Home thoughts from a Guy


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An unstructured, unedited (as yet), free-associative early-morning post.

I can still remember when …
there still was post, early or otherwise.

The title – where does it come from?
I am at home. I am not abroad or a broad

Everything is … (an ellipsis)

First thought of the morning was Everything is Derivative
A virtual peregrination which leads …
… where?

Home Thougths, who was that again?
Anyone who can weave Worcestershire into a song lyric deserves great credit.

Give it where it is due.

How is Worcestershire? Is it still the same between us?
Juxtaposition. From the mundane to the poignant.
Is it still the same between us?

Post: when people wrote on paper
A line or two wouldn’t go amiss

Clifford T was not alluding to drug use …
… but what is that lyric that contains
a line or two

Rattling round in the cerebellum

Just will not come to me.

Google is no good for lost chords
How can we search for something we do not know we have lost?

The space between ‘the same between us’ AND ‘not the same between us’, not even Google can find that.

What was that great graphic I stumbledUpon during the summer.

At least I remember what to look for.
[google” “with or without you venn diagram”]

One of my many failures was as a Maths teacher, but despite being hilarious this depiction is incorrect. I think. Surely this diagram depicts a space which is With ‘AND’ Without you. Note to self: must ask the brother he is the statistician in the family.
Repitition: depict(ion), maybe deviation too.

Does the graph not mean Bono cannot live anywhere? Or, cheap associative shot, anywhere but in tax exile. ‘U Pay Your Tax 2’

Ah, finally, it has come to me. Leonard, is it not always Leonard these days.
… everybody knows that you live forever … when you’ve done a line or two

This is from Lissadell. I was there too. No, really, I was.

And heard echoed those famous lines of Yeats
Oh, to be in Sligo, now that August’s here.

So it goes.

Time for breakfast – not one of champions.

Add-end um

John Murray on the radio asking people to name songs that have a special meaning for them.
Of all things he plays My Sweet Lord!
… serendipity, or what

Krishna, krishna. Hallelujah.
All credits where they are due.


Etymology & the beautiful game


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The Germans have a word for it … sometimes a very long one.

Schadenfreude is shorter, however. Malicious joy in the misfortunes of others, eh.

There are even scholarly links to Schadenfreude and soccer, for example Malicious pleasure: Schadenfreude at the suffering of another group appeared in Vol. 84 No. 5 of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 2003.

Two studies examined intergroup schadenfreude: malicious pleasure at an out-group’s misfortune. Study 1 showed that schadenfreude regarding a German loss in soccer was increased by interest in soccer and threats of Dutch inferiority.

Hard to say how inferior the Dutch felt in the 1974 World Cup final when they famously went a goal up before the Germans even touched the ball. OK, they did go on to lose. National stereotype number one: the Germans almost always win in the end.

This morning I got to wondering whether Marco Reus experienced any frisson of joy from the damage he inflicted around 20.17 on Friday evening last. Perhaps just a slight twinge rather than full-blown Schadenfreude? There was a sense of inevitability when he scored just minutes after he had what would appear to be a legitimate claim for a penalty denied. To compound his grievance, he got a yellow card for his troubles.

Was it just me who found it mildly distasteful that every time he touched the ball after the non-penalty-incident-with-distinct-tugging-in-the-Irish-box a very discernible chorus of boos could be heard? Supremely unsporting. Not what one wants to hear. That apart, I also thought it was tempting fate. Bad karma, man.

Then the lad done what the lad has done all season – stuck it in the back of the net. Twice. In six minutes. Game over, as they say. No more boos after that.

Krank wie ein Papagei, as they are wont to mutter into their beer in Dortmund.

Arabic has a word for it too: nadir (from Arabic: نظير / ALA-LC: naẓīr; meaning ‘opposite’). This was one.

The zenith for me was on 30 October 1974, when Liam Brady, at 18, made his debut for Ireland during the qualifying campaign for the 1976 European Football Championship, in a 3–0 win over the Soviet Union, when it really was the Soviet Union – all fifteen republics-worth.

Like the GPO in 1916, I was there. No, really, I was there.

I interrogated the database for the detail. ‘DEVLIN, S., 1974. Supremo Giles is the Architect of Victory. Dublin, Ireland: Oct 31, ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Irish Times (1859–2011) and The Weekly Irish Times (1876–1958)’.

In October 1974 I was a second-year science student at UCD – probably skipping a Chemistry practical for the three o’clock kick-off.

Despite the high of that sublime afternoon – Brady, Giles and a Givens hat-trick – we did not qualify in 1976, losing out narrowly to the Soviet Union in the end, despite the Dalymount trouncing.

