Thursday, October 29, 2009

As Lucky as a Cut Cat - Liam Clancy

'The Yellow Bittern - The life and times of Liam Clancy'.
Outstanding...Raw. Saw it on RTE tonight.Rather different kind of show. Revealing, but believable tale told by Liam Clancy about the Clancy Bros' (and Tommy Makem's) unlikely yet extraordinary success in Show Business. Brilliant footage, open mike.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Mayo and the Titanic - A Tale Worth Telling

My Brother Paul is the local Doctor (GP) in Lahardane, in the parish of Addergoole, in County Mayo, Ireland. It is a 'sleepy hollow' sort of place, an idyllic little village dominated by Nephin mountain to the west and Lough Conn to the east. Aside from his rural GP practice (yes he still does house calls), he has some pretty diverse interests, including volunteering as the Medic on Croagh Patrick each year for the Reek Sunday climb. He is also an avid cross-country walker, hiking up Nephin mountain or re-tracing the pathways of the ancient cattle-drover trails between Belmullet and Newport. Of course, needless to say, his activities have always provided me with plenty of fodder for my 'Blog from the Bog'

Anyway, for more than twenty years now, Paul has been researching a long-forgotten story about a group of fourteen emigrants from his parish, who went to America in 1912. He first heard of it from a very old patient of his, who before he died, recounted to Paul his personal memories of the people involved. He told Paul an astonishing tale of a group of brave young emigrants from Addergoole who just happened to sail to America on the Titanic! Go Figure, what were the odds on that? Only three of the fourteen from Addergoole survived Titanic's sinking and for nearly a hundred years only those families directly involved had any memory of this calamitous event. For the rest of the community, it was just too painful, too tragic and they stoically put it behind them as they struggled to move on with their lives.

Now Paul and a group of like-minded individuals from Mayo hope to commemorate the story of these tragic emigrants and build a fitting memorial to them, in time for the centenary of the Titanic's sinking, in 2012.

I helped them to create a web site to tell this extraordinary story and to provide some background for anyone interested in the history of emigration from Mayo and Ireland. Researching their story transported me to a different Ireland, an Ireland ravaged by famine, poverty, rebellion, politics, land-agitation and persecution, but under-pinned by people whose courage, faith, pride, hope and ambition never deserted them despite the hardships they endured.

Working on this project helped me realise how much Ireland has changed, how really fortunate we are to lead such un-troubled lives nowadays and how much we now take for granted.

I hope you find a moment to look through the web site and read about these fourteen ambitious young people and their eventual sad fate. If you do enjoy a good story and have an empathy to their tale, please pass it on to others who may enjoy it too.

So! Are you up for a challenge?
How many people from Mayo do you know? How many people do you know with at least 1 Mayo Connection? (Parent, Grand-parent, Cousin, Friend, An 'in-law', whatever?) How many of them would be interested to hear about a true tale of Hope, Heart and Heart-break?

A story so moving, everyone who ever left Mayo for a better life abroad should cherish and tell their children and grand-children! Can we put Addergoole and this astonishing Titanic Tale on the map? Can we get a few thousand hits on this week? Please tell your Mayo Connections to visit the web site or to visit their Facebook Page. or both!

You could even join their mailing list and come along and ring the bells in Lahardane on the anniversary each April 15, at 2.20am!

Now that's another story well worth telling!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Death, the leveller

Please say a prayer for the young man who was killed just 300 metres from our front door this morning. A fine young man, just up for the night from Tipperary for a friend's 21st party at the Barna Golf Club. It seems sometime after 2.30am, he walked out on the back bog road, as I have done a hundred times, the better to enjoy the spectacular view across the bay, or perhaps the extraordinary sight of a sparkling Jupiter, reflecting on the bay below, luminescent under a clear sky and a pale, waxing moon...when suddenly, Death, 'the leveller', in the guise of a powerful car driven by an over-confident young driver, on what should have been an empty bog-road, swooped down on our little patch of bog and snatched a boy's future.

Poof, gone in a second, the boreen gouged by parallel skid-marks, a banged-up car in the ditch, two frightened fugitives running from the scene, an ordinary reaction to an unfortunate incident, but for the crumpled body half-hidden in the still-purple heather on the side of the road, patethic, alone, for nought all the time his mother doted on him, his dad dreamed for him, his friends wished for him, bang, gone forever, all for nought, just a void left behind, un-fettered grief for his family and friends, the weight of ramifications yet to come for the driver, and here, in our house, our little outpost on the heights overlooking Lough Inch and Galway bay, a lost innocence tonight and maybe forever.

From the RTE News website. 'Two people who were questioned after a 19-year-old man was killed in a crash in Co Galway have been released. A file has been prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions. The young man was struck by a vehicle on the Moycullen to Barna Road, near the junction of Paddy's Cross. He was pronounced dead shortly before 4.20am. The road was closed for a time closed for a forensic investigation. Gardaí in Salthill have appealed for anyone with information relating to the incident to contact Salthill Garda Station on 091 514720 or the Garda Confidential Line on 1800 666 111.'

Air dheis De go raibh a h-Anam Dilis!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

September 11 on Galway Bay

9/11/2009; 11am. Salthill, Galway, Ireland;
I was stopped in my tracks this morning as I passed through Salthill, by the extraordinary view of a 10 km long, 200 metre-high, wall of white sea-mist being forced back across Galway Bay and onto the Burren hills by a surprising scirocco of sultry September sunshine, refracting on a crystal blue sea and firmament. Mother Nature has sent us a truly spectacular reminder of how beautiful the world can be, and what such a moment is for, a testament to life and the passing of a cloud.
Stop and stare. Close mouth. Breathe. Remember. Hmmm!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Irish Airspace invaded

Tonight, July 15, my ten year old son and I watched in awe as the space shuttle Endeavour passed over our house at 11.23pm, Irish time, just 20 minutes flying time from Florida to Galway Bay - Now that's the way to travel, eh!

Suddenly there it was, a brilliant bright star, hurtling along, huge really, and closely paralleled by the glowing orange fuel tank, they appeared together over the Aran Islands, rocketing eastwards towards us across a midnight blue sky, a comet among stars, breath-taking! And we think we saw them jettison the boosters just after it passed us, fireworks as we turned to follow its flight path. What Timing! Oh boy, Endeavour was really shifting as it crossed from horizon to horizon. In just about 2 minutes flat it was gone, leaving us both open-mouthed, stunned, privileged. Whooooey!!! You had to be there! Just the two of us, dad and 10 year-old son, on our little rock out on the bog in Barna, in the silent pitch-dark night - star-gazing! What a thrill! Absolutely priceless.
Thank you America. Good luck Endeavour.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Permission to dream

Spirit of Ireland - Energy independence anyone?
Check out

This is one very ambitious though that I believe makes a whole lot of sense!

