Monday, August 28, 2006

Au Revoir, Mes Enfants

Regular readers will know that Blankpaige is often very flaky but what she loses in composure she makes up for in determination. A year ago today, I took my first tentative steps into Blogosphere. It started out as a concerted effort to prove my older, so much smarter sister wrong. She and her husband had one for their notorious dinner parties to which they’d invited their usual collection of interesting people and a boring single man. This latter pathetic appendage was recruited in the vain hope that some wonderful romance would blossom with youngest sibling and bring an end once and for all to her embarrassing state of permanent singularity.

Fortunately for me, the pressure to perform got the better of said gent. Or should I say Dominic’s bottle of 15 year old malt whisky got the better of him. Either way he had to be excused shortly after dessert was served. Being the family clown, Paige of course had to do a funny comic turn about the whole (otherwise) embarrassing situation which got the party started in earnest. We’d a wide ranging discussion on all subjects from our preferred name for Dingle (Dingle) to the most influential person we had ever met. Someone raised the question of “If one thing in your school days had turned out differently, how would it have affected your life?”.

Still flushed from my Perrier-winning comic performance, I suggested with only a hint of irony that had Ms McBride not taken my class for religion, I’d be less racked with guilty and would probably be living in a Parisian loft making a comfortable living as a social diarist with Le Monde and taking an interesting new cabinet minister as a lover every six months. I should point out at this juncture that every outlandish suggestion by the other guests was met with overwhelming approval and plausibility. My modest enough suggestion was in contrast met with disdain by all even Alan, a man I’d never met before that evening. I was disgusted, I can tell you.

But what really got up my nose was my sister’s dismissal of such a possibility on the grounds that I’d never have a discipline to write a diary for long enough to even describe one ministerial affair! I perhaps should be thankful that she didn’t call my voracious romantic appetite or attractiveness to French politicians in question. She casually mentioned the well know fact that I never finish anything that I start. I, it seems, don’t have the staying power to write for more than two days. Red rag, bull and, as I recall, many vodka & red bull’s later, I was rightly incensed. I could write if I wanted, I protested. But perhaps most annoying was that my notorious “unreliability” would prevent any editor from employing me. Such cheek! This coming from a woman who is frequently happy to entrust her new born child’s welfare in the hand for one so flaky. My sister has invited me to another dinner party next Saturday and I’m going to prove her wrong or what?

Over the past year, I’ve discovered that writing does indeed require great discipline but that I am capable of sustaining such an effort. I’ve written 285 posts in 360 days. Some of which I’ve even posted on my blog site. I’ve discovered a myriad of high fangled technology and can with some knowledge discuss statcounters, YouTube and Bebo. But more importantly, I have discovered a wonderful community of brilliant writers who encourage and support you even when you aren’t very good. Your few moments of brilliance are celebrated with Shaggy’s, Blogroll call outs and hyperlinks. It has been a privilege for me to have interacted with such fine individuals. I’d take anyone of you any day over a philandering French junior minister. Alas, I’ve also discovered that the reason I’m not ensconced in a rooftop overlooking the Seine with a naked Gaul has more to do with my lack of talent as a writer than with Ms McBride’s stern delivery of Catholic dogma.

I hope that you will excuse my discontinuing as a blogger. I genuinely don’t feel worthy of the description owing to my lack of original talent and the selfish (childish) reason that I started blogging. I will continue to check out your brilliant posts and wish you all continued success.


Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Invalid Response

At the height of the last great Dublin city taxi driver convulsion a few years ago, I recall that the city streets were awash with those great big taxi vans. You know the type, the big, heavy sliding door and the cavernous interior in which you could loose a small pony (if you had a small pony). Flying around Dublin’s city streets, you were liable to get thrown violently from side to side unless you had a strong young man by your side. (If you had a strong young man!) The distance between you and the taxi driver was not inconsiderable, so you could pretend to be deaf and not hear his/her inane polemics, and you could take a short journey before his/her body odour became too unbearable.

