Belfast Barman

Causing a Nuisance since 1987

Sport shouldn’t be subjective: The Olympics should just be for Sport.

Controversial one this; I know this because I’ve discussed it with people before and it’s divisive and causes quite an emotive response. I don’t believe that any activity where the winner is decided based SOLELY (that part is important) on judging should be classed as a sport – and therefore perhaps shouldn’t be in the Olympics. Gymnastics Rhythmic Gymnastics Trampolining Diving Synchronised Diving Synchronised Swimming Dressage I would even consider the status of Olympic Boxing (as Knockouts are relatively rare and therefore judging is the usual method of progression), so too for some other combat sports. Judging, whilst of course done against very specific guidelines, is subjective. For example, in some events, some judges have awarded the same competitor a 4 or a 5 and another has judged them as a 7 or an 8. Yes, there is the mechanism of ruling out the highest and lowest – but the fact remains that this is quite clearly subjective. Small differences matter, but considering the margins that people win (or lose) a medal with, this subjectivity pollutes the concept of sport. That a competitor may not win a medal because a couple of judges consider  that their toes weren’t pointed enough (Trampoline), that their arms and elbows weren’t straight enough (men’s gymnastics – high bar), or that the competitors weren’t synchronised enough (synchronised diving). I in no way mean to diminish the skill or athleticism of what these competitors do, they are PHENOMENAL human beings who do incredible things, all of which I couldn’t even begin to dream about being competitive at – however I don’t believe they are sports. They are entertaining for sure,...

The Makings of a Homeless Teenager

I’ve been meaning/wanting to write this for a while but keep talking myself out of it – I’m reasonably sure the catharsis of putting in the effort will either be beneficial or ruin me; we’ll see. I also don’t want it to seem self indulgent, it absolutely isn’t. That’s the caveat out of the way. Many times now I’ve spoken about my experience of being homeless, through this site, Slugger O’Toole, BBC and others. I’m always acutely aware how these tend to be reduced to a specific angle or a particular soundbite, I wanted to share a less filtered account. I became homeless because my mother and her partner drank instead of paying rent; it’s that simple really. A long, long time ago in a land kinda near here my mother and I moved to England to be with a guy she had met; seems reasonable enough. He seemed an OK kinda guy,  he had one of those Nokia Communicator phones, big and brick like but opened length ways and became like a palm pilot – he also had a laptop he let me play on, command & conquer was the only game… I was grand with that. We’d been on the south coast for about 3 years I think when we ran into difficulties, I would have been maybe 14. She had job after job (they never seemed to last long) working in most of the pubs in the area (it seemed that way anyway). Ending up in a basement flat in a village called Hassocks (we ended up here after being kicked out of our previous house...

Is this what could follow a Vote Leave victory for NI?

In a world… that’s how dystopian future movies normally begin, but perhaps we’ll start with something a bit less melodramatic. Let’s first assume that in the EU Referendum, Vote Leave wins out and that sometime around 2018, the UK leaves the European Union and goes it alone. Explain to me by what measure and by what logic the following is unreasonable… PS, you’re going to need to permit some imagination of me, it’s ok though, we’ve been here before. This is of course just a thought experiment, just one voter in the referendum pondering what might be in the coming years… everyone has an angle and a prediction, statistically speaking it’s likely that somewhere out there, somebody is right, maybe this is it. 2023 Scotland, unhappy with its continued minimal influence into the wider UK political scene, holds a second referendum where Out wins. SNP leaders convinced the electorate that it was no longer right nor necessary to have Scottish laws decided upon by ‘foreign’ politicians who wouldn’t have to face the same consequences in Cambridge, Brighton & Guildford that they themselves faced in Dunfermline, Ayr & Stirling. The SNP and other Out campaigners successfully convince the electorate that Scotland gives more to the UK financially than it gets back. The Scottish unemployment rate being around 0.6/0.7% higher than the UK average leads to calls for English workers to stop commuting over the border and taking Scottish jobs from Scottish people. In just 5 years time, the replacement for Trident is due to commence service and an overwhelming majority of Scottish citizens expressed their support that they do not...

