Time Perception

Goodbye Storwize – Hello Real Time Compression - SiliconANGLE

Today is the birthday of my first cousin, Stephen O’Flaherty.  This always makes me think of time perception because of the time when he dived face first into the pebble dash wall of my sister’s house.  Before we talk about the dangers of balance games at barbeques I should explain what time perception is.

There is a theory that at the point of your death your entire life plays like a movie reel just before you die.  In one blink of an eye you experience a lifetime.  Time compression is when long periods of time can be experienced in an instant.

At other times a single moment of time seems to expand into an age.  This is a trope used in films to explain how someone can manipulate time to deflect or avoid speeding bullets.  In time expansion the person who can move quickly in the quicksand of time can change the world.

I experienced a moment of death.  I didn’t see the reel of my life pass before my eyes.  I did experience time expansion, but I was unable to do anything to save myself as I was also moving in slow motion.  The perception of time moving slowly may be the impact of a flood of adrenalin hitting your bloodstream kicking off your “fight or flight” response.

I was cycling home through the city at the end of a days work.  As I crossed the Liffey there was the usual traffic jam, but behind me I could hear multiple police sirens.  As I reached Lloyds pub on Amiens St. in Dublin the police were catching up with me and I saw a landrover parked on the footpath outside Lloyds.  That is not a place to park.

As I came level with the pub a guy ran out, jumped into the landrover and gunned it.  He floored the accelerator and aimed for the road.  He aimed at the road in exactly the place where I was on the road on my bike.  This is the point at which time slowed.  I saw the landrover coming at me.  It happened slowly but I could not turn my bike, I could not speed up to get out of the way.  I was dead meat.

But between me and the landrover was a road sign.  The jeep hit the sign and rose up at a 45 degree angle.  The sign bent over and came down on top of me, again in slow motion.  I managed to turn the handlebars just enough to avoid the sign.  Landrovers are great over uneven ground but rubbish over roadsigns!

At this stage half a dozen policemen reached the landrover.  Using batons they smashed the windows and dragged out the struggling driver.  Three of them sat on him as a fourth hit him on the head with a baton, while the fifth got handcuffs onto his wrists.

At that stage time began to move more rapidly again.  I didn’t die….but it was close.

So back to the barbeque in Síle’s house.  It was a lovely day, sunny weather, good crowd.  It was not the day I almost died.  We all had drinks.  Nobody drunk or messy, just all very pleasant.  Somebody came up with the bright idea to have a game.

A popular beach game of the day was to put your head down on a stick and rotate three times around.  When you stand up and run it’s hard to keep a straight line and it’s fun to watch people go in all sorts of directions.

So we put two stools in the garden and formed two relay teams.  The house was in Violet Hill in Glasnevin.  It may seem obvious in retrospect given the address but the rear garden was rather….steep.  Being on a hill!  You ran up the hill, head on stool, circle it three times with head on the stool, stand up, run back.  Next team member takes off.

When Stephen came up off that stool time slowed down for me.  I also had a premonition.  I could see the entire episode play out before it even happened.  He took one step and staggered to the left.  He tried to correct his direction with the next step.  I could see the concentration on his face as his momentum took him in a direction over which he had no control.

At the back of the house the kitchen table was laid out with all the salads, plates and cutlery for the BBQ.  The table abutted the back of the house which was plastered in pebble dash.

Pebble dash is a dressing used on the outside of walls to texture and waterproof them.  It is a mixture of plaster, paint and pebbles which sets into a rough, abrasive surface.  Pebble dashing and faces are not good friends.  You don’t want to rub your face against pebble dash.  You certainly don’t want to plant your face at high speed into pebble dash.

As Stephen careened down the steep hill towards the house he was trying anything to avoid meeting the rear wall.  He hit the kitchen table which took out his legs and he went sliding head first over the table like a cowboy down the bar in a 1950’s western.  Salads and plates sprayed left and right as he slid in slow motion down the length of the table and hit the pebble dash face first.

Stephens parents were also at the Barbeque and immediately began a damage assessment which led to them bundling him into the car and heading for an emergency room.  There was nothing, absolutely nothing funny about the situation.

Perhaps this is why the giggling began.  We were all trying to be serious and concerned.  But at the same time the slapstick nature of the accident was pure comedy.  When you looked around the garden you could see half a dozen people doing their level best to keep a straight face.  If you have ever tried to look worried and concerned when you want to explode laughing you will understand.

People were setting each other off.  Stephen’s mother, Angela was furious.  Her son was bleeding, possibly concussed, and people were giggling.  Not maliciously, but uncontrollably.  One person would corpse and three or four would scurry into corners trying not to follow.  The harder you tried the worse it got.