Mind you, for Ireland this is a bit like a JFK 'Man on the Moon' moment! What I mean is whoever would've thought that such a nutty ambition would succeed in 1967? Men on the moon indeed! Or who could have foreseen that building the Hoover Dam would lead America, and the whole world, out of a 15-year depression?

Whoever would believe that we could create a water-filled valley in the west and use wind-power to constantly keep the water levels pumped up, while on the other hand using the stored sea-water to generate Hydro-electricity on demand! No pollution, no oil, no gas...just green energy, all day long, for free. (other than the capital development cost of course, which might be $30 Billion or so!). Not to mention the new aquaculture and tourism industries that would be supported by such a project!

Could Ireland really become a net exporter of energy within ten years using wind energy and hydro-electric power generation? Pipe Dreams perhaps? (no not pipelines....! pipes, sorry to be so politically un-PC) Or are we so afraid to fight for our own destiny, that we are waiting for our politicians to lead us forward!! Some hope that! (Actually there must be something good about this when our politicians have run a mile from it! Perhaps they have finally reached the Peter Principle of Politics....another pipe dream I'm afraid).

I know one of the Spirit of Ireland promoters, a really solid guy, not given to flights of fancy!Inspirational goals, charismatic leaders with humble personal aspirations, socially responsible, nationalistic, sustainable, creative, meaningful, achievable, renewable, green.
A clatter of clever cliches.

So why then are we becalmed, procrastinating in the doldrums...waiting for the other shoe to fall? Kerry, Galway, Mayo, Leitrim, Sligo, Donegal all stand to gain from this.

Jobs, industry, cheaper electricity, a future for our there's a dream. Permission to dream?

Feel free to make a comment.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Scattering

I was listening to an interesting program on the radio last week about how an enterprising undertaker in Kerry was offering a novel service to Americans. Seems, anyone wishing to have their loved one’s ashes scattered in Ireland after their deaths, could contact him, and for a fee, he would carry out a suitably dignified, ashes-scattering service at the venue of their choice, Skellig Michael, Mount Brandon, The Lakes of Killarney, the Rock of Cashel etc.

I can only imagine if that became popular practice amongst the 40 million or so Irish-Americans, that pretty soon the whole island would be covered in a pile of ashes taller than the cliffs of Moher. A journey in the future to Ireland would more resemble a scene from Cormac McCarthy's 'The Road', than a walk through the beautiful verdant Irish country-side.

Anyway it reminded me of a story I had heard several years ago, from a friend of mine, let’s call him Brian, who worked in a 'public services' office in Galway, on the west coast of Ireland. It took several rounds of Arthur Guinness to extract the whole story from Brian, but I thought it well worthwhile, and it went something like this.

One day Brian received in the post (mail) a 'package' that was postmarked from a small town in a mid-western US state.

It was simply addressed to 'The Manager', Galway Bay, Galway, Ireland. How it ended up on his desk is anyone's guess, probably the postman’s idea of a joke, but being of a curious nature he opened it up. Inside the package was what looked like a good sized ornamental tin 'cigar' box and an envelope containing 2 x $100 bills, with an accompanying note.

'Dear Manager.

Sorry to bother you with this but perhaps you can help me. My late husband 'Patrick Naughton’ used to say he was from Galway, though I always figured him for a Canadian, you know, like one of those bearded fishing folks from Newfoundland that talk funny, 'cause when I met him that time in Las Vegas, right after my first husband passed, I hardly understood a word he said. What a brogue he had! Reminded me of my grandmother Kathleen Murphy, from Cork. Melted my heart and swept me right off my feet, he did.

Anyway, he always used to say that when he died, he wanted to be buried in Ireland. He'd sing what he called rebel songs when he had drink on him, which was often enough, and at the end of each song he'd shout something about his ‘Boss Inerin’, or ‘Erin’, I think it was, as I said, he had a thick brogue.

Now that I think of it, isn't Erin a girl's name in Ireland? He must have loved working for her anyway, the number of times he’d call her name, not that I was jealous mind. Funny thing was I don't believe he ever told me that he had worked for any woman unless you count that sneaky supervisor he had when he was a working in the power plant in Springfield, but her name wasn't Erin, it was Delores, and she wasn't even nice, or Irish.

Anyway, that’s how I'm sending you this letter, as I would love to honor his last wishes. Problem is, I am retired now and living off social security and I cannot afford to ship his casket all the way to Ireland and then pay for a flight for me and my fiancée (we never did have any kids, Pat and I, oh, and did I mention I was getting hitched again, Larry is such a gentleman, a little old, but a gentleman and a lawyer to boot. I met him in ‘Vegas too, isn’t that a co-incidence).

Anyway, my Pat, well he never was a good traveller when he was alive, so rather than ship his casket home, I had him cremated and I'd really like it if you could arrange for his ashes (see enclosed urn) to be scattered on Galway Bay, 'cause he loved that song so much. I hope the small donation I have enclosed will cover any costs.

Thanks in advance for your kind help.

Kathy Naughton.

PS. And will you please let Erin know he passed away. I feel I owe her that much.

Well, after my friend Brian’s initial shock, needless to say, he wanted nought to do with Pat’s ashes, so he decided it might be a good job to delegate, as any good manager should, and present the problem elsewhere.

Now down in the City Clerk's office, worked a drinking buddy of Brian’s, Sean Galvin. He was in charge of ‘Public Works’, whatever that entailed, but he was known to be a man that ‘got things done’. Over a pint Brian explained his dilemma to Sean. He was not interested at first, but agreed to help out, as he felt it was the least he could do for a fellow Galwegian. (if that's indeed what the said Paddy Naughton was?).

They figured that he'd give the cigar box and $100 to his yard foreman and that he would look after the scattering. The other $100 they both agreed would go into the reserve kitty in O’Connell’s Select Bar, on Eyre Square for supplication for themselves, given the 'trauma' this dilemma had already caused they. They thought they deserved that much at least for their trouble. Little did they know!

About three weeks later, on the last Friday of the month, as was their wont, the two friends met for pints around five at O’Connell’s. Sean from the City Clerk’s office was in a black mood. 'What's the matter, Sean?' Brian asked, after the first quaff of liquid black had quenched his thirst. Silence, and a glare that would freeze blood from Sean.

Brian sidestepped Sean’s ignoring of the question and after a few more sips of his pint, he tackled Sean again.

'Tell me, did ya ever get that Yank's ashes scattered’? 'Don't ever feckin' mention ashes to me again' Sean muttered, burying himself again in his rapidly dwindling pint, while gesturing to the barman for another round. Eventually, over the course of a firkin or two of Arthur's best, his mood lightened and he told Brian this tale of woe.

