Today’s Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s birthday. One of the greatest poets of the Victorian era, she was regarded as a contender for the post of poet laureate when Wordsworth died. She wasn’t appointed for two reasons: firstly, the other contender was Tennyson, and secondly, she was a woman.
 
It’s also Mother’s Day in the UK, Ireland and Nigeria. As most of you probably know, Mother’s Day was originally a religious holiday called Mothering Sunday. Its name has nothing to do with mothers and all to do with this day (the fourth Sunday in Lent) being a day when servants would be given the day off to travel to their home area – their mother church – for the feast of Laetare Sunday. It was usually the only day when whole families could be together, as their duties typically prevented them from travelling for other holidays. As a family day, it gained association with mothers and when the festival was revived in the 1920s, mothering Sunday and Mother’s Day became one holiday.
 
Even as separate concepts, both Mother’s Day and mothering Sunday have at their heart thoughts of being mindful of your origins and what you owe to your existence. Mothering can be one of the most difficult tasks ever undertaken by a person and joyous as it apparently is according to people I know, it’s perhaps a lifelong, frequently thankless endeavour that never ends. So it’s rather deserved that the holiday calendar is littered with different countries having their own special day to celebrate the efforts made by billions of women in raising children.
 
My relationship with my mother is currently non-existent, given that she’s dead. That’s a far too simple view though, as the ripples of past actions will always echo on, for good or for ill. It’s akin to the lord in Monty Python and the Holy Grail waving at the window (and the curtains) and exclaiming “Some day, lad, all this will be yours!” My mother almost certainly suffered from some form of undiagnosed bipolar depression but somewhat fortuitously, it appears that some day that will not be mine. Small mercies. I would like to think that my mother did her best with the tools that she was given.
 
There are mothers who are mothers by virtue of giving birth. There are mothers who are mothers by caring for children to whom they did not give birth. There are fathers acting as fathers and mothers. There are mothers acting as mothers and fathers. There are grandmothers who care for grandchildren as though they’re their own. There are daughters and sons caring for aged parents as though they’re mothers to their own parents. At its heart, Mother’s Day is a celebration of love, of respect and of caring. And that’s the best that anyone can ever offer anyone else, up to the limit of their ability.
 
With that in mind, I selected this poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning to close. While she’s these days better known for her Sonnet 43 (“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…”), that poem’s gentle tenderness was hilariously stolen from me in a re-enactment of Roger Rabbit’s letter reading in ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit’. So I’ve selected her Sonnet 14, which embodies love for love’s sake and nothing more. Happy Mother’s Day, in whatever capacity you find yourself.
 
“If thou must love me, let it be for nought
Except for love’s sake only. Do not say,
“I love her for her smile—her look—her way
Of speaking gently,—for a trick of thought
That falls in well with mine, and certes brought
A sense of pleasant ease on such a day”—
For these things in themselves, Belovèd, may
Be changed, or change for thee—and love, so wrought,
May be unwrought so. Neither love me for
Thine own dear pity’s wiping my cheeks dry:
A creature might forget to weep, who bore
Thy comfort long, and lose thy love thereby!
But love me for love’s sake, that evermore
Thou mayst love on, through love’s eternity.”
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Antonin Scalia has died. For the most part, I wasn’t a fan of his. I’ve never particularly liked his contributions to the Supreme Court but, as you might guess, with someone as forceful as Scalia frequently was, it’s a little more complicated than that.

Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg having fun on an elephant. From the archive of the Supreme Court of the United States.

Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg having fun on an elephant. From the archive of the Supreme Court of the United States.

Here’s the bad. He was strongly against the ruling in Miranda and voted to overrule it in Dickerson v US. He was strongly in favour of the death penalty, including for 15 year olds (Thompson v Oklahoma). For thirty years he led the charge to overturn Roe v Wade. His dissent in Morrison v Olson is a painful read, accurately described by his fellow Justice Harry Blackburn as “screaming”. He should have recused himself from Hamdan v Rumsfeld. He acted like a dick in Romer v Evans and followed it by acting like a bigger dick in Lawrence v Texas, so much so that Chief Justice Rehnquist basically asked him to zip it during oral presentations. I could go on, but that’ll do as a quick demonstration of my dislike for his votes.

On the other hand, his written opinions (whether or not you agree with them) are generally very much worth reading. I have some sympathy for his views that constitutional cases do not hinge on subsequent legislation, though I found his insistence on constitutional originalism to be rather severe and, alas, inconsistent depending on cases he heard. But his opinions were typically punchy, confident and often quite funny. I have a lot of sympathy for anyone who uses analogies as much as Scalia did. That I think he was a conservative millstone around the neck of the court for much of his thirty years on the SCOTUS bench doesn’t negate that his opinions usually tend to be worth the time to read.

