Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Easter Cock Up and Waiting for Godot in Galway

The people of Ireland are currently in extreme shock after the extent of the financial cock up in our Banks was this Easter revealed by the government to probably exceed €40 billion. These figures are much worse than expected and can easily occasion a sense of despair. As an architect in private practice, I am already aware of the severity of the current recession but this is probably the 'last nail in the coffin' of the construction business for at least five years. Indeed any belief that things might now improve in the short to medium term would be tantamount to 'waiting for Godot'. However, unlike most young people, I have been there before and remember at one time in the mid eighties when my then business partner and I had to pay in excess of 17% on an overdraft facility. For this reason,I refuse to allow myself to become overly depressed by the current situation. Funnily the lyrics on a CD that my daughter was playing some time ago find an echo for me in the present situation, for indeed we do all fall down:

'Lost till you're found,

Swim till you drown,

Know that we all fall down.

Love till you hate,

Strong till you break,

Know that we all fall down'.

from 'Dreaming Out Loud' by One Republic.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Turf,Timber and Time and a Pint of Plain in lovely Connemara

Thought I would do my duty for Irish Tourism both at home and abroad by publishing some sample photos taken in Connemara yesterday. The pictures should speak for themselves but you need to be there to feel the air, smell the turf and taste the beer!! Magic and available to all!

Home is where the 'hearth' is!

SLAINTE!! (meaning your good health)

Arguably some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. Enjoy!!

Mr Bo Peep has Found 2 Sheep (followers) in Belgium No Fleece on Me?

After some of my little sheep disappeared entirely from their pen last year due to a Twitter bug, I must confess that I feared the worse. As many of you know, I have begun to feel very protective towards my 'Twitter' followers and see them as a kind of fluffy sheep being minded by this Good Shepherd. (no offence to sheep intended!). Therefore, I was amazed to find on a visit to Damme in Belgium recently when I found that two of them were living happily there without a blog in the World. Therefore this afternoon despite being 'pent' up with my net, I am making a renewed appeal for their return to the flock. So far I have peeped outside on the 'tweet deck' to no avail and even circulated 'tweet pics' to my Belgian friends to see if they can persuade them to return. Aghast! I am beginning to think that someone was trying to pull the wool over my eyes as there hasn't been a tweet out of them for hours. However, to my great relief just as i was considering cashing in my tweets entirely, I learned from BBC Breaking News that the problem arose from a strain of web 'foot & mouth' disease which was having an effect of 'sees mic' proportions. As i myself could find neither rhyme nor reason for any of my beloved sheep to undertake a 'midnight twit', i was greatly relieved to hear that the problem was quarantined and indeed may have been caused by a rogue sheep trader trying to force my sheep to abandon their pen. So! So! sorry my good wife proclaimed but it was of little comfort to me. You see for me, in sheep rearing as in other worthwhile enterprises, the Pen is mightier than the S0-word. Thankfully my foreign sheep numbers will so-on be restored and I can settle down to enjoy my little flock again secure in the belief that the bleating think will not occur again soon! Baa! Baa!!

'Mr Bo Peep has lost his sheep,

And doesn't know where to find her.

Leave her alone and she'll come home,

Twittering her tales behind her.

Mr Bo Peep fell fast asleep

And dreamt he he heard her bleating,

But when he awoke, he found it a joke,

For she was no longer tweeting.

Baa! Baa! Where's my little Lambkin!!

PS: This is a modified blog from March 2010. The insightful among you will realise that the top photo is of the Belgium sheep and the lower one the Irish one! Baa!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Connemara Blacks Fly in Ointment of Rugby Teams again in 2011

Thrilled to hear that Connemara Rugby Team secured their place in Division 3 yesterday by beating Carlow RFC by 25 -21. Connemara RFC is aptly described in their web site as 'a vibrant, community-based rugby club unique for it's location in Clifden, Co Galway, one of Ireland's most beautiful areas'. What it doesn't say as clearly is that the club is called after the famous trout fishing fly 'the Connemara Black' which is used extensively to outwit the wily wild brown trout in the lakes of Connemara. Indeed they are well named as they have proven on occasion to have been 'a thorn in the ointment' as it were, of many a more illustrious rugby club visiting on match days. Such has been their renown they they have even been compared with the famous New Zealand All Blacks. And that is a compliment to both clubs!!

