One day last week I was approaching the crossroads when I spied a lamb trying to figure out how to sit down. Thankfully our small crossroads was quiet and I had a minute to observe the lamb trying to figure out how to get from a standing position to a sitting down one.
The back legs bent, but the lamb looked unsure; the backside was stuck out, but then he straightened up again. He looked round but mum was giving no help, this was one of those things a lamb has to figure out for itself.
After a couple of attempts the lamb entrusted himself to gravity and hit the ground with a bit of a thud. A little more practice now that he has done it once and my lamb friend shall be fine.
This was one of the most beautiful little sights I have ever seen and it was a veritable joy to behold.
The reason I mention this moment of delight is that it happened to occur on March 20th which, by one of those strange coincidences that makes me believe in a direction in my life, was also the first ever “World Happiness Day.”
It hopes the initiative will encourage governments to consider the well-being of their citizens, rather than focusing efforts solely on economic growth,” I read on the internet shortly after the lamb and I had our encounter.
By a further coincidence, I happened to listen to the Human Zoo on Radio Four the day before all this. The Human Zoo is some sort of programme that looks at different aspects of society and on this day, probably in line with a UN directive, the programme was about happiness.
Wait to you hear this: Nobel prize-winner Daniel Kahneman, probably the world’s greatest living psychologist, according to the presenter, has done oodles of research and reached the utterly amazing conclusion that money does not make you happy.
Nick Chater, professor of behavioural studies at Warwick Business School, also done some research and came to the amazing conclusions that having a job and spending time with people we love are marvellous aids to happiness.
Aren’t we lucky that we have scientists to tell us these things; where would we be without them?
A man who made me happy for many years died this week. Frank Thornton played the old army man who was floor walker in “Are You Being Served?” He reached the ripe old age of 92 before heading off to the great department store in the sky.
Then I read that he was married to his wife Beryl for 67 years. She, God love her, is still alive. There’s something nice about that, 67 years with the same person, in an age where husbands and wives are despatched like parcels in the post.
Things have taken a turn for the worse in our wee country; I see the Free State has declared war on the New North.
It appears Charles McBride, skipper of the Kilkeel based Archane was fishing inside Ireland’s 12 mile territorial limit. His boat was boarded by the Irish navy and taken to Galway. His crime was that he was fishing off the Aran Islands, inside Irish territorial waters.
Now if Charles had been bringing a load of revellers from Co Down to the islands for a weekend that would have been a different matter; the Free Staters like our sterling but we can only get their fish in their overpriced restaurants.
I know nothing about the legal niceties of the case but I can say that it shows a lot about the Free State’s commitment to Irish unity. We will soon be able to start a list: Charles McBride, Sean Quinn.....
On a serious note, an incident took place last week in far away India that shows how the balance of power is beginning to shift in the world.
Two Italian marines were charged with killing two fishermen from India. The Italian ambassador to India gave his word that if the two men were allowed to go home to vote in the Italian general election, that the men would return within four weeks.
Of course, in line with Europe’s imperial past, the men did not return. Then India, slightly miffed that two men charged with murdering two of its citizens walk away, decided to hold the ambassador, one Daniele Mancini, responsible for the whole debacle and have stopped him leaving the country.
The Indian government held that when Mr Mancini stood guarantor for the men he lost his diplomatic immunity. Guess what, at the weekend the two marines were sent back. No good diplomat was going to do a few years in the clink to save a couple of marines.
When are we in Europe going to learn that we can no longer go around the world doing what we want? Countries like India have had their fill of being trampled on, and can you blame them.
Greece, Ireland and Portugal were made beggars to suit the bondholders but little Cyprus has called their bluff. We all thought that mighty Italy or Spain would have been the countries that would stand up to the ECB and the IMF but it was a minnow in the Mediterranean that did it.
But the ECB and the IMF are wise and serious people, the type who do no wrong and are above reproach.
“French police have searched the Paris apartment of IMF Chief Christine Lagarde, as they investigate her role in awarding financial compensation to businessman Bernard Tapie in 2008.
As finance minister, she referred his long-running dispute with bank Credit Lyonnais to an arbitration panel, which awarded him 400m euros (£340m) damages,” said the British media during the week.
Now I have no idea of whether or not there is anything wrong in all these goings on. What sticks in me is that the people of Cyprus are again being told to take all the pain so that bondholders shall not lose a penny.
It is the rise of this “super class,” the bondholder, who cannot lose anything while the ordinary people shall have to pay and suffer that is so wrong. The arrogance of Germany and Merkel who basically run Europe as bullies is astounding.
Three or four years ago David McWilliams warned the Irish people that eventually the government would come after their savings. The Cypriot bailout, if it comes off, will require a tax on the savings of ordinary people to pay for the stupidity of bondholders for lending money to broke banks.
