Why I Gave Up Drink – Part Four

Fired From The Merrion

My fourth year placement wasn’t as liberal as my time in Switzerland. It was in the Merrion Hotel in Dublin so I was living at home with my folks. Weed was not an option so I had to settle for drink. I always much preferred weed. After a joint I was in a good place. I didn’t need drink. The highness I reached was very satisfying. In fact, I wouldn’t even bother going to the bar if I had smoked a joint on a night out. My ideal mix would be 3 pints, then a joint. If no joint was available, I’d keeping drinking until I reached the same level of high I’d get from the mix. In other words I’d black out.

One evening during my fourth year placement I went out for drinks with mates. A friend of ours had momentarily come home from America. I fancied her. I was actually kind of obsessed with her. Her awesomeness intimidated me to the point that I’d have to be pissed drunk in order to be able to even talk to her. I’d be speechless around her otherwise. That was a very long night. A night of extremely heavy drinking. I got home at about 4:30am and needed to report for duty in the hotel at 5:30am. I somehow managed to order a taxi to pick me up at 5:15am.

I decided not to go to bed when I got home. Instead, I just laid on the couch for the 45 minutes available to me. I fell unconscious and was awoken by the taxi driver calling my phone. I didn’t have time to have a shower and was just as drunk when I woke up from my mere forty winks as I was when I got home from town.

When I got into work I put on my uniform, grabbed my pager and staggered up to the Private Dining department where I was supervisor. This was probably one of the most unenjoyable jobs I have ever had in my life. It was boring as hell and oftentimes demeaning. Private Dining was effectively conference and banqueting, but because it was a 5-star hotel, such common words couldn’t possibly be used to describe the department. They were by no means pompous enough.

There were about 8 different Private Dining rooms. Only when functions were taking place in these rooms were there any humans to be seen in them (apart from the staff). For a large part of your day, you’d be setting tables, polishing glassware, folding napkins, all in empty rooms. Some of the staff were good craic, but others were just plain fucking boring.

When guests would enter these rooms, there was always a fair chance they’d be people of the wanking variety. In 5 star hotels, you have two types of guests. Those with money and those who pretend to have money. Interestingly enough, those with money are usually very pleasant. For example, Liam Neeson would come into the room, shake your hand and treat you like a person. He was one of my favourite guests.

Guests who pretended to have money would be the pricks who’d click their fingers at you. They were in the hotel to ‘be seen’. They wanted to ‘be seen’ to have money. They want to ‘be seen’ to be important. In actual fact all they ended up ‘being seen’ to be was complete wank stains.

On that morning we had a group of American guests coming in for a private breakfast at 6am. There were only about 15 of them, but every single one of them was a head-wrecking arsehole. The coffee wasn’t hot enough. The buffet didn’t have enough sausages. They wanted cream instead of milk. Sweetener instead of sugar. Nothing was right for them. The worst part of it all was; they never fucking left. I was still steaming drunk and urgently needed to help myself to the Full Irish breakfast buffet, but I couldn’t. They were still all sitting there, shiteing on about kissing some rock in Blarney. Between their incessant complaining, their continued inability to leave the room so I could gorge on sausages and bacon, and the significant amount of intoxicating liquor still circulating around my bloodstream, I decided “I’ve had enough”. I threw my pager on the desk, staggered back down to the locker room, took off my uniform and walked out of the job. I didn’t tell anyone. I couldn’t have given a flying fuck. I walked down to Grafton Street and got my own Full Irish in Bewley’s.

After breakfast, I got on the 46A bus and headed for RTE to find a real job, but that’s another bog entry entirely. When I returned to my house, sobriety kicked in. A realisation of “what have I just done” hit home hard. I hid in my bed. My parents weren’t home. My phone had died as I hadn’t been able to charge it the night before. As it charged and life returned to the device, there were notifications by the second. The phone wouldn’t stop beeping. My voicemail was full to capacity with calls from various levels of management in the hotel. The house phone was ringing intermittently too. I wasn’t going to answer it obviously. I didn’t want to deal with the world. I couldn’t face the music.

I heard my mum come through the front door but didn’t alert her to my being in the house. Soon after she returned, the phone rang. My mom answered. She was in the hallway so I could vaguely hear what she was saying. I remember the words “no, Paul is not here, he’s at work” followed by, “he’s not at work?…what do you mean?… he got a taxi to work this morning…”.

Then I heard my mother coming up the stairs. I didn’t know what to do. She was going to come through the bedroom door and whoever she was speaking to was still on the other end of the handset. She peered into the room, to her surprise she saw me lying in the bed. She proceeded to hand me the phone, to which I responded, non-verbally, with body language which, if translated into written words, would read “no, no, no…I’m not here…tell her I’m not here…PLEASE MOM”.

My mom was both confused and worried in equal measure. She didn’t have a clue what was going on. So, in the absence of knowing what to do, she all but threw the phone in my direction. I couldn’t possibly answer, I was too ashamed, so, I did what I felt was the right thing at the time, I pressed the end call button. My mum tried to establish what the hell she had just witnessed. I couldn’t tell her. I went back to sleep and covered my head from the world.

This all happened on a Friday, I spent the whole day and night in bed. On the Saturday afternoon, I surfaced but was still full of guilt and shame. I couldn’t leave the room, never mind the house. I was not due back to work until the Sunday but hadn’t made contact with the hotel since walking out. On the third day I rose again (in accordance with the scriptures) and built up the courage to call the hotel to tell them I’d be ok to come back to work that morning.

When I rang, I asked to speak to my manager. She wasn’t there. Instead, the Food and Beverage manager answered. I decided to play it casually, not to mention, or perhaps somehow play down the anarchic event that took place merely two days prior. I said something along the lines of “hello Marianne, it’s Paul here, eh…just to confirm my shift starts at 11 today?”. The F&B Manager replied along the lines of, “Paul I think it’s best if you come in to talk to HR tomorrow”.

As you can probably guess, I was fired from my job the next day. Below is the actual report the hotel had written on the incident.

This wouldn’t have been such a major deal if it had been a standard, full time job, but don’t forget, this was my fourth year college placement. I was representing the Shannon College of Hotel Management. My dismissal would need to be communicated to the college. I wrote to the college telling them I had been let go and they summoned me to a meeting in Shannon. I drove down for a meeting with the director and deputy director of the college. As I had let down the college in an act of such gross misconduct, I was suspended from the college for a year. I was advised that I could appeal the decision to the disciplinary sub-committee of the College Board.

Letter of Suspension from General Smyth

I’ll never forget one question the director posed during that meeting. He asked me if I “had a problem with alcohol”. He said he had been made aware of the ‘various cocktails’ I would drink on a night out in Shannon Knights. How would he have known about this? I’ll never know the answer to that question. Of course I strongly refuted the claim that I had a drink problem.

I could handle being fired from The Merrion, but the news of my suspension did not sit well with me. I wanted to graduate with my mates. I couldn’t be left behind to graduate with a different year. I thought I’d be in a stronger position to appeal the suspension decision if I were reinstated in The Merrion so I wrote a cute, hand-written letter to the General Manager of the hotel apologising for my behaviour and asking for my job back. After various meetings in which the management established that I wasn’t a total head case, they gave me a second chance. How wrong were they (about the head case bit).