'Like we agreed Brian, I gave the box with Naughton’s ashes and one of the two $100 bills to Mick, the foreman down in the City Corporation Maintenance yard. He and two of the yardmen decided it would be only proper and fitting to do the scattering of the ashes off of the end of Nimmo's pier, over in the Claddagh, since the City don't actually have a boat for our use and anyway, technically speaking, Nimmo's pier sticks out into Galway Bay albeit at the mouth of the Corrib, so it would fulfil the widows wishes if the ashes were scattered on Galway Bay from there.'

'Smart plan' Brian agreed. 'Yes', he replied, 'Smart plan indeed, unless you take Murphy's Law into account.' 'Murphy, what’s he got to do with this? I always thought he was an optimist’, Brian said.'So what went wrong?'

'Mick and the two lads waited 'till early Friday afternoon, to go down to the pier, judging rightly that they'd best wait on the tide to turn before committing Patrick Naughton’s ashes to the sea. Well on the way over to Nimmo's Pier, naturally they decided to stop for one quick pint at Kelly's pub, just over the bridge at the Claddagh, in order that they would get into the spirit of things first, y'know.

Well one thing led to another and before long, over the half of the men from the Claddagh were over in Kelly’s with them, reminiscing on this 'Paddy' that they never knew, but sorta remembered, if you catch my drift. Sure with a name like Naughton, he surely had to have been an O’Neachtain that got his name changed at Ellis Island to Naughton, and since Neachtain was common enough locally, he had to have come from the Claddagh they reasoned.

Stories were told, deeds recounted and songs were sung. The pints and half-ones were flying and pretty soon a proper Irish wake was well in progress.

Mick decided at around 6 o'clock, (about when they had finished drinking the $100), that the time had come for the scatterin' ceremony which they had decided would be all the more poignant with a backdrop of the now setting sun over the bay, just like in Pat’s favourite song.

Mick, flanked by one of the Claddaghmen playing a well-tarnished bugle that he had kept from when he used play in the St. Pats Brass band, looked rather like the pied piper, carrying the tiny casket tenderly in his huge hands, as he led a motley knot of men and women out onto the long Victorian-era pier, right to the end where the fish-laden Hookers and Gleoteogs, the boats the Claddagh fishermen liked to sail, used tie off in days gone by.

Many of the cortege were weeping, some of them were linking arms, most were swaying a little, probably from the combined effects of the Guinness and the evening wind that was gusting intermittently from the city side, perfect for casting the ashes off the pier and scattering it westwards over the bay and into the setting sun. Some had started singing a sea shanty, you know, the one with the chorus, ‘…just tell me old shipmates I’ve taken a trip mates, and I’ll see you some day on fiddlers green.’

Once they had reached the end of the pier, Mick quieted them down and gathered them in a tight group where he led them all in a decade of the rosary. ('Sorrowful Mysteries' of course). One of the older ladies present followed with a long litany of saints and ancestors ‘as gaeilge’ (in Irish) that would embarrass a bishop, before finally Mick called them to order and set the tin box down on top of one of the big stone tie-off bollards to open it up.

The lid of the tin box however had been mechanically cinched closed, and he could not open it with his hand, so he asked if any of the Claddaghmen had a knife he could borrow, in order to prise the box containing the ashes, open.

Well everyone knows that no self-respecting Claddagh fisherman would ever lend another his knife, for no good would ever come of it. One man had a knife, a lethal looking thing about 8’’ long, that had filleted many a fish in its day, but he was reluctant to share it. Mick persisted, asking him again to hand him the knife, and leaning into him in a manner that could be mistaken for a threat.

So the man with the knife, one of the Lydons, you know him, the big red-haired fellah with the glass eye, well he takes out this big knife out of his boot and goes to grab the box from Mick to do the opening himself. Well one thing led to another and while the bugler continued sounding a staccato version of 'The Queen of Connemara' the two big men grappled each other for the box and for the knife.

The outcome was as predictable as it was inevitable. Almost simultaneously, the knife was driven deep into Mick's arm, splashing blood on half a dozen onlookers. And the tin box, well having been squeezed so hard by both men in the melee, it suddenly burst open at the bottom seam and the ashes, a really fine turf-ash powder I'm told, exploded all over the two men and aided by a sudden strong gust of contrary westerly wind, the fine ash cloud completely engulfed the entire group on the pier.
A flailing pandemonium ensued, all beautifully back-lit by the deep orange glow from the now sinking sun further out the bay by the Aran Islands.Amid all the confusion, the shouting, the spitting and the coughing, Mick, blinded by the ashes and wounded by the knife, steps back with a roar and topples arse-first into Mairtin Flaherty's recently renovated Naomhog, another type of small fishing boat from the Claddagh, that was tethered to a bouy at the base of the pier.
Well Mick weighs in at 161/2 stone and the Naomhog's new ribs were no match for the sudden weight of the unexpected passenger's derriere. He went clean through the floor of the boat, jamming tight at his arm-pits and knees. (Just as well I suppose as had he landed in the water he would surely have drowned in the gloaming twilight).

Such was the impact when he landed that the mooring rope holding the boat to the pier snapped and the now bunged-up Naomhog floated swiftly out into the strong Corrib current and aided by the ebbing tide, Mick was already half way to Salthill by the time anyone noticed he was missing.

The Claddaghmen meantime, all fired up and covered in this white dust, were simultaneously disgusted and blinded. In Mick's absence, for no one saw him fall in the ash-cloud, they started first to lay into the one-eyed Lydon, before a general all-out row started, pitting family against family at the end of the pier. Mick’s two yardmen and several of the Claddagh women ended up in a hand-bag and hair-pulling row over whether the blood from Mick's wound could carry Aids or the ashes from America might give them all SARs or Asbestosis or worse!

To add to the fracas a flotilla of the famous Claddagh swans and ducks converged on the group thinking that feeding time had come in the shape of the falling ash, and as luck would have it, they were aggressively hungry and went about pecking at every crotch that came within range, as only a swan can. Not to be outdone two rival skirmishing flocks of seagulls and pigeons descended on the group from their roosting places on the Spanish Arch and pretty soon the melee on the pier looked rather like a scene from a remake of Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds’.

Well it took a dozen Gardai, the Galway Lifeboat, two Fire tenders, four Ambulances and a traffic warden nearly 3 hours to clear the crowd, rescue Mick and restore the peace. It made the papers in New York and the evening news in London.

Mick hasn't been to work since that evening and neither have the two yard men. Several of the Claddagh folk have lawyered-up and are threatening to sue for damages. The City Corporation have received complaints from the Department of Health and Safety, the Amalgamated Union of Corporation Employees, The Funeral Directors association, The Environmental Protection Agency, The Hooker Preservation Society, the Swan Rescue Society, Birdwatch Ireland, the Claddagh Community Council and An Taisce.

