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Showing posts from 2012

In the House of Colour

I've just returned from a long weekend in Dublin. It's a strange place to go for a weekend retreat away from it all considering that I just left Ireland six months ago on the grounds that I don't want to stay in 'that hole of a place' anymore.
But Dublin was being its usual seductive self. The sky was blue, the streets were getting ready for Christmas and there was that buzz about the place that you just don't get anywhere else. When you've been away for a while you begin to see things with different eyes. And when you've been living in Germany for a while, you begin to value things like chit chat and common courtesy. You don't mind that the guy in the O2 shop who's title, I swear,  is 'account guru', does not have a clue on how you can reactivate your old account and scribbles down some vague phone number of a place to call, no, you only care that he was nice about his incompetence, and you leave the shop feeling good about yourself.

The Definition of Insanity

I used to deliver training with a colleague who liked to kick off the session asking if anybody knew what the definition of insanity was. There would be the odd grunt, but the standard next sentence would be that she would tell them. 'It's doing the same thing again and again and expecting different results.' Then there would be a few more grunts and the odd time somebody might pipe up that they had heard this before, yes, and that it is a quote from Einstein.  I've been reading a wonderful biography on Einstein recently, and he definitely did not say that. No, there are a lot of misconceptions about poor old Einstein, and he did say and do a lot of genial things, but  the closest I can get to finding this particular piece of misinformation by anybody of note at all, is Rita Mae Brown, and if you think about it, it definitely has a bit more of a Rita Mae ring to it than Einstein. 
So after a while of hearing this quote once a week, I began to wonder if I might be insa…

A Strange Affair

My mother had an affair with a married man. An affair! A married man! It sounds like the stuff of movies was happening in catholic Auburn Road way back in 1980. But things are only ever as sensational as you want them to be, and the arrival of this man to our house on foot of my father's untimely death, was, well, something happy in the house for a change.
His name was Tom for the first 17 years, but when I named my own son Tom ( yes, a child named after somebody's illicit lover), rather than the usual 'Tom junior' being donned to my child, mother's Tom became known as 'big Tom', and that stuck.

Big Tom. I can only say what they all say about illicit love affairs: 'It's not like you think'. But really, I swear, it wasn't like that. You see, Big Tom and my mother were an item before either of them ever got married. They went out. She was never the mother to get close to her children and talk facts, so all I know is that he took her to Bray He…

Karlsruhe Poetry Slam

You do strange things when you move country. You start eating different food and talking another language. You drive on the wrong side of the road and if it is Germany you have moved to, before long, you start wearing sensible shoes and thinking that it's perfectly normal to hang out naked with strangers in a sauna.
So I shouldn't have been surprised when I found myself coming out of my retirement as a poetry slammer and performing in very bad german to incredibly large audiences who show up to see a bunch of the oddest people in the universe spout about anything at all for seven minutes. In Ireland it's three minutes, but that would be an Irish three minutes so it works out around the same.

But it's not just the time that's different, it's all a bit German over here. Last night I was invited to participate in a slam that took place in the castle at Karlsruhe. I mean, hello, the actual big huge castle, in a proper posh room with big chandeliers and about 200 pe…

Four Armed Police Officers & A Missing iPhone

We told her not to have the phone hanging out of her pocket like that, but 'I told you so' is just not the right thing to say to a 13 year old girl in the middle of the castle grounds on a busy Sunday afternoon when she discovers that there might have been a bit of wisdom in what adults say.
And it wasn't a great week for the phone to get stolen, having both sons have their bikes stolen in the space of a week. We came here to get away from all that stuff, but apparently crime also exists outside of Ireland too.
It's just how it's handled that's different. When the young fella had his iPhone stolen in Galway, we went to the cops and showed them where Google Maps could locate it, to a street that I didn't fancy going looking for it on my own, but they told us that the police don't do Google Maps, and anyways, the squad car was out in Connemara somewhere dealing with a domestic stabbing incident.
So when Google Maps showed me that the iPhone was slowly on …

German Party Rules

An Irish friend of mine was telling me recently that she had to call the cops because of her neighbour's loud party next door. Well not really, it wasn't so much the noise as the fact that they were out on the street at this stage, mashing broken glass, fists and hurleys into one another. Eventually the cops came, but it took a while as there was probably only one car covering every fight in the west of Ireland.
In Germany, of course, things are a little different. So when my 17 year old angel had a barbecue the other night that ended up with over 20 teenagers making noise on a balcony, the police were immediately banging the door down by midnight. Of course I was the one who got the letter from the rental agency telling me that I had been there, that I was too loud and blah blah, and not to do anything like this again.
But that's what happens when you're Irish in another country. People just assume that you are a reckless partying alcoholic.
For those who don't kn…

