Sunday, June 21, 2009

Easter Rising. by Jeffers

Easter is the time of the year when those of us with a religious background celebrate the rising of Christ from the dead. But it also is a significant time of the year when we Irish celebrate and commemorate the Easter Rising. Recently there has been letters in the ‘letters page’ of some of our daily papers vis-à-vis Ireland and the Commonwealth: should we have joined, were we right to stay out, what were the advantages and disadvantages? Ninety odd years down the road it’s a bit late in the day to be discussing the subject, nevertheless, it still holds the attention of some folk. We Irish have long memories and if there’s a recent trouble spot such as that foul murder of that policeman in the North there’s always someone who will relate it to some part of our history.
I wasn’t around in those times, and although history was always one of my favourite subjects I must admit that without reading up on the events that took place at that time my memory is hazy. How an ever, one or two things had been established before the outbreak of World War 1. The farmers had got the freedom of their land and John Redmond had got Home Rule. Unfortunately the Great War broke out and all was put on the long finger. With the war over up steps Padraig Pearse and the rising took place. Like all students the world over Pearse was a young man with high ideals lacking a touch of wisdom. He was also an eloquent speaker and had the ability to turn people on, or put another way, stir up a murrain! The Rising was followed by the War of Independence, which in turn led to civil war, and the rest is history. One would have to ask the question why have a rising when we already had won land freedom and Home Rule? A more important question is what did Independence bring? For the majority of people it brought little change. For the rural workingman or woman drudgery remained, and the slums of Dublin and other cities didn’t disappear. Had we become part of the Commonwealth would the situation have been any different? Doubtful. No matter what way the cat jumped emigration was still our safety valve. A huge rebuilding program took place in England when the hostilities of World War 2 ceased, and we ‘Paddies’ were to the forefront of it, earning good money and able to send some home to the less fortunate parents or other relatives. Some returned with enough money earned to stock a small farm, or start up a business. Some also went further a field to Commonwealth countries such as Australia and Canada who had and have their own parliaments, and carry on regardless of what takes place in English parliament. A Royal visit to these countries now and again is the only recognition that they are part of the Commonwealth!
So what have we done with our Independence? For roughly half of it we stagnated, setting up State bodies that soaked up money giving poor value for money spent. However they did give secure employment. Some said they were an expensive form of dole. Our exports were pitiful and England was our main market and she didn’t pay over the odds. In the early days agriculture products mostly in the form of cattle, fat and store, were our chief exports. Farmers bridled at the bit waiting to join the EEC as it was then called and when that took place in 1972 not only agriculture but also the whole country benefited. In short one could say that the availability of money did the trick. One example; should one take a drive on a new piece of motorway, or town bypass, you will see a large billboard which says; “ This project is funded by EU structural funds”. The opening up of Europe for our exports was also a big factor.
But arrival of the Celtic Tiger set us on the road of squander mania; ‘the must have’ culture developed, and we all joined in the mad rush to keep up with the Joneses; an extension to an already adequate home, a Chelsea tractor (S.U.V) joined the family saloon, and a bijou home somewhere on the continent was a must. This was made possible by the overindulgence of our banks. Financial controllers and regulators fell asleep at the wheel and overdrafts and mortgages were passed out like snuff at a wake. It was the era of ‘Thanks a million Big Fella’ and the ‘brown envelope’ stuffed with euros. Nobody knew for certain how much was in them or where exactly they ended up, but there was no shortage of rumours, and the promise of transparency in government got short shift. There is a song that goes,
We’re on the long road,
Maybe the wrong road,
We’re on the road to God knows where.
An apt description of the shower in power at the time, and still there, directionless. The construction industry was the only show in town and the money flowed in to government coffers with no thought, or preparation, for an alternative when that industry slowed down. Yes, we know that money markets, bank failures, and a general slow down in global economies is a world phenomena and we are part of it, but some of our problems then and now are of our own making.

Griffith Avenue – A Leafy Arcadian Dream

Griffith Avenue, where I once lived, was a leafy arcadian dream, about three miles from where Nelson’s Pillar once stood in the centre of Dublin. It was the loveliest of all the grand avenues of Europe, stretching over a distance of about two miles in a straight line from Glasnevin to Marino. It was a wide fairway of re-inforced untarmacadamed concrete, bordered on either side by double rows of deciduous trees, between which the footpaths were laid. When the trees were in bloom, the avenue was festooned in nature’s finest colours, and decorated by well manicured twin-carpets of grass in front of every house, some adorned with flowers. Initially, and for many years, no commercial traffic (not even a bus) was not allowed to trespass there, except for access, nor were any shops or commercial enterprises given leeway to ply their trade.