And just this week the Mayor of the City received a letter from a certain lawyer in Las Vegas representing the grieving widow of Patrick O'Neachtain, (yes, the spelling of the last name had been altered to the vernacular), filing suit for twenty million dollars in damages for 'careless loss of a loved ones remains and reckless disregard to the wishes of the bereaved widow, Caitlin ni Neachtain.’
So, next time someone suggests to you the idea that you might bring their ashes to somewhere 'meaningful' to be scattered, remember this tale, take a spade out to the garden, turn a sod and plant them right there where they can do no more damage and maybe even fertilise your cabbages.'

Oh, and before you ask, Brian and Sean don’t meet for pints anymore!

The Scattering. Mylesnag – May 31, 2009.
Do feel free to leave a comment and thanks for reading!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Grand National

My dad raced Greyhounds, so I was introduced to the concept of racing and betting from early on. Then my grandfather, Boss Brody, at 85 years old, took me, some of my sisters and brothers and my mum racing to the Galway Plate day in the Galway Races summer meeting in 1966, and from then on, the racing bug was well and truly rooted in me. He showed me how to compare the odds on the Totalisator (Tote, Paramutual) and those being offered by the Bookies in the ring, the first true supply and demand market I ever encountered. In fact I would say that the very best bookies would put actuaries in the shade when it comes to computing and predicting probability. gambling on horses is not at all unlike gambling on the stock-market. Winners and losers all add up to a collective market, one where the Bookies hold the advantage, but where every individual investor/gambler has as good a chance of winning any race. Why else is the Daily Numbers game (racket) in New York predicated on the last 3 digits of the Dow Jones? Intertwined inextricably!

The Grand National race was a standard in our house (and dare I say, in almost every house in Ireland and Britain), being marked on the new year's calendar before even our birthdays were.

It was the common man's race, where long-odds horses had every chance, given the random nature of fallers over 30 fences, where favourites and outsiders alike fell foul to the daunting array of ditches and fences over the fabled 41/2 miles circuit of Aintree. Unlike their behaviour when setting starting prices and odds for regular racing, the book-makers (bookies) take Aintree's randomness into account when setting the odds and freely profer favourites at as much as 8/1, while outsiders are relatively uncapped in their potential being freely offered at 100 and 200/1. There was a silver lining too for the amateur wagererers, in that the bookies paid out 1/4 of the odds on the horse that places 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and even on the 5th place horse, if there were more than 40 horses starting the race. In one year there were 66 declared starters. It resembled the charge of the Light Brigade more than you can imagine. In another year, only 2 horses finished!

Little old ladies and parsimonious priests, savvy bankers and penny-pinching pensioners all would have had the same newspapers spread open at the racing page on the breakfast table. In our house, about as far removed a house from racehorses as you'd be likely to get in Ireland, the favoured method of choosing the 3 or 4 horses our family would back, was the darning needle on a thread, divining the winners while wearing blinkers. 'Birdie' Sheridan who had worked in England during the war years, and now was our housekeeper, was particularly adept at tea-leaf reading in order to come up with her selection, and my dad, the conservative and sagacious school-master, while eschewing the less scientific methods of handicapping, would suddenly announce a horse's name, as if by divine intervention he had had the winner's name revealed to him. His selection was always mysterious and we were wont to follow his morning with particular attention, hoping to see the source of his Oracle. Others looked at the horses name and went on that.

This year Good Will attracted the attention of everyone called Bill, Will, Willie, Billy, William, some 500,000 in the UK alone. All lost! Others see salvation in the Racing Form, a paper printed by Bookies, sure to mislead and flatters to deceive! Hard to condemn it though! Finally, when all else fails my Grandfather swore by Old Moores Almanac, where amongst the crop recommendations, bull pedigrees and the weather forecast, there was always a cryptic prognostication on the National's future winner.

All around these islands, pauper and peer alike spent the morning hours in various conclaves, swapping tips and sowing doubts, recklessly declaring undying devotion to a given trainer, while secretly coveting another trainers horse. Jockeys I seem to remember featured large in this lottery too, those knavish mountbanks on whose skill and tenacity our 2/6 would ride. many favoured the one or two Greys who would be declared for the race. Greys seemingly are lucky, though I cannot remember a Grey winner of the Grand National since I first started watching it on TV in 1967. Red Rum, won it three times out of five attempts in the 70's, winning it in 1973, 1974 and 1977. (he was second in '75 and '76). Red Alligator won it in 1971. wasnt my favourite colour, but I saw a trend!

Other punters favoured the Queen's horses, given that common wisdom had it that the owner with the most money had the best horses. It wasn't the Queen actually owned the horses, but the Queen Mother, but as one of our jockeys, now turned racing commentator said when reviewing a horses form on live TV a few years back, 'I rode her and I rode her mother, both great rides'! Anyway, not so, the poor Queen Mother has never won the National, though she did own Devon Loch who was leading the race with a furlong to go when his legs gave out.

'Course, when an outsider horse does win there is a rush to the bookies for the pay-out as many times in the past, when an outsider has won, particularly with local connections, the punters arrived to find the bookie had taken flight overnight. One local Loughrea legend has several Turf Accountants (Irish pseudonym for Bookie) go to the wall overnight, having taken many bets on a horse called Foinavon in 1967, at starting odds of 100/1. There was some connection to Foinavon's racing stable living in our town at the time and many of our neighbors were on insider information about this 100/1 'Sure Cert'. At the Chair, the largest of the fences at the end of the second circuit, 2 loose horses upset the entire field and some 16 horses refused to jump the fence, many of them dislodging their hapless jockeys into the ditch. While many remounted and re-jumped the Chair, Foinavon was unperturbed from his position at the rear of the field. He went around the melee, jumped the Chair first time and finished a clear winner. No one got paid-out in Loughrea though as the local Bookie was on a plane to the US that night.

I knew him well in later life, a real gambler, still game for any sport, no matter the odds. He worked in B. Altman and never missed Saratoga. He was just playing with bookies money, not unlike our current crop of Bank executives. Didn'tt make him a bad guy I suppose, but it does bear out your statement, 'attending a horse race without placing a bet is an utter waste of time'.

At four-thirty on National Saturday the entire country stops. Ordinary folks had already downed tools, taking advantageous positions around TV's and radios in homes and businesses across Ireland and Britain. Bated breath punctuated by ooohs and aaahs as faller after faller spelled the end of another lottery hope. Then the final cheer after the Chair and the long run on to the finish line. 100/1 Mon Mome. What a winner!

