Here we go again... another so called 'austerity budget'. I was very pleased to be asked to the National Women's Council to write a blog post on my reaction to same.
You can read the post on their website by clicking here
Would be delighted to know what you think? You can leave a comment on the NWCI blog.
Thursday, December 6, 2012
Friday, November 23, 2012
When the idea of this national push to attract visitors and particularly those with Irish heritage back to Ireland was first mooted I thought “brilliant... finally we have someone thinking creatively about solutions to our economic crisis.” I looked forward to seeing how the campaign would develop and what innovative elements Failte Ireland would put in place to make a trip ‘home’ worth doing in 2013. To coin that modern phrase which I hate... I was curious to see how they would ‘add value’ to a trip to the auld sod.
As marketing momentum built I took a look at The Gathering website as I was having difficulty in working out exactly what was going to be happening during 2013
A tour of the site made it clear that this was a kind of DIY deal. We, the people of Ireland, most of whom are at the pin of our collar making ends meet, are expected to invite long lost relatives to visit and lay on an event or entertainment as required.
Suddenly Fionnuala Flanagan’s guttural uttering of ‘The Gathering’ morphs into a young boy wonder marketing executive selling his brilliant idea to the board of Failte Ireland....
“You see, he says, “the beauty of this idea is that other than the marketing, developing a website etc., there is nothing to do. We just need to put the idea in people’s heads and hype it up a bit. Irish people love a good excuse for a party and so they’ll go ahead and organise whatever event they want – school reunions, family clan gatherings etc. We can then invite them to let us know what they are organising and we will list it on the website. It’s pure genius.”
Oh yes, Marketing Boy Wonder is right. The Gathering is genius alright. But, although I agree that we Irish love a party and a get together, I think that in our Post Celtic Tiger landscape Irish people also like to feel they are getting good value for money, don't like to be patronised and have a very keen radar when we are being taken for a bit of a ride! And that holds true for the Irish Diaspora too, as articulated recently by the gorgeous poetic Gabriel Byrne (and yes, I am a woman of a certain age).
But to me there is something missing from The Gathering. Surely there should be a real hook, an offer of something more tangible than just “we are issuing an invitation, so come on over”. Why have we not offered perhaps a discount on hotel rates or into some of our national attractions or extra air miles if you are flying into Ireland and staying for more than a week? Maybe I am wrong but on closer inspection The Gathering seems, to me, like a half baked idea.
Last week I got my glossy ‘The Gathering’ (remember hear it a la Ms Flanagan) postcards so that I could invite all and sundry kind of long lost relative home for a visit next year. You know what... if I wanted to entertain guests in 2013 I would probably opt for taking a foreign student or two, who would require little entertaining and for whom I would get paid.
Now, please don't get me wrong. I love my country and think it really one of the best places in the world to visit. I think we have lots and lots to offer the tourist be they with or without Irish roots. And I think Failte Ireland has done a great job in promoting Ireland as a destination. But I am with whoever held up that banner at the Savita protest. A proper Gathering has to have a reason, has to have soul and meaning. For me, the only Gathering I am having does not require a postcard invitation. Like hopefully many, many other families in Ireland my only ‘Gathering’ will be when I welcome home my eldest daughter from Perth to spend Christmas with her family! If she spends money while she is here, great... but wouldn’t it be better if she, like thousands others, were here paying tax.. every week and not just for Christmas!
The Gathering, much like that bloody book 50 Shades of Grey is yet another example of the triumph of hype over substance!
What do you think?
Saturday, November 3, 2012
One week to go and I am still struggling with how to vote in this bloody Children’s Rights Referendum. We have too many bloody referenda in this country anyway. Do other so called civilised countries entertain their citizens with this stuff as regularly as we do? It seems to rank right up there with our obsession with how others view us.
Anyway in order to make one final attempt to come to a definite decision I am going to try to articulate my feelings and ask questions, in the hope that I might get some answers to my concerns.
My first concern is about the wisdom of actually putting children’s rights into the constitution. Surely children have the same rights as everyone else on the basis of their humanity. My question is this. If we are enshrining their rights on the basis of their vulnerability well then are we going to carry on and have further referenda to protect other vulnerable citizens? I am thinking particularly of the elderly and especially those with dementia. Elder abuse is possibly going to be the next big scandal to rock our society. I am also thinking of those with learning disabilities etc. Surely if children’s rights need to be specified, so should theirs? Or does their humanity not automatically give them exactly the same human rights as the rest of the community?
Secondly I am annoyed by the Governments campaign on this issue. Posters telling us to ‘Vote Yes for Children’ are the stupidest of all. The vast majority of people in this country are ‘for children’. This Government telling us to Vote Yes for children merely makes me see red. I voted Yes for this Government in February 2011 and in so doing managed to reduce the circumstances of many vulnerable children in this country through this on-going austerity programme. My question is this. Will this amendment change the circumstances for poor children, for children who need SNAs in schools? If not, then we are not voting Yes for Children... we are voting Yes for some children.
I understand that the main reason put forward for supporting this referendum is to sort out the legal limbo that many children currently in foster care find themselves in by virtue of the fact that they cannot be adopted by their foster parents. But, if I understand things correctly, this situation will have to be rectified by legislation following the passing of this amendment. So my question is this. If the Government is so keen on sorting out these children why was this legislation not passed years ago? Along with other legislation to sort out other anomalies (polite word) in our out of date, not fit for purpose adoption laws.
By amending our constitution next weekend we will be giving the state increased power over families and their children; a state who have failed children spectacularly in the past. If my understanding is correct, the State already had the power to intervene in cases of abuse and neglect and repeatedly didn’t. Children were left to suffer on. My question is this. Surely before we are asked to amend our constitution in this way we should have knowledge of exactly how the state is going to exercise this new power? Who will decide if parents have failed in their duty to their children? What safeguards are going to be put in place in order to ensure that children are not removed from families inappropriately?
If this referendum is passed will it really make children’s voices heard? I have a number of questions relating to this. Firstly, if passed will this open the way for adult children to access their adoption records? Will it enable adult children in the future to get information on their biological parents – children who have been conceived through donations of sperm or egg? Will it enable a family take a legal challenge over their special needs child’s right to an education? Will this amendment force Government to really give all children all their human rights?
My fear about this referendum is that we are being sold a pup. The government will congratulate us all for making this a great country to be a child in. And then they will sit back on their laurels and other than children in foster care, no other vulnerable lives will really change?
Maybe I am just an old cynic. But I don’t trust our politicians or our system of politics. I have a feeling in my gut that this referendum is just window dressing that actually won’t make a hill of beans to the vast majority of children. I have a letter from 1996 from the then Minister of State at Dept of Health, Austin Curry which stated that he was aware with issues relating to step adoptions and was “having investigations made into.... an alternative mechanism.. in such cases.” 1996 – and nothing has changed. I am very far from convinced that this Government like others before them, are serious about children?
Please tell me I am wrong? And I am serious about these questions.... if you can provide an answer to one of more of them, please leave me an enlightening comment. Thank you
Friday, November 2, 2012
I am delighted to be a regular contributor to the Tubridy Show on 2FM. Ryan is a nice guy and very easy and generous presenter to work with.
This week I spoke to him about Spousal Sacrifice – which is not about sacrificing your spouse but rather the sacrifices we make to keep our relationships on track.. and spouses in line!!
Of course being an old married woman of some 16 years I have learned all about ‘spousal sacrifice’ or the art of compromise. I have previously detailed the big lesson I learned in a previous blog post called My Husbands Love Affair.
But in advance of the programme and for journalistic balance I did undertake exhaustive research on this topic – both with my real life friends and my virtual friends via Twitter. Here – in no particular order – are the main things that I found caused friction in the best of relationships! I have not included families – because we all know about that one!