What is going to happen when the banks in the South realize once again that they are short of liquidity and Ireland has to go for more money to Europe? Will the savings be safe then?
If Cyprus has to take the money from savers, the precedent has been set; from then on your money is not even safe in the bank. What about pension funds or civil service pensions which eat up so much of the government’s money. Will these be cut?
Have you ever heard of the heliopause?
It seems Voyager has made it to the heliopause intact. Do you remember Voyager? It was launched about the time of my 23rd birthday in September 1977. It had all sorts of drawings on it of men, women, the earth and a host of other things.
So, in thirty six years it had got to the border of the Solar System and is boldly going where no one has gone before. We have done it once we can do it again.
I propose we build a “VolksVoyager,” a people’s voyager, to follow the Vintage Voyager into space. But this time we shall make it bigger and instead of drawings of men and women we shall send a few of our dignitaries along as a crew.
Any suggestions? (Volks as in Volkswagen should give you a clue)
I remember in the sixties all the scientists saying that space exploration was going to be the answer to everything. Then free love was declared to be the panacea for all ills. The hippies came and the hippies went, the space aged dawned and it fell into darkness.
Then in the seventies and eighties, punk rock was the new rebellion that countered the excesses of capitalism. There was the urban terrorism, the end of the Cold War, the fall of Communism and peace of earth.
Well, at least on that part of the earth that we Europeans consider important, Europe. Then came the age of financial deregulation and the prospect of unlimited growth in the economy and ever more riches; we had it made.
So where did it all go wrong?
If only Daniel Kahneman or Nick Chater had been around to tell us that money does not make us happy we would all be a lot better off today. Where were these men when we really needed them?
I was actually doing quite well last week til I read this in the Irish Independent:
“Bank of Ireland chief executive Richie Boucher's pay package has risen to just over €840,000 – despite losses of more than €2bn at the bank.”
The first question you have to ask of rich Richie is “Have ye no shame in ye?” what kind of a cocoon does a man live in when he thinks he is worth almost a million euros a year for running a broke bank when his fellow countrymen are forming queues to beg for food at hostels?
The second question is why do we take it? We take it because most of us have been bought off by our comfortable wee job and our nice house. If the bottom 10-15% are in big trouble then so be it—we can pretend that they are not there.
Like rich Richie Boucher and all the other bankers of the country we have no shame in us; as long as we are ok the bottom few can go to pot!
But the Bank of Ireland story gets even better: “Boucher’s raise in pay came as former minister Joe Walsh – one of two directors of BoI appointed to keep an eye on the lender on behalf of taxpayers – also enjoyed a significant pay hike.
The veteran Fianna Fail politician had his director's fees increased by 14pc to €90,000 last year for attending 18 board meetings and eight meetings of board sub-committees, including chairing the group that monitors pay. That is on top of his state pension of €119,000.”
Where did I go wrong? I am bright, articulate, and reasonably likeable—why did I not join Fianna Fail? Ok, my name is Quinn and I have a brother called Sean but he is not that Sean Quinn. If I had had the wit to join Fianna Fail I could have had a nice pension and a cushy job.
Ah, Ireland of the hundred thousand welcomes and nearly as many free(loaders)!
The Euro has been “being saved” now for about three years. There was a wise man lived a while ago and he had a great saying, “Leave the dead to bury their dead.”
When something is dead, let it be. If a friendship or relationship is dead don’t try to keep it going; let it go and move on.
The Euro is dead. Let it go and address the real problems behind what is going on. We are not Germans. We don’t want to be Germans and we don’t want to have to ask Germany for a sub every time we want to go out and buy a fish supper.
They’ve reached a deal in Europe. The savers in Cyprus with over 100,000 are being taxed from their savings. The principle is set; your money is no longer safe in the bank!
I’m sitting in Clady. I haven’t seen snow all week and half the wee north is at a standstill. With the highest electricity costs in the UK, we have the worst maintenance; thousands of homes still without power, hundreds of homes with no water.
I think I need a holiday; I’ll go somewhere sunny like Portugal, Greece or Cyprus. At least there if I am depressed I shall not be alone.
Merkel, Lagarde, Oli Rehn, Mario Draghi, the English, the French and Mario Monti have not been able to sort out the Euro crisis. Perhaps I can make a suggestion.
We now have a new leader in Europe, a humble little man from Argentina. Why not go and ask him what he thinks.
“My children, go and consider the poor. Let not the people suffer needlessly. Why do we need the super rich when we have so many who are desperately poor? Let us show a little compassion.”
I think Ireland, North and South, shall win the World Cup before that happens!
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