I had looked through the field looking for a French connection, as my wife and a friend were in Paris last weekend. So I backed L'ami, over Mon Mome, he had better credentials, that friend did, but hey what do you know, Lami pulled up at the Chair! Mon Mome, with a female trainer who broke her neck riding in the National 10 years ago, and a female owner who is a professional Bridge player, won by a street with a jockey with bad teeth. Now who'd a thunk! How you gonna win?

My brother worked with GE in Schenectady and lived in Galway, NY, just south of Saratoga. he had us up to the Saratoga races twice in the 90's and we really loved it. It is the race meeting most akin to the one my grandfather took us to in Galway, Ireland and thus is my favourite New York track. Sorry Belmont just doesn't cut it, no class, no style, and no winners! There was however a consolation prize there in Cohan's Parting Glass Bar, and the songs of Maura O'Connell, but that story is for another day!
The Grand National - Mylesnag, April 30, 2009
Do feel free to leave a comment - in fact please do!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Shattered Crystal, Broken Dreams

How sad is the ongoing Waterford Crystal debacle?

Mind you Waterford were never easy to deal with. It is no secret that they treated shops and outlets who sold their brands in Ireland and in the US, with complete disdain most of the time. Those same shops were selling container-loads of glass annually, one stem at a time, to ordinary moms and pops across America. It is disgraceful really how the shops were treated, but they put up with it because it was 'Waterford' and they were 'privileged' to be allowed to represent it.

World recession aside, how Waterford came to be in such dire finances is beyond me. Anyone there ever heard of dropping prices to compete and trade their way out of trouble? Or would that have undermined such a top-shelf international brand? We will never know now, will we? The boffins in Wall, NJ and the number crunchers in Waterford have co-incided tragically, blinkers on and choked the goose that laid the crystal egg.

I believe the demand for their traditional crystal brands is still there. Lismore is still the market leader. Waterford could have easily appealed to the customer goodwill out there, especially in the US if they had used their heads and their contacts, and maybe admitted that yes, the Irish and the Irish-American public loved them, and made them the success they were.

But no, Waterford had their head in the sand, pun intended, pretending that their success had nothing at all to do with the traditional Irish lace-curtain values, pride in heritage and patriotism. Those same Waterford collectors could yet save them if approached sympathetically.

Pity about this is that the brand is so iconic and so potentially viable in the long term, now to be just a memory, or a trophy traded by Clarion Capital, or some other such opportunistic trader. They got Wedgewood and Royal Doulton as a package with Waterford. thats like getting a latter day Louis Vuioton for a cent on the dollar. Fair play to them I suppose, for siezing the opportunity, but all those skilled folks out of a job, their pensions up in smoke and the shares, worthless. For Shame.

the Irish Government perhaps rightfully refused to be drawn in and offer a rescue package for the factory in Waterford. They saw the O'Reilly consortium plough millions in without arresting the decline...of the group. Waterford Crystal on its own is a different prospect. The skillsets that were built up over generations have now been dumped. yes the apprentice system and the mastercutter class cost a lot of money, but it worked and the product was just fine. Now within a ten-year, we will be bereft of these skills, left without any trace it had ever happened and no control over our patriotic brands, Lismore, Powerscourt, Kenmare, Kilbarry and Hibernia.

Sir Tony O'Reilly may indeed have been at the helm when Waterford's ship struck the reef and he has to regret that role and share the blame, but I would include management (unimpressive and unresponsive) and the unions (irresponsible) equally in the blame-game, for letting things get so out of hand. Pride comes before the fall they say. The Waterford Crystal Ball has well and truly fallen in Times Square, perhaps for the last time.
Dairygolds Demise - inevitable evolution, bad management or worse?
Does anyone think it odd that Kerry Co-op have snapped up all of Dairygold's consumer brands on the cheap (€140 million, some €25 million less than book-value last year), while Dairygold was being managed by Jerry Henchy, a former senior Kerry Co-op Executive?

Henchy, colloquially known as 'Hatchet Henchy' for his penchant for trimming costs, was head-hunted from Kerry Co-op by Dairygold's Board of Directors, as their new CEO, some 6 years ago. He was fired last week under mysterious circumstances from his CEO post in Dairygold, having already been let go from REOX, a mutant Dairygold subsidiary in January 2009. Henchy is now rumoured to be in receipt of a €3 million golden-boot payment from Dairygold, having led that Co-op to near bankruptcy during the Celtic Tiger boom. If that exit payment is even half that much, then at the very least Dairygold owe a full explanation of his sacking and remuneration to their 10,000 shareholders.

In the 6 years since he was appointed boss of Dairygold. Henchy has presided over the effective emasculation of Dairygold, the pride of the Golden Vale co-operatives. He has eliminated most of their production capacity, laid off 2/3rds of their employees and run up extra-ordinary debt under the subsidiary company, REOX Holdings, where net debt rose from €21 million to €148 million in the year to September 2008. Dairygold's own debt has risen by 95% to €70 million in the same period. Henchy's final act as CEO was selling off Dairygold's valuable consumer brands to their arch-competitor and his former employer, Kerry Co-op, at a discount after the competition authority held up the deal for 12 months. Dairygold last week announced a cut in milk prices paid to their farmer/suppliers just when rumours are rife that Dairygold is insolvent and may be taken over by the banks.

The whole ethos of the Irish Farmers Co-operative Society movement is demeaned by this debacle, which seems to have had the active approval of Dairygold's Board of Directors, most of whom have been in office since before Henchy's appointment as CEO. Call a spade a spade here.

Perhaps he is just the 'patsy' for a failed power trip by Dairygold's Board of Directors? Most other large Co-ops have 'gone public' and the resultant rise in share values has helped farmers survive.

Dairygold's shareholders look like they will be left with nothing but debt! Some questions need to be asked, and answered;

Why was Henchy sacked and why was he paid a lump sum from Dairygold and/or REOX?
Have Deloitte and Touche, Dairygold's auditors, any comment on this? (They were after all the shareholder's watchdog agency during Henchy's 6-year tenure as CEO of Dairygold and REOX). Do the Banks now effectively own Dairygold?
What is their position as regards the Board of Directors of Dairygold?
Does the Minister for Agriculture, Brendan Smith, endorse what has happened to one of the 5 biggest players in Ireland's agri-sector?
Is the Junior Minister for Agriculture, Ned O'Keeffe, himself a substantial Dairygold shareholder and supplier, satisfied with Dairygold's current state of affairs?
Is the Competition Authority really satisfied that Kerry Co-op's owning so much of the nations food brands is a good thing?
Are Dairygold's 10,000 farmers-shareholders satisfied that their interests as Shareholders and as Co-op members, have been well served by Dairygold's Management and Board of Directors?

