Monday 28 February 2022

Skeuomorph, Co. Tipp

Skeuomorph could be an Irish townland; we live a short hop from Skeoughvosteen, Co KK which seems only marginally less unlikely as a toponym. But it is not [an Irish townland]: a Skeuomorph skeuos (σκεῦος), meaning "container or tool", and morphḗ (μορφή) "form" is the archaeological architectural fancy-word for something that retains attributes which were necessary in older forms of the object. The classical example is the fluting on the columns of Greek temples, which might be decorative representations of the fissures in the bark of the tree-trunks which held up the roof of earlier examples of that architectural form. This theory is bolstered by the appearance of carved stylized leaf-like decorations in Corinthian capitals [L] to the pillars. Biology is full of these hang-overs from ancestors: the recurrent pharyngeal nerve, 3 (three!) phalanges in the wee stub of your baby toe. There was a reason for these things once, but the conservative mills of growth and development keep churning out the parts, albeit in reduced or modified form.

I'm getting back to Tipperary! Ahenny to be precise: where there is a clatter of Celtic high crosses in the church-yard. Like the red hats on the moai of Easter Island, the North Cross at Ahenny has a sandstone top-knot which may represent a bishop's mitre. It is also missing one quadrant of decorated circle which braces the arms of the cross. Some months ago, I requested a read of The Archaeology of Early Medieval Ireland by Nancy Edwards from the library. It sat on the shelf in Bagenalstown Library expecting me to come in to collect it. But it took a message from Tramore library, in  a different, more efficient county, to tell me it was waiting. Whatevs, I snagged the book and added it to a tall stack of to-be-read literature with which I have been juggling since Christmas.

The book is available at UCC bookstore, so I guess that, despite being published more than 30 years ago, it still has utility for studenting. Although I can't imagine many students will be happy to lay out €46.40 to secure their own copy. It is certainly an academic book and the vocabulary takes no prisoners [Skeuomorp, indeed] but it is also profusely illustrated with photographs [see R], maps and archaeological drawings. Prof Edwards makes the case that the decoration owes much of its inspiration to metal-workers, who were masters of filigree and wire-working. Think about all the torcs, brooches and chalices which fill Ireland's museums: so much delicate, fussy detail far and away from the object's strict utility. 

You can just hear The Bish, instructing the poor stone mason. "see this chalice, my man, this wire-work edging is the latest thing in Armagh; I want you to include something at least as good in the cross which I have ordered". Maybe the mason rose to the challenge without grumbling; maybe he cursed the day he undertook the commission but he delivered! even the zoom in on the detail doesn't do justice to the fine-work which is a miracle in stone. Megalithic Ireland has better pictures.

Sunday 27 February 2022

Friday 25 February 2022

More 2024 firewood

It was the week of three named storms. After Arwen in November, I can only suppose that somewhere in the WEA experienced Barra and Corrie but it didn't make the news or raise a breeze in our part of the archipelago. Storm Dudley was, au contraire, certainly a secure loose objects thing. Two days later, on Friday, Storm Eunice barrelled through the Southern half of Ireland with even more fizz. The SOP after a stormy night is to check the lane for tree down at first light to see if we could go to rescue their neighbours if it was needed - indeed vice versa. Then breakfast. It was gusty all through the morning of Friday 18th Feb and about 1100hrs, during a lull in the buffet, I got out of my jim-jams [I R retire!], dressed for the outdoors and went to count the sheep and see if anything gravitational had happened over night. Nada.  But about an hour later I looked down the yard because something was aslant in the orchard.

It was a huge lump of ash Fraxinus excelsior which had broken off from our second tallest ash tree where the trunk splits into two maybe 4m off the ground. It was 30-40cm ⌀ in the base and 14m to tip of twig. Because ivy Hedera helix, it photographed as a great green wall but also because its fall had been broken by row of evergreen laurel Prunus laurocerasus coppiced from the felling of their parents in ~2008.

Much as I regret the loss of any tree, this fall was quite remarkably convenient. a) Saved us having to call Sean the Surgeon b) The last twigs merely brushed the top of the nearest woodstack c) I've been meaning to thin or pollard the laurels d) The heavy duty trunk fell parallel to, and 2m North of, the wire fence without touching it e) Winter = no leaves f) The logs, as they are cut, will be really close to where they need to be stacked!

