image source: blog.bandbireland.com
year is his great chance. Ireland 2013 is an open party for anyone with even the most tenuous of ties with our land to come to these shores.
We have even given this year long excuse for a booze-up a name: The Gathering.
To be honest it sounds like the name of a horror film. You could have a gathering of vampires or werewolves. In fact that is a good point. The great Bram Stoker is reputed to have used a legend from Garvagh about a chieftain called Abhartach who terrorised his people, as his role model for his 1897 book, Dracula.
"Abhartach was a great tyrant and his people wanted rid of him," says Bob Curran, a lecturer in Celtic history and folklore at the University of Ulster. "They were so terrified of his powers; they were frightened to kill him themselves. They persuaded another king from nearby, called Cathán, to come and kill him, which he did, and buried him standing up, as befitted an Irish chieftain.
"Within a day, however, Abhartach was back and demanded a bowl of blood from the wrists of his people in order to sustain his vile corpse. Cathán slew and buried him again, but the next day he was back demanding the same bowl of blood."
So you have a people that are beaten into submission, a chief that is demanding blood from his underlings and a system that the people hate. Why not change the names to Merkel, Mario Draghi, Kenny and bondholders and you could write the story in modern days.
The Gathering shall be what the Irish do best, a festival of Irishness that is nothing to do with the reality of life in Ireland, but in fairness you have to hand it to whoever thought of the idea it is a good way to boost tourism.
Statue of Percy French in the
Town Square of Ballyjamesduff
image source: home.wavecable.com
And the man we have been begging for years to come home, do you know who he is? Paddy Reilly, of course, the legendary man from Ballyjamesduff in Co Cavan. Actually Paddy Reilly did exist. He did live in Ballyjamesduff, and he left and went to Scotland sometime in the late 1800s. He was a driver to Percy French who worked in the area. When he left French composed the song to his friend. In the fullness of time Paddy Reilly did come home and is buried in St Joseph's graveyard in the town.
There would not have been much around Ballyjamesduff in the late 1800s to keep Paddy Reilly at home. His home would have been humble and probably a mud wall cottage. Not a place fit for a president, or is it?
It's a common grumble that politicians' lifestyles are far removed from those of their electorate. Not so in Uruguay. Jose Mujica, the President of the country, lives on a ramshackle farm and gives away most of his pay.
Laundry is strung outside the house. The water comes from a well in a yard, overgrown with weeds. Only two police officers and Manuela, a three-legged dog, keep watch outside.
President Mujica has shunned the luxurious house that the Uruguayan state provides for its leaders and opted to stay at his wife's farmhouse, off a dirt road outside the capital, Montevideo.
The president and his wife work the land themselves, growing flowers.
This austere lifestyle - and the fact that Mujica donates about 90% of his monthly salary, equivalent to $12,000 (£7,500), to charity - has led him to be labelled the poorest president in the world.
You would think the man was a bit silly until you realize that he spent 14 years in jail, was shot 6 times while fighting as a revolutionary and has a few amazing things to say. Just read these next couple of quotes and stop and think of what he is saying.
"I'm called 'the poorest president', but I don't feel poor. Poor people are those who only work to try to keep an expensive lifestyle, and always want more and more." Sounds a bit like the Wisdom of Solomon to me.
"Does this planet have enough resources so seven or eight billion people can have the same level of consumption and waste that today is seen in rich societies? It is this level of hyper-consumption that is harming our planet. Politicians have a blind obsession to achieve growth with consumption, as if the contrary would mean the end of the world.”
As the EU heads back into recession where has our obsession with growth brought us? Reuters reported last week that the Euro zone is in its second recession since 2009. Output in the zone fell for the second quarter in a row which means we are officially in recession. Big deal; most of us have been in recession for the past four or five years.
Why not learn from Mr Mujica and live on a little less. The pictures that I see of him do not make me think of a man who is doing too badly.
Imagine telling the people of Europe that we are going to have no growth for the next ten years and that we shall have to learn to live on what we have. We expect so much and need so much less. But this is the life we choose.
'homeless' planet CFBDSIR2149-0403
wandering through space
image source: sciencecodex.com
Sometimes you’d just want to get away from it all and start again. I know where I’d go. I’d go to CFBDSIR2149-0403 and start a new life there.
This collection of numbers, something like the chassis number of an old Volkswagen, is a new “wandering” planet that has been found way out there, far past the moon and over many a rainbow.
In fact CFBDSIR2149-0403is a planet with no sun to orbit around; we go round the sun, the moon goes round us, but poor old CFBDSIR2149-0403 just goes on and on, wandering aimlessly through the galaxy.
Many of us wander aimlessly through life never stopping to think of where we are going or what we are really doing; a drop of drink, the odd bet, no real roots, fear of commitment to a spouse or kids—yes many of us are like that planet with the chassis number name.
But then again being committed can be a bad thing too.
Tonio Borg is a Catholic from Malta and he is being proposed for a big health job in Europe. Guess what, the atheists, humanists and pro death people are against him. Catholics cannot be trusted to do the bidding of the various secularist groups. Do you remember Rocco Buttiglione? He was the Italian Catholic who was refused a job in Europe specifically because he was a Catholic and his agreement with Catholic teaching would impair his ability to follow secular thinking.
Personally I think all this is great. Seriously, I believe it is time for the Catholics of Europe and the secularists of the continent to move further and further apart and to let the lines of distinction be drawn up as to who is what. If we are Christian then so be it. If we are secularist then let the nations go that way.