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Best Begging Letter Ever

You are probably like me, receiving dozens of unsolicited begging e-mails every week, mostly from shady characters with poor grammar from sub-saharan Africa. However, I have noticed a new kid on the beggar's block recently, one who stands out from the crowd. I love this guy...his name is Muda. (see his most recent missive to me below) it's his best effort yet.

Such drama, such compassion, such creativity, such greed! A complete change from the usual jailed Nigerian Finance Minister's daughter, or Ghanian plane-crash victim's unclaimed funds. Muda has moved to complete new territory and introduced a whole new set of villians and victims, princes and paupers. This could be a thriller novel or even a movie the way he writes. It set me thinking on a new project!

I am seriously considering compiling the 'Best Begging Letters Ever' from all around the world, not just Nigeria and Ghana. I might publish the book under the same title. I think it would make for some really interesting reading and feel it would be a best-seller. Just think, it is bound to lift everyones hearts, what with this recession thing and everyone losing their money, we all need a glimmer of hope. What could be more hopeful than a 'Beggar'? They are ever hopeful, posess an ever optimistic nature and never accept rejection. A book on this subject would make a hot pick on Oprah. It could be a must-read bible in every Bathroom in the developed, now decimated world.

What do you think? I only need about a hundred grand advance to get started. Any Angel Investor out there? Publisher? Entrepreneur? Banker? I will share the royalties!If you are interested I will send my trusted aide and guard to pick up the cash (sorry, I don't accept checks). You will know him when he calls...he blocks most of the light in any standard front door.

From: Muda <>Sent: Thu, 2 Apr 2009 12:55 am
Subject: Investment of $25 Million USD in your Country.

I am contacting you via your email address because of the urgent need to keep this discussions and further actions private and confidential between both of us alone. Therefore, i solicit for your reliable assistance in the collection and investment of my funds.

I am Muda Hakeem, from the sultanate of Brunei in South East Asia. I want you to visit the websites below for a better insight and understanding into what necessitated my contacting you:-

As you may know from the international media above, the sultan had accused my father of financial mismanagement and impropriety running into Billion of dollars of state funds. The economic set back in Brunei was as a result of the Asian financial crisis that made my our firm Amedeo Development Company (i was Managing Director) and government owned Brunei Investment Company (controlled by my father) to be declared bankrupt during my fathers tenure in office.

However my father was falsely accused by the Sultan of financial misappropriation and in year 2000 a Brunei court ordered the seizure of all our bank accounts and private properties including a crude oil export refinery which where all confiscated by the sultanate. In May 2006, Prince Jefri lost an appeal to retain our properties, assets and Bank accounts which the sultan and security operatives wants forfeited to the government. During this unfortunate period I was still serving as Managing Director of my fathers own firm, Amedeo Development Company. I was advised to evacuate my immediate family outside the sultanate to avoid further prosecution from the sultan and his security operatives, but before I could do that I was placed under house arrest via a Court Order of which i was named co-defendant.

Before my arrest, I went ahead to dispatch some funds US$500 Million under special diplomatic arrangement. The money where packaged into metallic trunk Boxes and deposited in various Warehouses abroad for safe keeping abroad. Hence, I seek your good assistance to invest these funds deposited in various Bonded Warehouse into profitable investment in your country to facilitate future survival for my family abroad. My trusted aid and guard is still loyal to me, he would be my contact if there is any document I need to send to you which would enable you collect the boxes of money on my behalf.

The purpose of my contacting you is because you live in a country with a stable economy where one can invest. On receipt of your response after which we shall discuss in details the modalities for seeing this project through. If however, you are not disposed to assist, kindly forward to a reliable associate or relative or friend whom you deem fit to rescue this transaction from total loss if the location of the funds are discovered by security operatives.

I am counting on your absolute confidentiality, transparency, honesty and trust while looking forward to your prompt reply towards a swift conclusion of this proect. If you cant assist me please forward to any of your family relatives OR business associate who can render me this service.

I await your Urgent Reply.

Best Regards,

Monday, March 9, 2009

You have to remember I was a member of the F C A, ( secret service division )

Yes, It is true, I used to love being out on the range near Athlone with the FCA, hefting our heavy Lee Enfield, Mark 111, 3o3 rifles down to the firing line, 300 yards, being issued with the coveted rounds, shiny brass cylinders, topped with so-sharp too-pretty bullets, waiting your turn to shoot. Then, you are up, safety on, loading the rounds into the z-sprung magazine, unlocking and locking the bolt onto the first round, safety off, lying prone as the officer barks out the command, 'Gasrai, gasrai, aire, at your targets in front, in your own, time, 5 rounds, rapid fire.'

I have 2 trophies for winning western division gunnery competitions, from a long way back, but the memory, is just like yesterday....that gun, my gun, the worn stock, polished mahogany nestled against your jaw and mouth, your nose smelling traces of trench-smells in exotic killing grounds like the Somme and Ypres, waiting for the mist to clear, peering over the parapet through the raised sights, sensing the wind, easing the trigger back at the end of an expelled breath, the accurate tight grouping on the dim silouhette target, second pressure, BANG!

Jeez, you'd be deaf as a post afterwards and the bruise on your clavicle, and the weight of the thing, the physicality, the smell of cordite in your nostrils and the metallic taste in your mouth, and the piercing hammer-bells in your ears, and then, afterwards, the ritual comfort of pouring 8 pints of boiling water through the barrell. 'Same amount of boiling water as blood in your body, Private', wondering how they did that in 1917 in a filthy trench with no electric kettle and afterwards, the oiled pull-through string and wad, stowed in your tunic pocket, like a scapular!

And then the feed, in Kinsellas Hotel, awkward in our uniforms, snake-guard high boots, laced to the top, air eagla na h-eagla agus na peist, the never ending laces drooping like anacondas below our football socks, hardly camoflage colours but stopped the chaffing, our appetites too young to join Eamon and Tom in topping up the bill with Guinness. Imagine looking forward to sharing two weeks in a tent full of over-sexed cadets, amid the sand-dunes at Finner, just so we could fire the Gustav Machine, the Bren Gun and the Energa Grenade. 17 year old Boys playing WW1 soldiers, with real 1918 rifles and real bullets in Ireland in the 1970's.

Y'know....watching all the bang bang movies, you know that the action is fake...there is no way that anyone can function with the bells ringing in your ears and the recoil...then one day we had to cover the Butts...resetting the targets and pasting the holes over them...real rounds buffeting the sand-hill over your heads...the ping and poof...and the absolute knowlege that you would never hear the offending shot were you the target...just the carnage...puts those 2 unfortunate British soldiers and the Polish Pizza delivery men in Antrim in stark perspective...something our kids sadly lack with the TV and movies de-personalising violence.