As I R retire, I am fit poor but time rich, so there is no steaming hurry to process the wood.  Not least because two days after Eunice, Storm Franklin drove through the country on Sunday 20/Feb night. I felt we got a worse drubbing from this third-of-three storms; but you wouldn't have known it from the [lack of] twig fall around the farm. Believing in having one day/week without brrrm BRRRRM noise-pollution, I don't do machinery on Sundays. But on Monday, I fired up my little under-powered chain-saw to dismember the tree-fall into its component parts . . . resolving to stop when I got through a tank of gas.

  • Cleared ivy for the sheep so I could see where the branches were
    • No amount of PPE will protect you from a slap of laurel as you release it from tension
  • Trimmed back the laurel ends and some of the ash twigs to get access to the ash-branches
  • Cut down the oblique up-standing branches
  • Parse branches into logs-to-split; logs-as-is; loglets down to thumb-width; kindling
  • Laurel logs will take twice as long to cure, so will be stacked separately

On Tuesday, I had another session with the ch.saw cutting off and logging the remaining branches and the top 4m of trunk.

On Wednesday, before another spell of wet weather, I delivered another load of ivy to the sheep and raked all the twigs, leaves and raffle into a heap under the hedge. It's all looking quite ship-shape and bristol titties. A good chunk of split and stack to do; but like I say it's all in place for that.

Thursday morning there was a light dusting of snow but at tea-time a milky sun came out. I cleared the last of the 2016 cypress logs out of their home for the last tuthree years, rebuilt the end wall of their stack and started splitting and loading [Ash 2022] on the existing pallet. A lot done, more to do! Warm evenings in 2024 . . . if Europe as we know it survives that long.

Wednesday 23 February 2022

Grim is the underworld

Gahhhd, I spend a lot of time swiping swiping swiping unsatisfied through the back-catalogue of Borrowbox, the Irish libraries repository of audiobooks. I think you'd be pretty well server if your taste is for bodice-rippers or whodunnits but not so much if you prefer non-fiction. Nevertheless, since I discovered this capability in my SIMless smartphone in June 2020, I've been edutained by 44 earbooks (and 5 ebooks): that's better than 2/month. Given that the loan period is 20 days, I've had something on the go pretty much all that time. I've only given up on one book and that was recommended YA fiction. I guess I've reviewed most of these reads here on The Blob.

I was close to tears of rage and despair when I finished The Secret Barrister: Stories of the Law and How It's Broken (2018) book by "The Secret Barrister". This is an exposé of how the English legal system is a parody of justice from someone who has, through eloquence and hard work, on the balance of probability been responsible for miscarriages of justice. The most compelling case for this was when SB defended Bill Sykes a fat slobby smugly patriarchal father accused by his two now grown-up daughters of sexually abusing them as small children. He got off largely because at least one of the daughters had really gone off the rails as a teenager and embraced a range of anti-social behaviours including lying and telling fancifully disturbing tales at school and to the string of social workers who had served the family through the years. And of course, because the young women had no money, they were served by a random criminal barrister appointed by the Crown Prosecution Service CPS. 

Spare yourself from asking the criminal barrister's FAQ "how do you square your conscience with defending bad people?" because even fat slobby smugly patriarchal people deserve justice law just like squeaky clean you-and-me. Indeed, the ugly and scummy need good lawyers more than us because stitching up the usual suspects is one way the police can massage their conviction statistics. Beacuse, the Home Office loves statistics, benchmarks and guidelines: nobody can measure justice but the HO can insist of those at the coal-face of law meet targets. 

The SB's contemptuous rage is targetted at the targetteers: the legislators in parliament who from utterly base motives [and/or to get re-elected by people who get their opinions from the red-tops] want to be seen to be tough on crime. Tough on crime means giving mandatory six month sentences to juveniles who are carrying a knife. It's hard work and costs money to investigate why some cohorts of English society have agreed that a knife is an important accessory when you're out on The Street. And it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy when young Tyron gets well criminalized during his time in detention with much tougher slightly older desperados. But retain some of your spittle for Magistrates who are judge and jury, despite being pathetically ignorant of what the actual law of the land is . . . especially if the actual law disagrees with their choleric, blimpish, patriarchal certainties.