And he got on with Ruth Bader Ginsburg, even though they often clashed when making rulings.His apparent ability to put work aside and get on with someone with whom he disagreed so much but personally liked says something good about his character. I don’t think he was a force for good – he seemed so angry so often about any hint of liberalism that he made life more difficult for many ordinary Americans. But attached you will find a picture of him riding an elephant with the Notorious RBG, who despite differing views seemed to be his favourite Supreme Court Justice. She’s also my favourite.

Yes, I typed this mainly so I could post a picture of Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg riding an elephant together. RIP.

So I went to see Deadpool. After midnight, because there aren’t any children making noise after midnight. You shouldn’t bring your children to see Deadpool. Unless your children are over 16 and then it’s OK. Especially if your children are over 16 and you’re OK with sitting next to them while some guy in a lycra suit on the screen occasionally makes genital jokes. If that’s what you like then you should totally bring your over age 16 children on a family trip to see Deadpool at an hour of your convenience.
 
Because I am a good boy™, I usually like to be tucked in bed before midnight on weekdays. Yes, I said tucked. This is a family show after all, unlike Deadpool, which is not suitable for your under age 16 children. Because I like to be nicely tucked in bed before midnight, I fell asleep in between the funny bits and the ass-kickings. Kickings. It’s risqué, not risky. This meant that I slept for about six minutes of the movie’s 108 minutes. That’s rather good. I slept for five hours during the English Patient, which is longer than the movie.
 
So, to summarise, Deadpool is a lot of fun, suitable for your over age 16 children (assuming you are not running for the Republican nomination for president) and you should see it. Twice if possible, because he’d like that. Sure, the jokes are occasionally puerile but you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few fingers. The most important thing is that Deadpool definitely doesn’t suck. But he’s fine with it if you do. You should see it where other people can see you laugh.

For a country that gets so annoyed when foreigners (mainly Americans, let’s start by pointing fingers) claim to be from here when they’re from the place where they’re from, Irish people tend to love claiming anyone with a barely tangential historical relationship with Ireland.

I experienced Barack Obama Plaza for the first time yesterday evening. For foreigners who are not from here, Barack Obama Plaza is a motorway service area in the middle of nowhere, mainly consisting of a petrol station, a fast food joint and a convenience shop. It’s named after your current president for no better reason than it gives a concrete craphole an aura of worth. Oh, there’s an exhibition upstairs, which I didn’t get to see as it closes when it gets dark. I assume it contains utterly useless crap like the pint glass Barack Obama drank out of when he visited here, a toenail clippng, a few pictures and a copy of someone’s birth cert. Even though I’ve just listed the most boring rubbish you could possibly have in an exhibition, I bet it has everything I mentioned except the toenail clipping.

They advertise the place on buses so I assumed it would have a funfair or a circus or at the very least some sort of statue in an actual plaza. It has none of these. I am comparatively confident that it is the most overstated spot on the planet and I’ve been to most of the locations mentioned in the unofficial guide to Britain’s worst theme parks.

Barack Obama Plaza on Ireland’s M7 motorway. It’s not Camelot. Picture via Killeen Civil Engineering.

It’s the beginning of Dante’s Divine Comedy, where Dante finds himself falling into a deep place with a silent sun, unable to see the path to salvation. It’s the story within a story in Poe’s ‘A Descent into the Maelström’, a vortex which swallows soul and sanity until nothing of consequence survives. It’s the mythological Lethe, the river that upon entry wipes away your past, leaving you as a blank slate to be rewritten or discarded.

In the awful TV version of this non-tale, part of my soul never gets to leave that non-place and remains there, staring out the window for all of eternity.

There’s a moral here. Oh yes: stop advertising petrol stations on buses. I thought Barack Obama Plaza would be some sort of modern-day Camelot, a place of justice, chivalry and affordable health care. It is not. Don’t be fooled. Oh and the service in the Supermacs is really fecking slow too as staff get confused by more than one order. That’s because all reason and rationality have been sucked into the hellmouth of pitiless storm, rounded by houseless head and and unfed sides, bereft of all but ragged madness.

The point, which we’ve taken some time to reach, is that I suggest that you will get to your destination sooner if you just zip past. Especially tourists. Just keep going.

Eventually during all tasks that last longer than a few days, I tend to flop into taking the piss mode. It’s safe and ultimately my default. I feel like going full-on Poe’s Law testing mode for the next moth. I should definitely be allowed to knock on doors now.