Sleep – yep... mismatched sleep patterns and/or one snorer in the bed. This is not something that me & him struggle with – we both sleep like logs and both snor (apparently... I know I doubt I do)... so happy days.. But a quick survey around a neighbour’s dinner table revealed that sleep – especially when one partner is a light sleeper is cause for major compromise or compassion and consideration on a large scale. Mammies of teenagers seem to be particularly at risk of ‘not being able to sleep’ till all chickens are back in the roost. Daddies don’t seem to have this problem as much – sweeping generalisation – but this is what my research found!!
Housework According to my research there seem to be a lot of women who compromise on the even division of labour in the home... in my experience most women (even those who work outside the home) end up doing the bulk of the domestic and kids stuff. Most women I spoke to have a sneaking suspicion that a lot of men employ the “let’s make a hames of it and she will insist on doing it herself” But the real issue with housework is.... laundry
Laundry – this specifically seems to be something that men cannot seem to get a handle on... According to my research most of them seem to employ the “as sure chuck it all together’ method to washing. My own dearly beloved once ‘did all the washing’ one Saturday when I was working. “Every laundry basket is empty” he told me proudly. At the time we lived in a town house with no garden and no spin dryer. The only way to dry clothes was on rads and a clothes horse. He hadn’t thought his washing through. Most of the clothes rotted before I could get them dry!!!! Apparently he is not alone!
Bathroom – the open door policy, sharing of bodily functions... might initially be kind of romantic.. but isn’t. Men seem to think that witnessing them pee is a sign of real intimacy. IT IS NOT. This is the reason why I never want an ensuite... across the landing is bad enough. Not quite 8 out of 10 cats but a lot of the women I spoke to quoted the example of being in the shower and he HAS to come in for a wee!!! AGGGH... and it’s worse if you are in the bath.. NOT ON AT ALL! No compromise here... it’s just not on.
Religion – This is a biggie in some relationships. In the past a religious ‘conflict’ in a relationship would generally have meant a ‘mixed marriage’, ie Catholic and Church of Ireland. But nowadays more and more there are couples where one partner is staunchly a heathen married to someone who is a a la Carte Catholic but would not be comfortable with NOT having the kids baptised. Of course this situation is ripe for family interference. You know the scenario “what do you mean you are not having the baby baptised?” says Granny trying to contain her shock. – making compromise very tricky. A difficult one to compromise on.
Parenting – many of us don’t discuss our views on children and how they should be reared till we have them. We generally know before getting married how our partner feels about having children. But we rarely discuss our views on parenting itself – discipline, education even childcare until we have kids. So – you crazy kids – sort this out before ‘putting a ring on it.’
Illness – on a serious note, if one partner develops a serious illness/disability, the level of compromise and compassion and consideration makes all the above so unimportant!!
There are of course some things YOU SHOULD NEVER COMPROMISE ON. Again in no particular order, they are...
- Your identity..... never forget who you are. KEEP YOUR NAME MS!!!
- Family/Friends – no partner should make you give up on family and/or good friends. Your partner may be your best friend but you also need your friends and especially your independent friends as opposed to your shared friends.
- Morals – having a pain room in your house is NOT NORMAL. That bloody 50 Shades book is NOT NORMAL.
- Self Esteem
All men should learn quickly that THEIR WIFE IS NEVER WRONG.
So – there you are – the secrets to a happy relationship. You are very welcome!!!
You can listen back to my piece on Tubridy on 2FM this morning here.
Friday, October 12, 2012
Last night Channel 4 screened a horrifically mesmerising programme called Plane Crash in which a team of scientists flew an ultimately empty 727 airliner to a desert site in Mexico where it was deliberately crashed in order to retrieve data from many sensors, cameras, computers and high tech crash test dummies onboard.
A worthy exercise which was turned into entertainment by the adding of an interactive element. We, the viewers could log onto the website and check in for this flight. We could choose our own seat and later we would find out if we were likely to have survived the crash or not.
It was, as I said, mesmerising. The aircraft crashed and it turned out that most of us (except for those who plumped for First Class) did ultimately survive. But I did feel very uneasy afterwards as the scientists investigated the wreckage.
An air crash although a rare occurance must be beyond horrific. Let me tell you a story.....
At 1.15pm on Sunday 27th March 1977 a bomb exploded in the florist shop in Las Palmas Airport in the Canary Islands. A warning had been given and no-one was killed, although eight people were injured, some seriously. A follow up phone call from the group responsible hinted that there may be another bomb, leaving the airport authorities with no option but to evacuate the building and temporarily close the airport. Incoming flights were diverted to the nearby island of Tenerife.
35 years ago Los Rodeos was Tenerife’s only airport. It was a sleepy place which was built in the mid 1940s and it still carried the echo of those days when flying was glamorous and romantic. But although Los Rodeos gave the impression of an airport lost in the mists of time, it was also regularly shrouded in the mist that descended from the nearby Mount Teide. Mount Teide is Spain’s highest mountain and dominates the scenery on the island. Usually snow covered, it presence gives the island almost two different climates. The south is dry and barren and gets the best of the weather with plenty of sunshine and little rain. The north however is wetter and misty days are not unusual giving a very different environment which is both lush and tropical.
The 27th of March 1977 was just such a misty, damp day at Los Rodeos when KLM flight 4805 made its final approach. Like most of the other aircraft on the apron at Los Rodeos that day, the KLM flight, which was a holiday charter for Holland International Travel Group, was en route to Las Palmas. Onboard the giant 747 were 234 passengers (including 3 babies and 48 children), all no doubt looking forward to a sunny holiday on the island of Gran Canaria. On arrival, they disembarked the aircraft and stretched their legs in the now crowded terminal building.
About a half an hour later, another fully loaded 747, Pan Am flight 736 arrived through the mist. This flight had originated in Los Angeles via New York and onboard were 378 passengers, mostly of retirement age. They were also headed for Las Palmas where they were to connect with Royal Cruise Line’s ship, Golden Odyssey for a 12 day cruise. By the time they arrived for this unscheduled stop in Tenerife they had been onboard the aircraft for 13 hours. As the terminal was now full, they were not given the option of disembarking although the doors were opened.
At about 3pm Las Palmas airport reopened. At Los Rodeos the apron and taxi-ways were full of aircraft and so the controllers on duty began the job of getting everyone airborne again. As the Pan Am passengers had not left the aircraft, their flight was ready to go but because it was parked behind the KLM 747 they were dependent on the Dutch aircraft leaving first. Along with re-boarding the passengers the KLM captain decided to refuel, probably in an effort to save time in Las Palmas. He was keenly aware that his crew were in danger of running out of flying hours which would prevent them from flying back to Amsterdam on the return leg of the journey. There was nothing the Pan Am flight could do except to wait behind him. It was about 5pm by the time the KLM aircraft began to taxi.
By now the runway was covered in thick fog. The KLM aircraft was to taxi to the end of the runway for a turnaround in preparation for takeoff. The Pan Am began taxiing behind him and was instructed to leave the runway at taxiway no 3.
The KLM flight began its take off. The Pan Am aircraft was still on the runway, not having yet come to taxi way 3. The thick fog had significantly reduced visibility so that by the time the KLM captain saw the other aircraft he was committed to take off. He tried to climb quickly and the Pan Am tried to move off the runway onto the grass. It was too little and it was too late.
A total of 583 people lost their lives on that damp spring day at Los Rodeos airport. The crash is still the world’s worst aviation disaster (aside from 9/11). There were 61 survivors from the Pan Am aircraft (although 9 died later of their injuries) and just one from the KLM, a holiday rep who ultimate destination was Tenerife anyway and so never re-boarded the flight.
