March 31, 2003

Walking on sunshine

It's official - this has been the best March in decades. Exactly how long depends on the weather station, but who cares. Just as long as the year hasn't peaked too early....

UPDATE (April 1st)

I spoke too soon. Overnight winds have brought rain, and laid waste to the daffodils and tulips in my garden. Drat!

Posted by monasset at 07:13 PM | Comments (0)

March 30, 2003

The air that I breathe

It's something you notice when you wake up after a night out in Ireland, even if you haven't been drinking. Your clothes smell like an ashtray and your lungs feel like they are full of gravel. In fact, it's a good judge of how authentic an 'Irish pub' abroad is if it matches the same nicotine levels as establishments in the mother country.

The Observer describes how New York smokers cannot smoke in bars or restaurants from today, by law. It is a situation that may soon prevail in Ireland. Ever since the Department of Health released a study that showed passive smoking was unhealthy, the Minister has been preparing to bring in a sweeping smoking ban in pubs and restaurants.

The move is being driven, as always, by a fear of litigation. Bar & restaurant staff will be able to sue their employers (and possibly the Government, since everybody else does) if legislation is not introduced and enforced. Fianna Fáil backbenchers have called for a compromise because…well, it would be handier to do nothing.

There is some hope. The New York law allows for small smoking rooms adjacent to the bar to be available for smokers. Well, Irish pubs have been equipped with such technology for years. It's called a snug. Most of them have been ripped out of pubs in the last few years in order to stuff more people in, but I confidently predict a comeback.

Of course, most pubs used to have small rooms in which drinkers could deposit their womenfolk (and to which they were confined), but that's against the law these days too. The law, eh?

Posted by monasset at 10:55 PM | Comments (0)

Heavenly Creatures

Ireland is a land of legend and myth. Some of our mythical creatures are more high maintenance than others.

GPs are under no obligation to inform a health board if one of their medical card holders has died, it emerged yesterday.

New figures reveal doctors were paid €6m for treating nearly 40,000 "ghost patients".

It's a fair cop, admitted the doctors. Oops, a typo there.

Dr Martin Daly of the Irish Medical Organisation last night said doctors are being scapegoated. He insisted a full review is likely to show that GPs are owed money for other card holders due to deficiencies in the system.

Ah yes, the scapegoat - Ireland's answer to the unicorn. A mythical creature that everyone has heard about but no one can find. Not in Ireland anyway.
Dealing with more corporeal bodies is not so profitable.

A cattle dealer who put false identity tags on cattle in order to claim subsidies was jailed for two years yesterday.
Dundalk Circuit Criminal Court heard details of how Joe Earley, with an address in Drogheda but originally from County Meath, had specially adapted vice-grips to remove cattle tags and place them on other animals.

I doubt if any doctors will go to jail for claiming for non-existent patients. Earley should have stuck to tagging scapegoats.

Posted by monasset at 10:52 PM | Comments (0)

Peace Dividends

There was another anti-war protest at Shannon today. I'm not sure what effect the anti-war protestors are having on the war in Iraq, but they are making an impression in the west of Ireland. According to the Mayo News

Almost 10% of the total Mayo Garda Division of around 200 is now in Shannon providing security for the U.S. Army, which is using the airport as a refuelling stopover in its war on Iraq. Seventeen Gardaí – comprising fourteen officers and three sergeants – have been drafted to Shannon in recent weeks and no replacements have been sent to Mayo to compensate for their absence.

If there's a crime spree in Westport, we'll know who is to blame. Perhaps Mayo should look to have some of the troops going through Knock. Hmm…

Posted by monasset at 10:50 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Self referential

Sometimes I just wonder. Looking at the logs that show the queries that led people to this site, I see that two people arrived (and presumably left disappointed) looking for "streaming Darby O'Gill and the Little People". God knows why.

Another two were looking for "Princess Madeleine cleavage" - the very pretty princess is the heir but one to the Swedish throne. A little more investigation shows that a spirited debate on the aforementioned topic was taking place on the Online Community For Americans Living In Or Moving To Sweden . Lads, that sort of talk is a very good way of outstaying your welcome (in Sweden, that is).

Posted by monasset at 10:48 PM | Comments (0)

March 24, 2003

Meals on Wheels

Flossie & Co. Today the paddock, tomorrow the plate.

