Party Planning

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My daughter Esha is 21 in July.  Today she is online shopping for the tat to fancy up the barn for her party.  It will be the last party we have in this house so it is poignant but also great fun.  As I type this we are listening to her “Arrival” playlist, the music that will be playing as the guests assemble in dribs and drabs and before the serious party playlist kicks in.

Playlist 2 is entitled “now we’re drunk” and is for when everyone has a drink in their hand before the band kick in.

Headlining for the party we have booked the legendary 5Day.  If you have not heard of them here is your opportunity.

5 Day Album on Spotify

5 Day on Soundcloud

Then there will be further playlists, but the party will probably move down to the firepit.  We are going for a music festival vibe.  Tents in the garden.  Craft beer and cider.  Beer pong.

Don’t even think about coming, the tickets are all sold.  The security have a clipboard and a list.  We will be releasing the attack chickens.

 

 

 

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The last voyage.

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This is my favourite photo of my cousin Orla with her two boys Eoin and Aidan, but you know how I love all things nautical.  Yesterday Orla departed on her last voyage from this plane and now it is up to us to send her off with all the pomp and drama of a Pharoah boarding a solar barge or a viking on a funeral ship.

What can I say about Orla?  Nothing better can be said than these words from another of my cousins, Mark C. O’Flaherty  and if you follow the link on his name you will see he is a genius with a camera.  Not content with his visual genius he puts me to shame with the quality of his writing too.  I have read this quite a few times and it makes me tear up every one.

-o0o-

I hate today

One of the best things about being part of a huge and amazing Irish family is that you are gifted, as a birthright, a lot of ready-made best mates. I spent a lot of time in Dublin growing up, and all my friends there were also my cousins. Every summer was full of the most brilliant adventures. My first memory of Orla was as a brattish little girl, five years younger than me, absolutely petrified of the Devil mask I had persuaded my uncle to buy me to go trick or treating with. I took delight in chasing her around the house while she screamed her head off and wept … if she was a brat, I was a horrible little shit. But, you know … *kids*. As we grew up, she became really special to me. A five year difference doesn’t mean much when you are in your 30s and 40s. I remember being SO happy when she finally had the family she had wanted for so long – with monstrous pain and disappointment along the way. I sat in her house in Clonakilty and felt a tinge of jealousy at how great her life was – her first little boy, Eoin, was being the most adorable little weirdo, playing with Neil and two giant cuddly Bert and Ernies, and muttering incoherent hilarious nonsense, and for one afternoon I totally “got” why people have kids. Orla was SO HAPPY. But then she always seemed so happy. Which was one of the reasons why she was always my favourite cousin and why I loved her so much. Her joy and wit was infectious. When she walked in the room for her surprise 40th birthday party in Roganstown and everyone cheered the loudest cheer possible, I realised all of us felt the same way about her … She, meanwhile, found it utterly hilarious that I was hemmed in by so many riotous obnoxious children that I was in some way related to. “Ha, Mark! You must be loving this!” And actually I was.

Orla was always the person I wanted to spend time with the most when we were all together in Dublin as a family. I thought I’d always feel like that. But today she is gone. At 42. Leaving two young boys and all of us heartbroken, with half a lifetime or more taken away from her, and us. I feel heavy and numb and weird and a unique mixture of loss and frustration. I am far from home and I can’t comprehend how awful our family feels in Ireland right now, after spending the last few days with her. It is unjust and unfathomable. I am trying to find some solace in the fact that Orla absolutely knew how loved she was, but I can’t really, and I just want her back, waiting for me, with her madly bright smile, beside the bar with her boys Eoin and Aidan, my Auntie Phyllis and Uncle Frank, her brothers Conor and Garrett and her husband Ian at the next family party in Dublin.

We are all heartbroken today and I hate it

-o0o-

In memory of my mother; by Patrick Kavanagh

I do not think of you lying in the wet clay
of a Monaghan graveyard; I see
you walking down a lane among the poplars
on your way to the station, or happily

going to second Mass on a summer Sunday –
you meet me and you say:
‘Don’t forget to see about the cattle – ‘
among your earthiest words the angels stray.

And I think of you walking along a headland
of green oats in June,
so full of repose, so rich with life –
and I see us meeting at the end of a town

on a fair day by accident, after
the bargains are all made and we can walk
together through the shops and stalls and markets
free in the oriental streets of thought.

O you are not lying in the wet clay,
for it is a harvest evening now and we
are piling up the ricks against the moonlight
and you smile up at us – eternally.

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Industrial landscape or green island?

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If you look really carefully at the skyline in the photo above you will see a line of electricity generating windmills.  In the field are dairy cattle and on the gate is a warning  about a bull and electric fencing.  All these elements got me thinking about the environment.  But don’t believe a word of what I say – the “Beware of the bull” warning applies to my posts too.