Although the air accident report placed the blame fairly squarely on KLM Captain Van Zanten’s shoulders for taking off before being given ATC clearance to do so, like most aviation disasters, there were numerous factors which all played a part in the crash. The bomb at Las Palmas, the fact that it was a Sunday and only two air traffic controllers were on duty at Los Rodeos, the number of aircraft which were suddenly diverted to this small airport, and the fog all conspired against those whose lives were lost.
After the disaster in 1977, a new airport Aeropuerto Reina Sofia was opened in the south of the island, leaving Los Rodeos to handle the inter-island flights and flights from the Spanish mainland.
I spent many blissfully happy times in Tenerife in the early 1980s. I regularly flew in and out of Los Rodeos Airport as it was nearer to my destination of Puerto de la Cruz. It was small, intimate airport completely devoid of the hustle and bustle one normally associates with an airport terminal. I haven’t been there recently but know that the airport has been significantly extended and upgraded and is again handling international flights.
But Los Rodeos airport, on the foothills of the majestic Mount Teide remains in my memory as the relaxed, informal, welcoming terminal it was all those years ago. However I never passed through it without thinking about how it was also the scene of such unimaginable horror which began to unfold just after 5pm on 27th March 1977.
The image is of the memorial to those who died in the Tenerife Air Disaster
Monday, October 8, 2012
"I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”
― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables
Autumn seems to be a little later than usual in arriving this year. Here we are in the second week of October and I wonder, can you feel it yet?
I am just beginning to sense it.... that delicious feeling of the earth slowing. Of Mother Nature settling down and preparing for the deep slumbers of winter. Her message is carried on the damp night air but it emanates from deep within.... deep within the earth and deep within our own psyche.
It is the feeling that makes you want to make your home a little cosier, to buy throws and comfy cushions to throw on the old sofa; to make sure you have lots of fat winter candles; to order wood and coal for the fire. It is the feeling that makes us crave root vegetables for soups and stews.
The natural world provides us with sensual cornucopia.....
the smell of woodsmoke,
the sound of crunching leaves underfoot,
the sight of the trees wearing their warm tones of russet and golden leaves,
the touch of misty mornings,
the feeling of energy being drawn inward.
Mother Nature whispers her message to our deepest selves. She tells us that now is time to take stock, to pause, to be gentle with ourselves and others. It is preparation for spiritual and psychological hibernation. It is time for reflection and remembrance. A time for gratitude and for nurturing.
It is simply my very favourite season...... and I fully intend to do as nature intends us to do... relax, reflect and recharge.
“Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.”
― George Eliot
Wednesday, October 3, 2012
One of the few ‘right’ things we did as a country during the boom years was to take a few steps towards valuing, in a real way, the work of caring for children in this country.
Back in 1992 debate began around the provision of childcare in Ireland for families where both parents worked. The Commission for the Status of Women recommended that there should be a tax relief for the payment of childcare for working parents. However that immediately led to parents who cared for their own children in the home feeling (rightly) discriminated against.
By 2000 we were also discussing child poverty and in the end it was felt that an increase in the universal child benefit scheme was the best way of addressing all of these concerns.
So parents in Ireland although not getting tax relief for childcare were paid what looks like a generous children’s allowance which could offset some of the cost of childcare while equally recognising the work of the army, of mainly women, who stay at home to care for their children themselves. This seems to have been somewhat forgotten about although an excellent opinion piece by Evelyn Mahon intoday’s Irish Times goes some way to correcting our absentmindedness on the subject.
We all are familiar with that old cliché that we live in a society not an economy. This is one area where that cliché is worth fighting for.
Regularly we talk of how we lost ourselves completely in the excesses of Celtic Tiger Ireland; we got ideas above our station and lost our values completely. Some of that may be true but in the midst of all the material madness we did one right thing. We said that the work of caring for children has a value. We recognised that value and we went a little way towards compensating the carers for that work.
That work has lost none of its intrinsic value. Children are our future and our country’s greatest asset.
Almost a century ago the Proclamation of the Irish Republic stated this new Republic’s aim of “cherishing all the children of the nation equally.” We are only now getting around to beginning doing something about that as we prepare to amend our Constitution to include children’s rights.
Isn’t it then ironic that at the very same time our Government are considering once again taking away the only value that has ever been given to the work of caring for children? Talking out of both sides of their mouth?
Well hear this Minister Burton – Get Your Hands Off Our Children’s Allowance. Let’s shout it loud and clear. Our children are depending on us.
If you want your voice heard you could start by signing this petition
If you want your voice heard you could start by signing this petition
Wednesday, September 12, 2012
As I write this morning, thousands of kids around the country are receiving their Junior Cert results... there will be tears and there will be whoops of joy. And later there will be lots of underage drinking and tomorrow some of our papers will carry photos that will strike terror into the heart of lots of us parents.
I myself will be heading into this scary teenage territory again in the coming years. I have been there before as my oldest is now 25 but I am fairly certain that things in this country have gotten a whole lot worse since she did her Junior Cert in 2003.
How do I know this? From friends and neighbours who have 15 and 16 year old kids. From hearing them worry endlessly about how much freedom is enough but most of all from listening to their worries about their children drinking.
From talking with these parents I know that is not just their own children and their friends they have to worry about. They are also often trying to enforce a ‘no drink’ rule in an environment where other parents are willing to either turn a blind eye to the fact that their 15 year old is drinking or who have decided to allow them a ‘couple of glasses of wine, cos sure they are going to do it anyway.’ You know the logic – the one that says it is better that they drink at home than in a field!!
The drinking culture that up until now we have in Ireland seen as an integral part of having the craic has led us to have a way too relaxed attitude to teenage drinking. If the stories I hear are true, Dublin city on a weekend night (or possibly tonight) will be full of our young people some so drunk they can’t stand up. They are vulnerable and they are at risk.
Add into this alcohol fuelled mess our over made up, tangoed, slapper looking teenage girls and we have the right recipe for disaster. You know the look - skirts barely covering their ass, cleavage hoisted to below their chin and vertigo inducing heels that cause them to develop a duck walk would be funny except that increasingly I feel these girls are sometimes living up to the image they are portraying. Until recently I dismissed the tales of young teenage girls in ‘no alcohol’ discos run in rugby clubs giving blow jobs to boys as urban myths. Now I wonder.... and I worry. How we have gotten to the place where our educated young women think that dressing like a hooker and then acting like one is empowered living is beyond this old woman’s comprehension.
As I see it we in Ireland have two major problems with our youth that we need to urgently to address.
The first is our problem with teenage drinking. As parents we need to wake up. Allowing our precious very sensible, well brought up 15 year old ‘a few beers or glasses of wine’ is not the sign of responsible parenting. It’s an abdication of our responsibilities. We don’t live in a bubble. We live in a society where alcohol no longer tastes like alcohol (making it so easy to drink by the gallon) and where drinking to excess is seen by our children as an essential part of a good night out. As parents we need to remember that teenagers (even the well brought up ones) are usually unlikely to tell you the whole story or the truth. Most of their drinking is not done in the local pub it is done at home or in the homes of a friend. “No mom, no one will be drinking much, honestly” – don’t believe it – check it out if you can.
As parents I believe we have a right to be over bearing and embarrassing if we feel we need to in order to double check what is going on. And yes, you will be told “no-one else’s mom is like you,” or “oh mom please don’t embarrass me”. I say go ahead. Your teenager most likely doesn’t hold you in very high esteem at this stage in their lives anyway.
I would also welcome the introduction of a no tolerance attitude by the Gardai to drunken behaviour on the streets. Anyone who is so drunk they can’t stand up or who is caught engaging in ‘lewd behaviour’ on the streets should be rounded up and put in some kind of holding facility overnight. No comforts, just access to water and toilets and somewhere they will be safe until 9am next morning. A doctor could be in attendance so that these drunken messes don’t end up clogging up and being a nuisance in our A&E departments.
