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