A sudden squall.


For the most part squalls are nasty things.  Winds that dip down from high above, moving quickly and sometimes moving in totally unpredictable directions.  As a sailor you learn to respect them.  The sight of a squall cloud gets your palms itchy to take in a couple of reefs, or just ditch the sails on deck altogether until it passes.

Even on land they are unpleasant.  On the way home this evening on the bicycle I was hit by a squall out of an otherwise sunny sky.  In seconds it had dumped a blast of cold rain, too suddenly to make for shelter or don waterproof gear.  So I sit here writing in my wet trousers.

A squall also takes me back to my youth in Glasnevin of the 1970’s when going to mass was obligatory in Ireland.  We used to seek variety by swapping between churches and priests.  It was always worth a trip up to Sillogue church for a Christmas mass to hear the poem below.  The priest in question was famous for his delivery style, a slow twangy drawl interspersed with sharp orders to the congregation (stand now, sit down, only I say this bit  etc).  The priest was known in the area simply as Fr Tangmalangaloo an onomatopoeic name that reflected his intonation.

Tangmalangaloo: by Father Patrick Joseph Hartigan

The bishop sat in lordly state and purple cap sublime,
And galvanised the old bush church at Confirmation time;
And all the kids were mustered up from fifty miles around,
With Sunday clothes, and staring eyes, and ignorance profound.
Now was it fate, or was it grace, whereby they yarded too
An overgrown two-storey lad from Tangmalangaloo?

A hefty son of virgin soil, where nature has her fling,
And grows the trefoil three foot high and mats it in the spring;
Where mighty hills uplift their heads to pierce the welkin’s rim,
And trees sprout up a hundred feet before they shoot a limb;
There everything is big and grand, and men are giants too–
But Christian Knowledge wilts, alas, at Tangmalangaloo.

The bishop summed the youngsters up, as bishops only can;
He cast a searching glance around, then fixed upon his man.
But glum and dumb and undismayed through every bout he sat;
He seemed to think that he was there, but wasn’t sure of that.
The bishop gave a scornful look, as bishops sometimes do,
And glared right through the pagan in from Tangmalangaloo.

“Come, tell me, boy,” his lordship said in crushing tones severe,
“Come, tell me why is Christmas Day the greatest of the year?
“How is it that around the world we celebrate that day
“And send a name upon a card to those who’re far away?
“Why is it wandering ones return with smiles and greetings, too?”
A squall of knowledge hit the lad from Tangmalangaloo.

He gave a lurch which set a-shake the vases on the shelf,
He knocked the benches all askew, up-ending of himself.
And oh, how pleased his lordship was, and how he smiled to say,
“That’s good, my boy. Come tell me now; and what is Christmas Day?”
The ready answer bared a fact no bishop ever knew–
“It’s the day before the races at Tangmalangaloo.”


Why read History?


Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it“, George Santayana.

Remember Northern Ireland?  Remember how the British tried to fight the terrorists?  Remember how they used “Peace Walls” to separate the Catholic and Protestant communities?  Remember how effective that was?

How in this world can a fool like Donald Trump pontificate about building walls and sending Muslims home and have anyone, anyone at all, listen to him seriously?  Like, seriously guys, what have you been reading?

Remember that fateful day when Ronald Reagan stood in West Berlin and said “Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall”?

Hate begets hate.  Fear begets fear.  If you want to listen to someone say something useful I suggest you listen to the Dalai Lama.  We need to build bridges instead of walls.  We need to open doors instead of locking them and barring them.  We solve no problems or differences if we refuse to communicate.

Peace begins with mutual respect.  A taco truck on the corner is a good thing.  A falafel truck on the other corner is even better.  Instead of shutting down taco trucks in Texas wouldn’t it be better to open American diners in Aleppo?

Besides, Trump seems to hate America.  He keeps saying it is not great.  When exactly was it “better”?  What year would Donald Trump like to go back to?  Does he want to re-open the committee on un-American activities?  Does he want to re-introduce the Jim Crow laws?  Maybe he wants all women to return to the home and become good little housewives?

It just seems to me that Donald Trump is one of those people who cannot remember the past.



Gusto: by Brendan Kennelly
The Catholic bombed the Protestant’s home

The Protestant bombed the Catholic’s home

The Protestant castrated the Catholic

The Catholic castrated the Protestant

The Protestant set fire to the Catholic Recreation Centre

The Catholic set fire to the Protestant Recreation Centre

The Catholic cut the tail of the Protestant dog

The Protestant cut the tail of the Catholic dog

The Protestant hanged the Catholic

The Catholic hanged the Protestant

As they dangled like dolls from the freshly-painted

Protestant and Catholic gibbets

They held hands in mid-air and sang

With spiritual gusto, ‘Onward, Christian Soldiers!’