I hear a lot of people complaining about windmills in the countryside, and how they are ugly things, and how they ruin the landscape and how they kill birds etc etc etc.  These are the kind of people who look into this field and see nature.  Then they go to the shops and feel very morally superior when they drink soy instead of milk.

I look at this landscape and what I see is a factory.  The field is not natural, it is a creation of man.  The cows are not natural, again we created them through breeding.  There may be a bull in the field but I guarantee he is only servicing the cows that missed out impregnation with the top quality AI sperm.

The windmills in the distance are no less “natural” than any other element in the picture.  The countryside is a factory, a unit of production, an industrial landscape.

There is a balance to be struck.  Hardline vegans say that the dairy industry is engaged in the rape of cows and the forcible kidnapping of their calves.  It is emotive language.  At the extreme conclusion of their philosophy we plant a fraction of the currently farmed land with vegetables, fruits, grains and pulses and the remainder becomes rewilded.  This is a dystopian horror future for farmers.  More importantly for the nation it results in the depopulation of the rural countryside.  If you want a vibrant rural economy there must be jobs.

We have already seen the conclusion of the extreme commercial approach to farming.  Cows so heavy with milk they cannot walk anymore, riddled with infections which are controlled by massive amount of antibiotics.  Meat animals in cramped conditions where diseases are controlled by antibiotics and where hormones are used to accelerate growth.  Widespread use of insectisides, weedkillers and fertilisers that are undoubtedly harming the environment and killing off pollinators.  Destruction of biodiversity in favour of commerical monoculture.

Funilly enough the result of both extremes – High intensity automated commercial farming at one end, and a rewilded vegan world at the other, is rural depopulation.

I believe Ireland can and should lead the world as a Green Food Island.  A place where the most environmentally positive farming practices are the minimum standard.  A place with a reputation for compassion in husbandry.  A country that keeps people in the countryside by valuing less profitable family size farms that provide employment on the land.  And keeps people in the countryside by rewarding the situation of production in the rural infrastructure.

That is a vision of a world in balance.

 

 

 

 

To Make Someone a Saint.

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The evening sun slanted through the window inscribing a triangle of golden light across my newspaper.  I was struggling with the final clue on the simplex crossword, and this was war!  I don’t mind failing the Crosaire, but I’m in a foul mood if I can’t finish the Simplex by the end of the day.

“To make someone a saint.”  Eight letters.  I thought it was “Sanctify” this morning.  First clue and I was so sure I had it right.  I scan the crossword quickly when I pick up the paper in the morning, read all the clues, allow them to percolate slowly into my brain.  I jot down any obvious answers.

The real challenge comes at lunchtime.  There is the race to finish the Simplex and see if I can crack open the Crosaire, the real brain buster.   If I fail at lunchtime then I sneak in to the local on the way home and try to nail it before dinnertime.

There is a rule at home you see.  Born of the experience of sitting in silence, watching me wrestle with one problem after another, my wife brought out the big guns.  Once I get home the Irish Times becomes a newspaper and only a newspaper.  No crosswords, no puzzles, no Sudoku.

So I face this unfair challenge to complete before I return home.  The challenge sometimes drives me to the local for a drop of golden sunshine in a glass, a Powers Gold Label.  Another family habit passed down to me, father to son, like the crossword.  It drove my mother insane too, but my father boxed clever.  He told her it was an education in the English language, a way to understand words better and a tool for expanding my vocabulary.

So, part of my evening homework was to sit with my father, puzzling out the clues, as he sipped on his glass of Powers.

My oldest child is only five.  When can I decently roll out my dad’s plan?  I figure three, maybe four more years.  But until then what can it be but “sanctify” which does not fit?  The laptop beside me knows the answer.  A matter of seconds to look it up, but that would be cheating.  “You may cheat others but you can’t cheat yourself” my dad always said.

The phone rings in my pocket.  “Hi honey” I answer, “I’m just leaving the office, should be home by six.  Would you like me to pick up anything on the way home?  Bread, milk, bottle of plonk?”

“Who canonised you?  Go on then, but no Chardonnay.”

C-A-N-O-N-I-S-E.  And I didn’t cheat!

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Mental Health

Blind

Blindboy Boatclub and Mr Chrome: AKA Rubberbandits

I take my mental health advice from a foulmouthed Limerick goul who wears a plastic bag on his head.  It’s much more convenient than Catholic confession and much cheaper than a shrink.

In the process I get to learn a lot about history, politics, sport (he hasn’t a clue), the artistic process, Limerick, words the Corkonians are trying to steal, cocktails, short stories, how to distract Banshees, vaping and backing Jazz.  And that’s just from the first episode.