When they eventually got Stephen out to the car and the door closed there was a resounding explosion of relieved laughter until all the tension was burned off.  Happy birthday Stephen, I’m sure you remember it very differently!  It was NOT funny.





Main Dublin to Cork Road in the 1960’s



ICE Age; by Donal Clancy


In Cork City at the Newspaper office

are three photos of Cork Docks.

Cork of the past

in the age of sail and steam

when the Bandon train on Albert Quay

met the Steamships and the Sail Ships

and carried their cargo south.

Cork of the present

where the bridges to the island

are congested with cars

which own the roads

ahead of pedestrians or cyclists.

Cork of the future

with soaring buildings

and efficient electric light rail

and an absence of the dinosaurs

the mammoths and the internal combustion engines

that progress made extinct.

Bloody Sunday


Eighty eight years ago for the admission price of a shilling, you could have participated in a massacre.  British Auxiliaries and RIC entered Croke Park in Dublin during the Tipperary V Dublin football match and opened fire indiscriminately at the players and spectators.

It was the lowest ebb of the British Empire and mirrored the Amritsar Massacre, also known as the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in April 1919, only one and a half years before.

What led to British Irregulars taking such action?

On the morning of Sunday 21st November 1920, under the orders of Michael Collins, military commander of the IRA, 15 men were shot.  The assassinations wiped out the pride of British Military Intelligence in Ireland, the Cairo Gang.

The attack in Croke Park was a direct response to the IRA action.  It was followed later that night by the murder of three IRA prisoners held in custody by the British Security forces.

This day, like no other, undermined the legitimacy of British Rule in Ireland and led ultimately to a truce in July 1921 and the eventual end of British Rule in the Republic.

Over Seventy innocent bystanders were wounded or killed in the football ground, victims of anger and frustration.

The Hogan Stand in Croke Park is named after Michael Hogan who was shot and killed on that day.

Happy birthday Samuel Morse


You can convert this online if you can’t read dots and dashes.

– — -.. .- -.– / .. … / – …. . / -… .. .-. – …. -.. .- -.– / — ..-. / … .- — ..- . .-.. / — — .-. … . –..– / -… — .-. -. / .- .–. .-. .. .-.. / ..— –… – …. / .—- –… —-. .—-

Morse code, the simplest, if very long winded form of electronic/radio signalling.  Can be replicated using signal lights also.  Takes very little bandwidth.  Morse code is not dead yet, and may never be.

I love the story of Morse code and Baltimore in West Cork, Ireland.  In the days of transatlantic sailing the ships from Britain, France, Germany and the rest of Europe left via the “Western Approach” which skirted the south west coast of Ireland.  One of the earliest telegraph lines in Ireland ran from Dublin to Baltimore in West Cork.  An early submarine telegraph ran across the Irish Sea and connected West Cork to the London Market.

Packages were telegraphed to Baltimore in West Cork by Morse Code.  They were pasted onto letters, and placed in the mail.  Then a pilot cutter would sail out to the departing liners and deliver the very last mail to the ships for the New York market.

When the Liners arrived from New York they placed their urgent letters on the pilot cutter on the way East.  The boat sailed into Baltimore and the messages were telegraphed to London.

The local business people in Baltimore realised that for a short few years, before a working transatlantic cable was laid, they lived on a gold mine.  A smart businessman with a fat pocket and a trading account could make a lot of money by buying the right stocks and shares before the news reached the markets.  The smart businessmen living in Baltimore made sure their telegraphs to London arrived on the trading floor before the news from New York.  In the process some fat pockets got even fatter.

A poor telegraph operator might open the mail packets and slowly stack them up in preparation for sending them.  He might then wait for ten minutes while a smart businessman wrote an instruction and put it to the front of the queue.  I’m pretty sure the poor telegraph operator was rewarded handsomely for the favour.  That would be pretty standard good neighbourliness in a place like West Cork.



In the 1890s the concept of a self-service restaurant developed in the USA.  Based on the Scandinavian model of the smorgasbord it was given the Spanish name “Cafeteria” by John Kruger when he was serving food at the World’s Columbian Exposition (Chicago Worlds Fair).  Perhaps it was the association of Columbus with Latin America that inspired Kruger to call his format the Spanish for Coffee Shop.

On this day in 1916 the first self-service grocery store opened in Memphis Tennessee.  The Piggly Wiggly opened by Clarence Saunders was originally marketed as a grocery version of the cafeteria and was called a “Groceteria”.  You entered through a turnstile.  You were offered a basket or a grocery cart for convenience.  It offered self service, price marked goods and a customer checkout.  The supermarket was born.