We lived at the junction of Griffith Avenue and Grace Park Road. To the right, our next door neighbours were the Dardis family, the fruits of whose orchard trees fell to the ground on our side of the hedge; and lovely Nina, already heiress to a seed fortune, came to visit during the Summer holidays when I was about five, and while she at thirteen, well really, to me she was freshly ancient. Even so, she was very pretty. I liked her well and she was full of fun.
To the left of our house as the avenue headed west, where a two hundred yard stand of Chestnut trees was planted each side of the pathway providing a wonderful canopy of green, cooling shade on a hot Summer’s day. This was separated from All Hallows by a steel railing and a small wood. The area teemed with life - owls, hedgehogs, stouts, bees, birds and the odd time a fox - the whole way along to our closest and newest neighbour on that side, a ‘blow-in’ from the country called Micheal O’Hehir. (Place photo here, to fit)
Those chestnut trees also provided a harvest of prize conkers (hardened in the oven) every September. As Autumn set in, the fallen leaves changed colour from green to copper, and as life fizzled from them they became crispy underfoot, a first lesson in masochistic pleasure for a schoolboy as he trundled his way home from school. A further two hundred yards on, the main Dublin-Swords road intersected with Griffith Avenue at the only set of traffic lights along its two mile course. It was the rainy day bus route to school.

Directly to the left of us again, for half a mile down Grace Park Road, and for a quarter of a mile along Griffith Avenue, which squared, was the boundary of All Hallows College, within whose grounds the Carmelite nuns had a convent. It made where we lived a haven of tranquility. Here, an important event once occurred, an occasion fraught with danger, shame and the likelihood of excommunication as the terminal result, no less vivid a scene to that of Abelard and Heloise.
My parents had a quiet but strong influence among their friends and acquaintances, but how they ever managed to arrange for my first communion to be held in the convent I will never know, for the Carmelites were a strictly enclosed order. Having made my First Confession on a Saturday, the following day I made my first Communion in the convent. It was a very special day for my parents and for the nuns. Particularly favoured, I was brought to meet two of their new young postulants, an unheard of event which took place in a room where through a small wire mesh, I was introduced to them, one of whom had the most angelic persona I had ever seen or experienced. She wore a white woolen habit. All else I could see was her face in perfect oval shape with a countenance so unimaginably beautiful that the depth of splendour within her brown eyes surpassed belief, so full of overwhelming joy that gazing to them, I was captured within the vision, transfixed, and sank into her world, totally entranced.
She spoke to me, but I can recall no word or response, except that when I was leaving, I put the palm of my hand to the wire mesh and she pressed her hand firmly to mine. She seemed to glow. Had I been in the company of a saint or was this a scene of immediate and instant love. At seven, in love with a nun! I neither met nor saw her again, but once in a while I would go to one of the upper back bedroom windows of our house, wondering if she was out walking in the grounds of the convent, or if she ever thought of me. It was and still is a melancholy memory.
Anyway, I think God forgave me, not for the pangs of love I suffered, but the serious matter of the second first confession. It caused moral confusion for me, but I resolved it in the following way: Bless me Father for I have sinned this is my first confession - here. Priest: I can hear you my child, carry on!
Then I became a bank manager for a short time. While the money kept pouring in on account of my Communion blessings, I got a present of a mobile bus with the word BANK written across the front and sides. The lodgement access was through a slot in the top, but without any key or provision for loans or withdrawals. With great strength of character, that omission was quickly rectified and soon there was no more room for money to be deposited on account of the number of iou slips. By the end of the month, the bank went into voluntary liquidation, with the manager scratching his head in complete wonderment and disbelief, asking the age-old question – where did it all go? Try Cuffe’s sweet shop beside the Cat & Cage in Drumcondra, whose owner, Shylock, was out to snare rich school kids who had come into vast sums of untaxed loot, by means of a slot machine, penny by miserable penny. But then, I still had access to daily expenses provided by my father, 6d a day, in case I had to pay 1d get the bus four times on a rainy day. The rest was for sweets, but hail, rain or snow, I never traveled by bus. It was smelly, and people smoked.
To the south of our house and within one hundred yards from our back garden, the Franciscan order had a plantation of wheat and corn, acre after acre into the horizon and beyond, sustaining themselves and the blind people whom they trained in Braille and in basket weaving.

Griffith Avenue was designed for people to reside in peace, comfort and tranquility, surrounded and entertained by nature’s floral bounty, enlivened by an avian chorus singing in charming harmony, sweet to the ear. Indeed, the Avenue is named after a man who sought peace for Ireland, Arthur Griffith. Michael Ward.

Shopping Local

As the recession deepens, the importance of shopping local cannot be underestimated if people want the same level of service or better into the future. Ballymore has become eerily quiet in recent times especially as it was not afforded the chance to prosper during what was boom time everywhere else. Take the time to chat with any of the business owners in the Village and you’ll be hard pushed to find one that is not significantly struggling – some to the point of near closure.

