Gavan Reilly

thinking out loud

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3-0 up

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As I typed the original title of this post, ‘2-0 up’, Antonio Valencia scored.

It’s a midweek Tuesday and I’m watching Manchester United beat Wolves on a not-in-any-way-illegal-I-swear online broadcast, having just read Declan Lynch’s excellent book Free Money, a tome I’d highly recommend and one I’d been (he wrote an extended preview for it in the otherwise meritless Sunday Independent in May, definitely worth a read if you’re not the book-buying type).

Declan is a sportswriter for the aforementioned Sindo, and is – by his own admission, though he makes a compelling case for not using the term itself – an alcoholic. Free Money is about a nine-month project of turning €100 into… well, whatever his instinct and sporting acumen will allow him. As someone with a more-than-everyday familiarity of the worlds of journalism and addiction – worlds that one fears might be a little bit less distant than one would first suspect – and writes with particular eloquence about the addiction industry and its craft with words.

A therapist would reply that in taking the positives I’m ‘rationalising’ it, that I am using mere words to give myself a false impression, and to keep betting.

Words, words, words, the therapist would say disdainfully. Words are nothing, it is all about feelings.


I take it personally when I hear these people denigrating about words, words, words because I know something about words. I make my living out of words, and I can assure these people that words are not mere objects that the mind produces in the absence of feelings, they are not ‘mere’ in any way.

I set up this blog – or, at least, this edition of my blogging life – in the second-last week of December 2008. My intention was to post one blog per day, trying to work myself into the habit of writing at reasonable length on topics that I may not necessarily be particularly interested in, or motivated by. It was to fall between every stool going; one day it’d be about Stephen Jones missing a last-minute penalty to seal a Grand Slam for Ireland, the next it’d be about staying motivated to work in journalism, on a student newspaper that offers infinite reward but horrific wages.

To an extent – and I guess I’ve done okay in this regard – it has been that; Thinking Out Loud is a blog about nothing in particular. The only problem is that between the day where it’s been about Ireland winning at rugby and the Sunday Tribune being abject failures at covering gaelic games, there’s been ballooning voids of silence where Thinking Out Loud wasn’t a blog about ‘nothing in particular’ but rather ‘nothing at all’.

I might surmise that a lot of the problem with trying to write a blog about ‘nothing in particular’ is that the writer is so easily distracted and captivated by such a broad spectrum of topics that inevitably the devotion to any one subject – including the very act of blogging itself – is lost amongst everything else. But alas.

Which is why a book like Free Money works so very well. It’s a real journalistic endeavour, trying to gain genuine insight into the act of gambling, figuring out what its real function is, offering commentary on how the gambling industry tries to package and present itself as being the modern equivalent of sitting around with a board game… and yet, it flirts with the darkest nether regions of the habit and of the soul itself, contemplating the horrors of addiction from the part of someone who has genuinely been there.

I’d be lying if I said I was watching this United and Wolves game (still 3-0, into injury time) and not wondering what it might be like to have a punt on it, pitting my wits against the probability of the universe and earing financial gain for it. It’s a strange impulse and thankfully, for me personally, it’s one that comes and goes. I started into the habit of putting small-stakes accumulators on weekend cycles of Premiership games last April – as a part-time amusement to get me through the tedium of my finals – and by the end of the season I was impatient that I’d lose three months before I had the chance to place any more. And yet, I don’t think I’ve placed any more than three this season, maybe because given the day job I don’t get the chance.

It’s a strange impulse though. There’s always that fleeting moment where, drunk on the lethal cocktail of arrogant self-belief and the acute desire to make financial gain, one could casually log onto a sports exchange website or an online casino and risk it all on the flip of a coin, the width of a goalpost, or the fall of a ball on a 21st century roulette table where every number is a 1 or a 0.

Such are the small margins between immense wealth and chronic destitution – the flip of a switch between a 0 and a 1.

Tomorrow, as a result of a string of 1s involving my getting a placement in the first place, and subsequently the nature of the workplace and the circumstances of the breaking ball, I’ll be seeing a printed copy of my first front-page story for a reasonably major regional newspaper. Later this week I’ll be getting a headshot done. This weekend I’ll be going to a birthday party, and having good food with friends, and spending time with my nearest and dearest.

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss,
…you’ll be a man, my son.

You’ll be a bonehead.

2009 might have been, on my scorecard, largely comprised of 1s, but I refuse to concede that the laws of probability have 0s in store. Better golfers get luckier more often, they say. I prefer to think of it as people making their own luck. If I don’t blog again before 2010, I’ll regret it, but I’ll be doing my best to make sure that it’s because I’ve been coming up tails and rolling sixes.

By the end of Free Money‘s nine-month narrative, Declan Lynch had turned his €100 into… almost precisely €100. 2009 has been pretty good to me thus far (touch wood), and with any luck 2010 will treat me the same way: 3-0 up.

With any luck.

Written by Gav

December 15th, 2009 at 10:18 pm

An Evening Off

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8pm on a Wednesday evening, Champions League on the telly, and I’m at home, sat on the sofa with the crumbs of a pizza (thanks Cat) on a plate to my right. Average as it sounds, this is an idle evening of relative luxury – if I’m honest, it’s the first evening I can remember for a couple of weeks where I made it home during daylight hours, even if it was dwindling away as I got off the bus and crossed the street for home.

UniversityobserverTwo issues down.