Lem, who slept in the bath in my insalubrious bedsit in Oxford Road around this same time, told me he played in the same St Kevin’s youth team as Brady. He claimed to be the more talented of the pair. Lem’s real name is long forgotten in the mists of time, so there is no database to verify that particular claim. Talent alone, however, is seldom enough. Lem did not have the persistence for a life at the top; I mean he only lasted less than a week in the bath. I do hope he found redemption in the end.

Despite all their talent, the class of 1974 did not make it to the finals in the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. While I would be delighted to be proved wrong, I do not expect to see the current crop in Brazil in 2016. Uma grande pena.

Redemption, though, can never be ruled out, only goals for offside.

In case the foregoing proved all too dispiriting, here is some cerebral comedy from Monty Python.

Marx claimed it was offside @ 3.11. Sheer class!

Still, a great header at the back stick by the boy Socrates.

From Dy Lan to Mo Yan



Grandpa is going to tell another one of his stories.

“Long, long time ago I can still remember … in a time before the internet.”

“You were alive in a time when there was no internet, Grandpa?”

Indeed I was, children, indeed I was.”

Grandpa already begins to repeat himself.

“For entertainment we sometimes went to a pub, a place you could drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes. Inside.

“No, they did not serve artisan sourdough bread, drizzled with truffle-infused cold-pressed olive oil from Umbria. Sometimes you could get chicken in a basket, but that was usually only when itinerant politicians came in from the wilderness.

“Chicken in a basket? Go ask your Granny. She is the one for the detail. No, Jesse, I do not think it is like Poulet de Bresse.

“As far as I can recall, Jacob, they did not generally serve Chateau Margaux in Ballydehob – Medoc wines really only became popular a little later on.

“I used to like to make up questions for the pub quiz. I used books, lots of books. I had a set of the Encyclopaedia Britannica that my daddy sold me when he was trying to make some extra money because those Fianna Fáil scoundrels stole his pension. Oh, it is all such a long time ago now.

“Yes, Grace you can have a book that is made of paper. Can you really look up Encyclopaedia Britannica online now? For free! Anyway stop trying to addle me, let me get back to my story.”

One of Grandpa’s favourite questions was: What have Count Maurice (Mooris) Polidore Marie Bernhard Maeterlinck, Carl Gustaf Verner von Heidenstam and Halldór Kiljan Laxness got in common?

Not many people knew the answer to that. This made Grandpa very happy. Granny said he had a big ego (they first fell out at a pub quiz). They know now it is because their brains work differently, but back then Grandpa would get very cross because he thought that Granny was not trying hard enough. Granny said Grandpa was very trying. She said it very often.

“You want to know what the answer is, Ben? Of course you do. They all won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Even better, they each won their prize in the year that my daddy, my mammy and myself were born.”

“Aren’t you the cute hoor, Grandpa.”

“I am, Theo, I am. Mind your mother does not hear you use that language.”

Tell us another story, Grandpa.”

“Did I ever tell you about when I met Bob Dylan on the Main Street in Carrick-on-Suir? It must have been around 1965; I was just a little boy. No, Finlay, I do not know if that was before that naughty man shouted ‘Judas’ at him in Manchester. Look it up on your bloody iPad.”

Embracing the wireless world


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On Friday 31 August the Examiner carried a piece with the headline ‘Rural areas losing out in digital divide’. It went on to say: ‘job opportunities are being lost because of Ireland’s digital divide, it has emerged’. It was the ‘emerged’ that incensed me and prompted me to post to my LinkedIn page with the comment beloved of the young – ‘doh’. It is a perfect expression for the frustration of those of us living in peripheral locations who have known for over twenty years that a functioning broadband system is a sine qua non for doing business in the 21st century. For goodness sake, it was a sine qua non in the last century. My headline would read ‘Government belatedly cottons on’.

In between the challenge of running rural businesses from peripheral locations, many of us have been bleating on ad nauseam about the necessity for faster connectivity.

Long-time Skibbereen resident Lord David Puttnam also made an appearance last week in the Examiner, giving the first of ten planned lectures to students in Brisbane, Australia, via high-speed links from his home. Despite us both being passionate supporters of our local farmers market, I only ‘know him to see him’ and, prior to today, have never spoken to the man. However, emboldened, I approached him and asked about his broadband connection. As good a chat-up line as any. He said it had taken him two years to install and it was at his own cost. So, while politicians make ‘plans about a plan’, someone with foresight and, admittedly, the means, goes ahead and does something practical.

Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte described the broadcast plan as the ‘rural electrification of the 21st century’. In the 1940s, the Electricity Supply Board prepared, at the request of Mr Sean Lemass, Minister for Industry and Commerce, a report on the provision of electricity to rural areas. On 2 September 1944, the Southern Star quoted from this report the intention to extend ‘on a national scale the electricity network in Éire with the object of making electricity supply available to the farming and rural community’. By the late 1970s there were still rural locations in West Cork where electricity was not available. Hopefully, the impetus to provide acceptable broadband connections will be less tardy than the provision of electricity.

Amazon recently held a recruitment drive in Bantry to employ, initially at least, thirty home-based workers – their application form asked candidates if they had access to 3Mbps broadband. Apple are recruiting workers in Ireland and they stipulate a minimum of 5Mbps to one’s home office. So, with unemployment levels rising – the stick we cannot but take notice of and the lure of elusive jobs the carrot – it may be that this time it will be different and real change will be effected. I am not holding my breath, however. The road to rapid broadband has been littered with many false dawns.

In 1988, the year I bought my first Apple Macintosh and headed ‘west’, the Irish Times was writing: ‘by the end of the century … it is estimated that more than 60% of Community employment may depend on telecommunications. With Ireland over 50% digitalised, an exciting future lies ahead for the country and the EEC, as we work towards a single broadband telecommunications structure’. The road to rapid broadband has been littered with many false dawns.

I have always been an advocate of the digital world, being an early adopter of both email and the internet. In business terms these tools have allowed me to provide a service and make a living which, in earlier times, would not have been an option. However, it is a double-edged sword. Latterly, competing with low-wage economies is not a game one can win. There is always somebody, somewhere, who can offer a cheaper service.

I am passionate about where I live and the community which has existed here for generations. However, as publishing is changing, so, too rural communities are changing. If we want a society which, as well as having thriving cities, also maintains a vibrant rural population, we need to embrace change.

Everything rusts


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Georgina Hope Rinehart, more commonly known as Gina. You may not have heard of her yet. It seems that she is now the richest woman in the world. In 1952, her father, Lang Hancock, discovered the world’s largest deposit of iron ore in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.

In 2009, Australia’s iron ore production was 393.9 million tonnes – 97 per cent of that coming from Western Australia. So, controlling iron ore deposits, is, in effect, a licence to print money.

As Bob Dylan wryly observes in Idiot Wind ‘She inherited a million bucks, and when she died it came to me. I can’t help it if I’m lucky.’

Likewise, when Lang died, Gina got the lot – more than a million bucks. Lots more. Lucky Gina.

Annelies Marie Frank, more commonly known as Anne, wrote one of the most enduring stories of the Holocaust. Today I read that her diaries will soon appear in interactive format. Anne Frank was not so lucky. She died, aged fifteen, in Bergen-Belsen along with most of her family.

One of the most thought-provoking things she is reputed to have said is, ‘In spite of everything, I still believe that people are good at heart.’

It is a noble thought, one I would like to believe is true.

However, I just read a report on the BBC website where Gina is criticising her country’s economic performance. She tells us ‘Africans want to work, and its workers are willing to work for less than $2 per day’.

I did some calculations on the back of an envelope. I am quite clever like that. It involved calculating between three different currencies, so I may have got my sums wrong.

Ms Rinehart reportedly ‘makes’ 485 euro a second. Well she makes nothing, but you know what I mean. Those plucky African chappies she patronises are doubtless happy with their 1.60 euro per day. They are probably ‘willing’ to do it for less – a few peanuts perhaps.

Seems a bit unfair that one human being can earn 26,190,000 times more per day than another. Unfairer still that it is for doing doodly squat. I might have a bit more time for her if she went down a mine and put her life on the line.

Anne Frank’s story was slightly more complicated, and her diaries slightly more edited, than we are generally aware of.

Maybe Gina’s story is slightly more complicated. Maybe she is in fact good at heart and it is all just a dreadful misunderstanding.

I don’t care any more


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What a difference an ‘e’ can make. The difference between carer and career. Deciding, however, to prioritise the former can seriously jeopardise the latter. Most people have little choice in the matter.

I am, of course, being slightly tongue-in-cheek when I say ‘I don’t care any more’. My wife and I looked after my mother, who developed vascular dementia at the ripe old age of 90, caring for her at home until her death on 1 January – a day short of her 96th birthday. So, it is only in this very practical sense that I no longer care.

I do, however, care about those who still have the burden of looking after loved ones. They cannot walk away. So I listened with mounting incredulity yesterday as HSE Director-General designate Tony O’Brien was very jesuitical about what was actually going to be cut in the latest round of slash and burn.

The Irish Times today reports ‘services are likely to be seriously affected by a 600,000-hour cut in home help hours, as well as a reduction of 200 home care packages and a €10 million reduction in hours for personal assistants for people who need high levels of support trying to live independently’.