A large part of the community of Ballymore must be commended for already doing as much as possible of their business and shopping locally. Hopefully this article will inform of some of the benefits of this.

· Local businesses and shops are virtually the only local employers in Ballymore. Only your custom can ensure these local businesses survive the recession without laying off staff. In fact, with the right support these businesses and shops could grow thus employing more local people.
· Local businesses and shops are the best source of sponsorship for all charitable causes in the Village. How many table quizzes, duck races, prize draws, community groups and teams have been supported and sponsored by your local businesses. Less business locally means less sponsorship locally.
· Local business owners contribute to the local economy themselves by employing local services themselves and by spending money locally. Profits made by local business owners are not taken away and spent elsewhere.
· It is important that Ballymore is seen to have a good and strong economy so that the many derelicts in the village are seen as potential and viable locations for new businesses. A strong local economy will attract new businesses.
· Local business and shops acknowledge that they cannot compete with the Lidls, Aldis, Tescos and Dunnes of this world, but Lidl or Aldi won’t support the local Tidy Towns or GAA or any other local initiative.
· Many items in local shops are the same price as in the large supermarkets. It would be a good start to any shop local initiative if people made an attempt to at least purchase these items from the local shops.

As a part of the shop local initiative, you are invited to call into your local shops and businesses to see what services they provide. Have a good look around and check out the prices. You’ll find, due to the level of competition in Ballymore that prices are very competitive. Businesses and shops are your local service providers, and in an economy where size matters, there has to be an economy of scale to ensure these services can continue to be provided. Finally, if something is not to you liking in a local business or shop, let them know – your suggestions can make them better businesses.



“Twilight” is an exciting love story that will always stay in your heart even after turning the last page. It is most definitely a book you could read over and over. Twilight is a very addictive book as well as the sequels, “New Moon”, “Eclipse” and “Breaking Dawn”. The books will probably appeal more to girls than boys but any teenager could enjoy them.

Twilight is about a girl (Isabella Swan) who moves to Forks where her father lives and where it rains more than any other place in the USA. This is where she meets the mysterious enticing gorgeous Edward Cullen and finds herself falling deeply in love with him. Edward is irresistible but impenetrable at the same time. Up to now he has been able to keep his real identity hidden but Bella is determined to find out what it is. As she finds herself falling deeper and deeper in love with him, she’s putting herself and her family and friends at greater risk, but is it too late to turn back?

I loved this book and hope that you enjoy it as much as I did.

Kismet Hamilton

I enjoyed two books of short stories this spring. The first one was a blast from the past – one of my favourite American writers form college 25 years ago….”The Short Stories of Willa Cather”, edited by Hermoine Lee (Virago: Paperback: 14.00) A lot of these stories are rather like tiny little novellas in that they depict lives, families and landscapes in a marvellously detailed way. Set at the turn of the 20th century there is a lot of pioneer material and a strong sense of immigrants making their way in a new nation where cultures often clash. The feeling of the Midwest evoked in “The Bohemian Girl” is haunting and elegiac and was one of my favourites. Cather has a unique way of describing landscapes, but she is equally talented at characterisation. Her portrayal of the introverted and curmudgeonly artist in the (oddly named) story “Coming Aphrodite!” is intriguing and really draws the reader into his world, as he falls in love with is young and talented singing neighbour. Similarly the depiction of “Neighbour Rossicky” is moving and totally believable. Cather’s characters are like Rossicky, often apparent misfits- they do not think or act in what we might consider to be a typical way, and this is probably what makes them so interesting and appealing. Some of her tales also have a slightly ghostly hue, some are set in the growing cities: it is a book of great diversity and pleasure and is highly recommended. I also love all Cather’s novels – I recollect “My Antonia” was probably the best of the lot, but the beauty of the short story is that is provides such a complete experience so quickly.

After reading and enjoying “The Gathering “ I was looking forward to trying Anne Enright’s book of short stories “Yesterday’s Weather” (Vintage: paperback: 10.00) Unlike Cather’s stories Enright’s vignettes are absolutely miniscule, most no longer than a few pages. This makes them great to fit in to very small pockets of time. Oddly though I was never able to read more than one at a time, because they are so startlingly intense. Very much about inner worlds more than landscapes, the stories are mostly told from female perspective and are scary in their perspicacity. Enright has a great sense of humour and her acerbic wit shines through in many a potentially dark tale. They paint pictures of love and loss, of what its like to be a mother, a daughter, a sister a wife and a lover. The characters she shows us are diverse and yet totally convincing, some of them made my head spin, they were so clever. Also highly recommended.

It was great to have a younger reviewer this month, so a big thanks to Kismet- if any other young readers out there would like to share views about a book they have loved, please let us know!


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