Diversity - sunflowers and travel vaginas

It's been a long four weeks, and it feels even longer waiting for the wifi to get installed along with being terrified to write anything bloggish using my new work laptop. I've started working for a new company who I do not represent whilst writing this blog. So the last few weeks have been mostly on the road in Luxembourg - a place that looks like Sims city with an old town attached, and this week I'm somewhere in the middle of Germany, in a small place famous for a culture festival that's always booked out and for people recuperating from psychological illnesses. I love it here. The weekends are back at the new place where I still don't have a kitchen or a wardrobe and won't have for a while as I just spent the furniture money on a new bike.
Germany never ceases to surprise me though. So I pull in on the motorway and visit the bathroom. Being Irish, I was on the lookout for a dirty toilet behind the petrol station with the smell of hangover vomit and wet toil…

The German Experience

It's been a turbulent month, at the end of which I am now squeezed into a mini aparthotel with the three teenagers and a suitcase, whilst all of my worldly possessions including my make up and comfortable shoes are, according to someone from the freight company 'delayed, and apologies for the delay.'
So I'm experiencing Germany as a red faced fat lady with sore feet wearing dirty jeans in a heat wave.
Add to that that fact that remembering to drive on the wrong side of the road when there are already four lanes on the right side, can cause profuse perspiration, despite the fact that the nice man in the Sat Nav never calls me an imbecile when I miss the turn and curse. So yeah, you've got the picture, I've very quickly become German myself.
Yesterday I went to the tax office to get some documents and have my tax bracket clarified. Apparently I now have 1.5 children. The nice polite civil servant explained that as the children have two parents, the tax benefit is…

Why I Voted YES

After going from yes to no to maybe and back a few times I voted “Yes” in the Fiscal Compact referendum today. You see, it’s like everything, nothing is ever pure and there will always be a part of it that you do or don’t like with particular gusto, but at some stage you have to weigh the options and then decide, because not voting also influences the result and there is nothing worse than people whining about the state of the country if they don’t vote at all So being a Yes voter doesn’t mean I agree with everything in there, it just means I think it’s the better choice. And as I don’t see myself as a preacher woman, I decided to write this blog after I voted, and not as treaty thumping canvasser.

So what do I not like? Nearly everything. I suppose a lot of people have their issues with article 3. That’s the one that says there are deficit rules for all countries who go with the treaty. It means that Ireland can only have a structural deficit of max 3% of the GDP. Given that last ye…

Galway NIght Life

Tuesday isn't a night that I'd usually venture further than the fridge, but last week was an exception. I found myself with a young woman and a bottle out on the tiles. Thing is though, the young woman was my daughter, the bottle was water and the tiles were the green 1950's floor of the A&E department at university hospital Galway. For some reason, the word Beirut started going around my head once we entered. That, and the smell of stale alcohol mixed with hand sanitiser. There's a queue to sign in and I'm already ranking people in order of who should or should not be here. The young mother's with toddlers who they think might have bruised their hand or arm or something ridiculously minor should be sent home, along with the people who seem to be serial visitors of this place, greeting the security man on the door by his first name. But I decide that once they see my feverish daughter they will tell us to bypass the queue and take a look at her straight awa…

What I Won't Miss About Ireland

I believe that there's no such thing as emigration - it's dead. Years ago, moving country was such a final and desperate thing for people to do. First of all it meant breaking your ties with people and a landscape, and secondly, it meant embracing a massive culture disconnect, and for you young ones reading this, I don't mean having to go without your Tayto Crisps or dating someone who's never heard of the Saw Doctors. No, it was all about survival and renewel and it was total change. Even when I lived in Germany in the 80's and 90's, there was no live stream TV, or online Irish Times or Facebook or all the other things that make the world more generic and accessible. Still though, my imminent move to Germany has been the cause of a few restless nights and one major panic attack. There are things you can't bring with you, like the Saturday morning walk on the Prom at Salthill, the light that makes the little stone walls on the N17 look black in the morning…