It's that time of year again, when lambs and calves can be seen frolicking around the hills (and sometimes the roads) of Ireland. One farmer is making sure that children all over Mayo will get to see them this year.

With livestock such as sheep, calves and chickens, the "farm on wheels" has begun visiting schools in County Mayo to inform pupils about life on the land.
The venture, a 20ft trailer towed by a Land Rover, has been dubbed Murphy's Ark after the family running the scheme.

Fergal Murphy, the man behind the idea, said: "With pictures of animals painted on the sides, it is proving quite a sight when the moving farm pulls up at school gates in rural Ireland."

Ever practical, Minister Eamonn O' Cuiv likes the sound of it .

He said: "For many children and urban dwellers, it is difficult to trace the origin of food products back much further than the local supermarket.

Actually, I doubt if the little moppets are thinking of shepherds pie or the hang sangwich when they are petting Flossie or Daisy.
It must be the first time that farm animals have disappeared out the farm gate in a trailer and returned to tell the rest of the farmyard about it.

Posted by monasset at 11:45 PM | Comments (0)

March 23, 2003

Wish You were here

Driving around the country, you'll see signs like the one outside Kilkee below.

The Special Olympics are coming to Ireland this summer, and towns around the country have been selected to play host to selected countries.
One wonders how the selection procedure worked. I see that Israel will be hosted by Ballymena in Antrim, whereas Palestine will be at the very furthest
part of the country away from them, in Kinsale. Probably just a coincidence.

France will be in Ballina ( Year of the French, 1798 and all that, I suppose). I'd like to have seen the faces of the participants of the Dominican Republic when
they found out that they will spend their time in Ballinasloe. Or indeed, the Peurto Rico contingent, who are bound for Kiltimagh. One wonders at the
motivation at sending the Egyptians to Tuam, though when the town is roofed over, it may well be regarded as the Luxor of Galway.

Posted by monasset at 10:55 PM | Comments (0)

March 20, 2003

Friendy fire

You couldn't make it up. An article from The Register on the New York St. Patrick's Day parade:-

Why, then, can these flag-waving Irish Americans not unfurl their banner with pride? Well, the reason is that
the said standard carries an outline map of Monaghan, which bears an uncanny resemblance to an outline map of Iraq.

Association PRO John McKenna explains: "It came as quite a surprise to us that Monaghan and Iraq
had basically the same outline shape. We had been receiving some jeers and comments as we assembled for the parade in
New York and we couldn't understand why. Until someone from the Louth Association pointed out the similarity.
So for the sake of being able to walk 5th Avenue in peace, we had to carry a simple blue and white banner instead or our
ornate traditional banner."

The US airforce are dropping bombs smarter than some of that crowd...

Posted by monasset at 09:43 PM | Comments (1)

March 18, 2003

Sign of the times

The threat of a fine deters very few people from dumping rubbish in the countryside, particularly along a lonely stretch of
bog road (above, in East Galway). So the council replaced the existing sign (which warns of a 1900 euro fine for anyone caught dumping),
with a new sign warning that there was a CCTV camera system in place (which I do not believe for a minute).
But what did the council workmen with the old sign?
They just dumped it on the side of the road (see arrow).

Posted by monasset at 10:42 PM | Comments (2)

Rites of Spring

If I keep going on about the good weather, I'll probably jinx it. I've never seen so much wildlife about
- I even spotted a badger yesterday morning (I almost nailed him with the car), as well as an owl (snacking on badger roadkill, actually).

The weather has been so good that even the Gardai are back out on the roads with their speed cameras
(they seem to hibernate in the winter). No harm either - the good behaviour caused by the introduction of penalty points has disappeared.
Crazy overtaking manoeuvres and speeding - they haven't gone away, you know. This evening, I saw a woman driving along
with a toddler on her lap. Even if she braked sharply, the child would probably get smacked off the steering wheel.
And I don't really want to think of the effect of an airbag deploying about six inches away from a child's head…

Posted by monasset at 10:35 PM | Comments (0)

Peace in our own time

RTE's Five Seven Live radio programme polled some Fianna Fáil backbenchers; should the US be allowed to use Shannon airport if war is declared?
The squirming was plain, even on radio. While some of them clearly didn't agree with the US position, they didn't actually want to do anything
about it.

Would you resign the government whip on a point of principle?

enquired the interviewer. Do people in Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath party resign the party whip on a point of principle?

