Irish doctor with too many thoughts, too little time and a blog that's supposed to check in on reality.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

I Want to Thank Phil Lynott for Letting Us Open the Show

Out of Control – a few blogs have picked up on the indymedia report of the story of a peace activist, Conor Cregan, placing some wandering American soldiers in Shannon under citizen’s arrest.
Twenty Major’s succinctly titled “Gobshite of the Week” links to the TCAL post.
Obviously I agree with twenty’s moniker and disagree with Cregan’s actions and motives, but love the sheer delusion of his “after assuring the men were not in jeopardy” line – as I commented at TCAL - like what was he, as a peace activist, going to do? Knock them out with a ploughshare?
But my favourite blog post, for sheer stupidity goes to the Irish Bulletin (who I criticised before and then rejoined with a patronising sneer of my religious practices)
While disagreeing with Cregan’s probable political stance - Granted this chap is, politically, probably from the far-left of the same materialist dialectic which has the world in the state it's in, but this took cajones nonetheless; his actions are fully endorsed because the Irish Government has committed, and continues to commit, acts of war against its own people.
Anyone who honestly believes the Irish government commits acts of war against its people – and can somehow equate American troops on their way home from Iraq, after liberating a people from a really warful (is that a word or do we have to use warmongering? Warring?) dictator – I really think they should leave the country for their own good. Fair enough not believing it is legal or moral, but if this is an act of war they’ll really be incensed beyond belief when actual bad stuff happens – and their patriotic hearts just might not be able to withstand it all.

(the title is from Bono’s Slane DVD introduction to “Out Of Control”, the best description of those believing in “acts of war” and also the best version of the song)

These things they go away replaced by every day

Disillusioned Lefty has an excellent review of Suite Francaise (posted about here).

Bruce Springsteen's website doesn't mention it, but according to ticketmaster, he's back again for TWO nights in the Point in November.
I'm not able for all this excitement - the tickets are on sale Wednesday - how will I get them with my Bruce-fan-friends decamped?
This can not be good for my constitution - annual concerts followed by a 6 monthly interval. I think I need to go blow into a brown bag.

Watching the Convent at the moment - it's almost as good as the Monastery.
Despite being the dreaded "reality television", these series have given me loads to crunch on. There is a fascination with what happens behind closed doors, especially the community that locks themselves in. Both the nuns and the monks have shown an acute awareness of the world in which we all reside - from their altar they pray for the world and from their hearts they welcome the seekers with generosity and love. From my limited personal experience of the monastic life, silence seems to breed wisdom and prayer humility. Hopefully these programs expose more to the value of both. From a pure entertainment point of view, women struggling with virtue, sin, emotions, tears and the meaning of life beats chavtastic idiots battling with each other's vanity in mirrors and big brother's cameras. It also beats Charity Queens (reviewed here by Laura), Marty Whelehan's lacklustre attempt at being the Richard Attenborough of Dublin's "ladies who lunch" and the PR piranhas who feed off their Four Seasons addiction. I continued watching mainly to monitor Tara O'Connor's hair which managed to remained fixed in an unusual formation that blended with her seemingly huge collection of dangly earings. According to Social Dublin, the blogging answer to VIP or Heat, she runs Intrepid PR, a PR company without a website, but does " 1/3 of our work pro bono", which she pronouces in a mangled D4 accent. Not quite as bad though as Deirdre Kelly, of Angel Quest, who despite doing fantastic work on behalf of respite homes, was completely incapable of pronouncing "respite" correctly.

{Those not interested in so-called personal blogging, move on, nothing to see here folks}
In other bitching - today has been thoroughly crap - I have been diagnosed with latent TB and have the worst holidays in the hospital - the middle 2 weeks of July -that's holidays after just 1 week of work. And the sales in Brown Thomas yesterday were not good.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Doctors on the Dole

Today was my first day at work (induction).
Here's my worst nightmare - more doctors on the dole - from NHS Blog Doctor.
A friend just got 1 place out of 10 on a Dublin training scheme that had 110 applicants.
Unlike the NHS, hopefully, the Irish government won't start shutting down training schemes - it's hard enough as it is.

