Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Same only Different!

Browsing through articles I’ve written for the Bugle over the years I came across one written the 9th January ’03. I’d forgotten completely about events that had taken place in ’02 and I’ll hazard a guess that so have most people, so I’ll lift a piece of out of the article and give it to you straight. I’d been reading ‘what they say in the papers’; by various columnists and feature writers and here is what they all commented on, --- greed, chicanery in politics (lies and deceit), wanton wastefulness, despair, and poverty. The wanton wastefulness was referring to the erection of the Spike on 0’Connell St which cost millions, we never did hear the final figure, and at the same time a Capuchin priest was seeking a mere million to improve a day care centre for the poor and homeless close by. All this happened six years ago, six years of our Celtic Tiger on the rampage carrying us to the top of the heap when our homes became more of an equity than a home, but have we left despair and poverty and wanton wastefulness behind? I hardly think so. Today’s columnists and feature writers are writing about the year gone out and are writing much the same as they did six years ago, --- it’s the same only different, the difference being there’s more of it; more stabbings and murders and violent robberies. And what about the fiddling in banking circles? All proper and correct it seems only don’t tell the shareholders; they might ask awkward questions at the AGM. If your high enough up the corporate ladder in banking nobody bothers to question what you’re doing shuffling all those pieces of paper from Paddy to Jack and back again. They seem to use the formula so beloved by politicians, --- wink, nudge, and whatever you havin’ yourself. When do our financial controllers and regulators move into action stations one might ask? When it’s too late would seem to be the answer. Many years ago I well remember going into my bank manager to ask for an overdraft. £3000 was the sum required to buy cattle; £3000 would have bought a lot of cattle in those days. He put me through the hoops checking out my credit worthiness, then, suddenly said that he would like to see over the place. At this remove I can’t say if this was standard practice by bank managers; maybe he just wanted to get out of the office for a few hours but he arrived out at the appointed time with an agriculture advisor in tow. I gave them the ‘grand tour’ and all were satisfied that I wasn’t mentally incapacitated and that the ground they stood on was mine, all mine. The overdraft was granted. I tell this story wondering if the same criteria is applied today when some person or corporate group goes seeking billions to buy up development lands or property, or does that only apply to the ‘little people’! And speaking of finance I hear on the news that the government, (tax payer) has propped up the banks to the tune of 1.3 billion. That piece of news will be very gratifying to the man or woman who stood in the dole queue before Christmas and not in the queue for Santa.
So how have our beloved leaders behaved in the year gone out? The gaff of the year must go to our Taoiseach who urged us all to vote Yes to Lisbon and in the same breath telling us all he hadn’t bothered to read it. Sound man Biffo Boy, I didn’t read it either and voted Yes, but I’m not in the public eye and leader of the band. And what about the almighty blunder in the budget when it took a lot of spin doctoring and a U turn or two before it was half acceptable to the public at large especially the ones it hit most, the weak and vulnerable. We still have electronic voting machines hidden away somewhere in a cupboard costing a cool half million a year in rent. Why don’t we hang a ‘for sale’ sign on them? If 2009 is to be a ‘cost cutting exercise’ year that would be a start.
So here we are at the start of a new year and one should be up beat and give it half a chance, but it’s hard to be up beat when all around us, politicians included, keep telling us that we ‘ain’t seen nothing yet’ and that the recession facing us is worse than previous ones. Hum, that all depends on where you’re coming from and what vintage you are. If you’re middle aged or younger and have been living ‘high on the hog’ (two holidays a year plus all mod cons to your hand) then 2009 could look daunting, but if you’re my vintage you’ll be inclined to say ‘so what’ we’ll survive. From where I’m coming from Ireland was in a perpetual recession until we joined the EU. Put another way, we didn’t expect much co’s there wasn’t much to be had, so when we hit a bad patch the fall wasn’t great. Just maybe a bit of correction mightn’t do a bit of harm. Eamon de Valera better know as Dev once said, I quote, -- “that Ireland which we dream of would be the home of a people who valued material wealth only as a basis of right living, of a people who were satisfied with frugal comfort and devoted their leisure to things of the spirit”, unquote. Well now, put your ace of spades on that! Those were the days when we were ruled by Canon Law and not the Law of the Land. In this secular age who’d buy it? I remember Dev’s golden age and I for one wouldn’t be a bidder, but there is a grain of truth in his statement that might suit the times we face into.
For better or worse a new year is with us. Lets hope it’s not the same as last year and the difference will be better! If we ‘cut our cloth to our measure’, we’ll find it could be better than expected. Hope springs eternal, and a Happy New Year to all. Yrs Jeffers.

Christmas “Cheer”!
Christmas, one day in 365 and it probably brings more stress to us than moving house or getting a divorce. This year, I swore I was going to be organised – no last minute shopping, no panic, no Christmas cards going to England 2 days before the event………And don’t roll your eyes to the Heavens at that – there are plenty more like me. Well, I got off to a great start, text the sisters in law for advice on what the nieces and nephews wanted, went mad and bought wine and candles to beat the band – wasn’t going to lose sleep over selecting presents this year. That was the plan, Readers. I hadn’t bargained on forgetting I had already bought the blasted candle holders so every shop I visited in November and early December, I just kept on buying and buying………until I cleaned out the boot of the car and realised I had enough candles to keep the Church lit for a month!