The reason I ask was that over the past two days, I’ve encountered various wheel chair bound travelers attempt to get into taxis at several taxi ranks. Every car on offer seems to be a small Nissan. Now, blankpaige has nothing against Nissan cars – big or small – but I distinctly remember being told by the driver of the big van type taxis that they were specifically designed to take wheelchair users. He bemoaned, of course, at how he got no allowance for providing such a service. Mind you, I also remember the driver of a small Nissan taxi once tell me that those “big monstrous yokes” were an environmental disaster and completely unwarranted. Sure his/her wee Nissan could take any invalid passenger and sure the chair folds up and could easily fit into the boot, was the very definite pitch.

I’m sure that no matter how many wheelchair friendly taxis there are in our city, there are probably not enough. But I just wonder what happened to encourage taxi drivers to abandon these big vehicles? Was it a loss of tax concession? The increased insurance claims for injuries to recently separated young females consistent with being tossed around like a rag doll? Loss of a particularly valuable small pony?

And then, there is the whole question of what has happened to them? Did they get exported to a country with a high demand for the movement of small ponies? Surely the Shetland Islands don’t need that many new taxis. Have they been acquired by Musgraves for the rapid distribution of foodstuffs to Centra and Supervalu shops in anticipation of the opening of the Port Tunnel? Have the Gardai set up a special branch operation that involves lots of surveillance from the back of these vehicles fitted with tinted windows?

The public need to know. I feel a tribunal of inquiry coming on!

Saturday, August 19, 2006



Thursday, August 17, 2006


Reports in today's papers suggest that 20% of Irish males fail Leaving Certificate chemistry and 16% fail ordinary level biology.

Is it just me or would anyone who has dated a young Irishman testify to the general lack of chemistry in such relationships and the lads' rudimentary knowledge of biology?!


Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Showing Too Much Reserve?

I read with interest that the Garda Síochána have invited applications for membership of their reserve force. Varying reports indicate that 400 people applied in the first hours after advertising.

This set me thinking - a dangerous pursuit, you'll agree!

Who in their right mind would apply for a job that an employer does not want to fill, is being resisted by existing employees through a process of non-cooperation and which carries an indeterminate remuneration?

Also, there is some contradictory statements in the briefing notes such as that applicants must meet the same criteria as existing members of the force, yet they also have to be of good character, sound health and mind!

Also, people excluded from joining are members of the defence forces, prison service, people who serve summons, baliffs, practicing solicitors and barristers. (If you exclude this group it might be redundant to require applicants to be of sound mind, but I digress!)

It doesn't seem as if having served time in jail for a serious offence would bar you from joining the force. Perhaps this is okay, since most of those are either fully occupied with a career in crime or are taxi drivers, or both!

Worryingly, I also don't see any reference to the prohibition of people who sell narcotics or practice of paedophilia.

It seems that the main criterion is that you have to be a "good character". Now I'm as game for a laugh as the next woman, but do we want a reserve force that is moonlighting in the Comedy Club? I'd hate to be moved on from my casual loitering by a would-be Tommy Tiernan or Des Bishop. Anyway who is going to be bouncer on Copper-face Jacks?

It strikes me that a useful first approximation would be to exclude these first 400 applicants on the grounds that they are too enthusiastic (and hence likely to be too officious), such good characters that they'd demoralise the existing full time force or that they are The Monk or a former tribunal barrister that has made so much money that they no longer have to practice law.

Other questions remain. Does the reservist get free access to Neil Diamond concerts in Croke Park? What about those fluorescent cycling shorts? Do they come in all sizes? Do you have to have a country accent and pronounce the word “vehicle” as “Vee-hi-cul”? (i.e. why exclude the AA Roadwatch girls from the Reserve?) Does a gaelige-speaking weather forecaster from a Celebrity talent contest get to apply also?

Monday, August 14, 2006

Making a Difference?

