Hugh Farrelly: Gym won’t fix it as Kiwi mockery hits new heights...
THERE'S no point denying it, this journey to New Zealand has been a grim Irish experience because, as well as the usual dollop of paddy-whackery, there has been outright mockery and abuse following the 42-10 first-Test defeat.
Ceaseless ridicule gradually wears you down and creates the need for some escape, hence the trip to the hotel gym, which was a great idea in theory -- get your sweat on, clear the head, tone the guns, good as gold, sweet as bro, etc, etc.
It did not quite work out that way.
We used to have a (Kiwi) coach who decreed that every player had to visit the gym at least three times a week or be dropped from the team, with a special book kept at the front desk to provide proof of attendance.
Unemployed at the time (bar a few bob from the club), there was no issue fitting gym visits into the schedule; the problem was that, well, lifting weights is not very enjoyable. It hurts.
However, nobody wants to get dropped so, with plenty of time to kill, the solution was to get the bus into town every afternoon, buy the paper, head to the gym, sign the book, slip into the jacks, have a read, out the gap.
Not only was there no being dropped, but having your name in the book every day was used by the (somewhat gullible) Kiwi coach as an example to shame others into putting in a similar effort. Beautiful.
That 'no pain, plenty of gain,' lesson was forgotten last week when we went up to have a go on the exercise bike and maybe chance a few arm curls. It brought it all back -- the dumb techno music, the lycra-clad langers in sleeveless tops checking themselves out in the wall-length mirrors, the grunting, the high fives -- and after five minutes on the bike, it was exit stage left to the accompaniment of some throaty sniggers.
The adjacent health spa offering sauna, jacuzzi and an array of pampering treatments proved no better. The music was less severe, a syrupy, tinkly soundtrack reminiscent of the boring bits of Braveheart (when Mel is chasing your wan around the woods) and the place was full of smug couples in dressing-gowns.
Instead of walking, they do this 'look at me, I'm so relaxed and infused with inner peace' glide -- a peace which is impossible to achieve when you are sitting in the sauna opposite a 60-year-old Kiwi telling you how crap the Irish are, while his impossibly wrinkled appendages peep out beneath a rucked-up towel. The mouse was out of the house.
Relaxation levels were not certainly helped by word reaching Auckland of a 4.2 earthquake aftershock in Christchurch on Monday night.
The mildly maniacal taxi-man who drove in from Christchurch airport (think Christopher Lloyd in 'Back To The Future', or, indeed, 'Taxi') did nothing to ease fears, biting his nails constantly and going through his greatest hits from the album 'Now That's What I Call Tremors'.
He did take time out to tell a joke (two ducks are drinking in a bar, one starts abusing the other: "I slept with your mother. Hey! You hear me? I slept with YOUR MOTHER!!!" The other duck looks up from his glass and says 'go home, Dad, you're drunk.') before we arrived at a hotel which could have been used as the set for 'Downfall'.
Two-foot-thick walls, steel doors, no frills or fripperies, they even have bubble wrap under the carpet to help absorb the shocks and shudders, but, what the hotel lacks in aesthetics, it made up for in earthquake-repelling reassurance.
Fire safety notices are commonplace in hotel rooms; it is less usual to have an Earthquake Action safety notice with simple instructions: "Stay away from the windows, drop to the ground, take cover under a sturdy piece of furniture and hold on until the shaking stops and, above all, don't panic." Easy for you to say Mr Sign.
Across the road from the hotel is a portable pub, one of many in the city to reduce the risk of businesses being ruined again by another quake, while another popular establishment is the 'Cargo Bar' housed in an actual cargo container to minimise expensive decor and damage.
Damage limitation would seem to be a sensible policy for the Irish now also -- after a year-long season, they could be forgiven for crossing off the remaining days on tour prison-style before they finally get parole next week.
There is another chunk of mockery to endure first, with the most popular gag doing the rounds in the last few days involving Declan Kidney.
"You hear the Ireland coach had to go to the doctor?"
"No, what's wrong with him?"
"He's complaining of a bad side."
Might try the gym again.