My cute letter of apology. Look at how gay my handwriting was.

The main condition of my reinstatement was that I’d be located as far away from other human beings as possible. I was stationed in the switchboard office which was a room the size of a coffin located in the basement of the hotel. There was little to no human contact. I had to answer phones. All day. I liked it, but it was boring as fuck. However, as I needed to prove myself, I did the best job possible and within three weeks I was moved up to the reception desk as receptionist where I was nearly fired again for carrying out a 999 prank call a matter of weeks later.

My 999 Call Letter

After a disciplinary sub committee hearing in the college, the board decided that my suspension would be lifted subject to my fulfilling a number of criteria. I’d have to pay €300 to a charity. I’d need to receive 8 weeks of counselling. I’d need to have a squeaky clean file in the Merrion until the end of my placement. I’d need to make regular calls to the Head of Hotel Management letting her know that I was behaving myself. I felt a bit like a criminal signing on at the Garda station every week. There were one or two other conditions that slip my mind, but no matter what they asked me to do, I did it. I really wanted to graduate with my classmates and nothing would stop me.

As part of our degree, we had to submit a thesis in August of the following year in advance of graduation in November. There was a very strict deadline. It needed to have physically arrived at the college no later than 6pm on Friday 21st August. Even if you had posted it before the deadline, but it didn’t arrive until the Monday, it would not be accepted and you would not be able to graduate.

I did what Paul does best. I procrastinated. I left it a whole year to do the thesis and started a few days before the deadline. I was getting a couple of thousand words done a day but left a fair chunk until the very last day. I had an appointment with the thesis centre to have it bound at 11am on the Friday and then a friend was going to drive down to Shannon with a number of theses to hand in just before the deadline. I was up all night on the Thursday working away on the thesis and must have written a good ten thousand words in that one sitting. At about 7am I had no more than an hour’s work to do. The content was there. It was now just a matter of formatting it all. At that point there were many different windows open on my computer. Most of them were MS word documents from which I was copying and pasting. To tidy up my work space, I proceeded to close down the unnecessary windows. I got myself into a rhythm of pressing the X then clicking no when asked if I wanted to save my work. Pressing the X, then no. The X, then no. X, then no.

When it came to my most recent draft, which contained over 50% of the thesis, what do you think I did? I pressed X, then no. I had not saved my work since the night before and in two clicks of a mouse, I lost both my thesis, and my ticket to graduate with my classmates.


Part Five of Why I Gave Up Drink will be posted tomorrow 

Why I Gave Up Drink – Part Three

My Wake Up Calls

I had a number of wake up calls during my drinking career. While some of them drove me to abstain from drink, sometimes for months, others didn’t yield the same results.

The Leather Chair

I was out drinking in town one night in my mid-twenties (I think). On this night I didn’t manage to secure an after party as the point of being compos mentis had past long before I exited the night club, so I ended up back in my family home in Terenure. I imagine I was probably helped into a taxi and subsequently into my house as I wasn’t capable of making the journey up to my bedroom. I ended up sleeping on a leather couch in the breakfast room that night. Surprisingly my mom and dad, who were upstairs, slept through my undoubtedly noisy return home.

My memories of the next morning will haunt me forever. As I had drunk to the point of not being able to move, I hadn’t been able to make the bathroom during the night. I woke up with my trousers around my ankles. The leather chair under my semi-naked body was covered in faeces.

I had consumed so much alcohol the night before that it wasn’t my body clock that woke me up, it was my father. All I can remember is seeing my dad stand in front of me, in a state of shock. He was visibly upset. This sight will stay with me for the rest of my days.

I can remember him raising his voice at me. I think it was because he was panicking that my mum would soon come down and witness the sight he had just seen. A shouting match ensued. I can’t remember the exact content of our exchange, but I can remember one sentence I shouted at dad as I was going up the stairs to my room. That sentence, that I can still hear me saying to this day, was “can you not see I have a fucking problem, man?”.

I would love to say that I cleaned up the chair that morning, but I didn’t. My dad had to do it. I headed up to bed to hide from the world. I stayed there for at least three days. This was the type of person I was when alcohol existed in my life. A horrible, shamefully selfish person.

Chernobyl

A group of ten of us from the Rathgar & Rathmines musical society went to Chernobyl to volunteer for a weekend in April of 2011 and raise money for Chernobyl Children International. While it was one of the saddest experiences of my life, it was strangely one of the most uplifting too.

For those of you who haven’t heard of Chernobyl, it’s a city in the Ukraine that endured a chronic nuclear catastrophe when a reactor at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant exploded in 1986. The accident released radiation 200 times greater than that released by both atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Radioactive wastes continue to poison the environment and affect genetics of the people who live there. Thousands of children are born with serious physical disabilities.

Children who are born with such disabilities in Chernobyl are placed in orphanages. They are unwanted. We visited one such orphanage in a place called Vesnova which is in Belarus, outside the exclusion zone. It was a very cold institution and I don’t mean physically cold. The care assistants were, paradoxically, very careless. They’d show very little compassion when working with the kids. They would provide basic care. They’d ‘shovel’ food into the children’s mouths. They’d change their nappies, not when they needed to be changed, but at nappy-changing time. It was all very industrial, almost like a bell would ring at 6pm and all the kids would have to be fed (sometimes by force) their gruel within a 10-minute timeframe, then their nappies would have to be changed, en masse, at 6:30pm, whether the kids needed it or not. The workers resembled people you’d see operating a production line in a factory rather than people who were caring for disabled kids in an orphanage.

Here is a child in Vesnova with a nurse at the side. Pic taken by Brendan Galvin.

Every time a group of volunteers came to visit the orphanage, the kid’s lives would change momentarily. They would be in their element. For a few days, they would be loved. I’ll never forget seeing their faces light up when we arrived. It was heart-warming and acutely saddening, all at once.

While we were in the orphanage we weren’t allowed to take showers as there was a possibility that the water would be contaminated. This is the water the orphans drank every day. The orphanage was divided into various different wards according to the children’s ages. We visited each ward every day and sang songs for the kids collectively and then split up to hang out with the kids individually.

Ward 1 was particularly tough for me as it was home to the youngest orphans. It contained babies with deformities who were lying in cots. They were too young to speak. They had their full lives ahead of them. You would walk into a room containing maybe 20 cots, and there wouldn’t be a care assistant to be seen. Babies lying in their cots, most of them crying, others sleeping, in the presence of many other babies, but for all intents and purposes, alone.

The upstairs wards were a little more ‘fun’ in that there were orphans in their early teens. They were doing what all teenagers would do; mess. You could have the craic with these guys. Throw balls around, dance. We threw a disco for them on the Saturday we were there.

My favourite ward, however, was Ward 5. It was here I met my little buddy, Nastia. It is quite common for volunteers to develop a bond with one particular orphan, and for me it was Nastia. She reminded me a bit of me. Very cheeky. Very bold. I do not remember a minute of the time I spent with her where she didn’t have a smile from ear to ear. She used to smack me in the face. It was hilarious.

This is my buddy Nastia.

 

We stayed in rooms that were allocated for visitors. There was a communal bungalow where the volunteers would gather every evening. What do you think us Irish got up to after the kids went to bed? All I’ll say is games of chess were not part of the agenda.