Yesterday, a young Bosnia girl, of about 6 years of age, came to my door. Her handwritten note explained she was in dire straits and would appreciate anything that I could give her. Earlier that evening, on the way home from town, a polite young man collecting for the International Association for Cancer Research stopped me on Dawson Street looking for a small donation. Between these two encounters, I passed four people begging for money and two guys selling the Big Issue. At least one of the four was well inebriated. In the three hours that I was out of my house, three different charity appeal bags were pushed through my letter box. Another polite note introduced three Poles who would be willing to do light housework and some gardening for me. I had a voicemail from an old friend who is traveling to The Sudan to do charity work looking for some sponsorship. Trying to escape from the need to make a decision, I turned on the telly. There was an advert looking for aid for the people affected in the bombing of Lebanon. Switching channels, I stumbled across Celebrity You’re a Star! It would seem that one of the game contestants was collecting for Cancer West.

My dilemma is that I don’t know what I can do that will make a difference. Every little helps I know but how much should I be prepared to give? I’d like to have some foolproof system for knowing who I should give to and who I shouldn’t. And is giving just an easy way of salving my conscience? Does it make any difference?

I tried to work it out logically.

Who are the International Association for Cancer Research? How do I know that this is a reputable organisation. The guy who stopped me in Dawson Street wasn’t able to say too much about what his organisation did. He was clearly a professional fund raiser. So when I got home I did some searching on the web. I found the International Agency for Cancer Research, the International Cancer Research Association and Cancer Research International. There is also the International Union of Cancer Research and the Association for International Cancer Research. The latter seems to be a Scottish charity group that funds cancer research. But we’ve our own national cancer research charity, the Irish Cancer Society incorporating Cancer Research Ireland. So what the heck is a Scottish charity group doing fundraising in Dublin? Do Irish fundraisers collect in Scotland? Why do we need so many organisation and can they not work together? If it is going to do fundraising telethons, then why doesn’t our national broadcaster collect for the national cancer charity? I’m reminded again of my evil thought that all charity collections should be outlawed.

A neighbour tells me that the young Bosnian girl is actually part of a Romanian group on a major scam. She might well be, but she could also be a poor starving 6 year old. I’ve no way of checking her credentials. My Sudan-bound friend is a well intentioned but flighty individual. She has absolutely no experience of volunteering and generally speaking isn’t the most self-sufficient individual. I honestly believe that she’ll do more harm than good. Of the three charity appeal bags that came through my door, only one had any contact details/charity reference. The rest seemed to be one-man shows which may or may not be legitimate.

For the record, I didn’t give to the Dawson Street chugger (charity mugger) and I closed the door on the 6 year old Bosnian girl. I walked passed the four beggars and I used the charity appeal bags for my domestic refuse. I have ignored the Lebanon appeal. I’ve not returned my old friend’s call. I bought two copies of the Big Issue – one from each vendor. I threw both in the bin without reading them.

What should I have done?

Thursday, August 10, 2006

No Malice Intended

Doctors may have been arrogant and insensitive in the practice but there was no malice or ulterior motive. (Dunne Report on Organ Retention Scandal, 2006)

Clearly the blankpaige is on some kind of depressing downward spiral of rants. I promise I'll snap out of it shortly. In the meantime, is it just me or does everyone think that we didn't need a judge, a barrister, 5 years and €13 million to tell us what we already know?

Paternalism, benign or otherwise, has been the overwhelming feature of our medical profession since, well actually, forever. Our doctors enter college having been selected as the brightest and best of our children, they spend six or seven years being told how wonderful they are, and if they are really good they get to play at being really important consultant - an individual who has a higher intellectual capacity than most, is the best at everything he/she turns their hand to, and gets paid about 15 times the average industrial wage. (They are so intellectually endowed, of course, that they are unable to wash their hands properly, but that's another rant altogether!)