Curlews call

We celebrated (if thats the right word) my sister Sheila's first anniversary on Sunday last, January 18, 2009, in Sligo, and Joe her husband did us, and Sheila proud. There was a fair scattering, if that's the right term, of her diverse friends there, indeed they came from all over and we all enjoyed the occasion, albeit that it had to be sad to be real, and despite the levity and the conviviality, it was indeed sad. The melting snow glistened down Ben Bulben's face reflecting our tears as we paid our respects to Sheila at the quiet hillside cemetary in Rosses Point, with only the calling of the curlews and seabirds in the long grass of the dunes and rythmic dunta of the atlantic waves on her favourite beach as accompanyment to our soft prayers. The crispness of the air made the fresh, blooming flowers all the more poignant on her grave. Sheila, our rose, is gone but never forgotten, especially with family and friends remembering her constantly as they do, visiting with her year round in her little spot overlooking the Rosses and Sligo Bay.

Co-incidentally, just last Friday, on a similarly frosty morning, I found a dead Curlew on my doorstep in Barna. I opened the front door and there it was, on my doorstep, cold and stiff, yet dignified and proud, noble I suppose. It surprised me, the arbitrary oddness of finding it there in the first place, not on the grass, not on the driveway, on my doorstep. Not just the stark finality, but also the beauty of this very private bird, that I'd often heard, glimpsed, though never actually seen, the long curved beak and the extraordinary rich, though muted, understated, ordinary-looking brown plumage, and the realisation of the mystery of the bird, dead now, no longer the living spirit of the bog and hills round my house, overlooking Galway bay and the Burren, gone, but not gone, still living, replaced by another curlew, and then another, as nature continues the cycle of life.

And later, having buried the dead bird in the bog behind my house, I thought of Sheila and of her own love of nature, her understanding of it, her derived wisdom, her faith and her spirit, now at peace on the little isthmus of Rosses Point, nestled between Ben Bulben and Knocknarea, her haven of mystery and spirituality, and now eternity, punctuated by the plaintive cry of the curlew from the dunes.

Yeats, no stranger to Rosses Point, wrote 'O Curlew cry no more in the air, or only to the waters in the West...', but that is too sad, so instead, I thought I would share this beautiful and reassuring piece from the American poet, Robert Frost. Frost was so in touch with nature, the cycles and the nuances of it and he wrote this beautiful piece about his wife, after she had died, and how her voice was now part of the symphony of birdsong, in that he subscribed to the the theory that birds are believed to absorb some subleties of what they hear and incorporate a minute part of that into their own vocabulary, or repertoire. I like to think of Sheila's spirit being incorporated in our own wild birds' song or in the beauty of the bog cotton, or the movement of the winds that blows constantly on the western shores of Ireland, for I sense her here, on occasions, unbidden, welcomed always.

Never Again Would Bird's Song Be the Same

He would declare and could himself believe
That the birds there in all the garden round
From having heard the daylong voice of Eve
Had added to their own an oversound,
Her tone of meaning but without the words.
Admittedly an eloquence so soft
Could only have had an influence on birds
When call or laughter carried it aloft.
Be that as may be, she was in their song.
Moreover her voice upon their voices crossed
Had now persisted in the woods so long
That probably it never would be lost.
Never again would birds' song be the same.
And to do that to birds was why she came.

Robert Frost

Apropos, given the day that was in it... and then the next day watching Obama's inauguration as 44th President it is perhaps a timely coincidence...Frost was 86 when he spoke and performed a reading of his poetry at the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy on January 20th, 1961. He died 2 years later on January 29th, 1963.

Fortuna Favours the Brave

A little story from the west of Ireland to chase the recession blues away!
My brother Paul's dog, (or rather bitch), Fortuna just won the Oaks at the National Coursing Finals in Clonmel last Wednesday (February 4, 2009). Paul shares ownership of Fortuna with Brigid Frank and Donie Reidy, two great friends of our family, and yes, you've guessed it, they are all three stark raving mad into Greyhounds.

In keeping with her name, (taken from the Roman Goddess of Luck, who is usually represented by a beggar-woman), Fortuna was an out-and-out rank outsider. She wasn't rated at all, weighing in as she did at only 65lbs, (tiny for a coursing greyhound). For good luck, the unassuming trio backed Fortuna on the opening day, Monday, with a tenner each way @ 100/1, with the bookies, (you do the math). They backed her, just so she wouldn't feel unloved!!...and that was only the icing on the cake.

They had bred Fortuna themselves in Loughrea, using my late dad's old kennels and from a pup she was reared out in Dalystown yard, just as was Dad's uber-dog, Knockash Rover. (He won the Derby in Clonmel in 1981). A great tradition continued and now our family and our town have been blessed to have captured both Classics, albeit in nearly 70 years of trying. I think Dad would have been pleased, as indeed would our late uncle Michael Bourke from Kilrush, who passed away at this same meeting, just 2 years ago, a coursing man to his boots.

A whole coach-load of Loughrea Coursing fans made the trip down to Clonmel to support Fortuna and their cheers, when she raised the final flag, could probably have been heard all the way back in Loughrea. Another Loughrea dog owned by the Mahonys was beaten in the Derby quarter final, so the travelling support had plenty to cheer for. They all travelled back in convoy and finally arrived home very late last night, having celebrated earlier in Hotel Minella in Clonmel and in Stapletons in Borrisoleigh.

A bar-full of coursing supporters had been waiting all night for them in Connollys pub and many there were crying with the emotion of the win when Brigid finally raised the winners jacket. It was quite an occasion, very moving. Happy Days. Something at least to chase away the gloom and doom for a moment!

Take a minute to read this beautifully written article by Diarmuid O'Flynn and share the moment. (My thanks to The Examiner, who always give great coverage to Coursing).

Monday, February 23, 2009

Willie O'Dea and the Irish Submarine, Asgard 2

In 1896, at the age of 53, having himself emigrated on a 'Coffin Ship' from Liscannor in county Clare, the Irish inventor, John P. Holland presented the US navy with a working submarine capable of spending hours underwater and of making 7 knots when travelling on the surface. It was called, ironically enough, 'The Plunger'.

Mind you, 'The Plunger' was following on the duck-steps of two other submersible vessels, 'The Intelligent Whale' and 'The Alligator', both of which 'boats' sank during trials, with the loss of all aboard. Holland was a visionary, effectively seeing off the challenges of another submarine inventor, the aptly named, Simon Lake, and also being the first to conceive of employing electric motors and the internal combustion engine to power a submarine. Holland also invented several torpedoes, employing the use of gyroscopes and pendulums for guidance.