Further legislation has eroded the amount paid to public defenders through legal aid, so that they either take cases as loss leaders or do a perfunctory job of defense in order to keep their hourly rate above the minimum wage. Because a successful day in court is the icing on a lot more hours or days of work preparing the cake. The age profile of criminal barristers is increasing as their are fewer young recruits as the conditions [read rate of pay and hours of work] are eroded by cost-cutting by government. Everyone wants to be tough on crime, even if it means that the dispossessed get no justice. I can't begin to write about the Innocence Tax without looking for my brand and pitchfork.

Patriarchal me assumed that The Secret Barrister is a man, because the audiobook was read by Jack Hawkins. But I may be wrong, at the Oxford Union, the SB was voiced by a woman. Women can certain sure be barristers - we're not in the 19thC any more.

But then again my father used to further enrage my childish self by saying "Life isn't fair". It's a lot fairer for me than it is for the travellers down the nearest halting site.

Monday 21 February 2022

Ringstone Brochure 2022

The Knockroe Ringstone [OS Map Sheet 68 Grid Ref S827480 52.5776, -6.7815] is one field away from Shannon's Lane, the easiest route to the Mt Leinster uplands from the Scullogue Gap to the South. Part of this stone (the bottom left in the picture above) was revealed when, in November 2007, the existing 2m gateway widened to 3.8m. The original artwork was carried out 4000 years ago (in Newgrange times) when a flat-topped 5 ton granite boulder was incised with a cup-and-ring-with-chevrons design by a Neolithic artist. It is useful to view the Ringstone in the context of other rock-art in the locality. This has been documented by Chris Corlett who wrote Inscribing the landscape - the rock art of south Leinster, the definitive book on the subject. The cover  of that book features the work of The Rathgeran Master a truly wonderful incised stone, 4 km due West, on the NNW side of a hill at Rathgeran, just outside Ballymurphy.

At the end of the 18thC, the hillside was settled, the  approx. 1 hectare fields cleared and the original boulder cleaved into manageable squared off blocks that could be piled up to make stable vertical walls at each side of a gateway. The line of the wall (and presumably the gateway) is present on the 1840 ordnance survey [L], so the splitting of the Neolithic slab occurred ~1800 CE.  The 19thC stone cleavers were not indifferent to their cultural heritage. But they recognised the stone as being a suitable size, flat on one surface and having 2 or 3 almost square faces already present. The "natural" right-angles suggested that the stone had two cleaving planes at right angles which they needed to make Lego-blocks for the verticals of the gateway.  The cup & rings may have been obscured by mud and moss OR may have convinced the cleavers that the grain of the stone was uniform and fine and so would split as they wanted.  

In August 2010, under supervision of Chris Corlett, both sides of the gate-way were taken apart to get a proper look at the incised stones. From the disassembled 3-D jigsaw, it was clear that four of them could be reassembled into a single piece with a natural outside border, giving confidence that all the relevant bits of the incised face had been recovered. Three, apparently undecorated, top bits of the original gateway could also be reassembled and probably represent the rounded ‘back’ of the original boulder. After discussion over lunch (never good to hurry these things), it was agreed to reassemble the Ringstone a) vertically b) to form the end of the wider uphill wall. The back-of-the-rock fragments make up the downhill side of the gateway. In other words, now both its Neolithic and 19thC functions are fulfilled. It would be nice to say that you can’t see the join, but these are as clearly visible as the dashed line in the middle of a road. These are the marks where [oak or steel] wedges were driven into the stone to split it. 

You are welcome to visit. There are sheep so please shut any gates you find shut and leave open those you find open. Dogs, even leashed, will disturb the sheep so please leave them at home.