I once listened to one such doctor being interviewed on the radio about how difficult it is discussing intimate sexual dysfunction with patients. You see the problem is that while the patient may have been sitting (patiently?) in the waiting room for 2 hours, the clock sort of restarts for them when they are seen by the doctor. They take ages to 'warm up' and won't come right out and tell the doc their problem. Sometimes the 6 minute consultation is up before they even begin to hint at what the issue is. Word of advice to such consultants. In future don't have your patients sit waiting to see your 2 hours and then only give them 6 minutes of your time. Medicine is supposed to be patient-focused!

I had a particularly traumatic experience of one such Consultant. After sitting in wait for 4 hours on a hard chair in a public corridor for 'my results' to find their way from the lab to his desk, he burst out of his office and down the corridor. He interrupted briefly his mobile phone conversation to shout at me from some distance that generally speaking everything is okay but that I'd be unlikely to ever become pregnant. He didn't even break stride or pause for a reaction as he delivered this news in the most matter of fact manner. He had resumed his telephone conversation (meeting someone on a golf course in an hour) before he had even come to within the socially acceptable distance for conversation. I was too stunned to even react.

Had anyone asked I could have saved the State €13 million!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Ipso facto or some other latin phrase

Some sad individual left me a comment recently suggesting that my Middle East posts were "meaningless rants". Now excuse me if I have not joined up the dots properly, but isnt that one of the best things about blogging that you can have meaningless rants whenever you feel like it? Anyway, I always try to be the bigger person (a facet that I take into many aspects of my life) so I initially decided to ignore the twat. But of course, I can never resist a cat fight (another regular feature of my life) so I then decided to try to be condescending (ditto). But like a blog knight on a white stead, Omani came to my rescue with the most brilliantly incisive put down that almost makes my post worth reading just for the context alone.

The whole unsavoury incident set me thinking. Now I can't think about any blog subject matter without wondering is it just another meaningless rant?

So while we are on the subject, is it just me of have you also had your fill of charity muggers (chuggers) and free newspaper dispensers? A girl can't walk the footpaths of Dublin without being accosted on all sides by some twat asking for a minute of my time or thrusting another copy of the Daily Grind into my hand. If I want a newspaper I go off to a newspaper shop and buy a copy of The Guardian. If I want to find out something about the Ryder Cup or which local priest has abused which local temptress, I buy a copy of The Irish Times. (It's the paper of record don't you know!) If I want to find out who has shagged who on Celebrity Ready Steady Cook, I buy a copy of the Indo. I don't need some highly incentivised marketing graduate thrust me a ream of classified adverts cunningly disguised as a newspaper.

And then there is the chuggers. Am I the only person in this country (Bono excepted of course) who'd happily pay another 1-2% income tax so that all the things that should be funded get funded? If I get sick, I want a hospital bed because I need it not because some obsessive crank from Mullingar pushed a hospital bed around Ireland on a sponsored walk. Charity organisations should be banned and all their very important services provided for by the state. Full stop.

Still, this is probably just another meaningless rant.

Monday, August 07, 2006

In love

Regular readers of the blankpaige, yes both of you, will know that this girl has shared some painful insights of late. Some of you good people were even kind enough to send me a little note of encouragement. Some went as far as to concur that, listen sisters, men are bastards.

So I feel a mixture of unbridled joy and acute embarrassment this evening, as I feel compelled to announce to all in Blogosphere - "I am in love!"

Now I've noticed that being in love isn't something that bloggers announce very often. There are plenty of my man/god/bookclub/credit card company has just dumped me and I'm going to take solace in a nice big bowl of Ben&Jerry ice cream/bottle of Chateauneuf du pape/Czech builder who is hung like a stag.

It is the same with songs. All the best ones are laments to love lost. All our best writers are missing something and our best painters are troubled. Performance artists and troubadour musicians battle the dark side. Even our best comedians are, we believe, secretly hiding something sinister.

(Admission to Omani. I’ve just deleted five paragraphs which attempted to weave a whole story about my new love. But I realise that I’ve pulled that stunt once too often. Is this the reason why you heartlessly call me a fibber?)