However, the inventors lot proved not to be a happy one, and John was to see his own company sink into oblivion owing to the reticience of the US Navy to invest in such 'dastardly and ungentlemanly' technology, before he died, penniless, in 1914, a year that saw Germany, using a modified version one of Hollands rejected designs, launch a fleet of powerful U-Boats on the helpless Lusitania and the British merchant marine in general.

Today the Minister for Defence, Willie O'Dea, announced that he would not spend €2 million of the insurers money in salvaging the Irish sail-training yacht, 'The Asgard', which having sank in September 2008, off the NW coast of France, now lies in wait on the ocean floor, 83 metres below the surface, yet another Irish submarine, denied a future by an uncaring government and navy. John Holland would not be proud of this decision to leave a perfectly good, Tyrell/Arklow-built wooden-traditional yacht on the bottom of the Bay of Biscay.

The Asgard 1, named for the Norse god of the sea, was ownedby Erskine Childers, who after years of research published in 1913, but only on a spying mission on the Germans celebrated in the book, 'The Riddle of the Sands'. Later on, in a gun smuggkling opoeration, The Asgard landed weapons destined for the war againset colonial Britain.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Top Ten Tips to Improve the Economy - My part in our downfall

I thought I would share some ideas for a better Ireland with you, ideas that I have distilled from the deafening twitter that is universal across all media. These ideas are not comprehensive, nor do they offer any instant panacea for our economic malaise, but they are in my opinion, sound, sensible and workable measures that would ease some of the current pain. Perhaps the Dail might debate and evaluate these and several other of the many sensible economic issues that I have heard voiced, so we will know that the Government is really serious about trying to improve our economy. Why not encourage the public to submit ideas to a cross-party committee. Then have each of say the top 100 ideas roughly costed and then published and debated in the Dail. Prevent the 'vested interests' (Unions, Departments, Industry experts etc ) from nay-saying any idea unless in a transparent and public forum. You might be surprised how supportive the public would be:Here goes my ideas;
My Top Ten
1. Immediately reduce VAT on food and clothes to 15%, until Jan 2010. That would slow the cross border shopping and maintain jobs in Retail in the Republic.
2. Charge all OAP's with Free Travel Passes €2 for any trip on bus or train over 10 miles in duration. The extra €'s generated would save over 200 drivers jobs.
3. Introduce a €4-per-week child bus pass in all urban areas. This would encourage school-goers bus use and reduce car use, while savin g the average parent €5 - €6 per week to boot. (95cents per trip on city buses)
4. Pay Bus, Train, Dart and Luas Drivers 38 hours pay for only 30 hours work. Pay no overtime. Take on additional drivers to do the additional hours. Increase employment without costing the tax-payer.
5. Force ESB to lower electricity prices for manufacturing industries and reflect the true lower cost of Oil and Gas while making Ireland more competitive. (did you see the adverts where ESB are giving us a 1%(?) reduction 'cause they sold off some old plant mention of the cost of an oil barrell plummeting from $150 to $45 in the last 6 months though).
6. Force ESB to take in electricity onto it's grid from all Eco producers, even from small ones and thus reduce our reliance on Oil and Gas. Pay a small premium to such small suppliers.
7. Have Green Party encourage Government immediately to make all Insulation, Eco-heat and Solar and Electric generator products rated at Zero VAT. Encourage us to invest in our cold but expensive homes and offices, and in the meantime help keep more building industry workers employed.
8. Have ESB take on additional staff to work the overtime hours that the ESB workers consider their entitlement. Most ESB power station workers make double or triple the average industrial wage with this overtime. Increase employment and reduce electricity cost.
9. If the Green party are so keen to have us use CFC Bulbs, then why are the y not being manufactured here. Set up a PPP company to make the new 'better bulb' here in Ireland, not in China. then the Government could appeal to our sense of patriotism to have us buy them.
10. Re-open the Greencore plant in Carlow to process beet again, this time for bio-fuel. Tell Greencore it is in the national interest to do so, and keep the farmers busy and employ our workers in producing bio-fuel from a natural Irish product. Tell Greencore it is not in the national interest for them to re-develop Carlow into another useless housing estste full of the unemployed. Have CIE convert all busses and trains from imported Diesel to use home-grown Bio-Fuel thus creating an immediate market for this renewable and lower carbon-footprint fuel.
....and Finally...on a lighter note;
Having listened to Brian Cowen's address to the Dail this evening, I am convinced something about him has to change. I don't believe he even believed his rhetoric. Perhaps he could attend a make-over class, kit himself out in bright new clothes and deliver one 'happy' speech each week, on any topic....on each Sunday morning, so that the Monday morning papers news wouldn't all be so darned blue. If he lightens up a bit, maybe we might follow.

Monday, January 12, 2009

A Little Christmas Innocence

I was in the process of taking the Christmas tree down on Little Christmas (6 January), packing away all the baubles and ornaments that help make Christmas so 'magic and make believe'. It's the saddest part of every Christmas I think...but my last piece of magic every year is the way the Christmas stuff always seems to fit back perfectly into the two card-board boxes I have stored it in, ever since the girls were little, despite the constant addition of new bits and pieces each year.
My young son had just inadvertently caught me out...he came in from the garden and wondered where the squeaky toy Santa had brought to the dog, might have gotten to. I said, 'You mean the yellow cracker I bought in the pet shop?'...Oh-oh!...silence...then a small little voice said...'You bought that!?'

Realising my mistake I added...'Y'know Santa doesn't really come to dogs, only to kids'...but it was already too late, the cat was out of the bag and half way up the tree. He went back outside playing with the dog and I was left with a miserably shedding tree to consider my faux pas. I was taken aback at how easily I had just surrendered our 19-year subterfuge. The soot on the fire-grate, the half-eaten cake, the empty whiskey tumbler, the bulging stockings on the mantle-piece, all fading to memories now. Loose lips swallows reindeer indeed!
Poor boy. That's a big reality check for him...he's nearly 10, not quite a suspension of total belief just yet, but it's the beginning of the end...and it struck me hard, right in the pit of my stomach, like hitting the brakes on an icy road, sensing the first shimmering slide before the realisation hits you that you are not going to be able to stop, as you luge towards that big slidey bend up ahead.

Soon he will be a young man, no longer interested in helping me set up the train tracks around the tree in the corner...and we won't have any innocent babies to nurture, nor ply with time-worn traditional tales of fantasy and expectancy and the baby Jesus...and Christmas, and the tree with all the shiny ornaments that had survived all of our moves and our constant exposure to commercialism, will have lost some of it's's quite sad actually!

But then again...what did I expect, it's January, the roads really are icy. Nothing will ever be as it was again. Bethelhem is burning, the wise men have feet of clay and the whole world is coming to grips with a new reality! It seems we may have all lost a bit of innocence this Christmas.