I have seen the rise and fall of many groceterias over the years, including the Ballymun Cash Stores (which was in Finglas), H. Williams, Superquinn, Quinnsworth, Crazy Prices, Super Crazy Prices, Roches Stores.  The rise and survival of Iceland, JC Savages in Swords, Nolans in Clontarf, Musgraves/Supervalu, Dunnes Stores, Tesco and most recently the German invasion of Aldi and Lidl.

As a kid growing up in Dublin I was always exposed to supermarkets.  On the other hand my summers were spent in Kilkee in the West of Clare.  There were no supermarkets in 1960’s Clare.  I have vivid memories of my mothers frustration, on her holidays, having to queue at the butchers and at the grocers to be served one at a time with a long line of other mothers.  I always had the enjoyable job of going to the bakery.  Picking up fresh loaves, hot from the oven and bringing them back to the house for breakfast time.

Travelling to the continent in 1976 was an eye opening revelation.  The French Hypermarche was a decade ahead of Ireland.  All those wooden barrels full of olives, who knew olives were so popular?  Those were the days when you bought Olive oil in a pharmacy in Ireland to treat an ear infection. Very different days.

Happy Birthday George Bernard Shaw


Born in Synge Street, Portobello, Dublin on this day in 1856 Bernard Shaw makes it onto my page more as a playwright as he was not really a poet.  I know of only one poem that he wrote and that is satirical.  in 1924 and 1925 a writer by the name of Herbert Langford Reed published two anthologies of Limericks.

Langford took a poetic form that was widely employed to tell rude jokes with sexual innuendo and cleaned it up for publication.  The result is a lot of sanitized and frankly unremarkable pieces of doggerel.  Shaw’s limerick is the perfect critique of the work of Langford Reed.

Shaw himself is rightly seen as a giant of the literature world.  How many writers get their own adjective?  When you describe something in the manner of Bernard Shaw you call it “Shavian”.  It may also be employed as a noun to identify a fan of Shaw.

A prolific writer of brilliant, intelligent and witty drama, rightly a Nobel Laureate.  Shaw was less successful with his pursuit of the 20th Century novel and turned down opportunities to pen librettos for opera with Elgar.  He was a friend of the Irish Literary Revival, a member of the Protestant ascendancy, albeit at the poorer end, he connected with William Butler Yeats, Lady Gregory, George Russell, James Joyce and was friend and inspiration to Sean O’Casey who became a playwright after seeing “John Bull’s Other Island” the play that made Edward VII laugh so hard he broke his chair.

When John Millington Synge passed away Yeats and Lady Gregory offered the post as director of the Abbey Theatre in Dublin to Shaw, but he declined.

Although he never returned to live here he maintained his links with Ireland throughout his life and in his will he bequeathed the rights of several of his plays to the National Art Gallery in Dublin.  One of the plays, Pygmalion, was given a musical overhaul by Lerner and Loewe in 1956 and became the smash hit musical “My Fair Lady” making the art gallery wealthy in the process.

Contemporary with Oscar Wilde and both leading lights on the London theatre scene at the very height of its prominence.  Shaw was the later arrival, Wilde already a celebrated star before Shaw emerged on the scene.  It is said that Shaw admired all Wilde’s work until “The Importance of Being Ernest” which he detested.

Shaw was a mixed bag.  For all you find to love in him you will find plenty to dislike.  He was a eugenicist, an anti-vaxxer, he admired aspects of fascism and Hitler, met Stalin and described him as a Georgian Gentleman, was opposed to anti-semetism and his views on religion and spirituality are confusing, conflicting and contradictory.  His sexuality is a matter for debate, he was painfully shy and celibate until age 29 and did not marry until age 42 to a woman of his own age.


Langford Reed saved the limerick verse: by George Bernard Shaw

Langford Reed saved the limerick verse,
From being taken away in a hearse.
He made it so clean
Now it’s fit for a queen,
Re-established for better or worse.

Dublin 1029


Back in 1988 when life was miserable and Ireland languished in recession the government was looking for any reason for a celebration.  A historian uncovered a document indicating that the Norse King of Dublin, Glúniairn, recognized Máel Sechnaill mac Domnaill as High King of Ireland and agreed to pay tribute/taxes to him in the year 988.

He was not the first Viking King of Dublin.  Dublin was probably established by the Vikings in 839.  Using 988 as a “foundation” date is somewhat strange.  It is more properly the date on which the Irish Gaels established nominal control over the city.  But such niceties were lost on the downtrodden miserable debt ridden Dubliners of 1988.  When the government of the day offered to stump up for a party the population were happy to pretend that it was a millennial celebration.  1,000 years of taxes, hurray!

