Future Imperfect – On Old Moore, Animal Farm, and Murphy's Law

An Irishman’s Diary

The 2022 edition of Old Moore's Almanac is going out on a limb with some of its sports predictions. For one thing, it foresees New Zealand winning the Rugby World Cup in October. That might be a safe bet in 2023, but surely not even the mighty All Blacks can win the competition a year early?

In a similar vein, it has something called “Euro 2022” happening in July. Even allowing that, in a pandemic-maddened world, Euro 2020 didn’t take place until 2021, it seems highly unlikely the organisers will now bring the 2024 tournament forward by two years to compensate.

Even more sensationally, Old Moore tips “Brazil” to win, which would be another first for European football. I wondered if maybe was confusing the Euros with the World Cup, which is indeed scheduled this year.

But as an expert on weather prognostication, he surely knows that the expected temperatures in Qatar prevent the tournament being played in July. It will start instead in late November and finish just before Christmas. By comparison, the almanac's prediction for English Premier League winners (Aston Villa) is only mildly eccentric.

Bushmills whiskey has earned a mention in the latest Private Eye magazine, for an ironically amusing typo on one of its promotional materials

Over in the politics section, meanwhile, “our inhouse (sic) psychic” is on surer ground when predicting “a female Taoiseach...within the next 3 years”. Old Moore’s faithful readers will be relieved to hear that at least the next general election is not coming any sooner than necessary.

Oh well. Prophesy is not an exact science, as I know from experience. Ten years ago, I made a rather reckless forecast that Ireland’s poor start to the Rugby World Cup was about to end in spectacular fashion.

Writing on Friday for Saturday's paper, I predicted: "The hype will probably be mounting again as you read this, after Ireland's stunning victory this morning against Australia, crowned as it was by that last-minute try by Tommy Bowe. "

Over breakfast next morning, unnervingly, I watched Ireland play their opponents off then pitch and lead 15-6 with two minutes left. A stunning victory was already guaranteed, albeit in a try-less game. Then – lo! – as the Australians besieged the Irish line, Bowe intercepted a loose pass and sprinted 99.5m up the pitch.

Just for a moment, I wondered if I had accidentally tapped into genuine psychic talents. But luckily for everyone, James O’Connor caught and flattened Bowe just short of the Australian line.

Otherwise, Old Moore would surely have made me an offer I couldn’t refuse and I would now be the heading up his sports department.

In other new publications, meanwhile, I note that Bushmills whiskey has earned a mention in the latest Private Eye magazine, for an ironically amusing typo on one of its promotional materials. It claims that the distillery has been “Persuing Perfection since 1608”.

The pursuit of perfection is indeed a long-term project, but I suspect the missing "u" in the Bushmills slogan was the same rogue character that turned up around the same time in the Twitter account of People Before Profit/Solidarity TD Paul Murphy.

Arguing for better rules on workplace ventilation last week, Murphy tweeted: “Ireland has laws setting minimum standards for clean air in chicken coups, but nothing for schools, buses, pubs or offices.”

Fans of George Orwell immediately thought of Animal Farm, perhaps the only account in literature of a coup involving chickens. The chickens are not leading figures in the coup, of course: those are mostly pigs, including the sinister Napoleon (which Orwell modelled on Stalin) and his rival Snowball (Trotsky). But as the animals seize the means of production, the output of the poultry section is vital to their success.

It is also central to the big split when Napoleon announces that he needs the eggs to trade with neighbouring farms.

Amid growing anger that the ideals of the revolution are being abandoned, three of the more militant hens – a Trotskyite flying column – become implicated in an attempt to assassinate Napoleon and are executed after a show-trial. After that, hopes for the triumph of world socialism are dashed. But before I could fit any of this into a tweet, Murphy ruined everything by clarifying that he meant “coops”.

Readers will have heard of Murphy’s Law (no relation to the TD, by the way). Less well known is Muphry’s Law, which states infallibly that if you write about other people’s writing mistakes, there will be a mistake in what you have written too. I congratulate in advance the person who has already found mine.