However, because their players are all amateurs and locally based they have had more than their fair share of injuries. For example, the great Gerry King has retired for three years in a row but has had to be recalled again to action each year to bolster a fragile young defence. But now, joy of joys, their status is secure for another year and there should be a great atmosphere in Griffins Bar in Clifden on Sat April 10th after the last match of the season against Naas.

Everyone who can should come and support a great community club!!

Check out their web site for more news and photos.

Congratulations again to the Connemara Blacks for acting as a wonderful example to all who doubt the capacity of amateur to provide great rugby football entertainment for small local communities.

Attached find photo of the players in action.

From Broken Flowers to Hypnotic Heart of Ethiopian Jazz

I have been thinking a lot about Ethopia recently especially as two special friends from Belgian have just returned from there and were 'singing its praises' when we met for a little tete-a-tete at a wine bar in Dublin recently. They regaled us with accounts of majestic landscapes and fascinating and friendly people. However, my own very limited knowledge of the country is confined to the accounts of the exploits there by Wilfred Thesiger in the book by Michael Asher who describes Thesiger as 'the last of the great explorers'. (I would recommend this book as per photo but disregard the bust on top which is only my catalyst for reflection, a sort of bare headed Buddha!)

While awaiting my opportunity to visit this country,(where there's life there's hope), I was very pleased recently to come across the wonderful jazz music of Mulatu Astatke. The Sunday Times describes him as combining 'the modes and pentatonic scales of Ethiopian music with a western sense of swing' (see article on him in the Sunday Times on line with reference on one of my recent tweets). I see from, where a number of his works are listed and can be sampled, that he is best known to date for the music from the film 'Broken Flowers' by Jim Jarmusch but I myself would much prefer his own Cd's and would recommend 'Ethiopiques,Vol4:Ethio Jazz & Musique in Instumentale' as a starting point. Enjoy!!

PS. This blog is especially dedicated to Marie-Therese and John from Belgium, who although having travelled extensively in many parts of the physical world from the Moroccan desert to the forests of Vietnam without any difficulty have yet to take a voyage in the Cyber world of twitter! Hello!! Hello!! Can you hear me calling!!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Easter Parade in Oughterard with Spring in Air

Thinking off Spring with frail newborn black lambs in fields, random stone walls along roads, boats drawn up along river in anticipation of setting off to fish for trout on the Corrib Lake, daffodils beginning to blossom and bloom and little bunny rabbits and flowers about the house in celebration!

"I wandered lonely as a cloud'
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of golden daffodils."

William Wordsworth (1804)

P.S. Don't forget clocks go forward tonight so we'll have an extra hour of daylight tomorrow and now I feel despite the prevailing economic gloom, the sun will surely shine through!
Happy Easter everyone from Galway in Ireland and peace by with you all!!!

Soliloquy of Sadness for an Architectural Practice

The news announced yesterday that Murray O’Laoire, one of Irelands most prominent architectural practices, had gone into liquidation was perhaps not entirely unexpected in the extreme recessionary climate currently devastating the once buoyant construction industry in Ireland. Nevertheless it came as a severe shock because that practice represented the best and most dynamic face of modern architectural practice in Ireland, winning prizes both here and abroad for the quality of their work. This work embraced not only the optimisation of green technology as in the totemic ‘Green’ Apartment Building in Dublin but also artistic and technical flair as in the Music School in Cork or indeed in the spectacular reinvention of Thomond Park as the home for Munster rugby in Limerick. The reasons given for the demise of the practice, which had branches in many countries from Dubai to Russia, was the impact of bad debts, difficult market conditions and problems in getting paid.