Sunday 20 February 2022

Nerdniks go 5k

Going going on

Saturday 19 February 2022

Today Tin Day

Posted on MetaFilter [here be comments] but you prolly don't read MetaFilter as much as me . . . 19th Feb is the 50th day of the year. If you forget to celebrate DarwinDay, you have a week to gird your loins for TinDay 50Sn being the 50th element; but don't let it go to your head. Tin is one of the metals important for future technologies [MIFT] and the spot price has tripled during Coronarama; so we need to know something about it. Tin Day seven years ago.

Tomorrow Antimony 51Sb !

Friday 18 February 2022

Front liner

 Looks like Coronarama is over?! I went to visit an old student in their place of work because I was in the neighbourhood. I masked up when I got out of the car, and (out of courtesy?) they pulled out a disposable mask and put that on. Nobody else inside the building was masked. That evening on the way home, the old chap in front of me in the line in the gas-station was unmasked and nobody chid him for it. Whatevs, I've had a very easy two years of it. I gave, and students endured, only a token handful of online classes before I was put out to grass. Literally; almost every day I've been on the home place, either occupying the sofa, as now while I write, or wandering about the fields counting sheep or trimming hedges. The inheritance of privilege is that I never felt vulnerable to infection or worried about the outcome if that should come to pass. The Boy, and his family in England, seem to have copped a 'Rona from school but even that has passed off uneventfully-ish. ICU, intubation, full metal PPE, long-covid; all seem like distant drums.

It is, accordingly, salutary to hear from the coal face which I did last week audiobooking A Nurse's Story: My Life in A&E During the Covid Crisis by Louise Curtis and Sarah Johnson. Curtis is an APC [advanced clinical practitioner] working in an anonymous A&E unit in the North of England. Johnson is an interested journalist who knocked Curtis's diary into shape as a page-turner. An APC is like a power-nurse, whose expertise and training is recognised to the extent that she is authorized to write some prescriptions . . . but not to order up some classes of tests and interventions. For that, she needs the spotty youth, fresh out of medical school, because they have an MB.

It's a rather understated account of Curtis' experience at the coal-face of the pandemic. And this has attracted some adverse comment from people who wanted a different, angrier or bloodier presentation of the pandemic and its impact. The supply failure for PPE is not used to launch a polemic against the corruption and incompetence of the British government's response. If you are gowned up, as if for Ebola, then you need to pro-actively hydrate before your shift and you're better off with a really young bladder. Because taking a drink or a leak is a major and time-consuming faff and A&Es are in their nature busy places, needing all the Effectives in place.

One thing that comes over is that the staff in A&E have seen it all "I've seen more vaginas than I've had chocolate biscuits", so your peculiar issue [or discharge] is not going to phase or disgust them. The other fact is that a subset of society occupies a disproportionate amount of collective hospital time. Each unit will have their regulars, who come back, all banged up, again and again. Drugs, homelessness and domestic abuse are problems not really in the remit of the Emergency Room to solve. The Pandemic is the catalyst for getting this story written and published but it's not really about the pandemic. It's more about every day finding resilience, compassion and competence in a metier for which most of us would be self-declared unable. Hats off, scrubs on!

Wednesday 16 February 2022


That would be the Hargila [R standing on top of a landfill] the greater adjutant stork Leptoptilos dubius. The head and neck of the adult birds are featherless because, like vultures for a similar reason, it's easier to keep clean that way. As carrionistas, they used to spend a fair bit of their time plunged  shoulder deep in an animal carcass, for dinner, like. Not so much nowadays, as it's easier to make a living scavenging at the landfill outside town. Where the birds have a truce with the scavenging humans looking for the match to a discarded shoe or anything that can be traded for food. It is perhaps mutually beneficial as the people are more efficient at turning over each ten tonne truckload of fresh trash; but they aren't so keen on a chicken carcass when it's been mixed with glark! who knows what.  The huge flaccid neck scrotum is used to make attractive sounds during the mating season.

I knew next to nothing about these birds and the near fatal change in their circumstances in my life time until I was induced to watch Hargila a 30 min filum by Gerrit Vyn from the Cornell Lab for Ornithology.

 Pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca), Indian rhinos (Rhinoceros unicornis) and tigers (Panthera tigris) attract a disproportionate amount of the limited conservation dollars . . . because you can market a soft-toy out of any of those species.