In the UK, a cabinet minister, Robin Cook, resigned on the principle that, as he did not agree with Britain's participation in a war against Iraq,
he could not take responsibility as a minister for the decision. The news that he is being lined up to be appointed as a European Commissioner later
this year somewhat robs his gesture of the moral weight that it might otherwise have. The only war fought in the EU will be against any employee
who tries to blow the whistle on the lavish expenses-fuelled lifestyle available (and the wholesale abuse thereof).

As for the war itself, there are many doubts. It is worth comparing this crisis to the dispute in Kosova - again the UN was paralysed by inaction, because a
permanent member of the Security Council (Russia) threatened to veto any resolution authorising force. It was only after the NATO military action that the
UN belatedly took part in the subsequent humanitarian task required to restore civil society. And yes, there were many civilian casualties. And yes,
the military action, and the subsequent nation building, seems to have been a success. Of course, there was a
bit more unity of purpose for that action. In fact, some of the doubters for the war in Iraq
were quite gung-ho when it came to bombing Serbs.

Posted by monasset at 10:21 PM | Comments (0)

March 17, 2003


The monastery of Clonmacnoise at sunset. It is located on the River Shannon, as the river meanders
through the callows (flood plains) south of Athlone. It was founded by St.
Ciarán in 544, a little over a century after St. Patrick arrived in Ireland to convert the
pagan Irish.

Posted by monasset at 11:22 PM | Comments (2)

La Fheile Padraig

Because of the day that's in it, here are a list of Irish proverbs. It doesn't have my favourite (in relation to ex-girlfriends)

Cold soup is easily warmed.

Channel 4 news covered one St. Patrick day ceremony that didn't seem to feature in any of the Irish coverage;
the British Army's Royal Irish Rangers marking St. Patrick's Day, in Kuwait.

Posted by monasset at 11:09 PM | Comments (0)

March 16, 2003

Local Colour

Nearly froze watching a parade this evening. I have to say it - a
lot of the people just were not trying. I mean, if you're going to drive your truck
through town as part of the parade, at least paint a face on the side of it. Or pin
a bit of bunting on it.

I was beginning to question my priorities in life having waited about for an hour
and a half just to have some fat little kid with a purple tinsel wig giving me the
finger from the back of a truck. Ah, entertainment indeed.

The long-anticipated firework display was a bit of a washout too. After the
second or third launch, an unexpected ignition caused the whole pile of fireworks
to blow up at once, ending the show prematurely, and scaring the hell out the
local Civil Defence volunteers (who had to spend the subsequent half hour
searching for 'unexploded ordnance'). At least there were no injuries.

Posted by monasset at 11:58 PM | Comments (0)

Animal magic

Weatherwise this week, we've had every season. Thunder, lightning, hailstones,
frost and even plenty of sunshine. Today was a gloriously sunny day - within an
hour in the country this afternoon, a pheasant, a fox and a hare all crossed my
path (Not together of course - that would have made the basis for a good fable).

I usually associate St. Patrick's Day with a bitterly cold wind and a dash of
hailstones - I guess that there is still time. There are also plenty of lambs
gambolling about. From my house, I can usually hear the sounds from the local
mart on a Saturday morning; Cattle lowing, sheep bleating. Of course, they'd
make more of a fuss if they knew what was in store for them.

The silence, Clarisse, the silence of the lambs.....

Posted by monasset at 11:47 PM | Comments (0)


The Irish Times is finally put their new printing presses to work (the building of
which nearly bankrupted them), and the paper has plenty of colour and a nice
new format. There is still room for improvement - Saturday's opinion page was a
duplicate of the previous Saturday's. Must have been a cut-and-paste error.

The problems with the Sunday Independent go a bit deeper.
Their latest feature is to dress up five young women every week, print a big
photo of them, and give each of them a paragraph to write. The Sindo refers to
them as writers but there's scant evidence of it on the page. It goes without
saying that they wouldn't dream of treating five male writers in the same
Mind you, there was that cover photo story with Conor Cruise O'Brien and Andrea Corr.....

Posted by monasset at 11:35 PM | Comments (0)

March 13, 2003

St Patrick's Day

The day is nearly upon us - at least it rids us off our politicians for a few days (though most of them come back). The Onion summed it up best

"It's a great day for the Irish," said Sean Halloran, 34, of Boston. "You can bet that, with the aid of a few pints of Guinness, I'll be celebrating my proud Gaelic heritage by singing 'When Irish Eyes Are Smiling,' getting into bar fights, and urinating in public."

