football with my friends.

Some of my most cringe-worthy memories in sport (life?)also came in the sky blue and navy. One in particular really stands out.

At this point in time, I would like to make you aware that I was a huge Manchester United fan as a kid. I’m sorry if it offends you, but it’s relevant to the story. Do you remember that Eric Cantona goal against Sunderland in 1996? It was the one where he beats a few defenders, does a 1-2 with Brian McClair, and then chips the keeper. Do you remember the celebration? Cantona does this really slow rotation, marvelling in his own genius, and slowly lifts his arms in the air, as if to say, ‘Look, this shit comes easy to me. I’m class, the rest of you are rubbish. All hail the king.’

I did that same celebration in a Gaelic football match. Not once…twice. And it was in the same bloody game.

The club had set up a challenge match between us and Belturbet. It was for the under-10, under-12 and under-14 teams. The idea of the day was to give everyone a game. Everyone was getting a full half of football at the least. I couldn’t wait. When the team was picked before the under-12 match, I couldn’t believe it. Full-forward. I’d be playing full-forward. Up front! Like Cantona.

At the throw-in I shook hands with the full back, then I flicked up my collar. To be fair, I wasn’t the only sap doing that. Most of the kids who supported United had their collars flicked up. I scored two goals in that game. I did the Cantona celebration to an empty stand and bemused side-line twice. However, that wasn’t the stupidest or most embarrassing thing that I did in the game. The worst was yet to come.

About five minutes from half time, we were losing by two points. We needed a goal to get back in front. One of our boys made a blistering run up the left wing. The Belturbet goalie ran way off his line to go and tackle him. For some reason, even after scoring two goals, my marker didn’t see me as a threat (the prick), and joined his teammate to try and close our fella down. I was un-marked with an open goal in front of me. I called for the pass.

I just want to stop the story here for a minute to tell you something. And believe me when I say this, this is a fact, I’m not bragging. I have excellent hand-eye co-ordination. I always have. If you throw something at me, there’s a 99.99% chance that I’ll catch it. It’s one of those weird things that runs on my Mam’s side of the family. One of my cousins once caught a tennis ball that he saw coming at him out of the corner of his eye, while still maintaining eye-contact with the person he was in conversation with. I didn’t witness it, but he’s not a liar, so I assume it’s true.

Right, back to the action.

All I had to do was catch that ball and blast it with my left foot, in to the top-corner, putting us ahead at half-time.

As the ball sailed through the air, my overly confident 11 year old brain thought, ‘You could go for the spectacular here lad. Over-head kick? Volley? You can do it. Show these chumps what kind of superstar you are!’

Making these split second decisions is something that separates elite athletes from the rest of us. I wasn’t an elite athlete. I panicked, got my footing all wrong, and did the stupidest thing that I’ve ever done on a sports field while sober.

I headed the ball. I fucking headed an O’Neill’s size 4 ball. It was like heading a bowling ball. And I didn’t head it with my forehead. There was no finesse to the shot. The ball bounced off the top of my massive head, hit the post, and went wide. To the untrained eye, or to anyone basically, that was watching, it looked like I jumped for the ball and forgot to raise my hands. The force of the blow knocked me off my feet. Stupid fucking 11 year old brain. I got back up to the goalie and my marker both laughing at me. Smug cunts.

Pat Smith was doing umpire. He knew my intent. ‘Ah jaysus. Young Brady! What are you at? You’re not playing soccer!’ That was good advice Pat. I cherished that.

Needless to say, I was subbed off at half-time. My own fault really. Poor Ollie. I’m sure having me as a son wasn’t easy on him.

I’d go on to have more ‘incidents’ on the Gaelic football pitch as I grew older. I’ll touch on them again and again throughout the series.

Next time on A Brief History of My Sporting Failures – soccer. What is it, and why can’t I play?

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Should I have been a contender?

A chiseled, long haired version of me – red faced from exertion and possible steroid use, lifting the WWE heavyweight title at Wrestlemania. The first ever to be held in Croke Park.

This isn’t an autobiography. It’s more of a confession to myself as I approach middle age.

I’m not a famous person.

