Thursday, May 27, 2010

"The Slog of the Bog"

“The Slog of The Bog”

As a “Townie”, “City Slicker” Jackeen who moved to the country three years ago, there are many changes that I needed to get used to.

The first is everyone knows who you are as soon as you arrive and you know nobody. Now that’s an unfair advantage if I ever saw one.

The world seems so much quieter. You can hear the birds singing everyday not just in springtime. People wave to you as they pass you by on the road. There is a tremendous sense of community, whether you like it or not. I tend to embrace that closeness now

Last year during our terrible summer I was initiated in the joys of drawing turf from a midlands bog. Every time we went it rained or had been raining and it proved to be a highly exhausting experience. The ground was wet, the turf was soaking and the body was cold, but as they say down my way, “It has to be done”

Last weekend, the hottest of the year I returned to the same bog with family and friends to gather and stack our heating for the coming year, or as they say down my way “we went to make some “Stucks” whatever that means.
The sun was shining the birds were singing, the car radio was blaring and the Mi Wadi was flowing. It was great fun. The wider family, brothers, sisters, wives girlfriends and children all together in the age-old pursuit of keeping warm.

The sun was splitting the stones and there we were worrying about the coming winter.

The conversation flowed as we made our way up the rows of cut turf. The slagging of the “Dub” seemed to be the number one topic, but I stood firm and took it like the soft-handed city boy that I am.

Gloves or no gloves were another topic of conversation.

The older lads in the group tended to go commando and I am sure they are still trying to get the pieces of sod from out under their nails, but they seemed not to care. I on the other hand wore the gardening gloves and took the glares of distain as they were issued

The sense of family and teamwork was a sight to behold. Everyone doing his or her bit for the common good. After three solid hours of work I was knackered, ready to quit on the spot, but I was not about to admit it, then I heard what could be considered in the circumstances the most beautiful word in the English language – “Pub”

The work was complete and we were off for a late afternoon pint.
On the way there was deep discussion on whether we should pop home and change before we went. This is where I came into my own.

I am going for a pint now. The blackened knees and arms were my “Badge of Honour” and I was not about to give up the opportunity that some of the locals might see me and think. “Jasus look at yer man, he can’t be too bad if he helps in the Bog”.

There were no detours we did not go to jail; we did not collect 200.00 pounds. We went straight to the pub.
I took up residence outside in the bright afternoon sunshine and watched as the ice in my glass cracked as I poured in my pint bottle of fermented apple juice.

I sat and waited a second and then raised it to my lips, took a large gulp and in that split second, the previous three hours of torture had become a distant memory

This country can on occasions like this be a truly special place to live.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Trials and Tribulations Of Toilet Training

Our only son turned three years old this week and great celebrations took place in our house, but we are also coming to the end of the most worrying period of his short life.

You can forget the teething, the night terrors and the difficulties we have in getting him to eat his dinner. Because what I’m talking about is much more serious. I’m talking about “Potty Training” as it was in my day, but now called “toilet training”

My wife spent time building herself up to the day when we would endeavour to get a toddler to stop peeing in his pants. We agreed that a potty was not the answer. We were going to be brave and forward thinking and go straight for the toilet.

Over a three-week period I lost count of the pairs of pants and trousers that appeared on our washing line. I am sure the neighbours thought that we must have at least three children.
It seemed that every time I turned around a river of wee was running down my young lads leg. I found it difficult to remain calm and having walked in the puddle a couple of times in my bare feet thought it best to wear waterproof shoes around the house.
There were times when I was taking my son out in the car where I thought “I’ll just stick a nappy on him for safety’s sake”, but my wife convinced me that we really needed to persevere and “go through the pain” it would be better in the long run love, she said.

At times like these I wished I had invested in leather seats in the car, but I think my lad got a certain kick watching me sponge wash the upholstery in the back of the car while up front he sat and beeped the horn, again and again and again.

Then out of nowhere two days before his birthday the “Eureka” moment occurred. I happened to be at work when my son walked up to my wife and uttered those faithful words “ Mammy I need to go toilet”
As she proudly placed my son atop the throne in the bathroom she called me to share the sheer joy she felt and also to confirm that she had been right. We needed to endure the pain of wet trousers, wet pants and wet floors.

I am not saying that we have totally cracked it yet. We still have the odd mistake, but as parents we are now confident that our son can overcome any challenge that is put in front of him. Well done son.
Now bring on the Leaving Cert.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

"The Meek Shall Inherit The Earth"

Ah yes that’s what the bible tells us. Well in that case the total population of Ireland will find a place on the other side of “The Pearly Gates”

Our country is on its knees, broken by people who still control and govern us.

Hundreds of thousands of people are unemployed; thousands now live with negative equity, reduced pensions, and reduced salaries.

Yes we call Joe Duffy on a daily basis, we scream and shout about it to our friends and family, but what we don’t do in large enough numbers is confront the leaders of our nation with the issues that affect our daily lives

What we do is sit on our hands, and wait for someone else to make a stand. We are the sheep of Europe, the followers, never the leaders, never and the ones to break fresh ground

Throughout the world, history has shown us the tremendous contribution that Irish people have made to the every corner of the world. We spread our confident hard working message when we went to far-flung places and made it work

Yet at home we just sit on our hands.