All practicing architects, including this writer, can sympathise with their dilemma in the current recession as it is estimated that over 50% of architects employed only two years ago are now unemployed and the situation is likely to get even worse before there is any significant improvement. In an article in yesterdays Irish Times, Martin Murphy, Director of Hewlett-Packard, Ireland asked that we stop infighting now and focus on leadership to get us out of our recession. Mr Murphy further warns on the precarious state of our economy by using the analogy of a glass half full to illustrate our country’s dilemma.
He later states that ‘there are no entitlements to opportunity, but it can be earned’. The sad thing about the present status of the Murray O’Leary practice is that they sought no entitlement as a basis for their undoubted success but rather by stint of the excellence of their work and quality of their staff they forged opportunities for themselves both here and abroad and in so doing provided leadership and inspiration to other Irish practices both large and small. I would agree with Mr Murphy, that there is no point in being negative and simply fanning the flames of a bitter dialogue over supposed corporate greed and bank bail-outs in the context of the acute sense of grievance felt by many tax payers. However, I feel that leadership can only flourish if there is genuine feeling of hope in the future and a sense that the ‘gain will justify the strain’ as it were.

In Irish society at the moment, the foundations on which to build this leadership structure seem very suspect, and as any architect will testify to, poor foundations augur badly for future stability. I personally feel that the poor in our society are becoming increasingly marginalised and frustrated by the direction of government cut backs. Furthermore, there would appear to be little appreciation of the value as opposed to the cost of the contribution made to this society by its well educated work force, especially the young. Finally, even core business activities for both small and medium sized firms are being starved of bank cash support. Furthermore, there has been an exponential increase in red tape and regulative activity by government agencies presumably to keep them busy during the recession.

Thus, the demise of the Murray O’Laoire architectural practice is systematic of the waste and lack of appreciation of talented and creative people and with the governments new emphasis on the merits of the supposed smart economy is , I feel, neither really smart nor genuinely economic.

In ending this little discourse by way of genuine appreciation of the sense of disappointment and disillusion that must permeate the Murray O’Laoire practice this morning, may I refer to what I feel is an adapt quote received on my twitter page this morning from philo_quotes, courtesy of Spinoza:

‘All noble things are as difficult as they are rare’

Friday, March 26, 2010

Harley Davidson Man Born to be Wild at the Last Chance Saloon!

Personally I blame the film ‘Easy Rider’ in general but the think the real fault lies with the rock anthem by Steffenwolf called ‘Born to be Wild’. Since the early seventies I must admit that I have been a ‘closet’ Harley Davidson fan and have yearned to ‘head out on the high road looking for adventure’. However, for most of my life this wish has been greatly frustrated by the fact that I possessed neither the ‘loot’ nor the ‘licence’ to own one of those magnificent gleaming roadster machines. Thus, I was restricted to pedalling around as fast as possible on a rusty old bicycle so that my molecules and that of my bike began to become intertwined as predicted by Flann O’Brien in his book ‘The Third Policeman’. In fact, I probably personified the optimum fusion of sustainable energy between bike and bloke long before the ‘Greens’ were a twinkle in their mothers eye. However, it left me strangely unsatisfied and it was not until my humble family swapped houses with a family in Sante Fe, New Mexico in the eighties that an opportunity presented itself to redress the situation.

Upon arrival there, we were thrilled to become the proud possessors of a beautiful Adobe House just north of Sante Fe with two cars, a grand old barn and 4 dogs. It was truly magnificent to behold. Ok! There was a slight problem in adjusting to the dogs which consisted of two young Doberman pincers, (untrained and with an inherent taste for blood sacrifice), a cross bred of part Irish wolfhound of seeming similar age to myself, and something resembling a coyote wild dog. But the ‘piece de resistance’ however lay inside the barn where our owners had given us the keys to a pair of ‘His and Her’ Harley Davidson bikes for our use. Wow! All my fantasies of heading out on the high road to Las Vegas (New Mexico not Nevada!) to ‘sup’ at the Grand Plaza Hotel would soon be a reality I thought. At last, I would follow in the footsteps of Doc Holliday and other misunderstood ‘desperados’ like myself, and the realisation of my dream seemed to be only a ‘rev’ and ‘roar’ away.

Within a few minutes my good wife and I entered the barn to inspect our new metallic marvels. Soon, I sat astride one of the bikes, having been able to mount with the aid of a wooden stool I found nearby. However, far from ‘burning leather’ I found to my dismay that in fact the leather was burning me! Because the sun in New Mexico is so strong in the summer and had been shining directly onto the leather bike seat, I found my ass was soon hot as hell. The expletives emanating from me were so extreme that my status as a Hell’s ‘Angel’ might be open to question. Nevertheless I crouched over the bike in a pose reminiscent of what I thought Marlon Brando had adopted in a familiar movie still.