Home

https://www.patreon.com/theblindboypodcast

The bit about mental health is not a joke.  Pure serious.

Chainies

Chainies

My mother grew up in Dublin city.  Along with the many street games they played as kids they used to collect chainies.  These were pretty pieces of broken ceramics and pottery.  They were collected and traded by the children like a form of currency.

Ceramics are an amazing paradox because they are at one time one of the most fragile and one of the most enduring elements of human civilization.  Ceramics are man made.  They are almost an integral part of human civilization, occuring all round the world from Ancient Japan in the East to Mesoamerica in the West.  The earliest pottery dates from 30,000 BC.

Pottery developed independently in different human civilizations.  In Asia, Europe, Africa and in the Americas.  I don’t want to write a history of ceramics, but I do want to say that ceramics are integral to archaeology because of the fragile/durable paradox.

Fired clay ceramics can create beautiful vessels.  These vessels are delicate and fragile.  If you drop a bowl, a cup or a vase it will shatter and the vessel is lost.  But the chainies, the smashed pieces of ceramic are not.  They are pretty much indestructable.  Because they are durable they hang around.  They do not rot or crumble.  They don’t wash away or burn up.  They don’t rust or oxidise.  Those little broken shards endure.

And because they don’t go away they are brilliant markers.  If you can read the code of the chainies you can rapidly understand much about a culture.  You can assess the age of the civilization that created the pottery.   You can tell much about that civilization.  Is the pottery made with utility in mind or is it artistic.  Is it plain or glazed?  Earthenware, stoneware, porcelain or bone china?  Is it coloured, decorated?  How?  Are the images scratched into the clay, painted into the glaze or painted and glazed with a slip?  The pottery tells you a tale of the people.

So what do the chainies tell you of the little girls in Dublin who collected them?  At once you have a highly sophisticated society which can produce stunningly beautiful ceramics, and at the same time you have kids who collect stashes of smashed cups and saucers.

Do rich kids collect chainies?

 

 

Stormin’ Normans

Aoife

The marriage of Aoife and Strongbow

May 1st 1169 is traditionally given as the day the Normans came to Ireland.  It was a tradition in Ireland for ousted kings or princes to run abroad to seek support to retake their crowns.  Belgium was a popular place to go because Flemish mercenary spearmen had a good reputation.

On this occasion though the ousted King of Leinster Dermot MacMurrough decided to go to Aquitane.  100 years on from the Battle of Hastings the Norman invaders were well settled in England, Wales and parts of Scotland.  In Wales the Normans intermarried with the Welsh Marcher Lords and created extended families of troublemakers.

Henry II, based in Southern France, the lands of his wealthy wife,  maybe thought he could get rid of a few Welsh troublemakers by sending them to wild Ireland.  Or else Dermot, rebuffed by Henry, went independently to Wales, and pitched his case to Robert DeClare (Strongbow).  Dermot dangled the promise of his daughter and the kingshop of Leinster in front of Strongbow, who reached for the prize.  So Robert Fitzstephen was despatched to lead an expedition.  He brought three ships, thirty mounted knights and about 300 Welsh and Flemish footsoldiers to Bannow Strand in Co.  Wexford in the south west of Ireland.

Two days later they were followed by two more ships led by Maurice de Prendergast and a further 300 soldiers.  There they were met by 500 Irish supporters of MacMurrough.  They marched on Wexford and successfully took the Danish city.  For a time it seems that matters stabilised or went against the invaders.  McMurrough begged Strongbow for more troops and a year later another force landed at Baginbun led by Raymond le Gros.  They routed an army of Irish and Norse from Waterford.

In August 1170 Strongbow himself arrived with thousand men and now the Normans had a critical mass of troops.  First they took the stoutly defended city of Waterford.  There Strongbow married his promised prize, Aoife MacMurrough, in the wedding pictured in the painting above from the Irish National Gallery.  They swept rapidly up the coast and siezed Dublin.

In May 1171 with the death of Dermot the Norman knight Strongbow became King of Leinster and was threatening to expand to the rest of Ireland.  Henry II the Angevin King of lands from Southern France all the way up to Scotland had reason to fear a rival Kingdom in Ireland.  He brought his army to Ireland and rapidly established some of his own knights in lands here.  It then appears that he did a deal with the remaining Irish of Ulster, Munster and Connacht.  At the Rock of Cashel he met the Kings and appears to have set out a stable peace.  No doubt this involved their support for Henry to deny Strongbow any further power.

Henry installed his younger son, John Lackland, as Lord of Ireland.  This is the John we see frequently represented as the weakling younger brother to Richard Lionheart.  The evil prince of the Robin Hood tales depicted in the Disney movie as a spoiled thumb sucking juvenile lion.  The craven who ended up capitulating to the powerful Barons when he signed the Magna Carta at Runnymeade.

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