Edit - By "just got", I mean recently. On re-reading "just got" might suggest he only received 1 place as if he needed extra places for surplus personalities. Given it's a psych training scheme, one can not clarify enough.

How Ireland Became the Celtic Tiger

Just in case you didn't know.
From the American think-tank, the Heritage Foundation by Sean Dorgan, head of the IDA.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Sex, Lies and Feminism

Suzy at Maman Poulet asks us to think about the increase of domestic violence associated with the World Cup. Given the increase in alcohol consumption, an increase in all violence is probably to be expected.
But as the feminist story goes, men ravaged by the evil testosterone lose the run of themselves while watching rarefied soccer players kick a ball round a field. This then leads to the normally restrained male acting out his true nature and beating any woman unfortunate enough to be in his vicinity, usually his wife.
Soccer is not the only sport that unleashes such violent demons in our brothers, fathers and husbands – American football, the Super Bowl Sunday in particular, was also attributed with such an alarming rise in domestic violence.
While such phenomena seem intuitive to believers of such balanced works as Dworkin’s Intercourse, the rest of us remained unconvinced, especially in light of the complete absence of evidence to back up such claims.
The shameless padding of statistics and gross lies of the feminist establishment with regard to sports and domestic violence was reported by Christina Hoff Sommers in her book “Who Stole Feminism?” It is very sad that the feminists involved, though admitting their lack of data, felt justified in their deliberate inaccuracy.
I don’t however – domestic violence is too serious to be lied about. It doesn’t do anyone any favours – those who peddle the inflated claims are discredited and we all get the impression that inside every ordinary man lurks an unrepentant wife batterer.
The Women’s Aid website just mentions “evidence” and “research” and “findings from America” without any actual references, as do many of the local British police sites and news articles. I’m presuming they’re acting on anecdotal evidence from their localities, though over the years the US has proved that even such anecdotal evidence is hard come by.
The American group “The National Online Resource Center on Violence Against Women” has an information pack on domestic violence and sports, which emphasises no substantive link between sporting events and domestic violence and exhorts those working in the area when contacted by media to stress the everyday prevalence of domestic violence.
A quick pubmed search (on dial-up so this is taking aaaages) on domestic violence and sports reveals only 1 article – the famous 1992 article that guesses “that viewing the successful use of violet acts may give the identifying fan a sense of license to dominate his surroundings” . This is the article that has given rise to the hyperbole and has since been discredited. Even wider research into sporting events and general accident and emergency admissions has shown no increase.
I posted a few days ago about the worrying actual trends in female violence – this is just as serious an issue and one which shouldn’t need a sporting event and some innuendo to popularise it.
When I first saw Suzy’s title “Sex, Violence and the World Cup”, I presumed she was talking about another sex, violence and soccer story – that of the increase in human trafficking to assuage the demand for prostitution in Germany for the World Cup. If you are concerned about you might want to sign this petition from the Coalition of Trafficking Against Women.


Not If He Opened the Gates of Heaven For Me

would Judge Neilan share a platform with Justice Minister Michael McDowell, according to yesterday’s front page Longford Leader story. (dated tomorrow!)
The story relates to the proposed opening of the renovated Longford Courthouse and the district court judge’s refusal to attend if McDowell was there.
Residents of Longford are used to such bizarre outbursts from our local law keeper – apparently this particular animosity towards the justice minister stems from Judge Neilan’s 2004 statement that he would jail all drunk drivers for 1 week pending sentence. Predictably the justice minister pointed out the illegality of such an act and such comments were dubbed by Neilan as being made to “intimidate and humiliate him”.
Of all the Neilan stories, and there are many, my favourite was his threat to rescind all pub licences in Ballymahon during the foot and mouth disease crisis to help curb the spread of the agrarian disease. Thankfully he didn’t get a chance to try the legality of such an extreme, but no doubt well meaning, measure to protect the agricultural interests of the locality.