Monday 14 February 2022

12 colonels no squaddies

Charlie Bird, a leftist Irish big name journalist, has a diagnosis of motor neuron disease. MND is a horrible way to go. In the early 00s, a good pal of mine put his career on hold and came back to Ireland to care for his father after an identical diagnosis. Up until then, I'd imagined that the deficit of being unable to walk was a bummer, but perhaps surmountable. I hadn't realised that you need motor neurons to swallow. That presented a lower circle of hell to the nightmare. Our Charlie has decided to use the remaining power in his limbs to climb Croagh Patrick, Ireland's holiest high place. On 2nd April, possibly and tragically because he doubt that he'll be able for such a task on Reek Sunday [bloboprev], at the end of July; the traditional day for this arduous pilgrimage. And if your spirit and legs are willing but logistics are weak, Charlie is inviting you to walk somewhere else on that day. Preferably having shaken down your friends and relations to raise money for Pieta House, Ireland’s national suicide prevention charity and/or The Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association (IMNDA).

Okay, and fair enough. Me, I'd rather share my walk with buzzards than 100s of people but I can see that most of us need something to get us out to do something for the dispossessed because The Man is failing it big time, all the time. A few years ago, some of my actively christian neighbours elected to rehab the Cross which was constructed on the top of our hill during the Holy Year of 1950. I remember that Young Bolivar, our handy Venezuelano wwooffer went up the hill with them in 2016 when the cross was rededicated. I demurred because 20% of the party were the disagreeable neighbours to whom we haven't 'spoken' since 1999. The cross looks sprucer since the rehab meitheal - pity about the disintegrating half bag of sand, two broken pallets and a raffle of cracked plastic water containers.

At the end of January, this same neighbour announced that 1,000 people from Wexford were intending to walk up to the cross in solidarity with Charlie Bird. And that we couldn't, for shame, allow them to walk up a lane all tore up by the Christmas day flood. As Dau.II said "I don't get why people tidy the house when company is expected; I tidy up because I like living in  a clean house". Ahem, quite so. But you can't stop people who are determined on a course of action and on Thursday 03 Feb evening the county road was half covered with several loads of 1-down road gravel. Either 60 tonnes, 100 tonnes or €1,000; you choose. And we were called to spread it up the lane on the next Saturday.

Farmers are independent traders who might have €2,000,000 worth of property but earn less than the minimum wage from those acres most weeks of the year. They are not in the habit of being told what to do because they The Boss. Farmers are also, like surgeons, decisive! They get a thing done rather than piffling about over-long thinking about it. The very opposite of me for whom the perfect is always the enemy of the good enough.  Anyway, four of the neighbours turned up early each with a big front-loader on their tractor and another appeared with a venerable JCB back-hoe. Seven foot-soldiers were mustered with shovels and rakes to distribute 1-tonne loads of stuff across the lane from the heaps where the gravel was dumped. A while later, all the gravel had been brought up from the county road and parts of the lane were suitable for landing a light plane (with short wings) . . . and other parts were still a muddy mess. The pink arrow marks one such transition:

Because there had been no discussion about A Plan, there were 12 plans going on in  parallel. And nobody NOBODY would listen to me about fixing the drains before dressing the surface! But IF there isn't a big spill of rain that washes all that fixin' to buggery THEN the pilgrims may be impressed by the road surface. I await the diktat that I am to paint my front gate rather than bringing shame on the parish for that.

Sunday 13 February 2022

Sunny Days

It's been the driest January for 25 years, the antidote to the Christmas Flood

Friday 11 February 2022

Hang up the tool-belt

A tuthree days ago, I was regaling you with the tale of how I rummaged through my tool-bag and used a hacksaw to save a trip to the Emergency Room. That event happened in the first house we ever bought; which was silly-cheap in today's terms. It was the cheapest house we viewed which didn't have actual holes in the roof and pigeons in the attic. The Edwardian bed-brick terrace was built in 1905-6 and ran to 1600 sq.ft = 160 m2 including two attic bedrooms with antique glass-and-iron sky-lights. For £21,000 it needed a certain amount of fixing and we spent the next 4 years putting a lot of time and elbow-grease (and some money) into make the place more fit-for-purpose. 