The Christian message and the Catholic Church are always there for us. Let the secularists run their course and let them find that a life without God is like a planet without a sun, wandering about in a galaxy with nowhere to go, or a person without commitment living an aimless life.
Remember the Prodigal Son, eventually “he came to his senses.” It happens to us all, we make fools of ourselves, live the way we want to live, hurt and get hurt and then we finally say, “Where did I go wrong?” It is only then we are ready to seek the truth.
And where do we all end up? Back in the chapel asking God for a bit of help! We are like children.
“For social diarists it is the end of a golden era – Gerald Kean and Lisa Murphy officially split up. The celebrity couple, whose public displays of glamour and romance personified the boom, and then the bust in Ireland, are no more.” This dribble is what passes for news in the Irish media. Who cares? The money’s gone: bye, bye love.
What would be real news this weekend?
Palestine-Israel change from 1946 to 2000
image source: gazaawareness.blogspot.co.uk
Bombings in Gaza, 50 children dead in an accident in Egypt or a deadly slum fire in Bangladesh, which left eleven people dead and destroyed 500 homes. These stories are real news.
Homes are always big news for they are very dear to us.
“New York City is moving to demolish hundreds of homes in the neighbourhoods hit hardest by Hurricane Sandy, after a grim assessment of the storm-ravaged coast revealed that many structures were so damaged they pose a danger to public safety and other buildings nearby.”
This is a report from the New York Times on Sunday. About 200 homes are to be destroyed, but in the US homes hold three or four families, as they use the apartment system. I’m sure Lisa and Gerald, split up and single, shall not be without a home.
Do you know anyone who has had their house repossessed recently? If you don’t you soon will. Four houses a day are being taken back by banks and mortgage companies in Northern Ireland. Homes old and new fascinate us all.
The remains of what is believed to be one of Scotland's earliest homes have been uncovered during construction works for the new Forth crossing.
Rod McCullagh, a senior archaeologist at Historic Scotland, said: "This discovery and, especially the information from the laboratory analyses adds valuable information to our understanding of a small but growing list of buildings erected by Scotland's first settlers after the last glaciations, 10,000 years ago.”
“Inside the house was apparently cosy, with several hearths, while the discovery of flint arrowheads and charred shells suggests a diet which included meat and roasted hazelnuts.”
I think you could stick a life like that the best, a neat warm wee house and plenty of heat and food. You could even start an assembly to make sure everyone in the community played their part. But you would need an opposition. You would need someone to say that the houses are the wrong size, facing the wrong way and are burning too much turf.
“An assembly without an opposition is absurd!” So says Jim Allister leader of the TUV, which is not one of those big cars but a miniscule political party that opposes everything, even the sun rising in the morning.
Jim and his party colleagues were in Cookstown for a pow-wow over the weekend. Well maybe not for a weekend, more like an afternoon.
Scottish dig unearths '10,000-year-old home'
image source: archaeology-in-europe.blogspot.co.uk
But why do we need an opposition in the New North? We are given a few bob, told what to spend it on and off we go. Peter and Martin try to look serious, nobody listens to them or the assembly, so what is there to oppose.
Take a serious social issue, say housing. If a few hundred Catholics in North Belfast have bad housing do you think a Unionist is going to waste time on that? Or drug problems in East Belfast, are the Shinners going to look for votes down there? What is there to argue about, Jim?
We have a billion or two to spend, we divide it up as best we can and we all go home to our neat little snug 10,000 year old homes just like our Scottish ancestors did before us. At this moment I am burning a bit of turf, snug and warm in my sitting room, waiting on the wife to cook a nice meat and two veg dinner. What is the difference between me and Hamish McTaggart, Forth Crossing Road, Scotland, 10,000 years BC?
Probably he had no mortgage so no one would come to repossess his home. I hope it wasn’t built from Ash. If you built a wooden house now you could be in a bit of trouble:
“The presence of chalara fraxinea, known as Ash dieback, was yesterday confirmed at five sites in counties Down and Antrim” said the Belfast Telly on Saturday.
The bit that gets to me is the way that the paper tries to make it a big story; “Ash killer is here... but when did officials know?”—ran a headline in the paper. So what if officials knew the disease was here. The world is not going to end just because we don’t know for another day or two that a plant disease is has taken up residence in Co Down.
This is the type of thing we would finish up arguing about if we had an opposition. “May I ask Deputy First Minister McGuiness if and when he first knew that my Ash at the bottom of my garden was in danger, and if he did know that my Ash was in danger, was it he that planted it?” our brave TUV leader could say.
“We in Sinn Fein are committed to the peace process and we believe that every Ash should be treated equally, regardless of when and where it was planted. Chalara Fraxinea was not imported by me or any member of our party. Had it been it would have been included with all the other armaments decommissioned at the time of the Great Healing. Perhaps Mr Allister should avail of some of the benefits of the Great Healing, join us for the Gathering, invite a few of his cousins from Forth Crossing Road and generally live a little. We shall invite our ancestor Abhartach the Vampire over for a little drink, and Paddy Reilly (of you know where) might even make an appearance,” could be the reply of our beloved convert to peace.
We don’t need an opposition in the New North. We don’t even need real politics. We are still too immature to be left with real power and thank God the powers that be across the water know it. The New North is doing reasonably well. May we be given enough time, perhaps fifty years, for the wounds to heal and the peace to settle in.
I hope we get the time.
“Our God is a great God.”
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published in Observer Newspaper group, N.I.
22nd Nov '12