I don’t know how I missed it when it came out. I know that over the past year I have read every newspaper ever sold, distributed or force on me by an enthusiastic Brazilian in O’Connell Street. I realize those ‘so cool they piss ice cubes’ cinema critics in the Ticket must have written five whole articles extolling the wonder, then three more panning the crassness and then made much mileage in snide side remarks. But I can’t explain how I missed it.

But last night, a good pal and I sat in with a bottle of Chateauneuf (alas no Czech builder) and watched what I now realise is the best Irish movie ever made. The movie is based on a novel written by one of our best authors. The screenplay was written by the author and the film’s director, a man with a cannon of work of John Huston proportions. Our best male actor plays the lead role. It is the best movie despite featuring a cast of the usual Irish suspects (Gleeson, Rea and Neeson) and Van Morrison music. It is set in the most depressing decade of our country’s recent past, it tackles a theme of exploitation of innocence and yet it is joyously uplifting.

And if you haven’t yet seen it. Check it out at once. This is without doubt the best Irish movie of the last 20 years and probably the best European film of the same period. I can’t understand why it hasn’t run for weeks and weeks in our cinemas. Why hasn't some Roscommon TD on the make not insist that this be added to the Leaving Cert curriculum? Go figure.


Saturday, August 05, 2006

Buy Gum

I see that Wrigleys, purveyors of fine chewing gum since 1786 have decided to give €1 million to Irish scientists to research ways of making bubble gum less sticky. Ungumming the gum as it were.

This set me thinking and being a lass known for her mental arithmetic, I started counting also. Walking up Merrion square this evening, I undertook my own scientific experiment. Using a 0.5 metre square sampling reference (i.e a paving slab), I counted the number of black chewing gum deposits per slab. On average there are 3 spots per slab and around government buildings the footpath is 5 slabs wide. Hence there are approximately 15 spots in each 0.5 metre distance of Merrion Square. According to AA Ireland, it is 3.6 miles from the Dept of Finance to the Dept of the Environment. (I really wish these guys would go metric some day soon.) That’s 5.8km in new money. Or 175,000 splots of chewing gum if you are obsessive compulsive like me.

€1,000,000 would buy you 2,000,000 packs of Wriggles gum, each packet containing 5 sticks of gum. Imaging that one half of the people who chew these 10,000,000 sticks ignore the nice silver paper and disgard the spent gum on the footpath. This is a gross generalisation but go with me on this one. So 5,000,000 sticks of gum is about 28 times between the Department of Finance and the Dept of the Environment. If one indolent person shuffling between these two points did one stick per day, in one month he (for surely it would be a man) would have littered spent the same money defacing a small section of our Capital City thoroughfare as Wrigley’s will paid to solve the problem.

And anyway, what would € 1,000,000 buy you in research brains these days? Let us say we put together a team of scientists. We’d probably have 5 of our brightest and best. Let’s imaging that we give them a 3 year contract and pay them €36,000 per annum each. There goes €540,000. And no doubt we’d need to rent them a laboratory. We’ll give them a reasonable sized laboratory in a modest part of the city. There goes another €60,000 minimum. We’ll probably buy them some chemicals and reagents and, irony of irony, we’ll probably have to buy them some gum to test. Lets imaging we spend €125,000 on consumables over the 3 years. We add on the 30% overhead that our noble universities will demand for hosting this crack gum busting scientists. That leaves us just under €60,000 small change to go to the odd international convention of gum busters, write the odd report and publish their findings.

Mmm, can’t help thinking the Dick Roche might have been better putting a 10 cent tax on every packet of chewing gum.


I’m afraid that Blankpaige has strayed into some serious stuff. Hang with me, there is some lighter stuff on the way……. but in the meantime, in response to Omani’s considered comments on my last post, I offer the following.