Some of the tasks were finite, and could have been tasked out to a professional with experience and the right kit. Maybe that would have been better than me spending one whole Saturday making a mortice for the new front-door lock required by the new house-insurance. it's one of those things that Joe Punter does once in a life-time but a proper chippy has internalized by doing it 100s of times. OTOH, we couldn't possibly have afforded to employ someone else to paint-strip the Edwardian architraves from the big sash-windows and door-frames. You can assume that any house-paint applied before 1950 contains lead but in the late 80s we  weren't fully aware of the dangers of torching and sanding lead paint without serious haz-mat PPE, so we just used fibre face-masks and went at it. I was a lot smarter before I took a low level heavy-metal hit from many evenings on a step-ladder picking off paint chips.

I was thinking about this after my little accident. Because we/I have resolved that when you're on The Pension you should really think about laying off chores onto younger, fitter, folk. A chore being defined as something that has to be done but ain't no fun doing. So not making bread or doing the dishes or chopping firewood - these are all quietly contemplative opportunities to still the monkey in my head. But last November we hired a man, with a power-washer, to shin up a ladder and clean the gutters; and another man with other tools to sweep the chimney; and of course Sean the Tree-surgeon. These all cost folding money but we've thus done our bit to lubricate the economy.

The thing about pensioners is that many of them are time rich, even if cash-poor. That's how four of us Olds found ourselves facilitating G's move from one house to another brighter, better-built and a very short walk to the supermarket and the nearest Polski Sklep. It's on a main road, however, and new curtains were required; so Dick and me were asked to bring drills and screw-drivers. In my time I've drilled a lot of holes in a variety of materials but I assumed that Dick, being a bit older and less wussy, would own the curtain and blind installation while I fannied about doing other work. Turns out that he found it at least as stressful and tiring as I did; but that only came out when it further transpired that he's not great with heights.

That's how I [got] volunteered to install a blind for the window at the top of the stairs. It was a serial disaster. 

1) I was told that the blind was the same size as one installed earlier downstairs [it was] but I assumed that meant the window was the same width [nope]. So I drilled four holes 10cm too close to each other.

2) To get access to the side of the window that hung out over the stairwell, I found some flooring that would stretch from the windowsill to the horizontal bannister. Which is sound if the boards are fixed in place. Less so if you have to nnngggg push the drill into the wall . .  and physics dictates that the wall pushes back dragging the windowsill end of the floorboards perilously close to the edge. But not far enough to pitch me downstairs.

3) The accident happened when I stretched across the gap to step onto a chair and down to the floor. The chair went out from underneath me taking a great long bark off my shin; and I caught my head <gaDong> on the radiator going down.

4) I didn't step away but kept going to finish the task - nothing was bleeding after all and I figured if I sat down, I might fall asleep: leading to coma and death. But my four new holes were now 1cm too far apart from each other. Fakk, I'm done, I said. I could turn the whole wall into a honeycomb and still not get it right and nobody is going to be looking in through a 1st floor landing window.

Don't know about Dick, but I really should hang up my tool-belt.

Wednesday 9 February 2022

Pokey poke poke

Back in time, before the war, when I was young, we didn't have RPGs, TikTok, or virtual reality head-sets. But The Man had to sell something to The Marks to keep the world of commerce turning. Hula-hoops came round to the shops in cycles and Lego and Barbie were always with us. Viewmaster [R] was one of the peculiar appropriate technology objects / ideas which were not really as exciting as their ads would have you believe. It didn't require batteries and it didn't make noises and it did show sort-of-stereo 3-D pictures  . . . of Venice, or Alpen folks in lederhosen. But the whole experience was rather disappointing.