If eating rather than drinking is your thing, then there are plenty of traditional receipes here, mainy culled from Darina Allen's Cookery course. The article doesn't have any mention of you- know-what, though judging by the hits to this site from search engines, a lot of people are still interested in the case.

Posted by monasset at 11:57 PM | Comments (0)

There's a play showing in the Town Hall Theatre next week, called Tilsonburg. The playwright,
Malachy McKenna (a graduate of NUI Galway), has based the play on his
experiences picking tobacco as a summer job in Tilsonburg, Ontario. It has
already won an award (Stewart Parker Award 2000) but that's not the reason
I'm looking forward to it.

In 1987, I was persuaded by a fellow student to go picking tobacco in Canada (it'll be just like a J1 job, he said. He was mistaken). After an interview in the
Canadian embassy (by Garret Fitzgerald's brother no less), we were chosen. I
suspect that if you were fit enough to walk up the four flights of stairs to the
interview, you were in.

Was it fun? No, it was a complete baaalls. Yes, the weather was beautiful but the
actual business of picking tobacco was as much fun as lugging bales of hay for
six weeks, and took just as much energy. It became clear to us when we
arrived that no local in his right mind would spend the summer harvesting
tobacco (unless he owned the farm). Instead, unsuspecting foreign students (i.e.
mugs like me) and tough looking drifters from Quebec usually did the heavy

We were in a village called Otterville (in memory of the otters that were
eradicated to make way for the houses) that was deathly quiet. We worked six
days a week from about 5am to 7pm and were usually too knackered to do
much on the Sunday. Tilsonburg was the nearest town - it had a fleapit cinema
and one single pub (for a town of 12,000 people). It transpired that the only
people who drank in the place were the aforementioned mugs from abroad and
the dodgy looking drifters (who at least knew what they were getting into).
Tilsonburg's claim to fame was that it had the widest street in Ontario, and the
fact that I was told this more than once tells you everything about the level of
excitement in the place.

We were paid about 60 Canadian dollars a day - given the exchange rate at the
time, I'd have been better off selling my own blood by the litre. Nine Irish lads
volunteered that year, we were assigned different farms. Our farmer billeted us
in an old farmhouse in the middle of a field, apologizing for its basic level of
comfort. In it's basement was a washing-machine and dryer that dated from the
early Sixties - where I came from, there wasn't even electricity in the Sixties.

During that summer, I wasn't tempted to take up smoking (all I wanted was
sleep), but every evening I carefully peeled a quarter-inch layer of nicotine (it's
just like black putty) off my arms that had built up from contact with the tobacco
leaves - I'd say I ingested enough tobacco directly through my skin to last a

Anyway, the play is on from the 20th to 22nd of March.

Posted by monasset at 11:49 PM | Comments (0)

Musical Youth

Bryan Adams helped wake a woman from a coma.

Christiane Kittell, 24, opened her eyes and
called out her mother's name during an Adams concert in Regensburg, Germany.

Given the number of people that he has put asleep with his
music over the years, he'd have to cure entire hospitals to restore the karmic
balance of the universe.

Meanwhile, The Rolling Stones are feeling the effect of Chinese censorship.

…four songs, all of which include sexual references, were originally cut from the mainland release
of the band's "40 Licks" compilation album by China's culture ministry, Chen
said. Only songs on that album will be allowed during the China shows, Chen

I think if the Chinese censor listens carefully, he'll find that all
Rolling Stones songs contain sexual references. I can't see Prince playing a gig there any time soon.

Sir Cliff Richard has arrived in South Korea, where he was met
by a mob of screaming fans who have been fans since his last visit 34 years
ago. The evergreen singer is on tour in the country
and is amazed by the
reception he is getting

He says that he had not visited the region for more than three decades and
assumed that people would think he had died: "I think perhaps Koreans think I
am dead already but I am hoping I will show them I am alive and I am still
kicking!" he said.

There are plenty of countries where the screaming mob would be prepared to do the kicking. If ever the North Koreans were tempted
to lob a missile at their neighbours down south, surely this is it.

Posted by monasset at 11:37 PM | Comments (0)

March 12, 2003

Posted by monasset at 12:06 AM | Comments (0)

March 09, 2003

For the Birds

The BBC reports a phenomenon in Scotland that has not reached Ireland. Yet.