Me & The Music Business – All Those Years Ago

So in another life, many moons past, I was a big music fan. I still am of course, but not like then; then I lived, eat, drunk & breathed music. I was kinda late to the party, I enjoyed listening to music as everyone does, then when I was about 16 I suddenly opened my ears to what was going on and fell in love with the whole thing. I’ve never been one for half measures, when I get into something I tend to go feet first and immerse myself, so shortly after this eureka moment, I found a way to work within the music industry and it’s thanks to this that I met my partner!! I had no skills with an instrument and a voice that could upset stone, but I discovered a way to go to more gigs, get more music and all for free. Street Teams. I was living near Brighton at this point (and in fact was homeless for part of it, I used the school computers or whatever local library was close to me at the time), the music scene there was superb – it seemed like every great band that toured the UK would play Brighton, just an hours drive south the coast and if you’re a big-hitting act, The Brighton Centre or maybe The Dome; if you’re a newish band just beginning to break, The Concorde 2, The Komedia or if you were even smaller, The Freebutt, The Ocean Rooms or a whole host of rooms-with-speakers. I began working with a Street Team for Warner Music Group, it was a simple enough...

An Anti-Wine List I Once Made – Tasting Notes: Hint Of Sarcasm

So, I’m not a wine guy. I’ve a sweet tooth, I’ve had some Reislings that I’ve liked and the odd dessert wine, but that’s it. I can’t even go near red… bad experience (haven’t we all??) in my brief uni days. So back when I was managing White’s Tavern, the usual deal was, the company that we signed a deal with to be our wine distributor, would design the wine list. They’d also cover the cost of printing, which for someone like me (no clue about wine and stingy as fuck), was perfect! They get some professional sommelier to write the tasting notes and job’s a good’un. We’d been at this for a few years and I gradually grew sick of the pretentious tasting notes – just guff after guff after guff. I’m sure they genuinely did reflect an accurate description of the wine at hand, but my issue was mainly the following: White’s Tavern is (one of) Belfast’s oldest pubs, it’s a traditional Irish bar – low ceiling, peat fire, great Guinness… for the same reason I never did a cocktail menu, I wasn’t keen on going mad with wines. If you’re a wine aficionado, there’s places you would go to first… This was reflected in the sales too, on the proper wine lists, before my kinda-joke-but-not-really wine list, we sold massively more 1/4 bottles of wine than regular bottles – again, in my experience, wine aficionados aren’t clamouring for a 187.5ml bottle of house plonk. So I thought ‘Fuck It’. I’m going to have fun with this, it’s going to be a bit of light entertainment. Most...

A round-up of Easter Licensing social media ire

This is just a sample of course, from those of us in Northern Ireland who are sick, tired & embarrassed of our Easter opening hours.     And here’s one of many bars that will have had to close due to the opening hours…   Of course the views of the general public seems fairly obvious… Industry body Hospitality Ulster was on the case all weekend, sharing messages from its members calling for normalisation of the hours…...

A lost boy at Easter: You can choose your friends AND your family.

Easter is an odd time of year for me, the ‘holidays’ in general are in fact. The societal onus is always on ‘family’ and spending time together with them… Christmas of course is the big one, but Easter being so close to Mother’s Day, there’s a certain expectation – when someone asks you your plans for Easter and you respond with, “the usual,” people just know what that means. Visiting relatives, maybe a trip together somewhere, the obligatory Sunday Lunch at the family home… all that good stuff. For me though, it’s never been that way. I genuinely can’t recall the last typical family holiday event I was at with my own mother and family, and as numb as I am to this kind of broken-family situation, I’m conscious of what I’m missing out on. Perhaps it was 2003… it might even be as far back as 1999 or 2000, maybe that isn’t long for some people, especially if you’ve seen a lot more years go by than myself, but I’m 28 – that’s more than half my life ago. I’ve spoken previously about my time being homeless, with my mother and then latterly, my brother (who was born when we were of ‘no fixed abode’, I’m excluding those occasions. Although even then, one Christmas I spent with my then-girlfriend’s family and the other I spent with an uncle in Canada. When we were homeless we lived in Brighton and the surrounding area, every school holiday and term break, I was back in Belfast staying with my grandfather – all those normal occasions where a child and their parents are supposed...

3 Great Crowdfunding Drinks Projects You Can Join

Crowdfunding… you know what it is by now, it’s been one of the biggest changes in the way the world does business in the 21st century. Got a good idea? Could take it to a bank and do the leg work, maybe even have a go at Dragon’s Den… or use a crowdfunding website and get the added benefit of testing if there’s a market for your product at the same time as raising capital. Superb! Locally, the success story of Brewbot, beer and technology wizards who combined to make an automated brewing system that can be controlled via an app and who have since gone on to open their own bar on Belfast’s Ormeau Road, these guys raised over $100,000. Brewbot units are popping up in some of the world’s leading technology companies for staff to use and many, many other places. This makes professional scale and consistency brewing possible for anyone! Here’s a list of some great crowdfunding projects ongoing in the drinks business The Stone Cup Made from metamorphic black marble, each cup is unique – these aren’t made, they’re crafted. Keeping your drink at a more sustained temperature, there’s a practical side to it… also, it looks AWESOME. You can just imagine sitting there with an Old Fashioned in your black marble stone cup, watching some fine documentary about prohibition! Alcohoot Edge A palm-sized bluetooth connected breathalyzer that uses police grade breath sensor technology to accurately track and measure your blood alcohol levels. According to the manufacturer, the Alcohoot Edge allows you to make safer and smarter decisions and also it can improve your health....