Tuesday, June 20, 2006

In which Fellatio is Discussed

For someone who attended chastity speaker Pam Stenzel’s loud talk last night in Liberty Hall, I probably shouldn’t be interested in fellatio today.
But, despite the influence of my Valentine’s Day reading, I’ve been reading quite a few articles about fellatio in recent months.
The most recent, Christopher Hitchen’s discussion in Vanity Fair is a rather interesting history of the “blowjob” as a specifically American sex act (which is a little odd, they didn’t invent, did they?)
Starting with Vladimir Nabokov’s reluctance to name the act, Hitchens discusses the queer monopoly on blowjobs was the result of male anatomy, Victorian prostitutes and the below-job, marines, Puzo’s the Godfather and Deep Throat - Deep Throat was financed and distributed by members of New York's Colombo crime family, who kept the exorbitant bulk of the dough. Mario Puzo, then, had been prescient after all, and without his deep insight the Sopranos might still be sucking only their own thumbs. Needless to say, Mr Clinton’s activities are mentioned.
And it is in the light of Mr Clinton’s amorphous definition of the sex act, that people like Pam Stenzel worry about American teens. Last night, Stenzel talked about the line that defined sex (genital contact) and the problems she has in talking to teens who don’t think oral sex is actually sex – despite the STD risk etc.
I saw an episode of Oprah a while back where a group of mothers and teens sat in a circle and talked about the oral sex epidemic – Oprah even had some grainy security camera footage from school buses and the like.
Back in January, I got a little excited in linking to a Caitlin Flanagan article in the Atlantic entitled “Are You There God? It's Me, Monica”, where she asks the question How did we go from a middle-class teenage girl (fictional but broadly accurate) who will have sex only if it's with her boyfriend, and only if her pleasure is equal to his, to a middle-class teenage girl (a gross media caricature reflective of an admittedly disturbing trend) who wants to kneel down and service a series of boys?.  Flanagan acknowledges that the media seems obsessed with teen oral sex and wonders about what the girls are almost certainly losing: a healthy emotional connection to their own sexuality and their own desire. In this context all the unflinching medico-sexual naughty talk is but a cowardly evasion of a more insidious problem -- one resistant to penicillin.
And then last month, in Reason, Cathy Young thinks it’s all a big scare with the usual suspects - feminists saw girls as victims of male dominance, while conservatives blamed feminists and Clinton, whose bad example supposedly sent kids the message that fellatio was OK.
She points to the statistics from the CDC from September 2005, that found 25 percent of 15-year-old girls and half of 17-year-olds had engaged in oral sex and the slightly less well known fact from the study Girls and boys, it turns out, are about equally likely to give and to receive. Actually, at least among younger adolescents, boys overall reported more oral sex experience than girls, but both boys and girls were more likely to report receiving oral sex than giving it—which suggests a lot of respondents are fibbing.
Young then says Are some kids having sex too soon, and with too many partners, for their own emotional and physical well-being? Almost certainly. But the majority do not inhabit the sexual jungle of worried adults’ imaginations. The teenage fellatio craze exists mainly among adults. To those in the audience who are not worried parents, it provides both sexual and moralistic thrills; it plays both to the prurient fascination with teenage girls gone wild and to the paternalistic stereotype of girls as victims.
Young has a point about the stats, Flanagan about the emotional consequences of sexual promiscuities among teens and Hitchens thinks it has become, in the words of a book on its technique, The Ultimate Kiss.
Am I the only one who finds this really sad? Hitchens is fascinated with the “job” part of the act and the beautiful dentistry rampant in the land of the free – I am more interested in the “blow”. Casual oral sex seems more about blowing in the face of intimacy, reducing sexuality to instant gratification, given on the knees, if Hitchens is to be believed, on the first date than any mutually fulfilling “love”. (Just watched Nell McCafferty on last night’s Questions and Answers – she must have made a record for the number of times the word “love” was said on it).
Bruce Springsteen in his controversial song Reno from Devils and Dust, which deals mainly with anal sex, ends with “It wasn't the best I ever had, not even close.”  I wonder how the teens in the CDC study rank it, especially the girls.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Chomsky plays fast and loose