Confused ostriches raised on farms are falling for their keepers, according to a
researcher. A study found that the birds were directing their courtship rituals at
humans rather than their own species.

Hopefully, the IFA will issue guidelines to prevent any misunderstandings,
awkward silences, unreturned phone calls, etc. on Irish farms (Insert your own
joke about Mayo men and sheep here). I was out for dinner on Saturday night
and ostrich was on the menu. Sometimes love means having to say you're

Posted by monasset at 10:40 PM | Comments (0)

Life in the Fast Lane

A bypass of another sort was the focus of media attention this week, when
Michael O'Leary announced that he had purchased a taxi plate so that he could
use the bus lanes around Dublin. Media comment was predictable, though quips
about a possible Ryanair taxi service (asking for Stephen's Green and being
dropped off in O'Connell Street, etc.) fall flat given the low regard with which the
rest of the Dublin taxi fleet are regarded.

O'Leary registered the plate in Mullingar which, apart from adding to the coffers
of Westmeath County council, means that his plate does not enable him to ply
for trade in Dublin (as far as I know, only Dublin-registered plates are allowed
to do so). O'Leary isn't the only business person to do this. Now, if everyone did
it, it would defeat the purpose of allowing taxis to use the bus lanes.

Of course, the easiest way of preventing this would be to check if a taxi plate
was actually being used for its intended purpose. Seamus Brennan has
proposed a method for doing this - by having a receipt system like they have on
the buses, which is a sealed unit that records all fares. Of course, that would
show exactly how much money was collected per taxi; useful for the Revenue
Commission. For some reason, taxi drivers were unanimous in their opposition.
Funny that.

Posted by monasset at 10:36 PM | Comments (0)


Most drivers know the Galway town of Loughrea as one of the
bottlenecks on the Dublin to Galway road that must be negotiated at walking
pace. A bypass has been planned for decades. It's worth remembering that
there was a time that towns such as Loughrea and Kinnegad actively
campaigned against bypasses on the basis that passing trade would be
affected. That was in pre-Celtic Tiger days, when the roads were not chock full
of fine examples of Japanese and German automotive engineering, and passing
trade was the only business going.

The Loughrea bypass was originally planned to be part of the Dublin-Galway
autobahn currently stalled just beyond Maynooth. With all the budget cutbacks,
we may well be driving hovercars before this dream is fulfilled. The National
Roads Authority (NRA) changed its plan for a more limited bypass for the town
(that could be eventually connected to the motorway) and began surveying and
the land required for purchase. The land around Loughrea is agricultural, and
the NRA were presumably negotiating the purchase price with farmers on that

So what did the local town council do? Just as the NRA were about to issue
Compulsory Purchase Orders for the required land, the Fianna Fail-led council
rezoned a large swathe of surrounding farmland for industrial and house-
building, including land that would be used for the road.. It's hard to see what
the rush to rezone was, since

a) the decision would have a knock-on effect on the purchase price of the land
needed for the bypass, probably stalling the project for another decade. The
NRA immediately suspended the project, claiming the decision would add
another 5 million euro to the project (already estimated at 19 million)

b) there is already a load of disused space in the middle of the town around the
disused railway station (and there is more chance of pigs flying around in
hovercars before the railway line from Loughrea is reopened)

In the time it took to say Did you hear the one about the local councillors and
the rezoning decision?
the local outcry hastened a rethink. In an impressive
display of speed and efficiency, the council met again and rescinded their
original decision.

As for the bypass itself, pictured in the Irish Times and the Connacht Tribune,
it will hopefully be more useful than the Enfield one, which is roundly ignored by
most motorists (hint: a shortcut should not have a bloody traffic light on a short timer).

Posted by monasset at 10:33 PM | Comments (0)

Never Mind the Botox

It has been a few days now, but I think I'm still traumatised by the sight of Tom Jones well and truly hammering
Black Betty at the Meteor Irish music awards (hosted by the humour-free zone that is Dara O Briain ).

I was reminded of the line by Harry Palmer (played by Michael Caine) in The Ipcress File (which was on the telly last night).
Watching a military band murder a Mozart piece with a companion who opines," The band seem to be playing very well",
Harry replies,
"let me know if they win".

Posted by monasset at 10:29 PM | Comments (0)

Sisters !