Spotlight, Spotlight & Jamie Bryson

Watching BBC Northern Ireland’s Spotlight program tonight, regarding the NAMA sale and Frank Cushnahan, among others… something occurred to me that suddenly lifted a cloud of misunderstanding. When Jamie Bryson first wrote his blogs where he named certain individuals, political leaders among them, I watched eagerly, waiting to see the evidence… there appeared to be none. I, and many many others gave him some serious amount of shit for being a bullshitter… I think at this point, most people engaged with current affairs and politics in Northern Ireland, assumed there has to have been some level of truth behind it, but the lack of evidence was just galling. We wanted him to be right, and he just flunked it. Or did he… I spoke some months ago with an MLA who had seen what evidence Bryson submitted that day to the committee, they told me that there was, “definitely something there, but it was outside of our terms of reference, it’s been passed on to the relevant authorities.” MINOR SPOILER ALERT FOR THE MOVIE SPOTLIGHT. I watched the Oscar winning film, ‘Spotlight’ yesterday, if you haven’t seen it, there’s a fantastic part where the Spotlight (of the Boston Globe) team are trying to get some documents revealed by a court, documents that were legally, “under seal,” – and it’s a struggle they seem to be losing at the time. There is a reveal moment where a lawyer involved in the case says that he applied to the court to depose a priest who had been guilty of child abuse, a lawyer for the church filed against this. At this...

Jim Wells Caught in Misogynistic Comments: Updated

DUP MLA Jim Wells, the former Health Minister has been caught in yet another gaffe. Wells was apparently unaware that despite, “now in public session, ” being called, that his comments might be audible to the public. You can see what he said here. His comments are at approximately 1min 10seconds. The context of the conversation is mostly indecipherable however he does quite clearly say; I can’t cope with women between 8 and 80… He then says something that, to me, sounds a lot like, “bastards,” but perhaps it’s just a homophone… Tough to hear conclusively, make up your own minds. Just before this, when the public are called into the session, he remarks, … Woman reminds me of Arlene Foster, scared the wits out of me.” To which UUP MLA, whom Wells is speaking to replies, “there is a wee bit of a resemblance.” Wells then responds with, She doesn’t take prisoners.” Presumably referring to Arlene Foster, first minister and leader of Wells’ own party, the DUP. Jim Wells is of course prone to speaking his mind, but with the topic of abortion coming up in the Assembly this week and the campaign to ‘Trust Women’ ongoing, perhaps when Mr. Wells votes not to trust women with the right to know what is right for their own bodies, as should be their right in line with an NI courts decision on human rights…  We will understand why. Following on from Jim Wells’ outburst, a civil servant got in touch me with a very interesting and important point. Imagine how the Civil Servant being commented on [Ed: That Wells...

Returning Ornaments to Bars

I saw this story on Belfast Live where a drunken reveller stole an ornament from Sweet Afton in Belfast and it reminded me of a tale from my Whites Tavern days. Above the fireplace we had a stuffed animal… honestly, I don’t know if I could accurately say what animal it was… maybe a Stoat? We told people it was a Lagan Rat – the thing was huge. Somebody took it home with themselves after a drunken saturday night. The thing was gone for weeks! To be honest, things get stolen all the time… glassware, cutlery – random things. It just becomes another thing to deal with, but this Stoat was iconic to us. Tourists asked of it all the time, locals too – our wee Stoat. Then one morning I turned up to unlock the building and under the shutters was a thick envelope… no Stoat, but wait… Inside were pictures of the Stoat from locations all around Belfast and the wider area. Someone had taken it to the Castlereagh Hills, to Stormont (the bottom of the hill), Scrabo Tower, Samson & Goliath… even Belfast Zoo (which seemed a bit morbid to me…). How someone took the time and energy to do all this was incredible! It had a note attached that simple said, “We wanted to show him more of the world.” The Stoat never returned home… but we know that he saw more of Belfast than he ever would have from atop a soot covered...