I was having the family to my house for Christmas dinner, fifteen adults, three older children and three little ones. Plans to go shopping early were deferred as “My Don” and William went about putting up a satellite dish to receive the ‘free’ stations, courtesy of Lidl. “A couple of hours” says Don “We will have it done in no time”.
The straight forward process encountered a few hitches; holes were drilled through the interior walls, wires started appearing everywhere. And sure, if I was going to get the free stations in the kitchen, shouldn’t I also watch them in the sitting room, the bedroom, William’s room – until the roof started to look like a NASA signal station……….
Two Sundays later, no shopping done, Don and William smothering with colds, the O’Donoghues were multi-channelled (until recent high winds and frost interfered and the words “Weak Signal” keep appearing). In the meantime, Christmas was getting closer and still, the bulk of shopping is not done.
Neither was the grocery shop, the cards and panic was beginning to set in.
I’d wake up and think “Turkey bag! I’d better not forget the roasting bag..” or “Cream - Tin Foil - Gift Tags!”
Isn’t that sad, in the lead up to celebrating the birth of Our Lord and I’m sweatin’ over tin foil. The night before Christmas Eve, William had collected my boned and rolled turkey and ham from Langan’s. I’m talking to visitors, washed the ham and put it on to boil…….Ah yes, I am going to be better prepared this year…
Up early morning Christmas Eve and I’m preparing the turkey for roasting – only its not the turkey I’m looking at, it’s the ham and the ‘ham’ I boiled the night before has suspicious looking goose pimples and is peculiarly white…….
I’m standing there in my housecoat ie a very bobbly, ancient dressing gown I do housework in, wearing off white ankle socks and old slippers. A Festive Vision tying to come to terms with the fact that I have boiled the bloody turkey when Paul, my past husband arrives, full of Christmas cheer and laden down with Christmas gifts. (This is before 10am on Christmas Eve)
“Could you arrive just once when I look human instead of like Nora Batty from “Last of the Summer Wine”?” I asked. “Ah sure, when are you ever any other way.” says he in reply (rather bravely, I thought).
“And that’s the great thing about you, you don’t get stressed, doesn’t take a feather out of you…”
My children would disagree with him and they thought I was a friggin’ lunatic that day. Poor William made trips in and out to Naas for gifts, groceries, drinks and any ‘bits’ that were missed en route.
Then Ethna arrived, then Margaret……..and so the day continued with me still in my Nora Batty ensemble – I’m happy to say I dressed properly for church.
“My Don” was also going to call on Christmas Eve morning; those of you who know him well know he is a ‘poor time keeper’; Don arrived about 15 minutes before we legged it to Christmas Eve mass service, barely had time to exchange greetings and gifts: “Hello – Goodbye, see you after Christmas…”
The following morning arrived, the previously boiled turkey was decked with streaky rashers and given an hour in the oven and do you know what, it was only divine to taste, nicest turkey ever………We made Dora’s for breakfast, then visited the graves, up to O’Donoghue’s to see Nanny, nicked a baking tray from my sister in law and home again by 1o’clock with dinner to be served by 3!
Not bad going – d’you know what, it was a lovely day. Fiona brought a sherry-berry trifle to die for; Bernie prepared the vegetables and potatoes; Laura provided the napkins and Christmas crackers and Donna did sweet damn all, kept her trifle for herself on Stephen’s Day, she did! Guess who’s cooking dinner next year………
My children raced around before family arrived and the day went smoothly. The daddies and older children hogged the front room where they monopolised the “Wii” – can you imagine a very competitive Peter Barrett roaring instructions at his four year old son, Paddy “Press it now, Paddy! Ah Jeez, you missed…”
The mammies stayed in the kitchen, attacking the chocolate and wine. The children were great, the little ones climbed up on a life sized deer ornament but the big success of the day was a tiny water pistol which fell out of a cracker. About an inch and a half in length, the others got lunch boxes, put water in them and spent hours throwing water at one another!
It was midnight when Bernie finally called time and took Lyn, Clodagh and Cillian home as Amy and Hayley stayed on with my lot to finally win a million on “Who wants to be a millionaire?” (took about two hours, twenty text messages and Google checks but they did it and twelve year old Clodagh was the most accurate).
And I fell into bed, tired and happy and secure that Paddy and Ivy, wherever they are, would have enjoyed seeing the family in action. Uncle Gerry, bless him, bought me a new red dressing gown and I’m sitting in it right now as I type this.
Another Christmas over, its not the pre-Christmas panic I remember but the happy atmosphere in the house on the day, the Church on Christmas Eve, dressed in seasonal green, red and white, the choir……..breakfast in Dora’s and seeing Nanny on Christmas morning plus Margaret’s delicious pudding and pavlova – what would I do without you all?
God Bless for 2009, X – Rose

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