In 1988 I worked for the Irish national telephone company, Telecom Eireann.  It was previously the Government Department of Posts and Telegraphs.  This was split in 1984 into An Post and Telecom Eireann.  The latter no longer exists.  It was broken up and sold in the interests of competition, better services for consumers, lower prices etc.  This is why I don’t have decent broadband in my home.  So much for the better services.

The Mobile phone arm of the company, Eircell, was sold to Vodafone in the 1990’s.  In 1996 Denis O’Brien won a second Mobile phone operating licence for ESAT Telecom.  The Minister for Telecommunications at the time was a Tipperary politician called Michael Lowry.  There were rumours of dodgy dealings which were eventually investigated by the Moriarty Tribunal.   The Moriarty Tribunal found in 2008 that the awarding of the licence was influenced by payments made by O’Brien to Michael Lowry.

In the last general election in Ireland Michael Lowry topped the poll yet again in the Tipperary constituency, which says everything you need to know about Irish voter attitudes to probity in public office.  Denis O’Brien lives as a tax exile, but still has unrivalled access to business opportunities under government control, such as the recent award to provide water meters.  Given the findings of the Moriarty tribunal one would seriously question why any politician would have dealings with such a businessman, unless they aim to profit as Lowry did.

One of the hot new services we pioneered in the 1980s was the Call Card.  Instead of using pesky money to make your phone call in the public payphone you could buy an all new singing and dancing call card.  The photo above shows the millennium celebration limited edition Telecom Eireann call card from 1988.

Today you would be lucky to find a public payphone, let alone find one that works.

If my career in Telecomms taught me anything it taught me this; there are some things that should not be privatized.  Never privatize a network, that applies to road, rail, power, water, communications, information.  Keep them public, let them serve the common good.

That’s my rant over for today.  Happy Birthday Dublin, 1029 years old today…… or 1178 years old, depending on the government of the day.


Dublin Milkbottle: Another thing we have no more.

A prayer for early commuters.


For everyone going home, who needs to rise early again tomorrow and do it all over again.

Begin ; by Brendan Kennelly

Begin again to the summoning birds
to the sight of the light at the window,
begin to the roar of morning traffic
all along Pembroke Road.
Every beginning is a promise
born in light and dying in dark
determination and exaltation of springtime
flowering the way to work.
Begin to the pageant of queuing girls
the arrogant loneliness of swans in the canal
bridges linking the past and future
old friends passing though with us still.
Begin to the loneliness that cannot end
since it perhaps is what makes us begin,
begin to wonder at unknown faces
at crying birds in the sudden rain
at branches stark in the willing sunlight
at seagulls foraging for bread
at couples sharing a sunny secret
alone together while making good.
Though we live in a world that dreams of ending
that always seems about to give in
something that will not acknowledge conclusion
insists that we forever begin.

Half Century


We celebrated last night to mark the passing of 50 years for one of our peer group.  Happy Birthday Andrew!

We danced to tunes that were hot stuff when we met in College back in the 1980’s.  We were the DCU Business Studies class who graduated in 1990.  Simple Minds, Don’t you forget about me, The Whole of the Moon by the Waterboys, Morrissey and The Cure, David Bowie and even some Johnny Cash.

It’s great to relive the sense of your youth.  And at the same time we can’t forget our ages.  We may have adopted smartphone technology, but half of the gang can’t read a funny text because they forgot their reading glasses.  The music is too loud for good conversation.  What hair remains is either gray or is growing in the wrong places.

The dancing was great, but this morning I have a swollen knee.  There was a remarkably high water consumption going on, as old heads assessed the prospect of a Saturday hangover and took steps to head it off at the pass.

Back in the good old days we drank like fishes and could resurrect ourselves for a Saturday morning Rugby match.  That’s really what I miss!  The recovery powers of a 25 year old body.


Dance Hall Girls; by Robert William Service

Where are the dames I used to know
In Dawson in the days of yore?
Alas, it’s fifty years ago,
And most, I guess, have “gone before.”
The swinging scythe is swift to mow
Alike the gallant and the fair;
And even I, with gouty toe,
Am glad to fill a rocking chair.

Ah me, I fear each gaysome girl
Who in champagne I used to toast,
or cozen in the waltz’s whirl,
In now alas, a wistful ghost.
Oh where is Touch The Button Nell?
Or Minnie Dale or Rosa Lee,
Or Lorna Doone or Daisy Bell?
And where is Montreal Maree?