Last night a march and rally was organised to give the people of this nation an opportunity to air their grievances about the political and economic mire that we find ourselves in and less than 1000 people turned up

There are currently over 400,000 people unemployed in Ireland and less than 1,000 people turned up. Do the unemployed just not care enough to care?
Have they been that brow beaten?

They say that you always get the leaders and governments that you deserve, and much as I hate to say it, but we have exactly the government that we deserve.

I am sure the politicians in Leinster House last evening worried little for the small group outside. What difference can a few hundred hardy souls make? The answer is very little I’m afraid, very little.

We placed these people in positions of power, yet there seems to be no national will to remove them and replace them with forward thinking individuals who will put the well being of the citizens of our nation before anything else

I would like to ask all politicians in Ireland to ask themselves one question and one question only before they vote in future in the Dail chamber

Is the decision I am about to make the correct one for the people of Ireland?

Not the people of my village or town or county, but for the people of our nation as a whole.

We must leave the parochial politics of the past at the door and bring to power individuals with vision, drive and above all answers to the problems that the current incumbents seem unwilling or unable to answer.

The world may see us as a nation that punches above it’s weight, I see a nation that has been floored by one to many punches and is wondering whether it should bother even rising from the canvas.

Monday, May 10, 2010

"Rising After Redundancy"

The Programme "Rising After Redundancy" starts on RTE 1 at 9.30pm on Sunday 16th May

I am one of the contributors to this groundbreaking documentary

Check it out and I would really welcome all comments on the show

Thursday, May 6, 2010

That "Where Were You Moment"?

That “Where Were You Moment”?

For those of us a little older, then JF Kennedy may have been the first. Then for some it was Princess Diana and now it’s Gerry Ryan. That “where were you moment?” where were you when you heard they were dead?

There have been many more who have died and have been remembered. The first person outside of family that I can remember dying was Elvis Presley I was 6 years old it was August 1977 I was playing football on a Dublin estate and one of the lads told me Elvis was dead. I ran home through the front door and asked my ma if it was true, because to a 6 year old your ma was your oracle, your window on the world, your worldwide web. My mother was my www.
I remember Elvis and where I was. Elvis was followed by Indira Ghandi, Princess Diana and now Gerry Ryan. I know Indira Ghandi is a strange one, but so was breakfast Television in the 1980’s

I know where I was because they had an impact on me. They actually stopped me in my tracks and gave me cause to contemplate their lives.

We all die, but outside or our nearest and dearest, the death of few have a real effect on us.
My latest is Mr Gerry Ryan. It’s not that I really listened every day or for that matter every year, it’s just that he always seemed to be there, doling out advice but also spending much time in listening to the nation. Yes he seemed to be the nations barometer. He took our temperature on a daily basis. I like to see him as the “calpol” of the nation. He kept us from over boiling by giving us an outlet for our fears and anxieties.

At this time in our nations history, we need a Gerry Ryan. We will always require a Gerry Ryan, someone who allows us to use them as a conduit for our own thoughts and fears.

There will be more to follow, more deaths to stop us in our tracks. Yet that in itself is life. We stop and remember and then we just pick up the slack and go again

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Let's Rock the Boat

It hasn’t rained for nearly two weeks now, there is warmth in the sun and the National League is coming to an end.
This must mean that summer is here, and that means Championship football
It’s the time where all counties dream of success, for some it would be to win a Championship game for others it would be to make a Provincial final for others nothing but winning a Provincial Final would do
And then there’s the “big boys” where nothing short of All Ireland success would deem there seasons a failure.

I should be exited, and I suppose I am in a weird sort of way, but I am also apprehensive. It seems that the internal wrangling between counties shows no signs of abating

This week Westmeath lost their manager Brendan Hackett and a Championship ball had not been kicked in Anger, Limerick hurlers are at their lowest ebb having been relegated by Dublin to Division 2 of the National League and beaten by a cricket score into the bargain
Over the last few years it seems that most counties have had their managerial problems
“Player Power” has reared its ugly head and I am sure that the powers that be in Croke Park wish that players would just turn up and play and stop “rocking the boat”

I on the other hand hope that they continue to turn up to play but continue to “rock the boat”.
I want them to rock the boat until it capsizes. I want the Lifeboats to be launched and lifejackets issued and inflated; because the issue of so called “player power” needs to be addressed

The management and head honcho’s in Croke Park are wondering what all the fuss is about. Why can’t the players just train and play and leave the running of the association to us

Well the news the players have for the hierarchy is “without the players we don’t have a GAA and all you so called leaders would be without a job, and in many cases without an income, so think on.