Just then one of our younger girls, who was about five at the time, entered the barn in an agitated state and shattered my illusions. Why do children always have to spoil adults innocent fun! ‘The ‘dopeyman’ dogs are biting the old hound’s nuts’ she exclaimed and ‘the ‘coaty’ dog is screaming for his supper’, she said. Furthermore, I’m sure that I heard my wife mutter under her breath that they were not the only ‘dopeyman’ round here. I’m afraid my moment in animated suspension waiting to hit the road vanished in a flash never to return. As John Wayne, might say, ‘it soon bit the dust’.

However, it is now many years later and the old knees are not what they used to be. Nevertheless I managed to salvage a little model Harley Davidson toy bike in a local store in New Mexico at that time which, as can see from the photograph accompanying this little nostalgia trip, I keep on a table beside me in the hope that I might one day relive by frustrated dreams. The old problem is that my little grandchildren now want to push it round the floor without any thought for its aesthetic or emotional value. Children have no respect for model machines!

As my ‘god wife’ (Lady GoGo) still deep down shares my dreams, I have given here a little figurine as a memento of our New Mexico lack of adventure and also to keep her hopes alive by depicting what I feel is a reasonable representation of what she might look like on such a bike today. (see photo). So I am off down to my local ‘saloon’ to quietly assess what I consider to be my last chance to realise my dreams next year when I hope to return to the Wild West. To many people therefore I may not exactly be an Angel, but I am going to ‘ride the high country’ on a Harley Davidson some day just for the Hell of it.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Is Wine Name a reflection of Iconic Fame?

I know that it is often said that you cannot judge a book by it’s cover but is it reasonable to come to a similar conclusion about wine bottle labels and there contents. I must admit that I have become an avid collector of ‘iconic’ bottles, the names on which I have referred to previously on this web page in the case of Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe. However, I fully realise that this is not necessarily a good reflection on my taste for fine wine but it certainly beats collecting stamps, for example, because when one becomes tired of the practice, one can always consume the contents of one’s ‘case’ study, as it were. I offer a photograph with this little discourse showing a wine label celebrating Napoleon Bonaparte (from the island of Elba) and one celebrating Che Guevara (from Italy, the home of the revolution, Berlusconi please copy!) As I haven’t yet imbibed the contents of either bottle, I was wondering if anyone could wet my appetite by venturing a guess as to the taste sensation that I might expect to enjoy. For example, will the Napoleon wine have a full bodied Emperor like quality, to be drunk with one hand firmly placed in one’s waistcoat for balance and a recommendation that it should only be consumed in small sips at a time lest one was to meet one’s Waterloo! The Che Guevara wine I feel might offer a more powerful revolutionary taste and might be enjoyed with a fine Cuban cigar but it might best be appreciated in battle fatigue clothes. It might however not age well and could hardly be said to offer the prospect of a rich taste. So you can see my dilemma, I known from experience that a fine wine does not maketh the man but what I am confused about here is whether the fine man maketh the wine.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Music: That Warms the Heart and Stirs the Soul

In response to a tweet here are some favorite recommendations:

1) Freddie White; Lost and Found -Early Albums (Little Don records or

Music dates from 1979/1981 but 'Smoke Gets in your Eyes' version of song brilliant and generally exceptional singing of some great songs by well known artists such as Fats Waller and Randy Newman-highly recommended as most better than originals.

2) The Fureys: Celtic Connections: (K-Tel 1996) Wonderful soulful Irish singing with the 'Green Fields of France' still capable of bringing tears to the eyes.

3) The best of Dolores Keane: (Dara Records Dublin 1997) Have rarely heard a better or more unique voice anywhere. Listen in awe to the Beatles song 'Let in Be' (with De Danann) for example.

4) Anouar Brahem: Le chat Du chat Noir; translates as the 'black cat's footsteps' but consists of an amazingly beautiful combination of oud, piano and accordion music. One of few artists that I would recommend listening to any and all of his cd's. Life affirming music!

5)Wonder Boys soundtrack: Contains a 'wonderful' selection of some of the best music of Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Leonard Cohen and John Lennon. Also a good film, so good in fact that the dvd of it has disappeared to Dublin with one of my daughters!!