Peter Beaumont in Sunday's Observer on Chomsky's new one - Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy (his titles, like his rhetoric, are becoming so predictable!)
"Reading Failed States, I had an epiphany: that by applying a Chomskian analysis to his own writing, you discover exactly the same subtle textual biases, evasions and elisions of meaning as used by those he calls 'the doctrinal managers' of the 'powerful elites'. The mighty Chomsky, the world's greatest public intellectual, is prone to playing fast and loose.
It is important to recognise this fact because the Chomskian analysis has become the defining dissident voice of the blogosphere and a certain kind of far-left academia. So a sense of its integrity is crucial. It is obsessively well-read, but rather famished in original research, except when it is counting how often the liberal media say this or that in their search for hidden, and sometimes not-so-hidden, bias. Crucially, it is not interested in debate, because balance is a ruse of the liberal media elites used to con the dumb masses. Chomsky is essential to save you, dear reader, from the lies we peddle."
But then there is an awful lot conveniently missing from Chomsky's account of the crimes of his own country. In attempting to create a consistent argument for America as murderous bully, going back to the Seminole Wars, he edits out anything that could be put on the other side of the balance sheet. I could find no mention of the Marshall Plan, although there is enough about American crimes in Guatemala, to which he returns repeatedly. He can find enough to say about America's misdemeanours during the Cold War; but nothing about the genuine fear of the Soviet Union, one of the most brutally efficient human-rights-abusing states in history.

And if you have absolutely nothing else to do you can read the 146+ comments at the Observer blog.

They Only Hit Until You Cry

A new study at Glasgow University found that 60% of female students interviewed approved of husbands hitting their wives. 35% said they have assaulted their partner, 8% injuring them. 41% of english women in the study have assaulted their partner, with 5% injuring them.
The worldwide study found that out of 6,500 female university students interviewed, 4,800 female students approved of assaulting their partner and 2,000 admitted to pushing, shoving, slapping, throwing objects and twisting their partner's arms or hair.
One of the authors of the study said - The bottom line is that we need make the same 'big deal' about violence by women as we do about men who behave violently.


Odds and Ends

Richard Waghorne has post criticising Shane Coleman’s Irish Times review of Harvey Mansfield’s Manliness.
Maybe Mansfield didn’t mention Bush by name in the book, but I’m sure Shane will be delighted to learn that Mansfield said the following in an interview with NRO back in April –
Lopez: Who's the most manly politician today?
Mansfield: George W. Bush. Bush is bold and determined, two manly qualities, and his critics consider him over-manly, not unmanly. But don't forget that manliness is not all of virtue.
I blogged about Kay Hymowitz and Christina Hoff Sommers’ reviews about it a while back. I didn’t buy the last time I was in the States – must buy it now.

[Correction - as pointed out by copernicus at the Midnight Court, Shane Hegarty wrote the IT article, not Shane Coleman.]

Sarah Carey has a link to an article on the Evils of School, while a little strong, it is worth mentioning with regard to my previous post on homeschooling.
And with reference to my other previous post on title-as-motif blogging, I will now add the next line of Bob Dylan’s Odds and Ends - Lost time is not found again – I guess that’s what motivates many homeschooling parents.
In the comments, Simon mentions social skills and Treasa creationism and state curricula.
The National Home Education Research Institute has some “scholarly” articles about socialisation and home schooled children – apparently they don’t have a problem.
Henry Cate, who also commented on the post, runs a homeschooling blog.
I did my Junior Cert Home Economics Childcare project on homeschooling – I don’t really know why (my teacher thought I was mad and that homeschooling was illegal). The following year my aunt began homeschooling her children for a year – they are both gifted children and the teachers in their school didn’t understand them. The amount of cool stuff they did that year as 8 and 6 year olds made me madly jealous.
The homeschooling families I contacted as part of that project were not crazy Christian types (but I have met them too) but parents who felt they could offer their children more. One of them didn’t teach their children to read until they were 6 or 7 and “felt ready for it”. Within a year their children were reading the newspapers perfectly. That sort of free and easy upbringing with loose timetables and organic curricula certainly appeals to me. Even the self-directed learning appeals after 6 years of occasional PBL projects and lecturers using it as a some magic cure-all buzzword.
The Irish homeschooling group is Home Education Network. This Farmer’s Journal article features a family, whose schoolteacher mother decided on homeschooling because “school socialises children at the cost of their uniqueness, and that some children are just not suited to being educated in large groups”.
As for creationism – the sort of evangelical Christian who believes in creationism (Catholics shouldn’t as faith and reason are never at odds – the search for the Truth through theology or science is all the same) is hardly going to be affected by what children are taught in school. Should parents have to teach their children certain basic things? I suppose they should, but given that all homeschooled children have to do the Leaving Cert or other state exams to enter further education, they’ll probably learn what they need to know, along with more. Guidance from the state should be welcome, but forcing the children back to school if they’re not taught something as nebulous as respecting the respect for the fundamental human rights and the cultural values of the child itself and of others is hardly sensible.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Never Promised You A Rose Garden