The redoubtable Gdau.I is now 10 going on 60 with a decidedly quirky view of what she's interested in. Like most modern kids with earning parents not at the pin of their collar, she has access to a small dribble of cash from birthdays and uncles. Last week the kidder was browsing through the local charity store and plunked down £5 for a second-hand Viewmaster and a handful of the disks which it displays. That's really retro: to pick up on a piece of kit that was peaking its trend maybe fifty sixty years ago

I surely do hope that the health and safety aspects of Viewmaster have been properly explained to the child; because a Viewmaster caused her father one traumatic evening when he was her age. Thing is that Viewmasters, after the initial 10 minutes, are kinda boring. What does a curious 10 y.o. do with such an instantly obsolete bit of kit? Fiddle and, like. poke.  They boy contrived to push in one of the viewing lenses with his pokey finger . . . because it was there. The finger slipped in easy but was seized by the sharp internal edges of the aperture.  Having gone to bed an hour before, the poor chap came downstairs again with an inconvenient lump of red plastic attached to his index finger.

It could have made an interesting variation on the object-stuck-in-orifice-presenting-to-A&E annals {ho ho} which get reported in the medical journals at each year's end {ho ho ho}. Lucky for that 10 y.o., his father had a hacksaw . . . <CW: no child was harmed in the process>. Starting with the assumption that we'd be visiting A&E, it seemed unnecessary to present with such an embarrassingly addition to the child's fist, so I ring-barked the lens stalk which contained the finger and dumped the bulk of the machine in the trash. That made a visit to hospital significantly less mortifying. But before we set off I said trust me I'm a doctor and proposed that we slip a steel letter-opener between the finger and the plastic and cut down to the hole - if necessary from two opposite sides. And it was so, although not without a certain amount of anxiety on all parts. I was only 30 y.o. myself at the time: still young enough for what could possibly go wrong here?.

Monday 7 February 2022


I have written with approval about Norman WEA Davies as a historian with a fine political ear for what people call places. I've also written an essay about the principal city of Silesia. These two threads of my blobby life came together with a clap when I ordered, and then read, all 500 pages of Microcosm: portrait of a central European city by Norman Davies and Roger Moorhouse. As a bonus there are an additional 80 pages of notes, references, appendices and indices and 80-something illustrations . . . and loadsa in-text maps.  Each of the substantive chapters uses a name appropriate to the age described: Island City; Wrotizla; Vretslav; Presslaw; Breßlau; Breslau; Wrocław. Davies is married to Maria Korzeniewicz and has lived for long time in Poland, so he has skin in the game but I don't find him without compassion for the Germans who were "repatriated" to The British Zone in the immediate aftermath of WWII. That crazy-talk is equivalent to me, a twig of Anglo-Irish stock, being invited / urged to go back where I came from. As it happens, I know the manor on the Welsh Marches, which my adventuring ancestor left for the Irish Midlands.

The take home from this book is that, for the last 100 years or more, people have been treating their neighbours like shit. And not just the Jews! Every ethnic or linguistic group that has lived on the banks of the Oder / Odra has been othered: identified, discriminated against, evicted, assaulted and killed . . . in absurd numbers and with casual, often state-sponsored brutality. The Troubles, with a death-toll of 3,000 over 30 years is in the ha'penny place; always acknowledging that there is no acceptable level of man's inhumanity to man. But 60,000 civilians died in and around Breslau between Jan and May 1945.

And not just the people, the fabric of the city was reduced to smoldering heaps in the Spring of 1945, when Festung Breslau became a designated fortress to delay the advance of the Red Army as it steam-rollered towards the Prussian heartlands and Berlin. As it happens, Hitler topped out and Berlin surrendered before the desperate survivors of Breslau. The Treaties of Yalta & Potsdam carved up Europe among the victorious allies; with the Soviet Union making the most territorial gains. It was like the Partition of Poland out of existence among the Romanovs, Hapsburgs and 1772, 1793 and 1795. These gains included annexing nearly half of what had been Poland up until 1939. The Poles living there [for centuries] were cleansed Westwards and a smaller area of was-Germany was cleared of Germans to settle them. Breslau became Wrocław and was substantively looted by the Soviets and then by the Warsaw government of Communist Poland. The central praesidium needed bricks and so sound buildings in Silesia were dismembered and shipped East. Nobody would claim Microcosm is a happy book; but it is instructive and revealing.

If you can't read the book, you can get a flavor of what it treats by reading Christian "Son" Davies' memoir about his Polish ancestors and some of the terrible things that happened to them.