Given our current location, the vodka was flowing as if it were on tap. We would have drink-fueled sing songs each night, but on our last night in particular we (I) overdid it completely. While I didn’t want to leave the bed the next morning, I had to. I wasn’t at home in my cosy bed where I could hide away from the world for days on end.

We were leaving for Minsk later that day but had an hour or two with the kids that morning. We were sitting in ward 5, very hungover, and a young lad reached out to me. I picked him up and sat him on my knee. I guess the kids must have realised that their time with us was limited and it was coming towards an end. I’ll never forget the next few minutes. I was sitting there with this helpless, severely deformed, young orphan, with little or no prospect of a good life on my lap, and all I could think about was my hangover. There was something not right. In fact this was very wrong. In a moment where I should have been giving all the love in me to this poor child, I allowed alcohol to interfere.

This is a pic taken on our last day of the trip to Chernobyl. On the left you can see me hold the young lad on my lap. I don’t know his name.

We left the orphanage that day and I didn’t have a drop of alcohol for 14 months. Those 14 months were unreal. The best months of my life. He doesn’t realise it, and for all I know he may no longer be with us, but I owe those 14 months clean to that poor boy.

Unfortunately the disease crept back into my life. I was in Spain with my folks in June 2012 and decided that I had ‘done my time’ and that I could now go back drinking normally. On that evening I did. I drank a few beers. I enjoyed them. I didn’t get wasted. The problem was that I had ‘broken the seal’ and I was back drinking. The next weekend I went out in Dublin, this time with my friends. Again I tried my newfound skill of ‘controlled drinking’ and ended up blacking out. This behaviour continued again for years. The old Paul was back.

Tomorrow I will discuss one of the highlights of my drinking career; being fired from The Merrion Hotel on my fourth year placement, creating huge embarrassment for the Shannon College of Hotel Management, my family and myself. You can probably guess what the root cause of my dismissal was.


Part Four of Why I Gave Up Drink will be posted tomorrow

Why I Gave Up Drink – Part Two

An Evening With Schnapps

As a teenager I would have gone ‘knacker drinking’ once or twice. The most I would have consumed on these occasions was one or two cans of Budweiser. I was forced to cap it at two, not because that’s all I wanted, but because that’s all I could really afford. I was a teenager. I had no income. I had to rely on mom and dad.

The first time I remember getting ‘out of it’ was in my mid teens when my cousin’s husband brought a bottle of Schnapps to my parents from Austria. My cousin, who is actually my godmother, lives in Austria and is married to an Austrian called Johannes. The couple had come over to the house for a drink before heading out to dinner with my folks. I remember overhearing Johannes telling my parents that the drink was ‘very strong’ and to ‘go easy’ with it. They would’t dare have a drop of it before dinner. It would be a night cap kind of drink.

When I heard them talk about this dangerous but ever so exciting liquid. my ears perked up a bit like Pavlov’s dog hearing the gong. I said to myself ‘wouldn’t it be great to try this, even just the one sip’. Given that I had already broken my confirmation pledge by downing cans in Marley Park, the decision process was very short-lived. I was going to try some of this liquid magic, and that was that. It was just a case of waiting for the four grown ups to get the hell out of the house so my experiment could begin.

They left for dinner and I studied the bottle, wondering how I could have some without them noticing. It was a transparent liquid not dissimilar to water. My options were to drink a little and fill it up with water or drink a little and hope nobody noticed. I didn’t spend too much time contemplating my options however. I was much more interested in tasting the stuff. I poured myself a drop. I can remember thinking it was absolutely horrible. It was worse than cough bottle. It gave a hot sensation. It would make you wince and shake your head furiously to shake off the hideous taste.

After a few minutes, I remember feeling a sensation of lightheadedness. Suddenly the hideous taste was overpowered by a feeling of intense happiness. I liked it. In fact, I fucking loved it. I needed more and so I had more. No longer did I care about anyone noticing the missing fluid. It didn’t matter. Nothing mattered.

I can’t remember how much I actually drank that night, some twenty years ago, all I remember is bouncing around the house. My two sisters, who I was looking after, mustn’t have known what was happening to me. My next memory of the night is lying in my bed, in a pool of vomit, with my parents looking down on me in a state of complete worry and confusion. My memory of that night is vivid. My dad stayed in the room with me. He lay on the floor beside my bed for fear that I might choke on my own vomit while asleep. He left the light on in my room all night so he wouldn’t fall asleep.

I don’t really talk to my parents about that night, but I’d say it’s a night they’ll never forget. I have no doubt they knew they had a ‘problem child’ on their hands from that day.

My College Days

My days in the Shannon College of Hotel Management were some of the best of my life. I say days because I don’t really remember the nights. I made lots of great friends during my college days, but one of my best buddies was a fella called drink. Drink would help me socialise. I would use it to medicate my acute shyness. It would also get me places. It would make me popular. I could do things on drink that I’d be too mortified to do without it. For example, impersonate teachers, sing loudly, dance like a lunatic.

Sunday and Thursday were our big nights out in Shannon. We would come back to Shannon from our respective homes on Sunday evenings in advance of classes on Monday morning. To celebrate our ‘reunion’, we’d go down to the crossroads pub for ‘a few pints’. A few would invariably become ‘a rake’ and we’d end up in the only night club that exists in Shannon; Shannon Knights, familiarly knows as ‘Shannon Shites’ or just ‘Shites’.

Whenever I went to Shites I would be well looked after. My friend Sean had a part time job behind the bar, and he would always sort me out with my aforementioned ‘special’ drink. The sheer amount of alcohol consumed on Sundays and Thursdays would allow me to still be tipsy and inhibition-free in class the next day. As the day would go on, the hangover would kick in and I’d head back to the apartment to hide. I was still in my early twenties so, while hangovers were bad on occasion, the post-binge depression wasn’t as intense. We were in our early twenties after all. Everyone is invincible in their early twenties.

As part of our four year course in hotel management, we needed to complete two industry placements, both lasting a year. My first placement (Year Two) was spent in Lausanne in Switzerland. This was one of the best years of my life. Weed was legal in the German-speaking part of the country, so I would travel to Bern every week to purchase my bag of greenery. While the number of various lines of legal weed available was many and varied, my weed of choice was called Alpine Rocket.

The laws in Switzerland were pretty odd. It wasn’t illegal to possess the weed in Lausanne. You could carry it on your person with no fear of arrest, but if you were in possession of skins and a lighter at the same time, you were in trouble as it indicated the probability that you were actually going to smoke the stuff. I know, weird, but this is Switzerland we’re talking about.

I smoked weed every day in Lausanne. The moment I’d get home, I’d roll one, Iie on the bed, light it up and allow myself to pass into a magical space. Everything was so great after a joint. I’d call people back home and chat so confidently to them about shite over the phone. I was full of wisdom when stoned. So intelligent. The fact of the matter is that it was a fake reality.

The high I’d get from weed was so much better than booze, as there’d be no major hangover. I was highly addicted. This posed a major problem when I returned to Ireland for Year Three. It wasn’t so plentiful in Ireland so my crutch had disappeared pretty much overnight. I had to return to my old friend drink in order to medicate.