Radical? Perhaps and for someone who is proud of her leftie credentials I am surprised at my solutions but I really feel it is time as a country we practiced some tough love on our young people.
The other problem I see is one that is not so easily dealt with. As the mother of girls it is something that bothers me hugely. Why do our young women think that dressing like slappers is attractive? They are poured into dresses that are a size too small, too short and too revealing. They are unable to walk in ridiculous shoes. Their beautiful skin is plastered in way too much make up. They have fake nails, fake eyelashes, fake tans and possibly fake boobs. I know I now sound like a right crabby, bitter, old woman but how have our daughters lost the feminine instinct to be a little mysterious, a little enigmatic. They put it all out there, piled high like a cheap stall in a car boot sale.
Isn’t it ironic that at a time when women are supposedly at their most empowered (although we still have some way to go yet – but that’s another blog post) we have a generation of girls who think their power lies solely in their advertising their sexuality in the most overt way possible? How has this happened? How do we change it?
Media’s portrayal of women is probably the single largest factor in this skewed idea of what female empowerment is about. From music videos (well especially music videos) to movies to advertising, women are largely portrayed as bodies, and surgically enhanced bodies at that.
As the old adage goes “you can’t be what you can’t see”. We as parents need to be conscious of this constant and very subtle undermining of women’s true power which pervades our everyday. It’s on buses, in magazines, on the TV, in the cinema and our young girls who are at that stage in their lives of trying to work out who they are, are very open to this brain washing.
All we can do as individual parents is to be very aware of these almost subliminal messages our daughters are getting every day and try to counter it and highlight what is happening. We need to actively seek out positive examples of real female power and bring them to our children's attention.
I would urge you to also visit the Miss Representation website and view the trailer of their powerful documentary. It will certainly help you understand what is going on. It might be the first step in us redressing the balance.
In the meantime congratulations to all who received their Junior Cert Results today.
Enjoy celebrating this milestone – but please remember your parents... and your dignity.
Sunday, August 26, 2012
I took you home to our little rented house in Blackrock where our then 10 year old daughter rechristened you Tiger. You lived an indoor life for a few months and then we all moved a few miles further south when we bought our house in Shankill. Do you remember the endless entertainment your still kittenish self had with the hidden water sprinkler in the back garden of our new house?
In Shankill you were on hand to welcome home our babies, Roisin in November 1998 and Mia in September 2000. You also knew my father, Michael before he passed away in 2002.
Then one day you were gone. I called and called you. We searched our neighbourhood. I drove up and down the nearby motorway looking for a body. All in vain. You had just vanished. We were all sad as the realisation gradually dawned that you were gone. But life was busy – with two babies, a teenager and both Paul and I working hard. By now our family had expanded to include another cat – Simba.
On a Saturday morning, some months later, I arrived half asleep into the kitchen to find you were back. Sitting up on the high stool and meowing your head off, clearly telling me of your adventures which hadn’t seemed to have taken any toll on your beautiful appearance. We were delighted and stunned and never ever discovered where you went for those missing three months.
We moved again in 2002 to this house in Cabinteely and the following year added another two cats to the household. But you Tiger were always the matriarch. Beautiful, elegant and slightly aloof. You were no lap cat preferring on occasion to sit beside someone but rarely on a lap.
When Dylan the dog joined us five years ago, it was you Tiger who very definitely taught him that he was the very bottom of the food chain in the house and that cats rule! You taught him well – he has never forgotten.
Tiger helps Mia with her homework.
You were always here Tiger. As you got older the outdoors was fine for an hour or two in the sun on mild days but what you really loved was to curl up on your blanket under a radiator.
Like many of us in this house, you were a great talker. You knew your name and often responded to being spoken to with a series of meows. Those meows took on added impetus in the morning when you demanded to be fed at once! Paul was your food slave! And like Simba, you loved it when I started preparing dinner. You sat on the floor to the left of the cooker (while he took up position on the right) and waited till I dropped a piece of chicken or some other tasty morsel. Sometimes you stretched up and tried to hook a piece of meat for yourself!
Your last year or so were marked by your inability to groom yourself as effectively as you would have liked but that meant that we could give you a girly grooming session in the garden which you loved. Only last weekend we spent about 30minutes together at the picnic table at the end of the garden and as I brushed your coat you purred your pleasure.
Sometimes we both got distracted at My Kitchen Table and spent long minutes watching birds in the garden or just thinking about life.
Tiger you were witness to all the events, big, small, happy and sad of our family life over the past 16 years. Your constant presence in our home is no more but you remain in each of our hearts and our memories.
Tiger Sherwood Scully, cat, friend, part of our family left us on Saturday 25th August 2012.
Cats are synonymous with female energy, magic and the moon...
I hope Tiger that somewhere you are winding yourself around the legs of one Mr Neil Armstrong and that you might find a celestial kitchen table where you can sit and he can regale you with tales of how it felt to walk on that moon! You'd like that!
In memory of Tiger Sherwood Scully.
1996 - 2012.
Thank you Tiger - we will miss you but never forget you!
Sunday, August 19, 2012
Fostering kittens for the DSPCA is always interesting but the kitten we took delivery of on last Wednesday has a particularly special story.
Last Monday (13th August), a woman left Edenderry, Co Offaly and drove (without stopping) to Dublin. On arrival and when she got out of her car she was very surprised to hear a cat’s cries seeming to come from inside the engine. She lifted the bonnet and sure enough there was a white and black, quite terrified kitten looking back at her. The kitten had hung on and survived the journey the entire way. Thankfully the driver contacted the DSPCA who took the kitten back to their HQ in Rathfarnham where they checked him out.
This is Scooter when he arrived at the DSPCA after his epic journey in a car engine
Miraculously the three month old kitty survived without injury. When we met him on Wednesday, he was still a bit dishevelled and grimy looking. We took him home for some rest and recuperation.
Although the DSPCA had called him Eden, he was immediately rechristened Scooter in our house and we think this name suits him perfectly. He didn’t take too long to relax and soon was relishing the comforts of a cosy blanket and a safe place to sleep. In the last few days he is regaining his looks as he grooms away the dirt and grime from his engine journey.
Scooter at home!
Scooter brings with him such a great story of survival, of the kindness of strangers and of hope in the face of the seemingly insurmountable odds. And the amazing thing is that he seems to know how lucky he is and he is so grateful for a second chance. He is the most affectionate cat you could meet.
We are due to return him to the DSPCA for rehoming on Friday! Mmmmmmm... I think this is one kitty foster we may just fail on!
Kittens and adult cats can have a dangerous habit of climbing onto car engines because they (foolishly) consider them warm and safe places to sleep. Most cats would not be as lucky as Scooter was. If you have cats in the vicinity of where your car is parked it is a good habit just to bang the bonnet with your hand before you get into the car. This should help dislodge a sleeping cat. Cats in car engines can be a particular habit of farmyard cats!
Wednesday, August 15, 2012
To back up this dodgy theory I would regale my kids with the story of the first time I travelled to London to spend the weekend with my beloved. I was to accompany him to a wedding – a daunting prospect as I knew absolutely no-one. The wedding itself took place in a beautiful ancient English church complete with lychgate and with real bells tolling to announce the newly wedded couple. The reception was in an equally lovely country hotel with duck pond and gorgeous gardens. The day was sunny and warm. The people I met were all very nice too and made me feel very welcome. But it was all over by 9pm. The bar closed and everyone went home. I couldn’t believe it. This to me summed up England – grand but a tad dull. And yes I am quite aware that this was a very lazy view of the neighbours.