You can look up Poe’s Law on your own time.

Anyway, to business…

As we all know, Ireland’s marriage equality referendum on May 22, if passed, will lead to more people turning gay. People will definitely see it as a lifestyle choice. And not just a lifestyle choice: a trendy one. And people like to be trendy. People will walk out of their marriages and enter new ones. Trendy gay ones.In the past, gay people who really wanted to be married and have a Big Day had to rely on straight marriage and having kids so that they could wear a white dress or whatever it is that men wear at these things. But now that gay people can get married to other gay people, straight marriage (if we can even call it that) will fall apart. It won’t be enough to be married. You’ll have to be gay married.

These completely new gay people, having chosen to be gay, will leave their children and romp happily to the gay plantations established mainly to convince other people that the gay lifestyle is for them. You know what this’ll do to immigration. It’ll mean more of it. People from other cultures where gayness isn’t accepted will keep having children and emigrate here. Before long there’ll be more immigrants than people whose ancestors migrated here thousands of years ago or hundreds of years ago or last week. Some of these new immigrants might be black or less pasty than the natives who’ve lived here since they were born. So all straight people will be black. And they’ll be breeding, because that’s what straight people do.

This child could already be gay.

That child in that photo? She’ll be gay. Gay marriage will make her gay. Is that what you want? Because that’s what’ll happen. Pink unicorns on the grounds of Áras an Uachtaráin and dancing bears wherever they can fit. There’ll be dancing at every wedding and fornication after in the upstairs bedroom.

You should listen to Breda O’Brien and her Iona peeps. She’s not crazy. Or homophobic. She’d rather gay people married her children than married each other.

Those people aren’t even married. And that’s not their child.

Look at the man and woman kissing that child in the other poster. That child isn’t even their child. They’ve been assembled together just because they look nice. And they’re touching the child. That seems wrong. Remember: a distant, abusive parent is better than a gay one. Because gay.

Vote. You might as well. Because when we all become gay atheist communists, there won’t be any more voting.

Once, two women came to King Solomon, each claiming to be the mother of a baby. The baby was crying and seemed to be quite ill. “Can’t they sort it out between them?” asked the king. “Alas, majesty, no. They’ve been fighting about this for quite some time,” answered his chief advisor. Solomon sighed, adjusted his crown of wisdom and put down his frothy latte. “Hmmm, DNA testing won’t be invented for another three thousand years. Fine, send them in, I’ll hear their case”

The two women entered the throne room, dragging the whimpering child between them.

The first woman spat at the second, shouting “It’s my child, your majesty. It’s mine and I’ll have it, no matter what the cost! It will learn to fend for itself and be self-sufficient because that’s what children should learn.”

Solomon looked at the second woman. “And you?” he asked.

She looked sheepish. “Your majesty, I’m not a perfect mother. In the past, I sometimes haven’t been a very good person and there are times when I don’t learn from my mistakes. But this child is my child and I want to care for it, to raise it and make sure it gets well.”

The king thought for a moment and stared at the scene in front of him. Both women were snarling at each other. The child was licking the floor but, in their mutual anger, the women hadn’t noticed.

“Fine,” said Solomon. “You’re never going to agree and you’re never going to co-operate so there’s only one solution. Bring me my sword and I shall cut this child in half. You will each have one half of the child. This is my ruling”

One woman looked horrified at this prospect, while the other smiled and said: “Fine. As long as she doesn’t get what she wants, I don’t care. Cut the child in half.”

Now, here’s your belated question: as the US government shutdown kicks into effect, which of these two women unidentified in the final paragraph represents the US Republican party?

Today is Shrove Tuesday (or “Pancake Day”). Many people seem to think that making their own pancake batter to make pancakes from scratch is completely beyond them. As we’re in the middle of a Europe-wide food scandal where everything seems to be made from horse, I suggest that you make your own. It’s comically easy.

You will need: Flour, eggs, milk, salt, toppings of your choice, a frying pan, a spatula or giant spoon, a source of heat (not the sun).