About 3 weeks after returning back to college, all the students in my year had to work at an event in Citywest. It was a VIP event so Citywest hired the best possible waiters in the business. In my station there was a group of important people from Brussels. My friend Barry was working the bar at the event and he sorted me out with some wine while we were working. Pint glasses of red wine. I got so pissed at that event that I spent more time chatting loudly and inappropriately to the Brussels folk ‘en francais’, than I did serving them. My classmates told me the group really enjoyed my craic and banter although I can’t confirm this as I can’t remember. Some time later I passed out and needed to be brought to one of the bedrooms in the hotel to sober up. One of my friends took over my station.

My Twenties

Tomorrow I will be posting the chapter called ‘My Wake Up Calls’ which will detail some of the more sinister events that took place during my drinking career. Here, I’ll briefly talk about some of the more amusing incidents that I remember from my twenties.

‘Oh, Mandy’

A few years after my Swiss placement, I went back to Lausanne for a weekend with two friends, Mary and Gillian. We spent the weekend doing a lot of what we would have done when living there: boozing. I was still in the closet at this stage but had begun experimenting with guys (provided that I was drunk enough). I remember losing the two girls one night, getting into a taxi and asking the driver to bring me to a gay bar. At that stage of my life, I would usually be far too embarrassed to do this. However, given the fact that I was probably at stage 10 of drunkenness, coupled with the fact that I wouldn’t have to say the word gay (I asked him in French), I was able to ask to driver to bring me where I wanted to go.

The man brought me to a place that resembled a parish hall where geriatrics would play bingo. There were middle aged men and women sitting around round tables with a glass of wine in front of them. Up on stage there was a band singing Barry Manilow songs. Perhaps this was why the driver associated the venue with homosexuality.

For those of you who don’t know him, this is Barry Manilow

It seemed like a private event. There were no guys there who were obviously gay, or my age, but once I saw booze flowing, I entered. Alone. My memories of the night are a little vague, but I do remember walking up on stage, uninvited, and harmonising to the band’s version of ‘Mandy’. There was no security, as it wasn’t a club as such, but as far as I can remember they let me sing with them, possibly because they didn’t know how to react to such an off-the-wall situation.

I can’t remember what I did next, how I got home or how the night ended, all I remember is how upset the two girls were with me the next day. That night will haunt me forever.

Zell Am See

On another occasion I was away skiing with my friend Aine in Zell Am See, Austria. Aine and I went out on the piss most nights but there was one night in particular where she was feeling unwell and needed to go back to the guesthouse. I brought her home and went back out myself. I was already well-on so didn’t feel any shame going to clubs on my own, but suddenly I felt an urge to go to a gay bar.

I hailed a taxi which resembled a dilapidated camper van and asked him where the nearest gay bar was. I can’t remember how exactly I said it, but I probably assumed the word ‘gay’ was the same in German. The man explained that the nearest gay venue would be in a town a good 45-minutes drive away. I was happy to travel, although I think I fell asleep for the journey. My next memory is waking up in a different town and the driver pointing over at what appeared to be a corrugated iron barn whilst uttering some words in German. It was daylight now. I got (fell) out of the car and walked over to the barn, but there was no life in it whatsoever.

The man then asked me to pay him and I reached for my wallet but it wasn’t there. The man had driven me 45 minutes to a corrugated iron barn, and I had no money to pay him. As far as I can remember the man brought me back to Zell Am See, but I’m not 100% sure. I don’t know if he was ever paid.

The next morning (afternoon) I woke up in my room in the guesthouse, but it was a little different to the day before. There was no door in the room. The entire door and frame had come away from the wall and was lying on the floor in front of the bed. I had obviously fallen into my room the night before, taking the door with me. Another typical night in my drinking career.

Bongo Man

Drink wasn’t always a negative force in my life. It sometimes highlighted my hidden talents. My uncle and auntie, who live in Spain, celebrated their 25th Wedding Anniversary when I was about 26. I happened to be in Spain at the time on holidays with my folks and decided to go to the event.

I am always a little uneasy at family events. Nothing a few (dozen) bottles of San Miguel can’t fix however. It was on this occasion that my extended family learnt a few new things about me. I thought I was Placido Domingo when it came to singing, I had a hidden talent for playing the bongos, and I was very fond of the drink.

This is what Bongos look like. They will haunt me for the rest of my days.

A band was organised for the event. After the meal, they set up on stage. I was dancing away on the floor with my mum and whoever else would (reluctantly) oblige me, and I spotted a set of bongos on the stage. I joined the band and played the bongos for the entire evening. As it was a family event no one really stopped me. It was probably too awkward to do so. It’s a day I look back on and cringe all the time. What a fucking embarrassment I was.


Part Three of Why I Gave Up Drink will be posted tomorrow 

Why I Gave Up Drink – Part One

Hi my name’s Paul and I’m an Alcoholic.

I never thought I’d hear myself say these words and I guess I’ve always associated them with weirdos who sit around in a circle in some dirty, cold parish hall that smells of damp, holding each other’s hands and uttering some strange, almost cultish chant in unison, but it’s actually true. My name is Paul and I am an alcoholic.

The definition of alcoholism is not being able to stop when you start. That’s me. I have no ‘off switch’. I’m an all or nothing kind of guy. That’s how I’m hardwired. If you put a packet of crisps in front of me, I will finish them. If I have one alcoholic drink, I will want another. Then another. Then another. In the words of Depeche Mode, I just can’t get enough. I would often go out for a civilised dinner en famille, have a few beers with my meal and then end up roaming the streets of Dublin at 4am, asking complete strangers where the after party is.

From a young age, my impression of an alcoholic was someone you’d see begging on the Ha’ppeny Bridge with a naggin of Powers hidden in their left lapel pocket, or someone who’d go to bed with a bottle of vodka on their beside locker, ready for their first sip in the morning. That is not the case. The fact is there are alcoholics in all walks of life. The cash register attendant in Lidl, the taxi man, the Board Level Executive, the Barrister, the hairdresser. Alcoholism can affect all these people. You don’t have to drink morning noon and night to be an alcoholic. I could go several weeks without a drink. You just have to fulfil the criterion that you’re unable to stop when you start. If you can go to Coppers with your mates on a Saturday night and stop after 3 drinks, you’re very lucky. I could not.

Some weeks ago I took to Snapchat to explain to people why I didn’t drink. The reaction to the story was overwhelming. Followers were messaging me in their droves thanking me for sharing my story. I was receiving hundreds of messages of support from people in similar situations to mine. I decided to write this blog post in case I can help even one more person who is struggling with alcohol.

We have a very serious problem with drink in Ireland. We like to brush it off because ‘we’re Irish’. It’s what we do. The French drink wine. The Germans drink beer. The Italians drink coffee. The Irish just drink. We are sometimes even proud of how much we drink. It’s a mark of distinction for us Irish. The reality is that drink is ruining (some of) our lives.

I gave up alcohol on 31st July 2016. This is my story.

My Many Stages of Drunkenness

Pint 1: With every sip I’d get a buzz. My eyes would start to glisten. My smile would start to grow. Conversation was still slow, but it was warming up. I knew that the evening (day) ahead would bring joy.

Pint 2: The buzz would get more ecstatic. I’d find myself so much more relaxed. More able to converse. I’d now have less fear of judgement.