One of the things I'm going to do when I stop procrastinating and start being to the human race what superfoods are to hamburgers, is to write a dictionary where you can look up words and instead of getting the meaning of the word, you are given an explanation of what the word doesn't mean. I'll start with the word 'sorry', and explain to people that it doesn't mean 'excuse me can I get past you there', if you want to get past someone in a full pub. It also does not mean 'I didn't hear you, can you repeat that please'. I will also need to explain that you can't use the word unless you feel remorse or regret about what you are saying, so if you are one of the bouncers in Massimo's pub for example, saying 'Sorry love, you're too drunk to come in' you are using the word out of context. Unless, of course, the bouncer is truly sorry that he is unable to allow the inebriated lady access to the imbibing house. As I was personall…

Everything and Nothing

If you ever delve into  'The Lives of the Great Poets', you will find a thread that is unrelated to all writing. Most poets, and writers come to that, seem to go through splurges of wealth and affluence followed by dire poverty and lives lived in run down garrets. I remember reading about one guy who got a stipend which was to last him for a year. He went out and had a crimson waistcoat hand tailored, bought a pocket watch and then lived like a pauper eating stale bread crusts and drinking water for the rest of the year. Oh how right he was!
You see I've gone through various stages of wealth and poverty over the years, and I find it interesting. Growing up in middle class south county Dublin was a bit like living in a bubble. I assumed that there was a certain level of affluence that would always be a given. Just like we assume that having electricity or running water is a given, even though all of these things are always hanging on the edge of a cliff.
In my early twentie…

Seeing the World

I happened to be wandering upstate Galway at about 8am this morning, and don't jump to conclusions, I hadn't been kicked out of some fiery goddess's bed for wearing her out, no, I had been dropping some random teen of mine to the bus. So I ended up strolling through the Galway market early enough that most stalls were just being set up, and it had that buzz about it that I love so much more than when it's in full swing. Planks and poles being carted along on makeshift trollies made of old prams, stall holders fighting over inches of precious space and the smell of second-hand, home-grown and incense merging, to create that smell that you only get at the Galway Market.
There's a guy eating oysters as fast as Mike, the Oyster & Egg man, can slice them open. I decide that it's not every day of the week you get the opportunity to have fresh native oysters for breakfast, so I ask Mike if I can have just the one, and as he hands it to me I realise I have no money…

What Time Does

I give a session at work on Time Management. It used to be a day, now it's an hour, but I could give it in 5 minutes or less just by saying this: You can't manage time, you can only manage yourself, and time goes by at different speeds - Kairos & Chronos. The End.
Chronos is the expression for time passing in a, yes, chronological way: second for second, hour for hour and all that jazz. Kairos is the concept of how time flies, or doesn't depending on how absorbed you are in something, or in a hurry, or waiting for pay day.
There's one thing I never go through though, and that's the passing of time as in when you get older, or the seasons of things, or happy times and sad times, because after all, it is our feelings that carry us through time and not any other mechanics.
Yesterday my Mother phoned me. She has the start of dementia. On a bad day she thinks I'm her sister, and how come I never told her where I live. She tells me about the people who hide in th…

Sleeping With Strangers

If you ever make an appointment to meet somebody at noon in Leipzig and you're travelling from Galway, prepare for adventure. Well I guess only in my case, but thanks to the good old German railway having a 3 minute delay, all of my connections were gone, and given that everyone in Germany goes to bed at about 8pm, it was the last train that I'd missed. But hey, I'm a well seasoned traveller, and having  been half way around the world with a rucksack I knew I'd come up with something creative. So I wandered across the road to a nearby hotel and decided to check in and get going again next morning. A swarm of Asian gentleman and a perplex receptionist with one of those nasal sounding voices informed me that the Frankfurt fair was on and that not only were the rooms all booked out but that they cost €400 tonight. She gave me a further look as if to confirm that €400 was probably three times my life savings, and although the math wasn't too far off, I decided that I&#…

How to be Undateable

You know what it's like when you see a trailer for a movie or a series - 2 minutes where they show all of the interesting bits condensed, and you want to watch it right that minute but then a sentence comes across the screen saying 'coming next Wednesday' or more likely 'coming when you won't be home'. And whatever is on now is always crap and you're only watching it because you think something good is coming on after it, but it isn't, because you got the day or the week or the year wrong.
So when I saw the trailer for the 'Undateables' on Channel 4 there the other week, I just assumed that it would be another one of those documentaries that look great but are really bad and that I'd miss anyway.
But then, ah then, something happened. I was reading a review in the Irish Times that had something to say about this documentary, 'The Undateables'. So there were some interesting points made. One of them being that the title was damn cruel…