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The O-Zone: Port in a storm

A trip to warmer climes means more rain but also the chance to smoke very cheap cigs inside cafes

Monday

As readers of last week's column will undoubtedly recall, following the Gumtree website's decision to drop its casual relationships section, OZone placed his own personal sex ad on this page: "Do you crave a bare-bottom spanking from a tall, dark and handsome media celebrity?"

Sadly, the response has been rather disappointing, to say the least. Aside from several letters of complaint, I've only heard from clergymen, farmers and GAA players.

So, just to make things clear, I'd like to specify that the ad was directed at women only. Repeat: no men (unless, of course, you're really convincing).

Tuesday

As a busy anti-social diarist, OZone occasionally grows weary of his go-go-go (going-going-gone) lifestyle and needs to recharge his batteries. So . . . so long, suckers! I'm off to Portugal for a couple of days R&R.

The flight is more turbulent than my last three relationships combined. Winds are so strong at Lisbon airport that the pilot decides not to risk landing and diverts to Faro instead. My R&R begins with a gruelling four-hour bus journey from the Algarve back up to Lisbon, followed by a two-and-a-half hour journey to Figueira da Foz. Shite!

Wednesday

My friends' seafront apartment in Figueira is large and comfortable, but a song by Crowded House is the first thing to come to mind when I wake up this morning: "Everywhere you go/You always take the weather with you."

It's bucketing down outside. Still, better than the sleet back home.

Boasting the widest beach in Europe, Figueira's a summer resort town and is fairly dead in wintertime. Walking around the empty streets, I feel like a dislocated character in a JG Ballard novel. Then again, I always feel like that . . .

Thursday

If our so-called leaders weren't already running around like headless chickens, OZone would be calling, "Off with their heads!"

Speaking of which, I see that Fianna Fail's Frank Fahey is calling for an outright ban on the operation of head shops and their products. Although magic mushrooms and BZP have been banned in recent years, Fahey is concerned that most of the 'legal highs' are not currently listed as controlled substances and there is no authority under the misuse of drugs legislation to prevent their sale.

"We cannot let this issue drift," Fahey told the Galway Advertiser. "People using these products may very well suffer health problems in the long term, and they will then be adding to the demand on our health services."

OZone wonders if he thinks we should also ban public houses and off-licences on the same basis. But that's an old argument. It was what Fahey said next that really made me laugh: "We led the way in Ireland, and indeed the world, with our smoking ban, and I believe we should also give leadership on this important issue."

Sadly that seems to be the Fianna Fail idea of leadership: banning stuff! Incidentally, I'm checking the news on my laptop in a comfortable seafront bar with a burning Marlboro hanging out of my gob. Although Portugal introduced its own smoking ban in 2007, it doesn't extend to properly ventilated bars and restaurants.

Having watched countless smokers standing in the freezing cold outside Irish bars and restaurants over Christmas, I can't help thinking that this is a far more civilised way of doing things. A large proportion of Irish citizens choose to smoke; whatever about the health implications, they should be allowed to do so in peace and comfort.

By the way, a packet of cigarettes costs €2.50 in Portugal, compared to €8.50 in Ireland. Is that €6 rip-off for the good of our health as well?

Friday

Bleary-eyed drive back to Lisbon at 5am. OZone spends the whole journey cursing himself for not having the foresight to stay until Sunday.

Saturday

Hell's bells! That disgusting old chancer, televangelist Pat Robertson, has done it again. Speaking on a TV show on America's Christian Broadcasting Network earlier this week, the unchristian fundamentalist maintained that earthquake-ravaged Haiti has been "cursed" by "a pact to the devil".

"Something happened a long time ago in Haiti, and people might not want to talk about it," he said on CBN's The 700 Club. "They were under the heel of the French. You know, Napoleon III, or whatever. And they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, 'We will serve you if you'll get us free from the French.' True story. And so, the devil said, 'Okay, it's a deal.' Ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after the other."

To illustrate this bizarre theory, Robertson then contrasted Haiti with its neighbour, the Dominican Republic: "That island of Hispaniola is one island. It is cut down the middle -- on the one side is Haiti, on the other is Dominican Republic. Dominican Republic is prosperous, healthy, full of resorts, etc. Haiti is in desperate poverty. Same island. They need to have, and we need to pray for them, a great turning to God and out of this tragedy."

Lest anyone forget, this a***hole stood as a presidential candidate in 1988 and remains an influential figure among bottom-feeding voters in the US. Shame on him.

Sunday

Despite the fact that the whole fiasco has already cost the Irish taxpayers billions (with mucho more moolah yet to be siphoned off), Fianna Fail wants to hold an inquiry in secret into the near-collapse of Ireland's biggest banks. Given what we already know about cosy, self-serving relationships between bankers and certain top-level politicians, this simply can't be allowed to happen.

As a wise man once said, the accomplice to the crime of corruption is frequently our own indifference.


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