Pint 3: I’m happy now. Chatting away like mad. In actual fact what I am saying would appear (to me) to be very intelligent. I am great craic.

Pint 4: I’m nearly at the point where I’d have a cigarette, but not quite there yet. You can’t stop me talking. I’m feeling great. I matter to the world. I have an opinion. I have a strong opinion. I need people to hear it. I’m making people laugh. I’m cracking jokes. I am the business.

Pint 5: My feelings of increased intelligence would now manifest as feelings of increased superiority. I was right. No matter what words I said, I was right. I now enjoyed engaging in conversations of the intellectual kind. Conversations that would push boundaries. I needed to talk to people, as many people as possible, and show them how amazing I was. I am so proud.

Pint 6: I need a cigarette. I also need to get out to the smoking area to smoke it, but more importantly, to talk to others. I would appear to be the most confident, extroverted gob shite in the world. I need to be seen. I would be speaking to many people, but listening to hardly any. My mother always told me that when she saw me smoking “I was anybody’s”. This is probably the stage where most people would stop.

Pint 7: I am completely at ease. Maybe too much. Dancing like a twat is now on the agenda. I am on such a buzz that I don’t want to stop. I am coming across as an arrogant prick to many people, but I don’t see this. How could I? Shots anyone?

Drink 8: I am probably not drinking pints anymore, but it really depends on the circumstances. I want this buzz to intensify. The venue is getting busier. I am going to be surrounded by more and more people. I need more courage. I need more confidence. In college I was known to order double vodkas in a pint glass with Smirnoff Ice or some other form of alco-pops as a mixer. The mad man was emerging.

After drink 8, I’d want the buzz to intensify so much (I’d want to get so out of it) that I’d look outside of the boundaries of drink to assist me. I’d be looking for weed, cocaine or pills. If I had a good meal that evening, the food might have soaked up too much of the alcohol for my liking. As my inhibitions would be gone, I’d have no problem asking strangers for additional help. In fact, I’d probably come across as a bit of a lunatic asking every Tom, Dick and Harry in my vicinity to help me get a better buzz. I was relentless in my quest to find oblivion. Even though I was already well on, I can still remember nights when I’d keep asking (pestering) people for drugs. That memory would make it through my alcoholic amnesia. That’s how desperate I used to be.

I can’t really write too much about the ensuing stages of a night out, but I do have memories of standing outside nightclubs asking strangers where the after parties were. I wouldn’t want my high to end. I would want my escape to continue for as long as possible. My friends would have gone home long ago. I’d be on my own. I’d come across as a complete weirdo. Unable to stand. Sometimes unable to speak. On the many occasions where I’d end up going home with total strangers, it was probably because they felt sorry for me, they wanted to take the piss out of me, they wanted to take advantage of me, or all of the above. I have memories of waking up in houses all over Dublin, most of the time not recognising the people in the house as I’d have no memory of the night before, how I got there or what I had done.

I remember one morning waking up in a house in Dublin 8, naked on the bed, with an older man helping himself to me. This is one incident I remember, countless other similar events could have happened, I just don’t remember them.

The Paul who drank between 1- 5 pints was such a great guy. Such a laugh. So sociable. If only Paul could have stopped after 5.

The Morning After the Night Before

After a heavy session, I would not be able to leave my bed, never mind my room and certainly not my house. There would be no point. Indeed, there’d be no point to life anymore. I would hide in my bed for up to 3 days. I wouldn’t be able to answer my phone. I’d ignore my nearest and dearest. I’d be very ill. I’d hoover up takeaways but would not be able to hold them down. My work would suffer. My family would suffer. My life would suffer.

If drugs were involved, the hangover would be so much worse. My head would be in a complete mess. I can vividly remember two separate occasions where I didn’t see the need to carry on. On one occasion, when I was sitting at the table of my parent’s penthouse apartment in Terenure, waiting for my French grinds student to arrive, I questioned how exactly I would die if I were to throw myself off the balcony. Would it be quick? Was there a chance I would survive and live on in a wheelchair? Who is to say that if it weren’t for my propensity to vacillate, that the deed would not have been done. On another occasion, after a Gala ball on a Saturday night, at which I took herbal ecstasy, I was driving on the Rathgar road and didn’t think I could go on. I was feeling worthless. I called a close friend of mine and explained the situation. She calmed me down and I was okay. This event took place the Wednesday after the Saturday night session. Four days later. Such was the insidiousness of herbal drugs from hemp shops.

This is the shit drugs did for me, ladies and gentlemen. Drink was bad enough. Combining them was extremely dangerous. I am 37 now and I have no doubt that if I continued along the treacherous road of drink and drugs, I might have followed through on my instincts by now.


Part Two of Why I Gave Up Drink will be posted tomorrow. 

Chapter 22: Lessons Learnt, Why The Fuck Did I Write This Blog and What’s Next For Paulie Waulie

Before we take flight on our very final chapter, I have a little song you might like to hear. My advice is to press play on the video, and let the song play as you read through the chapter. I’m sure the song will end before you finish reading; it’s only 12 minutes long, after all.

Lessons Learnt

Despite all the bullshit I had to put up with, I did enjoy starting OnlineGrinds.ie and working on the project for nearly 3 years, even if I never received a cent payment. However, if I was to do it all again, my approach would be somewhat different, to say the least. If I had a few words of advice for any entrepreneur starting up their own business, it would be the following:

Team

If you are going to take on a team on an equity share basis, research all team members well before you take anybody on. Use a fine tooth comb during this process. Don’t rush into things. Don’t take on a web developer ‘because you know him’. Take a look at projects they have worked on before, check the number of fans they have on social media sites etc. If you see that the large majority of their work falls into the vintage website category, you can assume that this project will follow suit. If the vintage style of website isn’t something you are too keen on, keep looking.

If they say they will develop and design a website from scratch, with all the capability of broadcasting live and interactive online grinds, this does not mean they should simply purchase third party plugins and insert them into their very basic site structure. That’s cheating. All the code should be indigenous. Otherwise the company will have very little IP, which means in the event of sale, it will have very little value. Besides, a blind ape with no arms could develop a website if it was simply based on third party plugins and no indigenous code, and you wouldn’t have to give him any equity at all.

A friend of mine said to me yesterday, “I’m sure it must kill you to wonder how OLG might have taken off with the right team”. She is dead right (thanks again T.).

Power

Never yield too much power. Always retain more control than anybody else. Otherwise they’ll walk all over you like a race horse on a fallen jockey. Never give away more than 49% equity. Always retain 51% for your good self. More power to you.

Don’t Take Bullshit

If your tech partner decides to drop a bomb 2 days before your official launch, stating that the majority of the source code of the site belongs to HIS Company, not your joint company, and that there is no value in the site he was commissioned to develop, tell him to fuck off. Threaten to pull the plug on the project if he doesn’t cop the fuck on. Don’t let your pride stand in the way of bullshit like this. It’s infinitely better to delay your launch, and find a proper developer, than to launch with a cunt like this. In the long run you will be far better off.

If your tech partner starts acting like a contractor, rather than an owner, get rid of him. He is a liability to the company. There is something wrong when your tech partner, who has the same equity stake as you, starts putting time limits on his work output, and spends more time writing emails about how much work he won’t do, rather than actually doing any work on the project itself. He needs to go. Simple as.