So when I sat down to watch the Olympic Opening Ceremony I was expecting to see a well executed show complete with a dollop of Royalty and the usual line up of British greats from the world of music. What I was not expecting was to see was Her Majesty playing a cameo role in a Bond skit where she apparently jumps out of a helicopter into the arena. What was this? Were the Brits laughing at themselves?
The great organisation I had come to expect was there alright – but it was used to create a show that was chaotic, quirky, exuberant and magical. Sure there was great lighting and pyrotechnics but over-riding all this was a creativity that was mind-blowing; the cyclists with the luminous wings, the children jumping on hospital beds, the Mary Poppins’s who floated into the arena – breathtaking and enchanting. And there was powerful symbolism too, particularly in the lighting of the magnificent ceremonial bowl of flame by the next generation of young athletes.
The Opening Ceremony seemed to set a tone that was miles away from the bad press in the weeks leading up to the games with stories of Olympic Lanes forcing motorists off the road and the security shambles. For the last two weeks we have watched an Olympic Games where almost everything was golden – from the smiling volunteers to the good humoured crowds.
I wondered if the Closing Ceremony would revert to type. We already knew that we were going to be treated to a ‘symphony of British music’, but once again the Brits surpassed themselves and surprised me. We were all invited to join in a wild party with performers singing on juggernauts, in convertible Bentleys and on top of Taxis. Annie Lennox appeared like some kind of warrior Goddess on the prow of a ship singing Little Bird. And best of all The Who, closed the show delivering My Generation to at least three younger generations of British musicians who joined them on stage.
As I watched I began to feel that this Olympics was about so much more than sport. Over the last two weeks our neighbours have redefined what it is to be British. They have revitalised Brand GB into something alive, colourful, witty, creative and magical. It has been a joy to watch. And I am very relieved for my children and think I will stop with the wedding story now.
One of the most poignant moments of the Closing Ceremony was when the face of John Lennon appeared on the screen singing Imagine..... “you may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope one day you’ll join me. And the world can live as one.” London 2012 came very near to providing us with an insight as to what such a world would feel like. Maybe the Mayans were right after all about 2012 heralding in a new era of peace and understanding on this troubled planet. I hope so. But, seriously who would have ever thought it would have been the Brits who would deliver the goods.
Bravo GB. What a wonderful couple of weeks and I am very pleased to have better stories to tell my kids about what it means to be English!
Monday, August 13, 2012
The Opening Ceremony cheered me up a lot though and left me a little better disposed towards the events themselves. I actually found I quite enjoyed watching the track and field competitions. I particularly liked the Javelin, Discus and Pole Vault – they have a balletic elegance and timelessness about them that appealed to me. They seem to still carry the energy of ancient Athens. The sprints and long distance races were exciting. Mo Farah stands out for his sheer joy at winning his first medal. His family presented a beautiful tableau as his wife glided majestically like a pregnant Goddess across the track to congratulate him while his young daughter jumped about and waved her flag. A holy trinity of joy.
Who couldn’t but admire Usain Bolt with all his theatrical gestures and wonderful confidence?
Ireland’s Olympians did a great job too led by Katie Taylor who Sean Ban Breatnach gushingly elevated to the status of Queen Meabh and Marys McAleese and Robinson. And sure why not – she is a gracious and wonderful ambassador for us – although I am too much of a wuss to watch boxing and really wish her sporting prowess was in something else.
There was all that joy and good humour but there was also plenty of pain and tears. Athletes who ‘just missed out on gold’, who ‘only’ got a bronze, who ‘didn’t make the final’. The interviews these athletes were forced to give as they came to terms with their disappointment made for some very uncomfortable TV. I heard the words ‘failure’, ‘letting themselves and others down’, of ‘not being good enough’. This is where I don’t get sport.
Every single competitor at London 2012 is an accomplished athlete... if they weren’t they wouldn’t be there. Of course I understand they are driven to win and I accept that. But I do feel that we don’t do enough to celebrate the taking part as the greater aspect of the games.
For me the bravest and most impressive competitor at the games didn’t win any medal. She didn’t even come close. In fact she came last in her 800m race – almost a full lap behind the winner. Her name is Sarah Attar and she was one of the two female athletes from Saudi Arabia – the first time this country has permitted women to compete. Wearing a long sleeved top and full leggings and a white hijab, Sarah was running for something just as precious and probably more important than gold or silver. She was blazing a trail for women and young girls in her home country to follow. She was cheered all the way home with a standing ovation. This, for me, is the true spirit of the Olympics.
Call me naive but I truly believe that sport should be about the taking part and not just the winning... in fact I think it’s the taking part that should be wildly celebrated. I have seen the consequences of ‘winning at all costs’ with young children in schools and it would literally break your heart. I’m talking about the child who does their best but it’s not good enough and they get side-lined all the time. This is something particularly prevalent in football. Is it OK in sport to sometimes humiliate a child in this way? Is it OK for the media to thrust a microphone under the chin of a devastated athlete and ask them ‘how they are feeling about not achieving better?’
In my simplistic world if you have done your best well that’s just good enough and you deserve nothing but praise and celebration.
The one athlete I saw who totally bucked the trend was young Tom Daley the British diver. He was tipped as a possible gold medal. He got bronze and he was thrilled. His exuberant joyful celebration was in stark contrast to John Joe Nevin who felt he let everyone down by only winning silver. Good on Tom Daley – what a great role model for doing your best and that being good enough.
London 2012 changed my mind about the Olympics – mainly due to the wonderful atmosphere that was tangible even when just watching on TV. But it hasn’t changed what I think about sport. I’m sticking to my guns on my belief that it’s not about the winning as much as about taking part. I know – I just don’t get sport!
Sunday, August 5, 2012
SUMMER THAT NEVER ARRIVED!
So here were are – into August and still not a sight, not a smell of summer. We have been deluged every month and have only had the odd day here and there when we experienced blue sky, sunshine and heat, all at the same time!
Yes it has been depressing. Yes it has made me realise that we really do reside on a damp, island in the North Atlantic when, in our hearts, many of us Irish are Mediterranean by nature. Personally I think the Spanish Armada may have a lot to answer for. We are temperamentally far more suited to the long languid balmy days of our Southern European cousins but instead we seem to be marooned on the wrong latitude complete with our wooden decks (a huge health and safety hazard when wet) and garden furniture. We are possibly the only country in the world where Indian Sandstone patios are washed of all colour within 12 months of their being laid in our gardens. (If you ever think of laying an Indian Sandstone patio please don’t waste your money. It will look like concrete within a year).
Oh yes, it has been a washout of a summer and I think finally the realisation is dawning on many of us that it’s over! There will be no summer. Kids will be going back to school in three weeks. A sunny September would be nice BUT NO BLOODY USE (sorry I know I am shouting).
So have there been any advantages of our soggy summer? I have been wracking my brain on this one for the last few days as I battle a slide into depression as the realisation dawns that summer didn’t. Here is what I have come up with so far.....
I have saved a fortune on what I normally spend in Garden Centres. Over the years once neighbours gardens burst forth in glorious splashes of summer colour in wonderfully tended borders I get madly jealous. Off I go and spenD money on stuff I know nothing about. I plant things in the wrong place and they either die or go mad so that the following years I do it all over again and never have the garden I imagine in my head. This year it’s been a case of “garden, what garden?”
On the same theme I have developed a love of natural wildflowers otherwise known as weeds. As the rain on the windows blurs my vision the yellow splashes of dandelion down the garden can look quite pretty. Equally I am not so afraid of huge, fat, ugly slugs anymore... they are everywhere.
We have done less entertaining. We are hardly 'Party Kind and Queen' in this house but there is something about long warm summer days and evenings that makes you want to get the neighbours around for chilled proscecco... hang on, this is meant to be advantages... Scrap that! I love those evenings, even if it means I have to cut the grass and do the edges.