6) Il Postino ( the Postman) soundtrack: includes magnificent music but also selected poems by Pablo Neruda read by Glenn Close, William Defoe etc. Must be accompanied by getting dvd of the film which is one of the best ever. Pure enjoyment for which an Oscar would be scant reward!!

I would welcome receiving recommendations from other fellow tweeters because music is the essence of life itself and without it the heart would turn to stone!!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

David Hockney-'Inspiration never Visits the Lazy'

The title of this piece refers to an answer given by David Hockney to a question about the difficulty of the artist functioning in current society. (see earlier tweet) As a unique and gifted photographer, illustrator, print maker and stage designer he has made a major contribution to affirming the positive joys associated with the use of vibrant colour in modern art. I must confess to being extremely jealous as an architect of his amazing use of strong colour combinations in his own house in Los Angeles. However, it was at an exhibition at the Centre George Pompidou in Paris some years ago where I truly began to appreciate his genius for the first time as I was simply amazed at his ability to capture on a huge canvas the sheer magnitude and vitality associated with the Grand Canyon in Arizona. I reproduce here a photo of this work to encourage people to look more carefully at the scale of his vision and expert execution of such a difficult project. Indeed, a further illustration of this work can be found on the CD cover of the music by Messiaen:Des Canyons Aux Etoiles on the Deutsche Grammophone Label (2002). I am unfortunately not in a position to acquire one of his artistic works but even the cover of his books and by reference to a poster displayed centrally in our open plan living area, I feel that the positive energy and joy of bright colour permeates our humble abode. Thus, even on a cloudy or dull day, a little bit of sunshine radiates from the brightness and colour of his vibrant work.

Twitter: Cyber Carnival or Trendy Tweet?

I have just read that over 40% of people joining Twitter give up the practice within a few months, possibly due to ‘tweet lag’ and that many ‘serious’ people still regard the site as at best a frivolous extension of texting to a wider audience. Although I myself have only being engaged in tweeting for a few weeks, I decided nevertheless to review my time spent on the web in an attempt to provide a kind of cost benefit analysis of my experience to date. However, I must admit that this decision was partly brought about my ‘good wife’ (not to be confused with the lovely lady fronting to the TV series who simply pouts with dramatic affect when faces with any serious problem but yet again----). She arrived home from work the other day and looking over my shoulder at the my twitter site , asked in the most patronising of voices if I had found any new ‘friends’. I quickly assured her that tweeting was not a search for friends but a site where hordes of ‘followers’ and ‘following’ intermingled in an invigorating and mentally stimulating way by sending rapid fire messages across cyberspace. However, as I reviewed the long list of cryptic tweets populating my twitter page with ever-increasing degrees of banality, I must admit that my previously held fervour began to waver somewhat. Hence, I decided to embark on the aforementioned review process, and in so doing try to ensure that I too would not suffer from a ‘tweet’ tooth in the near future.

For the uninitiated, the basic twitter process involves the sending of simple messages, no longer than 140 words, to other people who you have identified as belonging to the twitter community. These latter people are grouped into ‘followers’ and ‘following’ depending of course whether they are pursuing you or you them. Many people provide a useful ‘bio’ of their background skills or interests to help streamline your searches. However, some are so extensive and multidimensional that they would make even a ‘Michelangelo’ type person blush with envy and hence, ‘bio’ proclamations of funky divas with accentuated skills in people management, yoga, earth sciences, global warming, jazz appreciation and a love of children should be taken with a degree of scepticism normally reserved for utterances made by participants at events such as the Miss World pageant.

However, the potential limitation on the tweeting process is not chiefly related to the senders of messages but rather to the intrinsic limitations of the messages themselves. Most seem directed at what people seem to believe to be ‘famous’ celebrities in the belief that the senders will somehow share in their celebrity status if they are made indirectly aware of their humble existence. Still more are used as a non to subtle means of advertising their skills by referring their own web sites.
But all this would be no more debilitating or energy sapping than watching an episode of American Idol or the X Factor, if it were not for the content of many of the messages themselves.