For some reason I envisaged BS to be a hoody-wearing, idea-generating, Mark Zuckerberg type who would rock in to me in the office at 7am saying “Paul I was up till 3am working on this new page, I’ve had this awesome new idea”. But no, BS didn’t come up with 1 idea for OnlineGrinds.ie. That was up to the rest of the team. And whenever we brought up an idea, and asked him to implement it, he would reply with 2 words, “Phase 2”.

I firmly believe (and I could be very wrong) that Sean often wonders if I was the right person to go, and that maybe it should have been BS who was ousted. I guess I will never know the answer to that question.

Consider What You Say To Others

If you receive love letters from Arthur’s Cock and Everyone Shites, choose wisely who you share them with. One of my biggest regrets is showing MBB AKA CUNT the second love letter from Everyone Shites. Who’s to say that Learnology wouldn’t still be still going, if I had kept the letter to myself.

Dwarves

Always employ a group of dwarves, they are indispensable.

Cash

If you notice that the amount of cash coming in to the business represents a mere fifth of the amount going out (a ratio of 1:4), take a step back and question your business model. Call a halt to the dwarves; tell them to take a seat and have some tea and cakes, or a round of Jägerbombs and a few lines (whatever they’re into). You need to seriously review what you are doing.

Office

They say that it’s good to locate your desk near a window so that you can take momentary breaks from the computer screen and give your eyes a rest by looking out at the beautiful views in front of you. This principle works particularly well when you have an art workshop across the road with life drawing classes every evening. I wouldn’t recommend locating anywhere else.

Law and Lawyers

Read up on company law. Know your rights. Always be able to distinguish a real threat from a shot across the bow. My rule of thumb: if a love letter is signed with the company name, rather than an individual lawyer’s name, it’s an idle threat.

Be able to differentiate company lawyers from litigators (Daniel O’Donnell vs. Vince Vaughan). This tacit knowledge could save your life, one day.

Why The Fuck Did I Write This Blog?

There are a number of reasons why I decided to write my story:

(a) So many people ask me how OnlineGrinds.ie is going. To spare these people the 3 hour explanation that I usually have to give them (and to spare me the 3 hours each time someone asks), I wrote this blog. Now I can simply point them in the direction of www.paulstenson.com and, if they care enough, they can read it. If they don’t care, they can pretend to read it (and slyly have RedTube open in another window).

 (b) To vent my frustration. I am sure you can appreciate that my mental health was pushed to its outer extremities while I was working with BS (note that the verb ‘working’ applies to me, rather than BS). This blog provided an outlet for me to vent my anger and extinguish the fire that has built up inside over the past 3 years. As I said in one chapter, it was far better than any form of conventional therapy.

(c) To try my luck at writing. Writing is something I have always wanted to try, and I actually fucking enjoyed it. It was almost (quite literally) a sexual experience at certain points. Most of the time, I had no preconception of what to write and it simply came to me as I was typing (as it is now).

I did try to get an editor or ten to glance over my work. Most editors took one look at the story and turned it down immediately on the basis that the content was far too risqué. One editor came back saying that she would have no issue working with me, as long as I toned it down slightly. This didn’t happen.

I am much happier to be able to tell my story (vitriolic as it may be) i.e. the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me dog (I’m an atheist), even at the expense of one or two grammatical errors and/or misspellings, than have an editor tone down my words.

Many thanks again to all my friends and family who were worried about me. I couldn’t count on 3 hands the number of people who asked me “are you sure you won’t get into legal hot water with this blog Paul?” to which I generally replied “oh I sincerely hope I do”.

(d) To see how many solicitor’s letters I could get. To date I haven’t received any SL’s which is a little disheartening, if I’m honest. I tried my best to make life easy for the solicitors; I even put the letters (SL) around the blog for their convenience. But alas, no letters at all. I am living in the hope that maybe they are waiting for me to publish my final chapter and then they can send one big letter containing all the offences throughout the blog, as opposed to hundreds of letters each containing one offence. This is not ideally how I would have liked it, but I guess it will have to do.

Please solicitors, I am pleading with you at this stage. Please please please send me at least one letter. You can ignore the instructions I gave you in Chapter 1 and use whatever kind of language you want. I promise I won’t give out. Pretty pretty please???

(e) Legal representation. Believe it or not, I have already received a number of offers of legal representation from blog readers. Having read the blog, they said that I may well have a case against Sean & Co., and that they would be willing to consider representing me on a no foal, no fee basis. My initial reaction to them was that of ‘meh’, but then when I thought about the suit-buying opportunity this would present, my opinion changed completely. I’m a little conflicted now however; if I did go to court and had to breathe the same air as BS in the courtroom, I think I might be traumatised for life. So, let’s just say ‘the jury is out’ on this option.

(f) Investment. One particular man who read the blog wants to have coffee with me about potentially getting Learnology back up and running. He said it “was too much of a great brand to let go”. While seeking investment funds was never an intention of writing the blog, I am going to meet him; for the craic, if nothing else (hi A. if you are reading this!). While this is not at the top of my priority list, it is exceedingly more probable than option (e).

(g) To draw a line under the nightmare that has been the last 3 years. The main objective of writing this blog was to put an end to the horror that was OnlineGrinds.ie. The lads have the company now, and as a matter of fact, I wish them well (even BS). I am not sure what their intentions are, and whether the cancellation of the May revision courses was an admission by Sean & Co. that “this is the end, beautiful friends, the end”. I guess we won’t know until their “full launch next Sept”, if it ever happens.

With the right changes, the company has potential to do well. Ashfield teachers are without a shadow of a doubt the best in the country, and the picture we have painted of OnlineGrinds.ie in the media means it is already a recognised brand (again, good enough to do a deal with Ashfield). If the lads can get the business right by creating a freemium model and tidying up things in the tech department, they could actually do very well for themselves.

They may even still have a chance of getting in there before Alison.com, as Alison are only running free maths grinds at the moment. If OnlineGrinds.ie can roll out all subjects, for free, this September, they may beat Alison to the mark, and have a chance of success.

What’s Next For Paulie Waulie

While I lost both OnlineGrinds.ie and Learnology, this doesn’t mean that I am exiting the grinds industry altogether. Despite the fact that the entire industry is worth only €40m per annum (a very limited pot) I do want to keep one egg in this basket. But I have no intention of devoting 100% of my time to a space where the maximum I could potentially make per year is €40m. You might think I am joking, I’m actually not.

Any website where there is a lot of human involvement upfront (like OnlineGrinds.ie) is costly, as you have to pay these humans. The only way you will make money on a website in the grinds industry (or any industry) is if the website generates passive income. Look at the likes of Adverts.ie, Boards.ie, Daft,ie (pretty much any of the Fallon Bros sites); these are all passive income generators. You don’t have gob shites acting the clown on camera, and being paid €110 per hour to do so, while you have 2 viewers watching them, each paying €10. Look at the likes of Cartell.ie or TripAdvisor.com. These are user generated content, database-driven websites, again with little if not no front-line labour. Again, more classic examples of passive income generators. This is where the money is at folks.

To that end, my next grinds related venture requires little or no front-line labour. It’s called GrindsAdvisor.ie and it’s launching in September. For fear of boring you, here is a quick low down on the new biz.