It was International Women's Day on Saturday - I promoted equality myself by nagging the wife all day. Roll on next year.

Posted by monasset at 10:16 PM | Comments (0)

March 03, 2003

Faster. Bigger. Sooner

PC World reports that Sony have announced a video recorder, based on Blu-Ray laser technology.
The storage capacity is enormous - a disc can store 23Gb of data in MPEG-2
format, which is two hours of high-definition TV, 16 hours of analogue TV
broadcasts or about as much pornography as is humanly possible for a teenager
to accumulate.

I've just about got up to speed with CD-Rs, and existing
DVD-Rs are still pretty thin on the ground. When are we going to get time to
look at all this stuff that we are storing?

Blu-ray uses a blue laser to record data on discs, while CD and DVD systems use red lasers. Blue lasers have a shorter wavelength--405 nanometers compared to around 650 nanometers on DVD systems--and that means the laser beam can be focused onto a smaller area of the disc surface. In turn, this means less area is needed to store one bit of data and so more data can be stored on a disc.

Posted by monasset at 06:55 PM | Comments (0)

March 02, 2003


I spent the evening listening to the radio while updating the blog. It prompted just one question:-

If a tree falls in the forest and nobody hears it, is it too much to hope that Jon Bon Jovi will be trapped under it?

Posted by monasset at 11:44 PM | Comments (2)

The Lie of the Land

Sean MacConall in the Irish Times' Weekender looks at the
dispute between farmers and Dúchas and traces the history of the dispute back
to arguments over Rural Environment Protection Scheme (REPS) grants, administered by the
European Union. REPS meant that farmers were paid to maintain hedgerows and
fences and generally keep the land in good order - it meant that farmers in
scenic areas would be paid to keep the land in a manner that would benefit
tourists, walkers, etc. Unfortunately, the REPS scheme is quite restrictive and
(surprise, surprise) beset with bureaucracy. The EU has not helped matters by
cutting an access grant that farmers received in order to compensate for tourists
and ramblers walking over their land.

The most recent survey of tourists coming to Ireland has
found that 60% listed walking as one of the main reasons they came here.

As usual, while different groups argue, tourists (including Irish
ones) will be impacted.

The refusal of the EU to allow the access payments to be
made to farmers has created ill-feeling and has led to the part-closure of some
of […] leisure outlets.

Now, it appears that the Government is not prepared to make up for the lost
payments from the REPS scheme, which is 75% funded by Brussels.

Posted by monasset at 08:11 PM | Comments (0)


Alas, Michael Viney's weekly nature column, written from his home in Westport, is not freely available online.
This week, he describes the chutzpah of a stoat that has a habit of stealing food
intended from birds off his kitchen window still. It reminds me of a stoat that
used to appear openly in the backyard of our farm to steal food from our
sheepdog's feeder. Later, the same dog delivered a stoat (probably not the
same one) on our doorstep, unmarked but quite dead. Courtesy of a neighbour
whose hobby is taxidermy, the stoat is visible all the time now, on a

He also mentions an Email that he received from Canada from
a colleague describing how wolves, cougars, coyotes and bears are coming into
contact with urban dwellers more and more (because it is easier for them to
scavenge food). Viney makes the point that it is one thing to see a fox in town,
but the prospect of bumping into a cougar is something quite different.

I remember going hill-walking in Georgia (as in the US state) some years ago. After an hour or so, I got back into the car,
and had only travelled a couple of hundred yards from the car park when I
turned a corner to find a family of Eastern black bears sitting in the middle of the road.
Only then did it dawn on me that I could have encountered them while I was out walking.

It's just not something that one has to worry about when out walking in Ireland
(the odd wicked dog and shotgun-wielding farmer notwithstanding). When I lived
in Sweden, there was usually at least one report every year of a wolf that had
wandered down south, towards Stockholm. Most of the time, the best place to
see a native beastie in Stockholm is in Skansen.

Posted by monasset at 08:09 PM | Comments (0)


It is hard to believe that it is March already.

When daffodils begin to peer, / With heigh ! the doxy over the dale,/
Why, then comes in the sweet of the year,/ For the red blood reigns in the winter pale.
William Shakespeare , The Winters Tale

In Galway, the avenue of daffodils on the Oranmore to Galway dual carriageway are poised to burst open into a glorious golden avenue (something to look at when stuck in a traffic jam) and blossoms are already forming on the cherry trees in Eyre Square. In Japan, the cherry-blossom season is called sakura and by Easter, the city and surrounds of Tokyo are filled with the glorious colours of cherry trees and other flowers. Which seems as good an opportunity as any to add my Tokyo gallery, photographed during sakura, 1995. Click on the continue... link to view the rest of the photos

For a bit of cross-cultural merriment, try Engrish.