Some of the more ‘sophisticated’ bloggers include informative attachments to articles/news updates/videos which have tickled their fancy while scouring the web. These take the form of a ‘treasure hunt’ where some clues as to the content are usually provided but you must explore the attached references to gain a full insight into the proffered information. This process can prove very entertaining with time and patience. However, the majority of tweets contain no such nuggets of fact or fiction but encompass a litany of cryptic comments from the perspective of the sender only which bear all the insights of comic banalities more at home in a Woody Allen film dialogue. An example might be as follows:

‘@ gooblegook""3 I see you have changed your Hair’
@blandy''' No I really like it, Green is the new Blue’

Erudite perhaps but enlightening? And most tweets are worse!!

Perhaps another way of addressing the limitations of the message process is to add a blog such as my own at where one can ruminate further on life’s trials and tribulations and share it with others at the click of a ‘mouse’ or the flick on an ‘i-phone’ page.

So, after all this is twitter worth the effort? On balance, I genuinely think that it is, for this reason, it all comes down to perception. You see I think that the twitter process is like taking part in a giant carnival in cyber space. While of course, there are many kinds of carnivals, as for example in the Mardi Gras in Brazil or Notting Hill in London, it is the Venice Carnivals in Italy which I feel provide the best analogy here. This is because they are essentially ‘masked’ balls and it is the very mask of anonymity that gives ‘tweeting’ its essential ingredient. You see you can potentially contact anyone anywhere in the World and offer your views fair or frantic, frivolous or fractious, without any fear or favour. It lends a whole new level of excitement and anticipation to a communication process open to all and at a time of depressing economic stagnation, where many people like myself, have unwanted ‘time on their hands’, it provides an opportunity to talk to the World. Sometimes, I feel like the scientists at Los Alamos, in New Mexico with my ‘twitter’ telescope trained at Mars. But it is only when I open my twitter site and blog in the morning that I can gauge whether there is any cyber life out there.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

At Non-Swim Two Birds!

*Apologies to Flann O'Brien for abuse of title, but verse refers to personal experience of two non swimming Irish people who attempted to 'swim' in pools without depth marking while on holiday abroad:

'She waded blissfully down the swimming pool,

With the nonchalant air of the real fool,

Little knowing that when she reached the deep,

That her lifetime plans would be in a heap.

For soon she was left gasping for air

With flawing arms and billowing hair.

Her hubby quickly noting her distress

Decided at once to bravely impress

And jumped fully clothed into the blue

So he could act the hero too.

But alas his enthusiasm burst like a bubble

And soon he too was in serious trouble

Like a 'paddy playtime' they splashed about

Until two Englishmen simply dragged them out

And left them stretched out by the pool side

With mouth open and eyes staring wild

Until they later recovered their composure

With glasses of wine to give this account closure.

So the moral of this 'non swimming' tale

Is to keep your good Karma and never fail

To confine holiday fun to poolside slumber

Or risk merely registering as a drowning number.

Leprechauns, Luck and Lolly Too!

Read with interest of new Leprechaun Museum in Dublin and also announcement of Leprechaun 'hunts' in Carlingford where the bones of one such little person are kept for display in a local pub. Do not scoff as I have seen them myself and they are very impressive and life 'affirming' especially after a few pints. However, the chance of finding the proverbial 'crock of gold at the end of the rainbow' seems ever more fanciful as I have been keeping a keen eye on such weather manifestations in recent times to no great effect. Notwithstanding this lack of a positive response to date, I have decided to extend the range of my potential indicators of good fortune to that of a 'black cat crossing one's path'. Thus, I now keep both an enamel photo of a black cat and a little leprechaun figurine in a strategic location in my house to ensure continual contact with the forces of the unknown. To date however, Lady Luck has not smiled on me or Lovely Lolly fallen into my hands but I am ever confident as a counterbalance to this sceptical and scientific age that the psychic forces of the paranormal will soon assert themselves and I will be blessed with 'purr-fect' good fortune again!!

Note: visited Carlingford on 12th October 2010 and now include photos of Bar where leprechaun bones kept and also photos of display cabinet itself-- Oh Ye of Little Faith?? Finally, I include a few photos of the lovely shell sculptures in Carlingford as after the Guinness, oysters and Leprechauns i could well have been described as shell shocked indeed!!