Spirit Proofing


Is your home secure against attacks by evil demons?


These days everyone seems to be focused on zombie-proofing their property, or making it safe against over exaggerated dangers such as lurking pedophiles,  rampaging end of world hoardes, Syrian refugees or Mexican Taco Trucks.  The truth is that you are in far more danger from Ghosts, Demons, Spirits and other denizens of the underworld.

The good news is that a few well thought out and inexpensive architectural solutions will protect you from 99% of all spirit attacks and pretty much 100% of opportunistic intrusions by wandering spirits.  Let’s face it, no pre-prepared architectural fix is going to protect you when your nihilistic teenager paints a pentacle in chicken blood on the bedroom floor and summons a demon straight from hell.  Good luck with that.

Issue 1:  Foundations

Start with a good foundation and it is hard to go wrong.  When it comes to spirits foundations are critical.  It is for good reasons that children and family pets are nervous of entering basements, root cellars, coal holes and the like.  Spirits like to lurk in cool dark places.  What’s more, when they settle in to a comfortable hole in the ground it is very hard to winkle them out.

In ancient Celtic folklore it is well known that hollows of any sort are prime entry points to the under world.  Beware of caves or sink holes in the area of your home, also natural springs, wells, and even the hollows under thorn trees.  DO NOT BE TEMPTED TO UPROOT A THORN TREE!  It’s worse than building a house on an Indian burial ground.

In general avoid building your house on holes.  If you really must have a basement there is a solution.  In the Philippines they have found that you can spirit proof a basement by building an exit below the basement level.  The ghosts sort of just slide on down and out.  This incidentally is a useful practice for drainage too.  So you can build a basement as long as it has a door lower than the basement floor.  Think along the lines of a house on a hill.

Issue 2.  Water

Spirits don’t like crossing water.  If you can afford it you could copy the great architects of the middle ages and surround your home with a moat.  Handy for keeping out your enemies and even better for keeping out spirits, and vampires by the way.

However, moats are pretty expensive to build, and it needs to be wider than a single step across.  Local authorities in most countries seem to have a problem with home owners constructing moats around their properties.

The good news comes from the Sea Island Creole people of the Carolinas.  They built their homes on islands to protect themselves from spirits, but a few tenacious ghouls still tormented them.  Then they found out that spirits can’t tell the difference between water and blue paint.  So instead of digging a moat around your house you just need to use plenty of blue paint around any potential entry point.  Paint your door saddles, window sills etc with a nice shade of “Haint Paint”.  Even more effective is painting the ceiling of your porch blue.  This seems to confuse the ghosts, they think everything is upside down or something.  Anyway, it works!

Issue 3.  Straight lines.

As any Chinese Philosopher will confirm demons and spirits travel from point to point in straight lines.  They love straight houses, straight roads and straight paths.  If you want to prevent them from entering your property you need to build in curves.  Nice curving driveways are hell for demons.  Zig-zag pathways work too.  Those pretty curved Chinese roofs are designed to be demon proof.

Rounded windows and doors are good and nothing beats a good old roundhouse.    A demon will just keep heading off in tangents until they find your next-door neighbor in his Le Corbusier style architectural cube and settle in.

Issue 4.  Demon Gates

As everyone knows the denizens of the spirit world tend to come from one direction.  The Japanese call this the Kimon Corner.  It is a good direction in which to put a corner.  Any local spiritualist will quickly identify the origination point for spirits on your property.  DO NOT HAVE A DOOR FACING THE DEMON GATE.

If you are building the full on castle with the moat you should construct your strongest round tower in that corner.  The combination of round surfaces, moat and lack of entry points will deter the majority of ghouls.  For us more modest home owners just make sure you have no doors or windows on that corner.  Also avoid putting any kind of bathroom or toilet in the Kimon Corner.  Spirits make easy work of drainage systems, and will literally flow into your home.  Ain’t nobody need that!.

Issue 5.  Flat surfaces

Demons, spirits, ghosts etc all like to hang out.  Don’t let them.  They will make themselves at home on any flat level surface.  Garden walls need to be angled or curved.  Fences should have pointed palings so Ghosts can’t perch on them.  If you have a porch or a stoop make sure it has a fall off so they slide away from the house.  Windowsills should angle down and out.  You get the picture.  If it is comfortable for you to sit there it is ideal for them.