If you make too many pancakes, you may be tempted to do this, before running into the fields to scare cows and chickens. The batter will keep in the fridge for four or five days. Image from thechive.com

If you make too many pancakes, you may be tempted to do this, before running into the fields to scare cows and chickens. The batter will keep in the fridge for four or five days. Image from thechive.com

Here’s how I made pancakes earlier today:

1. Put a pretty random amount of flour in a bowl. Then remember that there’s a little weighing scale for these things on top of the set of two 8 inch square cake pans that for some reason I own (which are in turn on top of a box of scottish porridge and a box of weetabix that I didn’t realise I had). Assume that it’s about 225g (or a “half pound” as my granny would say). Sigh and move on to…

2. Shape a little nest-style depression in the middle of the flour. No idea why, it’s just one of things that one does. It has been so since we first discovered nests, some time around 1850. Break two eggs and drop them, minus shells, into the middle. Pause for a moment and then add another egg. For luck. Proceed to…

3. Milk time! Ignore the two measuring jugs and make a guess at what’s probably about 600ml (close enough to the most noble and ancient imperial measurement of 568ml, or as our forebears called it, a “pint”). Pour that into the bowl. Everything looks, erm, pretty awful to be honest but that’s how it goes. Moving on…

4. Carpe diem. Sprinkle a little more flour on top in a most unmasculine way. Masculinity will be satisfied by…

5. … not step five anyway. Pinch of salt. Then another little pinch (also technically a pinch but a light-hearted one, like you do to someone you like rather than the sort of pinch that kindergarten kids do to each other). Man time…

6. … as you grab the whisk, wave it around like a Homeric hero (Hector rather than Paris) and then beat the contents of the bowl to the sort of bloody death that would get the film banned in every country except Russia and, possibly, Serbia.

You are mostly done! Let your batter sit for about ten minutes and then give it another whisk. Congratulations but don’t rest on your laurels as you still have to actually make pancakes from your pancake mix. Besides, you’ve merely made pancake mix, which is barely more complicated than making mud pies at the bottom of the garden. Less complicated if your mudpies have ever included worms. Continuing…

7. Get your frying pan. Let’s assume that you have one because it’s a lot easier if you have. Medium heat on the cooker and a little bit (A LITTLE BIT, DAMMIT) of oil. I have stir fry oil and extra virgin olive oil. Neither of these are ideal so I went for the latter.

8. Just make the darned pancakes already. If your heat isn’t too high (medium heat, remember?) they won’t stick unless you’re incompetent. And, sure, if they do, it’s a pancake, not a wedding cake, get over yourself. No-one is watching – unless you have children, other family members or housemates and, if you have, they should be shooed out of the kitchen because pancake magic doesn’t work if little eyes stare in disbelief. When pouring the pancake mix, briskly pour it until it fills half the pan, then stop pouring. Lift the pan and swirl it around. That’ll give you perfect pancake thickness. Remember to put it back on the stove. You’re making pancakes, not a fashion statement.

9. Making the pancake will involve turning it at some point. A good time to turn it is before it burns. When the bubbles start forming is an excellent opportunity to flip it upside down. Be as daring as you like or, alternatively, as conservative as you like. There is no such thing as “daring conservative”, unless it’s a Tory MP with an urge to do things that his wife just won’t do with him. Anyway, turn it however you like. You will get better as you make successive pancakes, before completely forgetting everything you have just learned in time for next year’s pancake day. After about 40 seconds, you’ll probably want to flip it over again. It’s fun, indulge yourself. When it’s done (i.e. before it’s burned), slip it out of the pan and on to a plate. Cook’s choice, you get the first one. If you live by yourself, you get to eat all of them.

10. Toppings! Whatever you like. I have bananas, nicely sliced. Also lemon (juice is better than a whole lemon – as I have a whole lemon I’ve elected to squeeze out the juice). Lemon is good with sugar. It’s like being in that post-WW2 period where people finally had sugar and children were amazed by lemons.  In Ireland, that lasted until about 1982. Chocolate sauce, ice-cream, nutella, these are all acceptable. Lettuce is not, as lettuce on a pancake is a breakfast food. Maple syrup, that’s also good. Tea leaves… no.

11. The washing up. For those of you with children, that’s why you made them. Look, it’s Lent. Give up the washing-up for Lent. There’s no washing of dishes in any holy book ever written in any religion. That’s why there’s wailing and gnashing of teeth – detaching a day-old corn flake from a bowl will do that to anyone.

I didn’t mention butter. I’m not much of a butter fan (except on scones, where I ladle it on). If you want to include butter, go to a food page made by someone who can actually cook  – apart from the famous people, I suggest following @hecooksalot and @bumblesofrice on twitter. I could have mentioned that at the beginning, but the “random amount of flour” shouldn’t have inspired confidence in you in the first place. My pancakes were lovely though. I wholeheartedly recommend making them with random quantities of ingredients.

You’ll make between six and eight pancakes of normal (not American iHOP) thickness if you follow the ingredient quantities listed . The pancake mix will last for four or five days in the fridge if you feel like keeping some for breakfast (when putting bacon, lettuce and pineapple on your pancake is appropriate).