On Friday night, while bloglines browsing in a ball gown, I spotted this entry from head potato at Planet Potato.
I then had to head off to a ball, held in the same hotel as the refreshments of Charlie Haughey’s funeral (there were quite a number of interesting characters spotted) so I left an admonishment comment and a promise.
So, never let it be said that I don’t deliver my promises….
Potato said (it’s funny how you can only type something like that. If I actually spoke aloud the words “potato said” to another person, I doubt I would be taken very seriously)
Those of you with some of the following ailments or know someone with one of the following ailments might be interested to know that only two of our MEPs (De Rossa & Avril Doyle) voted in favour of embryonic stemcell research in the EU parliament today.
You see, the funny thing about all this, is that all the conditions mentioned (Parkinsons; Alzheimers; Spinal injuries; Stroke; Heart disease; Arthritis; Burns; Leukemia; Lymphoma) have benefited from stem cell research.
Potato doesn’t want a religious argument – neither do I. The scientific and ethical ones stand alone.
The science – adult stem cell research is making huge progress, new discoveries threatening to change the face of medicine on a nearly hourly basis – they’re hugely successful. And delightfully free from ethical controversy.
In fact, every time I think about adult stem cells, I get to throw out all my old references – they’re just so many new applications.
Stem cells from adult tissue are easier to obtain, don’t carry the risk of tumours,
have immune tolerance when obtained from the patient and have shown the ability to be “reprogrammed” to grow into most cell types.  In fact, only on Thursday, Nature published results from Edinburgh where they have identified Nanog, a molecule involved in the pluripotency of stem cells. Scientists are already predicting the use of Nanog, and other undiscovered molecules as being involved in the conversion of normal fully differentiated adults cells back into stem cells.
Unlike embryonic stem cell research they don’t depend on “leftover” human embryos or cloning to be obtained. They don’t require the destruction of nascent human life to effect cures, which so far are still in the “potential” stage versus the more “actual” cures of adult stem cell research.
Doyle and De Rossa’s stand is not particularly admirable – the hope they claim to offer remains merely a wish, while adult stem cell research is already moving into a reality. If we are serious about advancing medical science and offering the chance of cure to those affected with the conditions listed above, we ought to increase funding for what is already working, for what is acceptable to everyone and for what remains true to the dignity of human life throughout the process from stem cell harvest to the wish to cure.
I could post reams and reams of stuff on adult stem cell successes and applications, but in the interests of brevity and sanity, I won’t – but here are a few pubmed abstracts –
Bone marrow cells in heart failure
Alzheimers (stem cell therapy mightn’t be enough in AD as its pathogenesis has not yet been fully elucidated)
Spinal injuries and Stroke – I find this particularly fascinating – olfactory neuroepithelium – the highly specialised and unusual lining of our noses can possibly be used to grow nerves. Cool, or wha?

P.S. A science writer from the Seoul Times changes his mind about embryonic stem cell research. Watching my new favourite programme Grey’s Anatomy now so haven’t fully read it. (Despite having seen most of series 1 on digital, I’m rewatching due to love of neurosurgery. Well, 1 neurosurgeon in particular)

P.P.S. The title of the post from Lynn Anderson's song is relevant - adult stem cell research is less sexy than embryonic - embryonic stem cell research promises the sun, moon and stars. Adult is more steady and stealthy, but has a rosy present, unlike embryonic's rosy future.
How's that for clumsy title-as-motif blogging?

Update - Disillusioned Lefty and Planet Potato both have posts up and I've commented at them.


Thursday, June 15, 2006

Home or School?