Although that does bring me nicely onto cutting the grass. There have been lots of Sundays – and this is one of them – that I meant to cut the grass only to be rained off. So instead I took to the sofa with a book... or wrote a blog post!!
Those cheap rain-jackets we normally trail around with us during the summer months we now know without a doubt are not waterproof. So we will be well prepared for winter this year.
Skies - there have been some amazing skies.. with sinister gun metal grey clouds banked up against each other. In turn this leads to weird light.
So what else?
As I ran out of inspiration as to the positives of THIS LOUSY SUMMER I asked the Twitter Machine for some suggestions. Have I ever mentioned how much I love Twitter? With thanks to everyone – here are just a few of the suggestions I received.
@mrshmc said “no hanging out washing” which may be a plus for some but me... well I love nothing more than seeing a line full of washing blowing in the breeze, drying in the sun.
@landsleaving offered “no need to get in shape for the beach”. Indeed... although those that know me know that is not an issue for me! But I accept it as a valid advantage!
@miriamahern said she looks forward to autumn “as it is a more normal season”. Yes I can’t wait for autumn now.. since we have been on the brink of it for months now!! @snastablasta echoes this sentiment by her tweet “good preparation for winter”. Too right.
@ornagh doesn’t mind working bank holidays this summer and @JSmediabox appreciates her summer holiday more than ever this year.
So there you are. I did my best. I have plumbed the depths of Twitter and my own psyche to come up with some good things about our rainy summer. It’s been difficult. In all seriousness the lack of sunlight can have a very depressing effect. But really there is nothing much we can do.. we are at the mercy of the vagaries of Mother Nature who this year definitely seems to be menopausal. And remember bad weather can only improve – next summer will be better – if only because it really can’t get any worse!
In conclusion the best I can offer is to grab a book, light the fire, read a book, enjoy comfort food and settle in – it’s almost autumn!
Thursday, August 2, 2012
Thursday, July 26, 2012
Thanks to my friend Vanessa O Loughlin who runs the wonderful website writing.ie, I recently had the pleasure of interviewing the historian Ann Matthews who has written two books on Irish Republican Women. What she has to say is fascinating to anyone with an interest in Modern Irish Politics or who wonders about how we get more women involved in politics. You can read the article here.
Friday, July 20, 2012
I am no expert but there are a couple of things I believe about music. Firstly is that nothing is quite as evocative... aromas come close.. but music can bring you, body and soul to another place in a very complete way. Secondly I believe that our musical tastes are formed when we are teenagers.. and the music you love then, as a young adult will remain forever the music that moves you, that touches your very core like no other ever will. Sure as you get older you may develop an appreciation for classical or some other genre... but the music that you listened to in your formative years will forever be a part of you.
Arriving into the RDS last Wednesday I recognised myself in other middle aged women who dressed in the timeless uniform of jeans and tee shirts, their saggy middle bits and life worn faces seeming to lift as they prepared to be transported backwards in time. As I munched on a spring roll I tried to ignore the damp patch on my shoulders where my rain jacket failed in its waterproofing. I was slightly soggy but delighted to be inhaling the excitement and anticipation that was palpable.
On the pitch we stood making some small talk with those around us, afraid to drink our water as neither of us wanted to have to use the facilities. It rained some more and once again like good teenagers we did our best to ignore the discomfort of water dripping down our necks.
Slowly the sky started to brighten. A patch of blue appeared. A watery sun was doing its best in the western sky and we divested ourselves of our jackets and tied them around what once was a waist. The lights on the stage were being tested.
Moments later, without fanfare or fireworks, Springsteen appeared and that gravelly voice, so deeply familiar was filling the arena, accompanied only by his guitar and harmonica. So it began – almost three and a half hours of a non stop, solid rock music masterpiece, enhanced by flashes of folk and gospel. Overhead the clouds continued to melt and the sky became almost translucent. A silent aircraft tore a vapour trail eastwards and seagulls seemed to wheel on the notes bouncing in the warm air.
The Springsteen themes of the working man, hard times and the struggle of life seemed particularly poignant at times as the night carried his music high into the sky in Dublin 4. Spingsteen as preacher encouraged us all to recall those we missed and who were no longer with us. An almost transcendent moment for me as I stood in the fading light on what would have been my brothers 48th birthday had he not chosen to leave it some 16 years ago.
As the light seeped away we danced and sang the oldies, Born in the USA, Glory Days, Born to Run and of course The River. I was 20 again... and it was magic.
As I shuffled off the pitch at 11pm, my aching back and sore feet complained that 5 hours of standing was something I probably should have gone into training for. But boy was it worth it. And somewhere above the music I am sure my brother did too!
WITH THANKS TO IRENE WINTERS FOR THE TICKETS!!!
Tuesday, July 3, 2012
Recently I have seen two ads which have made me cross. The first one I encountered some weeks back, over my breakfast while perusing the Irish Times (one of my most cherished times of day). Turning the page my eye was caught by an ad for Harvey Nichols which featured a woman who had quite clearly wet her pants. Yep, Harvey Nichols was appealing to women to come and visit their sale where we may wet ourselves with excitement! A woman who had supposedly pee’d her pants is not the image I expect to see in my Irish Times of a morning. Most off putting of one’s breakfast. The bad taste of the ad was staggering. I don’t shop in Harvey Nicks (and I don’t generally pee myself with excitement about shopping generally) but are they not considered a high end store? What was being said in this ad? Is it now socially acceptable to pee your pants? I was annoyed and stunned.
You can therefore imagine how doubly stunned I was the following day when the scene repeated itself almost exactly – breakfast, Irish Times, Harvey Nichols ad – but this time it featured a male model – and he had no wet stain on his pants! Dry as a whistle he was. Now I was really mad. So, Harvey Nichols thinks only women pee themselves with excitement. However some chat about it all on twitter indicated that the same ad had appeared in a different newspaper a few days earlier and the male model had a wet patch. Had the Irish Times called a halt on the peeing models? All I can say is ‘yuck’.
Today Twitter brings to my attention a flyer that Centra are apparently distributing which is advertising a range of their ‘special offers’ under the banner ‘Children’s Allowance Day Deals’. All kinds of products are advertised including a box of beer? It was not just me who was annoyed. Twitter was alive with comment – which as far as I could see was all negative.
But it got me thinking. Both of these ad campaigns are so clearly ‘wrong’ - are they deliberate? Have marketing executives and departments become so cynical that they think if they produce something in very dubious taste or clearly morally a bit suspect it’s bound to generate comment. Are they operating under that old adage that ‘there is no such thing as bad publicity’
I cannot believe that both companies were so blind to their marketing guru’s line in patter that they could not see the poor taste and lack of judgement evident in both of these very different ads. And both ads are clearly aimed at different target markets.
I would be fascinated to know the truth. Either way I don’t agree with the ‘all publicity is good publicity’ philosophy. I would be terrified to shop in Harvey Nichols – imagine trying on a pair of trousers that someone may have gotten over excited in? Nah. Thanks.
Monday, July 2, 2012
You have no idea how I have longed to use that phrase. Are you picturing me working in a fabulous office where, a constant stream of products drop onto my lap seeking my imprimatur? In fact my desk is in my emigrant eldest daughter’s bedroom, where I work at a desk facing a purple wall!! But I digress....
Regular readers will know that I harbour a dream of upping sticks and moving out of suburbia and into the country. Wexford or Kilkenny would probably be my counties of preference as I would not like to be too far from the city of my birth. I have been known to while away long hours when there’s nothing on the tellybox, surfing websites such as DAFT and MyHome looking for my alter abode. In fact if I am to be truthful I actually have a saved list of properties on DAFT and on a day when I need to dream a different life I visit this list and drool over these quirky houses with orchards, vegetable patches, room for donkeys and hens... sigh. My other dream is to bail out of life for a year and rent a cottage on the Aran Islands..... but that’s another story! Suffice to say that although a Dub born and bred I seem to have the call of the country somewhere deep within my soul! Perhaps this stems from the generally happy memories of Irish Farm family holidays in the 70s.