The net economic benefit to the government of ‘caring’ is estimated to be around €2.5 billion per annum.

I heard Mr O’Brien on Radio 1 while on my way to being treated to lunch in a relaxed restaurant with a garden set close to the sea. The sun shone, the food was beautiful, the company lovely. A couple sat opposite us who were no longer in the first flush of youth. They patiently spooned food into their two disabled adult daughters’ mouths, tenderly wiping any that overflowed.

I am not sure what the ‘new man’ at the HSE earns, but his predecessor reputedly earned €322,000. The beleaguered Minister for Health James Reilly earns in the region of €170,000. Unless it has changed since January, the carer’s allowance is €204 euro per week.

Everything is Illuminated


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My life has been littered with unconnected events. It’s only now – when I have the time to watch butterflies and think that life can be as short as the unfolding of a painted wing, or as long as the slow and certain flow of continuous life from big bang to final apocalypse – that I begin to tease out the links. Crying for Worms, Bloodlines and other stories

It may be a far-fetched notion, worthy of Joyce herself, but I think that it is all down to the electricity, or, more correctly, lack thereof.

Joyce Russell – Southern Star readers will recognise the name as that of the papers’ gardening columnist – is to have her first book of short stories, Bloodlines and other stories, published by the Mercier Press. The collection will be launched at 14.30 on Wednesday 19 September with a free reading in Cork City Library on Grand Parade as part of the Cork International Short Story Festival.

In the 1940s, the Electricity Supply Board prepared, at the request of Mr Sean Lemass, Minister for Industry and Commerce, a report on the provision of electricity to rural areas. On 2 September 1944, the Southern Star quoted from this report the intention to extend ‘on a national scale the electricity network in Éire with the object of making electricity supply available to the farming and rural community’. Coincidentally, 1944 was the year that Captain Sean Feehan launched the Mercier Press.

However, by the late 1970s, when Joyce, a native Yorkshire woman, visited Ireland on holiday with her husband and decided to stay, the ‘rural electrification scheme’ had still not reached the house in the remote valley where they lived for their first three years in Ireland.

The fertile imagination which has given rise to the stories in this collection was surely sparked by those long dark evenings in the foothills near Ballingeary.

Many of Joyce’s characters have lived with her for many years, writing necessarily taking a backseat while she raised her family of three and worked as co-founder and office manager for Friends of the Earth, Bantry.

The ESB itself ran a short story competition in 1996 to commemorate the golden jubilee of electricity and its effects on rural life. Joyce was not an entrant to that competition, but since first appearing on the radar in 2002, when her story This Little Piggy was third-prize winner in the RTÉ Francis McManus Award, hers has been a steady progression of consistency and resilience, culminating in winning that same competition in 2010 with Fishing For Dreams.

You will not hear Joyce theorising about writing, but you might well see an electric light burning brightly at 5.30 on a winter morning if you drive through the pass of Keimaneigh. Hard work brings its own rewards. Bloodlines is the first chapter of what I think will be a glittering writing career.

    The above piece is one that I wrote (and the Southern Star published) this week. Its goal was to help create a bit of ‘noise’ for the launch of a book of short stories by a good friend, Joyce Russell. I have been privileged to know Joyce, Ben and their three children from when I first came to West Cork in 1989. Friendship apart, the stories are great. It is appropriate that a Cork publisher has had the insight to realise it. I think they have unearthed a gem.

Whatever happened to Leon Trotsky


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My last blog, as well as a rant of the day, cast a mildly ironic look at Enda Kenny and his penchant for rhetoric. That was before the whole Vladimir Ilyich Lenin furore. You get away with nothing nowadays, no bad thing perhaps. The social media keep us on our toes if nothing else. It is, as Greg Canty, my LinkedIn friend in Cork whom I have never met, says, all about making noise.

When I linked to the speech, I discovered that what Enda really meant to say had been neatly inserted instead of the offending gaffe, reminiscent of the classic Monty Python ‘what I meant your majesty’ sketch.

The airbrushing of history through manipulation of photographs is something which the former Soviet state was particularly adept at. There is a famous picture of Lenin addressing troops in Moscow in the 1920s, where Trotsky appears and disappears depending on which image you happen to see. The Commissar Vanishes is a fascinating look at this practice.

Lenin may or may not have said, ‘The best way to destroy the capitalist system is to debauch the currency’, Enda may or may not have said that ‘it was time to get Ireland working again and that our plan was designed to make that happen’.

As for Trotsky, if we believe the Stranglers, ‘he got an ice pick. That made his ears burn.’