Fair ladies of my lusty youth,
I fear that you are dead and gone:
Where’s Gertie of the Diamond Tooth,
And where the Mare of Oregon?
What’s come of Violet de Vere,
Claw-fingered Kate and Gumboot Sue?
They’ve crossed the Great Divide, I fear;
Remembered now by just a few.

A few who like myself can see
Through half a century of haze
A heap of goodness in their glee
And kindness in their wanton ways.
Alas, my sourdough days are dead,
Yet let me toss a tankard down . . .
Here’s hoping that you wed and bred,
And lives of circumspection led,
Gay dance-hall girls o Dawson Town!


A ship, a report, a presidential affair and a poem like Lorca.


I am going to take you on a journey from Belfast to New York, then to Washington and Greece before returning to Ireland but just brushing against the coast of Spain.  It is a tale that spans from 1912 all the way to the present, whenever the present is for you the reader.

My story begins with a ship, the SS Vestris. And it begins in the Belfast shipyard where she was launched, only a month and a day after another Belfast ship, the Titanic, sank on her maiden voyage.  Vestris did better than the Titanic.  She made it all the way across the Atlantic on her maiden voyage.  She then plied her trade on the route between New York and the River Plate.  Those were great days for business in Montevideo and Buenos Aires.

The SS Vestris became a troop transport during the Great War and recrossed the Atlantic to France.  Along the way she had a close run thing with a German Torpedo.  After the war she returned to passenger duties running between Liverpool, Buenos Aires and New York.  In 1990 she suffered a four day fire in her coal bunkers and survived the ordeal.  But her luck finally ran out in 1928.  One day out of New York, bound for Argentina, she sprang a leak, developed a fatal list and eventually sank with a loss of life of 111 souls.

So that is the ship.  Now we move to the report.  The New York Times printed the report of the sinking, written by Associated Press reporter Lorena Hickock.  It was the first time the NYT printed a report under a female reporters name.  Lorena Hickock was nothing if not a ground breaking woman.  If you want to look for FIRSTS in journalism you need look no further.

Hickock was appointed by AP to cover the story of Eleanor, the wife of the Presidential Candidate Frankin D Roosevelt, in 1928, the year of the Vestris sinking.  The two women fell in love and had an affair.  This is the presidential affair of my story.  On the inauguration of her husband as president of the USA Eleanor wore a sapphire ring that was a gift from Hickock.  It does not take a great deal of imagination to see that Sapphire is a symbol for Sappho the Greek Poet and symbol of lesbianism.  Indeed the very word lesbian derives from the Island home of Sappho, Lesbos.

If there were ever any doubt about the presidential affair (many conservative apologists have tied themselves in knots to try to prove it was just a friendship)  the contents of the correspondence between the women, published as “Empty Without You” by Roger Streitmatter attests to a deeply romantic and physical relationship.  Given that the collection of letters was heavily edited to remove the most explicit, there can be very little doubt about the nature of the “friendship”.

One might as easily say that the poem below is about reading meters and the appointment of the Archbishop of Dublin.  Durcan’s detours around the female topography of his interlocutor are pointedly erotic, a celebration of female flesh and a worship of the sexuality of the fertile earth mother.  In that regard his poem reminds me of Serenata by Federico Garcia Lorca, which you can also find on this blog if you care to search it out.

And so in circular fashion, like a voyage of the SS Vestris, we have returned to the home port of Dublin.  I hope you enjoyed the trip and come again soon.

The Day Kerry Became Dublin ; by Paul Durcan

I was reading gas meters in Rialto
– In and out the keeled-over, weeping dustbins –
When, through the open doorway of the woman in the green tracksuit
Who’s six feet tall and who has nine kids,
I heard a newsreader on the radio announcing
That the Bishop of Kerry had been appointed Archbishop of Dublin.
I couldn’t help thinking that her bottom
Seemed to be independent of the rest of her body,
And how nice it would be to shake a leg with her
In a ballroom on a Sunday afternoon
Or to waltz with her soul at the bottom of the sea.
“Isn’t that gas?” – she sizzles –
“Making the Bishop of Kerry the Archbishop of Dublin!”
Under her gas meter I get down on my knees
And say a prayer to the side-altars of her thighs,
And the three-light windows of her breasts.
Excuse me, may I beam my torch in your crypt?
I go to Mass every morning, but I know no more
About the Archbishop of Dublin than I do about the Pope of Rome.
Still, I often think it would be
Uplifting to meet the Dalai Lama,
And to go to bed for ever with the woman of my dreams,
And scatter the world with my children.