At the moment, if a student wants to do grinds, there is no independent website that reviews and advises on the grinds options available in their area. Students and parents have to do all the research themselves, which usually (and solely) involves checking out the individual grind provider websites. The mummy and student visit a grind school website where the school blows their own trumpet until the cows come home, saying how amazingly, awesomely, fantastically, outstanding they are. The mummy gives her credit card details and pays for a term of grinds, unaware as to the quality of teachers on offer and whether the exorbitant price being paid actually represents value for money, or not. Ditto for online grinds websites and, to some extent, one to one grinds.

Grindsadvisor.ie is a user generated content site (a bit like Tripadvisor; similar model) that will provide reviews and advice on the grinds options available to secondary students across Ireland in terms of price, teacher quality and convenience. It’s an independent advice platform for students and parents to voice their opinions, concerns and advice on grinds providers, so that students are well informed before they fork out anything between €2,000 and €4,000, which is the average amount a parent will pay on grinds in the exam year (Student Enrichment Services Survey, 2010).

10380771_530299270425965_5303188558030630024_n

In case the Kearns family from the Institute of Education and Sean & Co. from OnlineGrinds.ie (for example) are pooing their pants at the thought of Paul Stenson slating them on his new website. Please don’t worry guys. Paul won’t be doing any slating whatsoever; the students and parents will. However, if you get your act together guys i.e. stop ripping people off IOE, and get your business model right OLG, you won’t give them any reason to slate you; you may even give them reason to praise you. We know how damaging the likes of Patrick’s Tweets in yesterday’s chapter can be for your business. Don’t give students like Patrick any bait in the first place, and all will be well.

GrindsAdvisor.ie aside for a minute, in any of my future ventures, I am going to exercise extreme care and caution in relation to who I work with. The BS saga has certainly taught me a lesson I will never forget. I am increasingly thinking about working purely with animals going forward. I much prefer animals to humans. Certainly on my list of potential projects for the future is a 5 star hotel for pets. The animals will be treated like royalty; they will have ensuite bedrooms with plasma screens showing pet related movies (not Marley and me), and they will get their meals delivered by room service; sushi for cats, sirloin steak for dogs. If you are an investor and would like a slice of this pie, I am taking inquiries now.

That’s All Folks

That’s all folks. Thanks for reading my blog. Hope you enjoyed it. Sorry again if some of the language seemed crude, and some of the themes seemed unsophisticated. But that’s me, and I make no apologies for being me.

If you want to contact me for any reason, maybe you are a lawyer who wants to represent me, or an investor who wants to make a massive return, you can get me at my email:

p_stenson@hotmail.com

Before I go, I promised you I would revisit the cunt poll to see who has been the biggest cunt in this blog. Here are the updated results as of today 08/07/2014:

updatedcuntpoll

 

As you can see, BS is improving nicely, he has gone from 62.5% to 66%. Both MBB AKA CUNT and Sean are also gaining ground.

Rest assured that the poll will remain open for the foreseeable future. As long as the blog is live, the poll will be live. Also, if there is any movement on the SL front, or any more kind gestures from BS (like yesterday), I will make a point of sharing them here on the blog, so that you are kept in the loop. Just because you won’t have daily chapter updates, doesn’t mean the blog will wither on the vine.

Over and out.

P.

Chapter 21: From €10 per grind to €75 per grind and Bye Bye OnlineGrinds.ie

Before we embark on the penultimate chapter, may I advise that we had some breaking news this afternoon. If you didn’t get this news, you can read it here.

From €10 per grind to €75 per grind

In reply to my ‘heads up’ email to Sean in which I warned him about the Larry O’Driscoll (LOD) scumbag, he sent me an email asking me to make the assets available immediately, stating that LOD had his authorisation to collect them. I advised Sean that I would not be handing over the assets under any circumstances, as the transfer of the business of OnlineGrinds.ie to his company was illegal. He replied saying that if I didn’t hand over the assets, he would purchase new equipment and make me pay the replacement costs. Yet another idle threat. Sean had cried wolf once or twice too many for me to believe him this time.

Whether it happened with the assets I had, or the new ones Sean would purchase, Sean & Co. were adamant to truck on with Ashfield, less little Paulie Waulie. A different shareholding structure was now in place. I am unsure how Ashfield College fitted into this new structure, but I am sure of one thing; my company, in fact, my two companies, were gone. I didn’t receive a cent payment, neither for founding the company, nor for all the hard work I had put in over the past 3 years to bring the company to the position it was in. A position good enough to do a deal with Ashfield College.

Such was the impact OnlineGrinds.ie had on the grinds industry, and on the media in general. Ashfield was one of the most well-known traditional grind schools in Ireland. It was voted the best grind school in the country last year. I have first hand experience of how good it is, as I went to Ashfield myself to repeat my Leaving Cert. Notwithstanding the fact that I got 5 points less second time round (290 in Ashfield 1999, 295 in Mary’s 1998), I still got my second honour which got me into the Shannon College of Hotel Management. For this, Ashfield, I am eternally grateful.

ashfieldaward
An accolade received by Ashfield in 2013

In many ways I feel sorry for Ashfield for getting involved with Sean & Co. Little did they know what they were getting themselves into. I guess the picture we (Aine and I) painted of OnlineGrinds.ie in the media over the past few years would have made them believe that it had real potential to succeed. I am sure they assumed (again given the media coverage) that our tech team was up to it, and that our website was state of the art. They probably even bought into the vintage website look.

ashfield_campus2

Sean & Co. would have backed up this confidence during their talks with the college. I have no doubt that they told Ashfield that the live grinds worked really well, that there were never any tech issues, and that online grinds is a great alternative to traditional grinds. And why would they say anything else? Maybe if they had actually been present for a live broadcast from start to finish, they might have realised otherwise.

A number of weeks went by and there was no movement on the OnlineGrinds.ie site, not even a mention of live grinds. As you can imagine, I kept a very keen eye on its progress. Suddenly, just before Easter, there was an announcement that they would be running Easter Revision Courses. But wait for it, the price would be €75 per subject. Yes, you read correctly, seventy fucking five. This would be a justifiable price to pay if Karla was doing the Biology grinds, but seeing as she was a hoax, this was a laughable price to pay.

One of my objectives of starting OnlineGrinds.ie was to provide a low cost alternative to traditional grinds. Making grinds more accessible for those currently doing them (Chloe and Greg) and more affordable for those who could never afford them in the first place (Stacey and Jason). We were going to charge a maximum of €10 per live class, where you could ask the teacher questions and download and print their excellent quality notes. Opting for a monthly subscription would make the live classes even better value. This model obviously didn’t bear fruit, but it did result in one hell of a bonfire in Ballymun.

As we lost rather than made money with this model, my thinking changed throughout the course of the project. We could not charge for grinds if there were so many tech issues. The only way forward for OnlineGrinds.ie was to provide the grinds for free, and to make money with advertising. But of course when I proposed the idea of a freemium model to the guys, it was duly ignored and the focus was shifted on my involvement with Learnology, rather than on the progression of OnlineGrinds.ie. Coincidentally, a number of months later, an education giant called Alison.com entered the market doing online grinds for free. If only they had listened to me and not acted the prick, says you. I wonder who would win a web development contest between the might of Alison.com vs. the ability of BS? Hmmmmmm. Rhetorical question if there ever was one.