As good practice get into the habit of stacking your garden furniture on a regular basis.  Tip tables on their sides, or put them away for the winter in the shed.  Don’t let the ghosts feel they are at home!

I do hope you profit from all this good advice.  Sleep safe!




An ancient youth.


In archaeological terms Ireland is a child.  There were no humans on the island in the paleolithic.  We have no history of neanderthals, homo habilis, homo erectus or earlier australopithecenes.  In the grand history of man we arrived on the island as fully formed modern day humans.  The earliest people arrived between 10,000 and 8,000 years ago.  They probably walked here over land-bridges left by the retreating ice sheets of the last great ice age.

At  the same time the history of Ireland is ancient.  We have great monuments and burial mounds that pre-date Stonehenge and the Pyramids.  We occupy a landscape that is steeped in history and sense of place.  We are well rooted in our environment and secure in our place in the world.

Tourists come to Ireland and take a quick spin around what is a small island.  They tick off the boxes on their holiday to-do list;  The Wild Atlantic Way, the Cliffs of Moher, Giants Causeway, Dublin Castle, Irelands Ancient East, Killarney, Queen Maeves Grave, Yeats Tombstone, the Guinness Brewery, Rock of Cashel etc.  In the new world that is how you have vacations, you go from tourist attraction to tourist attraction.

The odd time you meed a real world traveler who understands how to see Ireland properly.  Ireland is to be found in the fields and ditches, down back alleys and up mountain sides.  It is a country of many small attractions, each one having its own story.  The trick is to find the local historian who can walk a site with you and bring it to life.

Then you go to the pub and discuss the important things; sport, politics, religion, the shape of a girls ankle and the fall of a sparrow.  On your way home, if you are very sensitive to your surroundings, you may even be lucky enough to turn out a shadow that could be a fox, or a fairy, a banshee or the shade of a long dead king.

At Currabwee; by Francis Ledwidge

Every night at Currabwee
Little men with leather hats
Mend the boots of Faery
From the tough wings of the bats.
So my mother told to me,
And she is wise you will agree. .

Louder than a cricket’s wing
All night long their hammer’s glee
Times the merry songs they sing
Of Ireland glorious and free.
So I heard Joseph Plunkett say,
You know he heard them but last May.

And when the night is very cold
They warm their hands against the light
Of stars that make the waters gold
Where they are labouring all the night.
So Pearse said, and he knew the truth,
Among the stars he spent his youth.

And I, myself, have often heard
Their singing as the stars went by,
For am I not of those who reared
The banner of old Ireland high,
From Dublin town to Turkey’s shores,
And where the Vardar loudly roars?

Olivia Dahl


On the 100th Birthday of Roald Dahl please remember this letter that he wrote:  Vaccinate your kids and teach them to read.

Olivia, my eldest daughter, caught measles when she was seven years old.
As the illness took its usual course I can remember reading to her often in bed
and not feeling particularly alarmed about it.
Then one morning, when she was well on the road to recovery,
I was sitting on her bed showing her how to fashion little animals out of coloured pipe-cleaners,
and when it came to her turn to make one herself,
I noticed that her fingers and her mind were not working together and she couldn’t do anything.

Are you feeling all right? I asked her.

I feel all sleepy,she said.

In an hour, she was unconscious. In twelve hours she was dead.

The measles had turned into a terrible thing called measles encephalitis
and there was nothing the doctors could do to save her.
…..There is today something that parents can do
to make sure that this sort of tragedy does not happen to a child of theirs.
They can insist that their child is immunised against measles.
I was unable to do that for Olivia in 1962 because in those days
a reliable measles vaccine had not been discovered.
Today a good and safe vaccine is available to every family
and all you have to do is to ask your doctor to administer it.


Little Red Riding Hood And The Wolf; by Roald Dahl

As soon as Wolf began to feel
That he would like a decent meal,
He went and knocked on Grandma’s door.
When Grandma opened it, she saw
The sharp white teeth, the horrid grin,
And Wolfie said, ‘May I come in?’
Poor Grandmamma was terrified,
‘He’s going to eat me up!’ she cried.
And she was absolutely right.
He ate her up in one big bite.
But Grandmamma was small and tough,
And Wolfie wailed, ‘That’s not enough!
I haven’t yet begun to feel
That I have had a decent meal!’
He ran around the kitchen yelping,
‘I’ve got to have a second helping!’

Then added with a frightful leer,
‘I’m therefore going to wait right here
Till Little Miss Red Riding Hood
Comes home from walking in the wood.’