For the last month I’ve been (an active, unlike the previous two months of my tenure) Deputy Editor at The University Observer. It’s been, to say the least, an all-hours kind of job. You’re in early, you work hard (often more physically than you think), you keep constructive during the idle periods, and when the production weekends come around every fortnight you eat shite takeaway food and run yourself emotionally, psychologically, physically into the ground. You invest everything into it; you preen over every single spelling and every choice of words, you watch out for an opportunity to use a thesaurus, you obsess over making sure you have everything laid out properly, throw together emergency news analysis pieces that in the light of day you probably wouldn’t use as toilet paper, and nitpick over the tiniest things. You drive yourself slowly mad, work yourself into semi-permanent crankiness (sorry, Ci, I know I’m shit this weather), and you leave the office at 5am to get home so that you can wake up early and be back in for noon so that you can start all over again. And when you have a rare evening where there’s nothing much to do and you can let yourself off the hook, you come home and distract yourself from the football by blogging about it.

But then it comes back from the printers, compact and glorious, and you sweat buckets shoving it around in trolleyloads across a 355-acre campus, and you see people pick it up and start pointing at pieces, drawing each others’ attention to the content.

And it’s then that the whole thing is worth it and you start to smile, knowing that that‘s why you do it; that’s why you took the job that pays a third of the minimum wage and demands everything, because it’s a labour of love that’s totally vindicated the second you see someone pick one up and take a look.

I can honestly say – with all the stuff I’ve gotten involved in in UCD, and Christ knows there’s been a lot of it – that I’ve never felt as rewarded or as spiritually fed as I do at the Observer. It’s tough but the connectivity you have and the privilege and duty (in equal parts) you have to share what’s happening with the people who it affects is proper chicken soup for a pale, bleary-eyed journo-kid’s soul.

And so it begins again. Tomorrow we have a news meeting and I’m doing an interview for the centre piece of the otwo magazine; Friday night I might have to tip in to Tolka Park to see if the soccer team can get a result at Shelbourne and keep up their chances of promotion back to the League of Ireland Premier Division, and Saturday… well, on Saturday I’ll probably be glued to a telly, or more likely a computer screen, seeing if the Lisbon opinion poll of UCD students that I spent two days doing last week bears any resemblance to the will of the nation.

Two down. Four ’til Christmas. And on it goes.

Written by Gav

September 30th, 2009 at 8:46 pm

Is it just me…

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…or does adult society have a nasty habit of forgetting how life was when it was in its youth?

Just saw a poll on Breaking

A study has revealed that homophobic bullying is widespread among teenagers. Have you experienced this?

Show me a teenager or young adult who hasn’t and I’ll show you an emphatic liar.

“Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders, and love chatter in places of exercise. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up their food and tyrannize their teachers.”

A quote not from last year, or last week, but by Socrates. Thousands of years ago. Maybe we’d do well to remember that society isn’t fucked, it’s just repetitive.

Written by Gav

June 16th, 2009 at 6:41 am

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The Final Countdown

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It’s a sad thing that I so often have to preface posts here with apologies about a prolonged forerunning silence, but here I go again.

Thinking Out Loud will be out of action for ten days or so while I finish up the last of my finals in UCD – and also while we settle into the new humble abode. You can keep up with how they’re going via the #gavsfinals hashtag on Twitter – otherwise, I’ll see you on Saturday the 16th for, I don’t know, some sort of social commentary or other.

Thought for the day: Professional sport at the highest level, as embodied in not one but two Champions’ League semi-finals, shouldn’t be reduced to guesswork and reliability on human error.

Written by Gav

May 7th, 2009 at 1:07 pm

Commercial Genius

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Champions’ League tonight, and the return fixture of the Real Madrid-Liverpool match that punctuated the Rospars debacle two weeks ago (thus reminding me of my need to start blogging on a far more regular basis). As UCD dissolves for its fortnight mid-term, the on-campus eateries face a difficult few weeks trying to overcome two hurdles: retaining a reasonable cashflow from the depleted student body in their midst, and trying to create a sense of much-vaunted community on campus.

UCD has long needed a late-hours eatery; in 2006 when Cafe Kylemore won the tender for the restaurant in Science, we plebbians thought we finally had a place to congregate after hours, someone that might provide a focal point for student activity after 6pm, and valuably, somewhere with all-day hot food and the potential of an on-campus delivery service, whisking hot food to the campus residences when nowhere else within a couple of miles would do so.

While it’s taken a long time for the café – Elements as it’s been branded – to fully integrate a late night food service, in the middle of last year a branch of Apache Pizza made it in, and with the granting of an alcohol licence (allowing a new version of that awful Route 66 beer from Eddie Rockets’ to be sold alongside a major meal), it looked like it might finally have happened.

For tonight’s Champions’ League football, finally, they’ve started to make an effort to provide a focal point. Elements has an array of plasma screens all around the premises, blaring Sky News on some while servicing an Argos-style food ordering system with the others. Tonight, football on the screens, and a 16″ pizza with four bottles of beer for €20. Not an awful deal, you’d have to admit. Maybe, just maybe, UCD will have a hangout that people will want to go to.

Only one problem in this whole idea. The match advertised as being shown in this young venture in UCD is the undoubtedly titanic struggle of Villarreal versus Panathinaikos.

Well, we can live in hope, can’t we? Can’t we?

Written by Gav

March 10th, 2009 at 6:32 pm

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