Despite the fact that our €10 model didn’t work, and that I had proposed going down the freemium route, they made the courses €75 per subject. I know I am a fuckin eejit and all, so my opinion probably doesn’t count, but can you see any logic at all in this price? €75 would be eminently acceptable if Karla and her boyfriend were going to demonstrate the ‘ins and outs’ of the human reproductive system on camera, but it would represent very bad value for money if the actual, real-life, questionably average looking Biology teacher was simply going to knock one out (a class that is) on her own.

So, having learnt of the exorbitant Easter Revision courses, I kept a daily, close eye on the number of registrations on the site. You could see this number very easily. Every time a new member joined the site, this person would automatically become a member of the forum, and you could see the number of forum members (rise or fall) at the bottom of the page. Despite the amount of money the lads (the dwarves) seemed to be putting into radio ad campaigns on the likes of 4FM (fucking into the bonfire), registration numbers grew in single figures on a daily basis. Nothing had changed at all.

regnumbers
Forum page showing number of forum members (student registrations) on site

The Easter revision courses were going to be six hours long (yes, I said six). Doing one hour long classes presented enough technical challenges for me to have no finger nails remaining, never mind six hour classes. But that’s probably because I am not a techie and was left to fend for myself in the tech department during every broadcast we did. I often wondered would BS spend any time in the studio now that they were doing six hour courses with Ashfield. A pig just flew over my head.

The six hour Easter revision courses kicked off and while the messages on their Facebook page were full of hope, the student registration numbers were full of despair. I thought to myself: ‘these guys are never going to learn’.

eastercourses

Easter came and went and I had no idea how the courses went for the guys. There was a small part of me actually wishing them well. That is until mental images of BS came into my mind. Whenever that happened I would wish them a slow and painful death. The thing is that the teachers delivering these courses were probably some of the best in the country. This had the potential to really work. They needed to get the business model right (freemium) and get BS the hell out of there. No point in having the best teachers in the country if BS was in charge of IT. It’s just not right. It’s like having a Ferrari but only being able to drive it down a boreen (not sure if that’s spelled correctly; I mean a tiny country road with grass in the centre and cow shit everywhere).

The Easter Revision courses ended and there was little activity on the website front for weeks. The Easter Revision wording remained on the homepage for weeks, then months. Indeed, it’s still there, and it’s now July. The days are getting shorter; it will soon be Christmas, and the wording remains. I’d say at this stage he’s leaving it there until next Easter, to save him the work of typing the words ‘Easter’ and ‘Revision’ all over again. There’s a multitude of countries that could be explored in the time it would take him to do this.

Bye Bye OnlineGrinds.ie

Sometime in early May there was a rather timid and meek announcement on the OnlineGrinds.ie Facebook page about Leaving and Junior Cert final revision courses. I don’t think the announcement on Facebook got any likes or shares, not even by the OnlineGrinds.ie staff themselves. The website text about the course was nearly as long as this blog. It mentioned how the maths classes would be free to all (HURRAY, SENSE AT LAST!) and that the rest of the courses would only be €30 each. A friend of mine summed it up beautifully in one sentence “they clearly didn’t make a penny over Easter”.

notification of last minute

I have never seen website wording as apologetic as I did on the homepage in relation to the final revision courses. It was as if OnlineGrinds.ie were indebted to the students in some strange way. The wording was pretty desperate. It went a bit like “if you are not sure that this will help you, try it for free” whereas it should have read “to see why this is the most awesome alternative to traditional grinds, we are giving you a free sneaky peak”. But then again, all the content was coming from BS, and he is no more a marketer than he is a web developer (SL).

The page told you what you’d get if you paid €30. You’d get so much of this, so much of that and so much of the other “for ONLY €30 – it’s a STEAL!” If this didn’t make you wonder “what’s wrong with this service that they have to give away everything so cheaply?” I don’t know what would.

Despite the fact that the lads were virtually paying the students to register on the site, the uptake didn’t seem significant. Single figures increases on a daily basis.

Low on behold on the 24th May 2014, two days before the course was due to start, and a week before the Leaving and Junior Cert exams began, the following announcement was made on their Facebook page:

circumstancesbeyondcontrol

Let’s dissect this for a minute. Let’s pretend you’re a Leaving Cert student, doing your Leaving Cert this year. The fact that there is now more time to ‘roll our some server side updates’ MEANS NOTHING to you. Not only because you haven’t a fucking clue what this means, but also because you are doing your Leaving Cert THIS YEAR, not fucking next year.

If you read into things as deeply as I do (I am the world’s worst for that), would you not wonder why they hadn’t said anything about what was going to happen to students who had already paid? Something along the lines of “we will make full refunds to all students who have already signed up for this course”. Could it be because not one person had actually paid?

The guys cancelled the revision course for one of two reasons, both as plausible as each other: (a) nobody at all signed up for the course or (b) the tech issues were too great to warrant running the courses.

Either way, no final revision for students. Nothing. Zilch. Nada.

One student vented his frustration on Twitter:

twitter

It looked like BS was telling the truth when he said he was very busy all year. So busy that he forgot to change the Twitter wallpaper on the left, which was out of date……….by 16 months.


Next Chapter – Chapter 22: Lessons Learnt, Why The Fuck Did I Write This Blog and What’s Next For Paulie Waulie

Breaking News

Before I bring you tonight’s chapter, I interrupt this blog with some breaking news.

Did anybody notice in yesterday’s chapter that clicking the link to OnlineGrinds.ie brought you to my personal Facebook page?

I think I know what’s happening. It looks like BS has made the kind gesture of putting a redirect on the site so that if you click on an inbound link from my blog to OnlineGrinds.ie, it will redirect you to my personal Facebook page.

Try again here: www.onlinegrinds.ie 

Yep, looks like that will bring you to my Facebook too.

He must be doing this as a way of saying sorry to me for all that’s happened. He probably thinks that I will get more Facebook friends if he redirects people here. How nice of him.

The only thing I would be worried about is that this could appear to be an admission by BS that there is something to hide on the website, and that he doesn’t really want people seeing it. Could it be the Easter wording in July? Your guess is as good as mine.

If you really want to see it, so you can see what he is trying to hide, you can follow these three simple steps:

1. Copy http://www.onlinegrinds.ie

2. Paste into url bar

3. Press enter

It’s a simple as that. Maybe we should have a competition. The first person to spot what BS is trying to hide on the OnlineGrinds.ie website wins a prize! Sound good? Let me think of a prize and get back to you :).

Also, if you want to see my personal Facebook, it’s clearly visible by clicking the link under my mug shot to the top left of the blog. You see the big F? That’s it. And feel free to add me as a friend. I love receiving new friend requests, especially if you are hot.

As a way of saying thanks to BS for bringing people to my personal Facebook, I think it would be only fair to return the favour by directing you to his company Facebook page. Let’s try to get him a few more likes than 26; he does run an IT company after all!

https://www.facebook.com/Sulware

sulware facebook
Screenshot today (just in case he tries to fuck with this link too).

Next Chapter: Chapter 21: From €10 per grind to €75 per grind and Bye Bye OnlineGrinds.ie