He quickly put on Grandma’s clothes,
(Of course he hadn’t eaten those).
He dressed himself in coat and hat.
He put on shoes, and after that,
He even brushed and curled his hair,
Then sat himself in Grandma’s chair.

In came the little girl in red.
She stopped. She stared. And then she said,
‘What great big ears you have, Grandma.’
‘All the better to hear you with,’
the Wolf replied.
‘What great big eyes you have, Grandma.’
said Little Red Riding Hood.
‘All the better to see you with,’
the Wolf replied.
He sat there watching her and smiled.
He thought, I’m going to eat this child.
Compared with her old Grandmamma,
She’s going to taste like caviar.

Then Little Red Riding Hood said, ‘
But Grandma, what a lovely great big
furry coat you have on.’

‘That’s wrong!’ cried Wolf.
‘Have you forgot
To tell me what BIG TEETH I’ve got?
Ah well, no matter what you say,
I’m going to eat you anyway.’

The small girl smiles. One eyelid flickers.
She whips a pistol from her knickers.
She aims it at the creature’s head,
And bang bang bang, she shoots him dead.

A few weeks later, in the wood,
I came across Miss Riding Hood.
But what a change! No cloak of red,
No silly hood upon her head.
She said, ‘Hello, and do please note
My lovely furry wolfskin coat.’

Fear as a motivator


The image above is taken from the Fritz Lang film “Metropolis” and represents the factory in the form of a demon eating up the lives of the workers.  Despite expressions from the likes of Jeff Bezos  that he wants “paid volunteers” working in Amazon the simple truth is that most people work because they have to.  Entrepreneurs may be doing what they love, but most employees work to pay the milk bill.  They will tell you they love working for you, because that’s what you want to hear.

At some level in every organisation fear exists as a motivator for work.  In simple terms if the employee does not work they will be fired.  The higher the likelihood of being fired the more productive workers are.  Private sector workers are more productive than public sector workers.  They take shorter breaks, less sick leave and work longer hours.  Short term contractors are more productive than permanent staff.  Let’s face it, fear works.

I had an interesting conversation with a young intern this week.  She looks forward to becoming a manager and being able to “boss staff around”.  This cracked me up.  I have  tried to boss staff around, in my youth.  It was a disaster.  Fear may work on the basis of institutional motivation, but it is a failure in the modern work environment at a personal level.  There may be some remote corners where bosses can shout at staff and get away with it, but they are few and far between.  In return all you get is lots of energy when you are visible and resentment as soon as you turn your back.

If you want to motivate people to throw themselves into their work you need to find ways to enrich and reward.  The time you see this plainest is when a staff member is in the departure lounge.  They have handed in their notice and are serving it out.  In that period, be it a week, a month, three months, you no longer control them with fear.  They will work because they want to, at the things that please them.  If you can get to a situation where the things that please them are also the things that you need to deliver then you are in a good place.

Staff in this situation are also the most honest staff in the business.  They no longer need to tell you what you want to hear.  They can tell you the truth.  As a boss these are the most valuable and revealing conversations you can have.  Don’t leave it until the last day, and hold a 30 minute “exit interview”.  Use that last week or month to uncover the truth of the day to day workings of your team.


Out of work; by Langston Hughes

I walked de streets till
de shoes wore off my feet.
I done walked de streets till
de shoes wore off my feet.
I was lookin’ for a job
so’s that I could eat.

I couldn’t find no job
so I went to the WPA.
Couldn’t find no job
so I went to the WPA.
WPA man told me:
you got to live here a year and a day.

A year and a day, Lawd,
in this great big lonesome town!
Year and a day
in this great big lonesome town!
I might starve for a year but
that extra day would get me down.

Did you ever try livin’
on two-bits minus two?
I say did you ever try livin’
on two-bits minus two?
Why don’t you try in, folks,
and see what it would do to you?

It’s going to be medieval!

All Ireland

Brilliant photo which fronts the Nenagh Guardian.  You probably have to come from Ireland to get the significance of the All Ireland.  One of the classic rivalries plays out this year, Tipperary V Kilkenny. The photo captures the pure drama of the clash.

Tipperary and Kilkenny share a county border and it is along such a border that the greater drama is played out in rampant displays of tribalism.  Peer pressure is exerted in communities to get householders to deck out their homes with flags and bunting in their county colours.  As you approach a county border the concentration of colours intensifies.

Drive north from Tipperary or south from Kilkenny along the Cork-Dublin road today and you will be able to mark the exact point of the county line.  That is the point when the colours of the flags change.

I’m a Dub living in Tipperary with more interest in Rugby.  Still, I’d love to see more of this tomorrow……….Come on the Blue and Gold.