Issue 1 : What is Terrorism?
If only it would be so easy to make the word ‘terrorist’ redundant. However, even if it was, the first issue is not that the word might become a poor descriptor, it is perhaps that the word tends to be selectively applied. Principle 1 tries to recognise that whatever the reasons for the act of terror, the apparent justification or the ‘democratic purity’ of the perpetrator, terror is defined by the effect it has on the victim. The Russian, USA or UK military bombing a poor Chechen, Iraqi or Afghan village might be part of a ‘legitimate’ war on terror, it might even be UN-sanctioned. But if a family cowering under a flimsy bed while bombs fall about them is terrified, then an act of terrorism has taken place. (Even a Munster man would accept that the rugby team are unlikely to terrorise their opponents!)

Issue 2 : Reasonable Defense
Defence doesn’t constitute terrorism per se. But any defence in which the ‘defender’ seeks to overwhelm the victim and in the process instil a sense of hopelessness and fear, is an act of terror. (It is unlikely even if on they were on the rack that Stade Francais would feel so hopeless in the face of a Munster onslaught!) By my definition any act of aggression could be classified as an act of terror. But this is the root of the problem. A failure to recognise aggression as the cause of conflict, not the response, reasonable or otherwise, to conflict. Perhaps we’d be more effective if instead of calling for an end to terrorism or the war on terror that we sought an end to aggression.

Issue 3 : Name Calling
Of course you are most correct. The terrorist/freedom fighter perspectives simply don’t help resolve any thing? Name-calling only polarises and aggravates an already dangerous situation.

Issue 4 : Giving Voice to Public Opinion
I accept the points you make about how it might be useful/desirable to have not entirely unambiguous UN resolutions so that they can be read differently by different groups. Although I have my reservations about the value of ambiguity in any dispute resolution process.

Issue 5 : Respect the Mediator
The UN provides a forum for moderate voices in any dispute. But mediation only works if all parties respect the mediating authority and agree to be bound by its decisions. The US/UK has consistently undermined the UN to the point where it now lacks all credibility. Israel has further ridiculed the UN by selectively highlighting some resolutions but ignoring others completely. Syrians and Iranians have done similar.

Issue 6 : Moral Authority
Your point is well made on our apparent need to give moral authority to a position through a UN resolution. This is the UN’s most valuable attribute. This makes it all the more important that the long term status of the UN is not undermined for some short term manoeuvring by a big or small country.

We should be guided only by the principle that aggression is counter productive. It provokes an aggressive response and without moderating voices disputes quickly escalate into acts of extreme aggression (i.e. terror). We must not be afraid to condemn acts of aggression regardless of who the perpetrator is. Failure to do so becomes interpreted as acquiescence and tacit approval.

All that is necessary for evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing - Edmund Burke

A good friend tells you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear - Paige Harrison

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Give it up for .....

Apart from the sense of community, the thing that I love most about Blog O'Sphere is how whenever a good idea is thrown out, it is rapidly improved upon by several bloggers. Curl K recently took the initiative to improve upon her blog rolling by putting a descriptive comment under each blog link. I know that others have done something similar (e.g. Omani). JL Pagano, consistently the most innovative blogger**, regularly gives out Shaggies. Steven has now taken Curly K's lead and has introduce a Why #1 feature on his blog. And Damien has suggested profiling blog newcomers.

I say this, not because Curly K, JL Pagano, Omani and Steven have all written really nice things about me - which of course they have but that's besides the point. They generally say nice things about most bloggers. It is just that I'm struck by the convergence of thought. Then there has been the whole discussion around finding a blogger's best bits. Several brilliant bloggers (among them Sinead) have suggested that I highlight my better posts. (Of course this is probably just a subtle way of saying that you have to wade through a lot of dross before you hit on some nugget worth reading!)

It would appear that in any community, there is a constant search for interesting/likeminded/kindred spirits and once that this search has been sated, the quest turns to a search for their best bits. It seems to me that there is probably some really cool software solution to this 'problem'. But I can't help thinking that the various personal solutions work just fine.

So lets give it up for the brilliant blog community in all its colours. (''Insert HTML for group hug in here'')

(**hey, Damien, how about a "Most innovative blogger" award in the next blog awards?)