Women’s magazines drive me nuts regularly... with their over emphasis on beauty and fashion and dieting!! Pages and pages of impossibly gorgeous, very skinny, very young women interspersed with only perhaps one meaty article worth reading. I know this is a massive generalisation and it does seem to apply more to UK than Irish magazines but still after years of trying everything from Cosmopolitan to Prima and Good Housekeeping I have given up. I rarely buy magazines now... as a 50 year old woman with only a passing interest in clothes and makeup, I find them just too depressing.
When I cast a cold eye over the cover of the new Irish Country Magazine (from the Farmers Journal, dontchya know... yee haw) I was delighted to see a photo of a real woman, Catherine Fulvio, - looking beautiful but normal! Some Irish magazines have often been guilty of taking Irish celebrity women and totally over-styling them so that you have to look twice to recognise who they are!
I am happy to say that my delight in the cover of ‘Irish Country Magazine’ continued as I perused the innards of this new publication. I found meaty articles aplenty and some beautiful writing. I was particularly taken with a column by Cherone Duggan who is an Irish farmers daughter studying in Harvard and who wrote about the joy of rain. I hope she will be a regular contributor.
There is also a feature on daughters and fathers, and a wellbeing section which leads with an article by that wonderfully wise woman, Maureen Gaffney about regrets.
There is one fashion shoot (and again is not over styled but relatively normal looking), there is one beauty feature but there is also lots of gardening, interiors and food (with Neven Maguire and cover woman Catherine Fulvio).
So if you, like me, are not a fan of women’s magazines (‘cos they make you feel cross and depressed), perhaps have a look at Irish Country Magazine.... I liked it. It costs €2.99 and is quarterly. The summer edition is in shops now.
Now... I wonder would they consider a column by a Dublin ole wan who decamps to Inis Oirr for a year?
Thursday, June 21, 2012
What is this nonsense about Ryanair possibly going to buy Aer Lingus? Ryanair – that cheeky upstart of an airline, which I accept was almost entirely responsible for making flying affordable for us Irish, stranded as we are on this rocky, green, damp island on the western edge of Europe. But take over Aer Lingus... that august and proud airline, that erstwhile symbol of national pride, I bloody well hope not!
I am resisting the temptation to rant on about why I really hate flying Ryanair. I will not describe the nervous heap they reduce me to while I stand for hours in a queue at a gate which manages to be on the far side of the airfield from the terminal, wearing too many clothes so that my hand luggage weighs less that my handbag normally does. I will refrain from pouring scorn on the sweaty leather seats and the garish blue and yellow interior of their aircraft. But the blaring of a fanfare when we arrive on time is a step too far and really is an appalling way to treat customers.
Oh no, give me Aer Lingus any day. I think Aer Lingus like me and are happy to have me onboard. Ryanair seem to be out to get me and they definitely don’t like me much, a fact that could be due to the perspiration on my forehead I guess.
Aer Lingus and I have a long shared history. In the 1960’s my father worked in Customs and Excise (as it was called then) and occasionally on weekends I accompanied him to Dublin Airport at Collinstown. The original terminal building with its feminine curving lines was as beautiful inside as out. I can still see its large, airy and bright main hall dominated, if my memory serves me correctly, by a huge wall clock. The airport was a portal to exotic and wondrous foreign shores and adventure. The tingle of anticipation was heightened by the whiff of jet fuel from the nearby apron. To a little girl Dublin Airport was somewhere very special indeed.
In 1971, I was nine years old when Aer Lingus took delivery of its first 747 Jumbo Jet. I remember standing in our back garden in Blackrock watching as this huge aircraft passed overhead. This kind of flypast became a bit of a habit for Aer Lingus 747s; they did it again in 1979, a low pass over the city of the Papal flight, although this time the Jumbo Jet was flanked on each wing by two Air Corps aircraft. Being a cool teenager I took great delight in having no interest whatsoever in the Pope’s visit. However I did feel a certain pride when I realised that his arrival on our national carrier was the first time a Pope had ever travelled on an airline other than Alitalia.
As a child of the 70s, Aer Lingus was one of the very first things that made me proud to be Irish. This little country, which was seriously lacking in pizzazz or excitement, had an airline which was deemed to be as good as any on the planet, at a time when air travel was the ultimate in glamorous living. Sure hadn’t it got an office on 5th Ave in New York to prove it? Aer Lingus symbolised an Ireland that was beginning to believe in itself.
Perhaps it was in part my early exposure to the charms of both the Airport and the airline that led me to a job in the travel business. I joined the JWT set and in the early 80s spent one winter working as a Holiday Rep in Gran Canaria. At that time the bulk of the Irish holidaymakers arrived on the island on a chartered Aer Lingus 747, which delivered to us a staggering 470 passengers. This caused some logistical problems on the ground as it meant that all Irish holiday companies had arrivals and departures on the same day and at the same time. As Reps we had to book our coaches well in advance or our clients would be left making the transfer in some old bone shaker of a rickety vehicle which normally functioned as a school bus.
During the ‘90s my love life was complicated. My boyfriend lived in London and so we spent every second weekend commuting back and forwards across the Irish Sea – always with Aer Lingus. There were more than a few occasions when I arrived a bit ahead of schedule at Gatwick and used to ask at check-in if I might change to the earlier flight. Invariably the nice Aer Lingus people would tell me to go ahead to the gate with my bag and if they could, they certainly would put me on the first flight available. It usually worked and no one ever had the audacity to ask me for payment.
My experiences with Aer Lingus have always been positive. My travel memories are interspersed with those hours of waiting at various airports for my flight back to Dublin. Tired, tanned and tetchy at the end of a holiday, that first sight of the familiar green and blue livery descending from the sky was always a surprising source of national pride. I am not ashamed to admit that I still feel that way today. And does anyone else fondly remember the aroma of Irish Breakfast that used to waft through the cabin on an early morning flight home.... sure we were home before we ever left the ground!
I admit I seem to have a slightly irrational and very emotional attachment to our national carrier... but I doubt that I am alone. Aer Lingus is our airline. And it is still one of the safest and best airlines in the world. So who’s going to tell the Troika we ain’t selling it?
Friday, June 15, 2012
So, Euro2012 wasn’t quite an Italia90!
Back in 1990 things just kept getting better as our national soccer team led the entire country on a magical journey all the way to the semi finals where if I am not mistaken we were finally beaten by Italy. It was a special time when you could almost feel ‘Ireland Inc’ (sorry – I hate that expression too) beginning to develop a self confidence and a realisation that we were as good as any other nation on earth.
Bear in mind that this football odyssey came just two short two years after Houghton put the ball in the England net in Stuttgart and five years after Live Aid. I know we didn’t play football at Live Aid, but it was another iconic event which led many of us who watched it, to realise that U2 were well on their way to becoming the biggest rock band in the world and that Bob Geldof was a force of nature to be reckoned with. I remember noticing Irish flags near the stage and the slow dawning realisation that perhaps we not only could breed great leaders and musicians but maybe Ireland was also cool. Italia90 confirmed all of these possibilities.
But added to this burgeoning confidence were the army of fans (Jack’s Army in 1990) who travelled to Italy to support the team. Sky News was a new 24hour news station in 1990 and I remember their reporters in Rome for the semi finals interviewing Irish fans who were there for ‘the craic’ and who couldn’t believe our good fortune in getting all the way to the quarter finals. Their delight and pure joy in the experience was palpable and catching and a revelation to the British reporters who were more used to football fans being hooligans. Back in 1990 we were proud of the team, of honourary Irishman Jack Charlton and of the brilliant supporters. It was all damn near perfect!
