Thursday, July 26, 2012


Thanks to my friend Vanessa O Loughlin who runs the wonderful website, 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.

There is an authenticity about Springsteen’s music which is only matched by his pure unadulterated joy in performing.  His smile filled the RDS time and time again on the big screen and more than once I found myself grinning back at him.. forgetting that I was not alone in the arena.

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!


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


A new magazine dropped onto my desk this week......

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?