Unless you:

  1. worked with me
  2. attended the same school as me
  3. or are related to me,

you will have no idea who I am. Which is completely fine by me! I like it that way. It means I can be my own messy self and never have to deal with your judgement. Yippee!!

Notice how in the numbered list I didn’t include played sport against me? There’s a reason for that. Reasons that will become more clear as this series continues.

In the year of Your Lord, two thousand and seventeen, on the 29th of January, I turned 32 years old. I don’t feel 32 years old. I still feel like a curious and confused 18-year-old – legally an adult, but with the maturity of a socially underdeveloped teenager. Well… maybe not that bad. I’m able to look after most things.

Except ironing. I’m shite at ironing. No-one ever showed me how, and all the life hack articles on-line just do not help. I either have to ask someone to do it for me, or attempt it myself, and show up at work looking like I store my shirts in an accordion.

Like most Irish men, I have an interest in plenty of different sports. Wait, that comes off as misogynistic. Shit. I don’t want to alienate potential readers this early. Hang on, I’ll start that again.

Like most humans, I have an interest in plenty of different sports. I subscribe to satellite sports channels, sports podcasts like the excellent Second Captains, and read and listen to any sports news that I can. Throughout my life I have tried playing many different sports as well, mostly depending on who my idols were at the time.

I was listening to one of these shows the previous week and the panel were discussing the future of, the now former Manchester United striker, Wayne Rooney. Some one quipped, “Ah Rooney, he’s too old now, isn’t he? I mean he’s 31!”.

I nearly ploughed the car in to the tractor in front of me. 31 is too old? Fuck! I’m 32!!

A huge existential crisis descended upon me. Feelings of dizziness and light-headedness enveloped me. (although, that could have been as a result of the fumes coming from the contraption on the back of that tractor) Performing the correct road safety checks, I erratically pulled the car in to the hard shoulder .

Visions of myself in various team colours, lifting various trophies flashed before my eyes. These visions consisted of:

  1. Me in a Cavan jersey lifting the Sam Maguire cup.
  2. Me in a Cavan jersey lifting the Liam McCarthy cup (look, if you’re going to fantasize, you may as well go all out).
  3. Me in an Irish rugby jersey lifting the 6 Nations trophy.
  4. A chiseled, long-haired version of me – red-faced from exertion and possible steroid use, lifting the WWE heavyweight title at Wrestlemania. The first ever to be held in Croke Park.
  5. An Olympic medal ceremony where I pick up gold for Ireland in Tae-kwon-do and Judo. The first ever Irish athlete to do so.
  6. Me in a Manchester United goalkeeping kit, drinking champagne out of a pair of Adidas predators.

As the slurry fumes wore off, and the visions subsided, I came to the cold realization, “You’re never going to achieve any of those things! You’re too old for most, and too fat for the rest!” Well, I thought I did. That was the farmer shouting in at me. I hadn’t realized I was babbling hysterically in the car. The fucker must be spreading a mixture of pig shit and LSD on his land. Those fumes were bloody toxic.

The rest of the drive home was spent thinking of ways to invent time machines. Perhaps if I could return to 1990, and tell the 5-year-old me watching the Ireland v Romania World Cup penalty shoot-out that if he didn’t eat sugar and trained really hard, he might have a chance at getting a trial with a League of Ireland club. Maybe my 5-year-old brain would understand and act accordingly. Although, and this is more likely, the 5-year-old me would probably get a massive fright, think future me was some dead relative sent from heaven to scare him by God because he’d pissed the bed the night before, suppressed the memory, and tripled the sugar intake just to deal with the anxiety.

I’ll never know. Or maybe I will. Technology is constantly evolving after all.

About six weeks after my crushing realization, I sat down and collected my thoughts. How did such a huge sports fan never reach his potential?

Was it bad luck?

Was it laziness?

Or was there never any potential there in the first place?

All these questions will be answered here in this weekly series. It will tell the story of how a sporting nobody remained a sporting nobody.

How the underdog remained the underdog.

How someone who wasn’t very good at …. you see where I’m going with this.

The story will continue, like all good stories do, in rural Cavan – a backwards, conservative county in the Republic of Ireland.