Tuesday, 12 July 2016

The Battle of Bikini Shopping

Bikini shopping. It's an absolute minefield. I would even go as far as saying that it's worse than trying to book a flight with Ryanair. To start with, who do you bring with you? You can't drag along any old friend because you're basically going to be stood in front of them in glorified underwear (which is fine on a beach, where everyone is semi-nude but not in a look and judge me situation). You can't exactly bring your mother because at the heart of bikini shopping is looking as shaggable as possible; it would be too weird to ask what your bottom looks like from the back. The easiest option is to brave the battlefield yourself and rely on your own judgement, because when have you ever bought anything that didn't suit you?
Of course, you're not really alone because surely every shop recognises that this is a painful experience for 99% of us and will do everything they can to ease that (short of providing a glass of champers at the fitting room entrance and lighting so dim you can't see your hand in front of your face). OH NO WAIT, that's the exact opposite of what they do. From the moment you get into the swimwear section you realise that you have walked onto the battleground with a water gun - and the other side have atomic bombs.
First of all, the sizing is horrendous because 70% of what is on offer is done by clothes size instead of underwear size. I would love to meet the size 8 top-and-bottoms woman, I really would, because then I might get to meet other fictional characters, like Santa and the Tooth Fairy. And the ridiculous claims the manufacturers make! I kid you not, I was holding a bikini top with "tummy control function" today. The only way I can fathom that one is if I free-boob it and tie the top around my waist.
Not to mention the colours. A tip for the industry, know your audience. Very few Irish women are going to be able to pull off fluorescent anything. Even less will look anything other than ridiculous in ruffled bikini pants or tasseled anything. Don't put a flamingo pattern anywhere near someone's bum. The only reason I can think for offering such lurid items is that women need something to one up men's Hawaiian shirts.
But of course, I've saved the worst for last; the dressing rooms. It's hard enough watching yourself undress in front of a mirror at the best of times, but throw in the harsh lighting and the fact that you're topless behind a curtain than never fully covers the entirety of the doorway and you have the recipe for a mental breakdown.

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Ireland: Brexit's Biggest Loser

In the aftermath of Brexit, politicians in the UK and Ireland are trying to piece together a plan to deal with our murky future. George Osborne has taken a proactive approach to ensuring the UK remains an attractive place to conduct business and FDI; Enda Kenny has made the schoolboy error of believing that Arlene Foster would agree to anything with 'all-Ireland' in the title.
Osborne announced that Britain would cut its corporation tax to just 15%; following this the whole of Ireland shuddered because, that's it, we're truly scuppered. Ireland has been coasting on its 12.5% corp. tax since the Celtic Tiger was a cub. Operating costs in Ireland are some of the highest in Europe. Our infrastructure is barely above ass-and-cart level. Geographically, we're cut off from mainland Europe. Even our internet is lacklustre with many rural spots not even having access to broadband.
It has been suggested that because we're still part of the European Union (however long that may last) and we're a nation of first language English speakers (or so say the people who've never been to Cork) we'll still retain a competitive edge. I think, however, that's pushing it a bit. Plenty of French and German people speak excellent English. Plenty of Irish people would emigrate to a Paris or Berlin office if enough euros were offered, so our labour value isn't as solid as some would believe.
Ireland really needs to up its game. Dublin needs housing. The whole island needs decent trains and (toll-free) roads. Cities that aren't Dublin need investment. We need to capitalise on the fact that all that stands between us and America is the Atlantic (liberal us of 'all').

On its own, this would be a hard enough obstacle for a country that's only just crawling out of a recession. When it's added to our, frankly gross, over-dependence on the UK for trade the whole thing becomes a financial hurricane that's going to blow the country off the map. Why, oh why, in 43 years of European Union membership have we not managed to make better trade relations with the other member states?
This problem is best seen through an industry; the agri-food sector makes up almost 8% of the Irish economy. Out of this, 41% of exports go to the UK. If free trade isn't agreed we are going to suffer. Quite frankly, it's slack that the government didn't foresee the possibility that, one day, the UK might stop being our best customer. We've put all our eggs in one basket and now we're crying because there's a hole in the bottom.

What does the future hold? Not to sound like I have my head in the clouds, but I believe the UK will be okay in the long-term. It's always been known as a hub for business and its contingency planning is top notch right now thanks to post-crash measures. I'm aware that this sounds dangerously like blind faith, but, I mean, what else have we got?
Ireland, on the other hand, didn't get a say in Brexit but will be hit harder and longer than the UK. And, really, isn't it a bit of our own faults?