So here we are 22 years later (can you believe it is that long ago?) and the Irish soccer team are back at a big international tournament and again we are being managed by a foreigner... this time Italian Giovanni Trapattoni. The fans mobilised by air and by land and headed east to Poland, a country with whom we now have strong links after our Celtic Tiger economy attracted so many of their countrymen and women to our shores to work. Expectations were high. Alas, as we all know, things have not panned out the way we might have hoped. In football terms the whole thing has been a disaster.
In 1990 Ireland was on the brink of conceiving her Celtic Tiger and we were all feeling good about ourselves. Now, in 2012 we are very much a broken country, traumatised by the collapse of our economy and giving away of our sovereignty and many of us trying to come to terms with crippling personal debt. There is a horrible feeling that we have lost control of our lives and indeed to a large extent we have.
To a lesser country the dismal football performances would have added to this feeling of depression and self loathing. Our having the ignominious glory of being the first team out of the tournament could serve to reaffirm our belief that we are as capable of playing football as we are in managing our economy. To a lesser country at the very least this would have led to an army of supporters coming home down and depressed and thoroughly fed up. Like those of us who feel we have no control over our lives as we struggle through this quagmire of financial disaster, our supporters might rightly have felt that no matter how much they sang they couldn’t seem to influence things on the field.
But the one thing we always have control over (listen up now - this is important) is our attitude to disaster. We are the only ones who can decide how we face each day. We can do so depressed and fed up or we can make a concerted and deliberate effort to greet the day with a smile and a spirit of optimism. It’s not easy in the face of all the huge financial problems we have... but it can be done. And if there is one thing we should take from Euro 2012 it is just that. We Irish have been gifted a great sense of humour. We love a party. We invented the craic. Don’t underestimate how a precious these gifts are.
How many countries with far superior soccer teams to ours would love to have our supporters? Our army of madly dressed men and women, who had the longest journey to make to Poland, but arrived in their thousands – many in converted ice cream vans and ambulances and clapped out vehicles. They knew they were backing one of the weakest teams in the tournament but they were determined to bring good humour which they showcased beautifully with their witty banners and signs – one of which even make the cover of German newspaper Bild.
Before and after matches our supporters partied with those of the very teams who crashed any dreams we might have had of winning an odd game. And last night in the face of a humbling defeat they gave a ten minute rousing rendition of The Fields of Athenry. Put simply if Carlsberg did football supporters they would do Irish ones...
As that saying goes ‘life is not about waiting for the storm to pass but rather it is about learning to dance in the rain’. Our soccer supporters showed all of Europe how to dance in the rain. And they did so with grace and humour. I am so proud of them. They reminded me of just how bloody great it is to be Irish!
Thursday, June 7, 2012
Arriving at our door can be a bit hectic as not only will you be greeted by one of us 2 leggeds, but you will also be met by Dylan Da Dog who gets ridiculously excited at the appearance of any visitors – known or unknown.
As I opened the door that Saturday morning I did my best to restrain Dylan while trying to retain some semblance to normal human behaviour so as not to completely overwhelm this little person on my doorstep. I need not have worried. “Doggie” she exclaimed and immediately opened her arms to hug a delighted Dylan. The honest and genuine warmth of this little girl who had no fear whatsoever of our madly dancing, manically tailwagging dog was a joy to watch. “She likes dogs,” I offered. “Yep,” her mother confirmed, “she loves them.”
Gay Byrne used to famously say every year on the Late Late Toy Show that the greatest gift you can give a child is the gift of reading. I agree. But the second greatest gift you can hand your child is the love of a family pet. My heart breaks every time I meet a child who has a fear of dogs or cats.
I have always lived with animals. In fact the only time I was without a cat in my life were the two winter seasons I spent in the Canary Islands and it was a loss I felt keenly and which led me to talk to every stray, scrawny Spanish moggie I met.
My kids obviously have always shared their lives with animals too. For me, there are few life lessons as important for children than learning how to respect and care for a pet. We have all learned about love, life and grief from sharing our life with our 4 leggeds.
Yesterday my mother handed me a book, entitled ‘A Street Cat Named Bob’. Very simply this book tells the story of former homeless man and recovering heroin addict James Bowen who became adopted by an amazing cat called Bob. Bob the cat was in a bad way when he first showed up and James had to nurse him back to full health with the help of the RSPCA. In turn James credits the love he got from Bob with helping him turn in his life around. It is a beautiful story that illustrates perfectly how I think God intended us to share this beautiful planet with our animal brothers and sisters. Mutual respect along with love freely given is key.
Naturally I am a huge supporter of the work here in Dublin of the DSPCA. All of my four cats are rescues and we are regular fosterers of kittens also. Getting a pet is not something anyone should do lightly. Along with all the love and fun and good stuff there is hard work too. And when it comes to cats and dogs, there’s the matter of a commitment that could run to near on 20 years.
But if adopting an animal is something that you are curious about or if you would like to support the work of this amazing charity, why not pop along to their PetFest at their HQ on Mount Venus Road, Rathfarnham on Saturday June 16th from 12noon till 4pm. Panto Queen June Rogers will be there as will 98FM’s Teena Gates who will be judging the ‘Scruffts’ dog show. There will be food stalls and information about the work of Ireland’s oldest animal charity. The kids can enjoy the face painting and bouncing castle. But most of all you can learn about adopting an animal, from the people who know best how to advise you.
But even if pet ownership is not for you, why not go along so that your children can get up close and personal with some 4 leggeds. I can’t think of a nicer way to spend a Saturday! And sure you never know, you might make some new friends!!!
Thursday, May 31, 2012
Today is voting day in the EU Treaty Referendum. For the last month or so we have been deafened by conflicting voices telling us what they think we should do. I am not going to rehash any of the debates (although most of them descended into shouting matches) but there is one thing that has irked me in a big way from the beginning of this campaign. And oddly enough it was exactly the same thing that irked me the last time we voted (the General Election 2011) and that thing is ENDA KENNY.
I have nothing against the man personally. I do think he is a good person with his heart in the right place. But he is a weak leader – something I feared over a year ago when my vote, along with an avalanche of others, propelled him and his party into government with Labour.
After 4 years of brutal recession Ireland continues to struggle economically. That sentence doesn’t however convey the very real suffering of many people in this country. A fact that was brought into sharp focus this week with an excellent, if very depressing programme on RTE 1 called Life and Debt (you can watch it back on the RTE Player here). This programme portrayed the very real and desperate nightmare many people are caught in right now. The programme made me very angry, particularly as it was broadcast in a week when once again Ireland paid €2.25bn to bondholders. According to tweeter @sebthegooner that equates to €500 for every man, woman and child in this country. That would amount to €2,000 from this house alone. We could buy our daughter the wardrobes she badly needs for her bedroom.... but for those who were featured on ‘Life and Debt’ this might buy a bit of peace of mind for a couple of weeks.
If we ever needed strong leadership we need it now, which brings me neatly back to our Enda. Once again he refused to go into TV3 or any other studio to debate the issues around the EU Treaty. Bear in mind we pay this man €200,000 a year to lead the country. The arrogance is breathtaking.
But it is more serious that just giving a two fingers to his electorate, Enda Kenny’s refusal to debate live on air, his obvious fear of conflict or being seen to lose clearly makes him unsuitable for the high office he holds. This is the man on whom we depend to negotiate our case in Europe. I despair. I really do. The clip above from last nights Channel 4 News is enough to make one cry!
Here is the blog post I wrote over a year ago just prior to the General Election... the gladioli have come home to roost... or something!
Where’s my voting card...... It’s going to be NO.