The editor of The Brussels Journal has been threatened with prosecution over the homeschooling of his children in Belgium.
He refused to sign an official "declaration of homeschooling" which would allow inspectors to decide if the parents are "respecting the respect for the fundamental human rights and the cultural values of the child itself and of others" - and if not, force the parents to send their child to a government recognised school.
He refused to sign as he felt the criteria was entirely arbitrary.
Now, he has been questioned in the police station.
This new declaration sprung from a bill based on the UN declaration on the rights of the child.
Will this happen here as well?
Parents are the first educators of their children, and reasonable parents who homeschool their children strongly feel they are acting in their child's best interests.
Why should the state interfere?

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Book You MUST Read This Summer

is Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky, translated by Sandra Smith.
It is amazing - flawlessly written, moving and poignant.
I'll just quote the Amazon review summary thingie - Celebrated in pre-WWII France for her bestselling fiction, the Jewish Russian-born Némirovsky was shipped to Auschwitz in the summer of 1942, months after this long-lost masterwork was composed. Némirovsky, a convert to Catholicism, began a planned five-novel cycle as Nazi forces overran northern France in 1940. This gripping "suite," collecting the first two unpolished but wondrously literary sections of a work cut short, have surfaced more than six decades after her death. The first, "Storm in June," chronicles the connecting lives of a disparate clutch of Parisians, among them a snobbish author, a venal banker, a noble priest shepherding churlish orphans, a foppish aesthete and a loving lower-class couple, all fleeing city comforts for the chaotic countryside, mere hours ahead of the advancing Germans. The second, "Dolce," set in 1941 in a farming village under German occupation, tells how peasant farmers, their pretty daughters and petit bourgeois collaborationists coexisted with their Nazi rulers. In a workbook entry penned just weeks before her arrest, Némirovsky noted that her goal was to describe "daily life, the emotional life and especially the comedy it provides." This heroic work does just that, by focusing—with compassion and clarity—on individual human dramas.

I wanted to read from the time I read the New York Times review a few months ago - I blogged it here.

I normally gorge on books in one sitting but I just couldn't on this one - it needs digestion. I cried on the train at the emotional punch delivered by the personal correspondence between Nemirvosky and her family and her husband's subsquent attempts to locate her when she was taken to a concentration camp, before they both perished in Aushwitz.
Her notes for the final cycles are a fascinating insight into how a novelist works, in her case, with an apple sitting on some leaves in a forest far way from her home and security, on the run from Nazis.

Please read it. We need to never forget what happened.

Good Pancreas Music

The New York Times have an article on "While in Surgery, Do You Prefer Abba or Verdi?"
I hate surgery with a passion, so despite having to work as surgical intern for 6 months (and being the cunning dosser that I am, I'm only doing 3 months of actual surgery!), the chances of me having to choose music for theatre are very slim. Which is unfortunate as I own a rather extensive CD collection.
As a student, I avoided theathre as much as was feasible - I never heard music in a Dublin OR, but my personal study would carry very little statistical significance.
(Please note smooth segue from medical news to album endorsements)

New Music in my life includes -

Shearwater - Palo Santo
I originally got into Okkervil River because I liked the cover of their album Black Sheep Boy. I bought it on the impulse and really enjoyed it. But Shearwater, Okkervil River's side project, is excellent. Well worth checking out.

Paul Simon - Surprise.
Simon and Garfunkel in the RDS 2 summers ago was one of the best concerts I've ever been to. There's nothing surprising about Surprise - Father and Daughter the song that's been played a lot on the radio is probably my favourite.

Johnny Cash - Personal File.
As if I could find fault with the great man.
I organised a musical wake for him when he died.
I'm officially a fan for life.

The Wreckers - Stand Still, Look Pretty.
Mindy Smith joins up with some other girl (I'm too lazy - you know where google is yourself) to make an album that's pleasing to any country fan's ear.
Certainly beats the Dixie Chicks for those of us who have bailed out of their meandering long way.