We all know that some players want to be paid, and others don’t, but what they all want is to be treated fairly – treated as equals not just as a means to an end for ambitious club or county administrators

A county player will give up at least 10 months of their year to their respective county, training up to four times a week, playing once or twice a week, competing with their clubs.
These players are roll models for the youth of their community. They also have work and family commitments that take second place behind their sports for most of the year, and yet some feel that they receive very little back in return

Now I hear you say that “Nobody has forced them to play” and this is correct, but they are playing and giving their best and they feel that to achieve the best results possible they need to have a say in how their counties are managed.

Is this too much to ask?

Now I feel that the “Player Power” issue could be settled once and for all and consigned to the history books with one stroke of a pen. Now wait for it some of you are going to find what I am about to say very distressing indeed, others may need to sit down, take the weight off and pour yourself a stiff drink

Are you ready?


Intercounty hurlers and footballers should be paid hard cash for the efforts that they put in. The money in turn will increase their personal well-being and reduce the need for players to demand extra from their county boards and management

Do we ever hear of rugby players unhappy with their lot, or “League of Ireland” footballers? No we don’t. If they have issues with the way things are done they keep things in house, whereas GAA players feel that the only way that they can exact change is to bring things to a head on a local and national level, and I can only surmise that this in turn makes the GAA look at the least slow to react and the worst backward thinking

It is the summer of 2010 and I really want to look forward to a great championship season. I want the good weather and the cheering crowds and the adulation to go to the people who bring me to Cusack Park, or Park Tailteann or Croke Park, and that is the players.

These supreme athletes lay it all on the line week in week out for the love of the jersey. They should also be laying it on the line for a couple of hundred euros a match.

Friday, January 22, 2010

"The Conversation"

The following conversation, or one very like it will be held the length and breadth of the country this weekend. People will as usual discuss the “State of The Nation” and as always will come to very similar conclusions.

Political conversations are not banned from pubs because they may cause arguments. They are banned because they leave the participants depressed and unable to finish their drinks.

Mick and Tommy are down the pub on Friday night. There they sit at the bar with a couple of pints in front of them. The conversation goes as follows

Tommy: So Mick what do you think of this inquiry into the failure of the banking system?

Mick: Well Tommy let me tell you this, you can guarantee that lots of taxpayer’s money will be spent and at the end of it nobody will be held accountable. Nobody will lose their jobs, or have their pensions touched. It will be a whitewash.

Tommy: You know what Mick; I think I have to agree with you there.

Mick: The government have said that they are going to follow the style of the “Murphy Report” because that was a huge success in getting to the bottom of the clerical abuse problem, and it will cost less money

Tommy: That’s right. They are going to meet behind closed doors and the report will be issued before anyone has the right to reply. I wonder will they just take a sample count of the perpetrators just like the Murphy report did?

Mick: As I said at the start Tommy nobody will be held accountable, we as a nation will be out of pocket and nothing will change within the banking sector.

Tommy: Do you think the report will be made public before the next General Election?

Mick: Tommy, are you being serious, there is more chance of getting a yes or no answer from a politician than there is of this report being published before the election.

Tommy: Will you have another pint Mick?

Mick: I will Tommy, sure “a bird never flew on one wing” now did he.

Tommy: So how’s the family Mick?

You see this is the general public talking. The very same people who placed the T.D’s in power.

I hope they can make it down to their very own local’s this weekend. They will be helping the economy by spending money that they can claim back on un vouched expenses and also listening to common sense spoken by their electorate.

Maybe we should make it compulsory that once a month the local T.D has to go down to their local hostelry and actually listen to the very people who put them into power.

We live in hope.

Monday, January 4, 2010

2010 - Happy New Year

Athlone has been hit badly by the recent floods and now its freezing cold but believe it or not I’m exited
I’m looking forward to the New Year

My New Year resolution is to have a positive attitude for the coming year.

I will not allow myself to be negative in 2010
The government can throw whatever they want at me and I will still keep a smile on my face.
The travails of 2009 have thought me a great lesson. You have to look after yourself and your family and this is what I will be doing. I will build a little bubble around ourselves and we will succeed.
As a nation we have a great opportunity now to stick together. We all know that times are tough, but the simple things in life can get us through

The joy and wonder on a child’s face as they open their Christmas presents.
The support of family and friends.
The sunrise in the morning.
A smile here and a laugh there.

We live in a great country that just needs a little help to get it back up from its knees

There is no harm in looking back to find a way forward. We have been through recessions before and we can come out the other end a little wiser.

I just want to let you know that I am ready, confident and keen to make this the best year ever.
We are all lucky in different ways; sometimes you just need to have it spelled out for you.

So the year had begun. What are you going to make of it? Will you grab it by the scruff of the neck and give it a shake? Or will you sit idly by and allow things to happen around you?
As I said I’m exited. I’m going to smile more at people. I’m going to make an effort to get to know new people; I’m going to learn new skills. I’m going to progress.

It’s all out there for us we just have to go and get it. I know barriers are sometimes placed in our way, but nothing that can’t be overcome.

If anyone sees me being miserable in 2010 you have my permission to issue me with a rebuke.

The New Year is here whether we like it or not, now we just have to go and make the most of it.

Good Luck