Sunday 6 February 2022

Feb Fst Sun


Friday 4 February 2022

Community wheelbarrow

Beau Miles is an eponysterical running - vlogger - fixer from Oz. Me, I can only run if its downhill, but I'd be happy with being called a Fixer . . . because bricoleur is maybe too French pretentious? Anyhow, Beau was jogging with a pal when the latter tripped over a rock in the middle of the trail and buggered his ankle. Beau quixotically undertook to take wheel-barrow and crowbar back to the spot to remove the folk-felling obstacle . . . it's only 14 km! Go Beau! 

I have some form on removing obstacles from the road. It really doesn't take much a) time b) effort. But a sort of madness overtakes most car drivers - insulating them from The Others out there struggling through life's journeys.

On a related matter, my correspondent G is moving house. They've been in their current place for nearly a decade, it was almost Hobson's choice because, even in those post-crash days, it was hard to find a place to rent that could take multigeneration family and a shouty dog and was approaching affordability and was within the city limits. But how is where you make it and it's a wrench to have to leave . . . because the Irish Constitution privileges the rights of property or the rights of people. I've been struck with the shitty end of that stick in the 00s . . . yes even Patriarchal me. Finally, probably because of the imminent eviction, G has moved to the top of the the local council housing list. I am sure there are compassionate and caring people who work in the housing office; but the system is quite unbending and capricious in its bureaucratic requirements. Nothing can be removed or added to the front garden without permission, for example.

The  back/side yard is fair game, it seems. Whatevs, I was [t]asked to start the removal of a clatter of raised "flower" beds which a previous tenant had built over the concrete slab in  the far corner of the yard. After removing the rotten remains of a rabbit hutch and a raffle of crushed flower pots and plastic sacks, I was left with a tonne of cleanish soil and pebbles which had to go somewhere else. It seemed an outrage to add this to the dumpster which is ordered for next weekend; so I took it home to our farrrm.  Even a tonne of clean soil disappears when you have 7 hectares of a patrimony. Every time we came home from the New Gaff, I filled the trunk with feed-sacks full of earth but without a clear idea of exactly where this bounty was to be dumped.

But the answer was immediately apparent on arrival. Our yard was pancake flat when we moved but that was only because the vendors had contracted John Nolan the Digger to bury the many heaps of farmyard manure, broken buckets and generalised midden. Over the following 25 years, the FYM has fermented and de-gassed, causing a buckety landscape of subsidence. It has been on my mind to scrape a couple of front-loader bucketsful of soil from a corner of one of the fields and use that to build up the cavities. Less so, now because [L] I've been able to top up the most egregious fox-holes / buffalo-wallows. Arra, I should have been a dentist!

Wednesday 2 February 2022

What a difference an L makes

 I've had occasion to slag Oatly before because it is fabricated by food engineers and is mostly water . . . and increased in price by 50%! in just 4 years. I'm really sorry to feedback that the Oat Drink made by Flahavan's in Kilmacthomas Up the Déise, is thin gruel compared to Oatly; which is holding its own as original and best for the half of Chez Blob which has gone all dairy-free. 

Clearly Flahavan's has not been alone in witnessing the frothy rise of Oatly huge mark-up and decided cor, we could have some of that. and jumping on the me-too gravy-train. A couple of years ago siblings Philip and Rebecca Rayner who run Glebe Farm Foods, in Cambridgeshire, England, launched their own brand PureOaty and prepared a large chest to store the money as it rolled in. Not so fast, said Oatly's fancy lawyers - you are not only coat-tailing on our great idea, you are also infringing our copyrights and trade-marks. The British courts have now found in favour of Oaty the home-grown producers and sent Team OatLy back to Sweden where they started. It doesn't work like that in tech: if the Rayner's were e-selling some product or service on the Internet, it would be absolutely expected that they'd have an exit strategy involving selling out FAANG and retiring early.

Oatly is in the news for another reason this week having aggravated the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) in Britain. Not content with selling £50,000,000 'worth' of water-with-a-hint-of-oats, Oatly decided to grow their market with a series of ads making exaggerated and inaccurate greenwashing claims about their whitewash. tsk, it's enough to turn a bloke to milk.