Walking up the aisle. Traditional wedding in Tokyo, Japan. Photographed, Easter 1995

this is my first attempt at creating a gallery using Movable Type, and frankly, it's poor. I think I'll create the galleries separately in future and just link them to a MT page.

The imperial palace Imperial Palace in Tokyo is located in the heart of the financial
district - the palace itself
is hidden behind a moat and ornate

There is a lot of ceremony involved when a Royal
carriage enters or leaves the palace - when I arrived, a line of
staff and police were combing the grounds (for litter ?).
A group of children were waiting outside the palace

- they were dutifully enthusiastic when
the royal cortege


It was sakura season in Emporer park

and everything was in full bloom


Tokyo is famously built-up
and skyscrapers are commonplace. The Department of Communications was straight out of 1984. If one ever tired of the local cuisine, there were also more familiar options;

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A hour by train out of the city, and it is

. I visited a Buddist Temple complex

width="72" height="75">
and graveyards

width="75" height="37">
Litter is not tolerated, as these signs

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width="75" height="49">

There were many people at the site, either burning

in honour of departed loved ones or praying at one of the temples

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And finally, I came across this statue
outside an art
gallery:- the plaque reads

Mr. Ryoichi Sasakawa, the cahirman of The Japan
Shipbuilding Industry Foundation, climbed the hill of 785 stone stepsat the age
of 59 to worship the famous Konpira Shrine in Shiloku Island, carrying his 82-
year old mother on his back.At that time, he dedicated a Jpanaese poemin
praise of his respected mother, which reads as follows:

Carrying the mother on my back,
I climbed the hill to worship,
Counting the number of stone steps of the shrine,
And feeling her weight -
But how could I know the depths of my mother's love.

This bronze statue was erected in memory of his late mother.

My camera was a Nikon 501 and the film was Fuji.

Posted by monasset at 08:02 PM | Comments (0)

Dastardly and Muttley

You realize how highly your wife rates your retail skills when your assigned
Christmas shopping task is to buy a present for her uncle's dog. Indeed - on
the off chance that the aforementioned mutt might not find enough fulfilment
chomping through the mountain of leftover food during the holiday. And so I
found myself, in the seventh circle of hell that is Tesco's on Christmas Eve in
the Gifts for Pets aisle - and yes - they had a whole aisle.

I settled for an assortment stocking that included various bits of dog savouries,
a collar that was simply to bark for and a little running shoe for chewing
practice. Now, far be it from me to lecture anyone on consumerism but it is little
sobering to think that there are probably shoeless child workers locked into a
factory somewhere in Asia busy sewing together shoes just so that overfed
pooches in Europe can chew them up.

Things like that may me think that maybe we need to redraw the line between
pets and humans. The same though occurred to me when I discovered that
every pooch in my housing estate seems to have agreed that my front garden,
small as it is, shall be their designated latrine. Now, I have exhausted all
diplomatic means of negotiation (i.e. shouting at them, glaring at their owners).
Nope, it is time to lead a coalition of the willing (well, just myself really) to
impose latrine change on these little buggers.

Now, my war is not against all pets, so there shall be no
indiscriminate use of force (that rules out rat poison and airguns). So I went to
the local hardware shops to see what is on offer. Electronic speakers that emit
ultrasonic waves that discomfort animals? Not really suitable for Irish weather.
Crystals that you scatter on the ground that confuse an animal's sense of smell?
In the words of Eric Cartman , what a load of tree-hugging hippie crap .
I was looking for something a little more Donald Rumsfeld.

And lo, there it was. In an anonymous metal can that you had
to open with a screwdriver, a foul-smelling brown liquid that guaranteed
effectiveness against cats, dogs, badgers, foxes and pretty much anything with
a spine, fur and claws. I duly anointed my garden and waited. And waited.

Yesterday morning, a skanky-looking Jack Russell with one eye
waddled up to the garden, took one look at the pristine line of mauve crocuses
and did some anointing of his own. It's time to get medieval.

Posted by monasset at 01:43 PM | Comments (0)