Charles J Haughey and the Sacred Heart

As you’re probably well aware, Charles J Haughey, former Taoiseach of Ireland died yesterday.
After thinking that a panting Charlie Bird telling Ryan Tubridy the news, followed by a “News At One” at 11 would be a spotty day of radio – some very good, some very bad, I thought of the Sacred Heart, open hearths and TK red lemonade.
I had nearly forgotten about my childhood visits with my father to a retired farm labourer of my grandfather’s. We used to visit Billy and May every so often, bringing Mikado biscuits and a packet of Golden Virginia tobacco – because that was what my grandfather used to bring them when visiting after Billy retired.
They lived in a 2 room cottage perched atop a steep hill – the kind that you’ve to go in first to get your car up, with a rusty green pump across the road for water. There was always a few fat hens running around and the whitewash gleamed in contrast to the green gates and the red half door.
My sister and I would hide behind my father, half hoping we wouldn’t have to go in while secretly wishing for the Mikado biscuits – which we wouldn’t get at home.
Billy and May still had the open fire and used it for their cooking. While they had electricity, they had no fridge, no main light bulb – there were 2 lamps at both sides of the room. So the main room was relatively dark, lighted mainly from the sunshine outside. The room was always smoky and smelt of damp turf and something else I never quite figured out – probably the thatched roof.
Despite the hospitality, the Mikado biscuits, the warm and barely fizzy TK red lemonade, I never really felt comfortable.
For on one side of the room was the picture of the Sacred Heart, lit by the 3rd electrical item in the room, a flickering orangey red bulb illuminating the compassionate stare of the Sacred Heart as He kept a merciful eye on  the house and its occupants. In the relative darkness, the Sacred Heart, who also thanks to my granny, hung more discreetly in my home kitchen, took on a whole new orange neon appearance – one that was not too settling.
On the other side of the room, exactly in parallel with the Sacred Heart, Charlie stared down on this bucolic scene. Thankfully his picture wasn’t lit up with a red bulb, but his place in that home as a political saviour was as important as the spiritual saviour he looked over at.
To Billy and Mae, Charlie Haughey represented something. His picture meant something to them, so much so it was the only other face that adorned their walls.
Charlie Haughey on the other hand, means very little to me. Every time we visited we were warned not to repeat anything my father or grandfather had said about him, none of it complimentary, their Blueshirt roots ensuring no charity for the man. So Charlie Haughey represented a barely irresistible temptation to blurt out something atrocious about the hero of an elderly childless couple, someone I was brought up to believe as being the sort of person you didn’t admire and definitely didn’t vote for.
I’m not sure exactly what Charlie represented to a farm labourer and his wife, whose life circulated between their vegetable garden, the wireless, Mass on a Saturday evening and a trip to town on Thursday for the Mart and groceries. I don’t if it was free ESB or the television licence they didn’t need, or his republicanism, his Parisian fashion, his charisma or economic acumen that attracted them and kept them loyal. I never had a chance to ask.
It’s too easy to divide a man’s legacy into neatly consigned black and white boxes – none of us live our lives in such elegant moral starkness. I simply do not have the historical appreciation for what he did and am too young to remember him in any meaningful way as a politician – I was 9 in 1992 when he resigned – I don’t know what quite to think of him.
But this outpouring of commentary, no doubt practised in front of many a retired politico’s bathroom mirror for the inevitable day of his passing, reinforced one thing for me.
As a nation, we lack a clearly defined sense of right and wrong. Sure we know how to act decently and honestly, but unfortunately have sometimes tended to stop morality at the sexual. But we all have a keen sense of the trick, the shortcut, the not-so-legal way out of things – and while many of us no doubt have the moral strength to resist the temptations that Haughey succumbed to, there is a part of us that cheers on the gangster, the man who took the risk and won - until he was caught out. And that part of us mourns the man and the politician that was the Boss – a patriotic, energetic servant of the people who willingly took was given to him, be it love, loathing, loyalty, controversy or cash.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Are Speed Limits Targets?

I hope not.
I'm just about to leave Longford and drive to Kerry now. According to the AAroadwatch route planner it will take 4 hours 24 minutes.
It'll be fun as my first solo drive in my new car with my iPod and my (illegal) iTrip.
What is not so fun is the late arrivals of fellow holidaymakers who are leaving me alone for 2 days in Kerry.
So I'll be back next week and given I got a digital camera in New York I might even have a few photos!