Friday 12 July 2024

Small but perfickly formed

Earlier I was writing about how well we'd done this year w.r.t. processing the traditional hay-meadow into, like, hay. But the title to that piece Haircuts All Round, was a very partial account. 

In parallel this year we found, hidden in plain sight in the next village a traditional hay-mower. Years ago, when we first blew in, there was a agéd farmer who could still wrastle a pair of horses into harness and have them draw a plough to turn sod. We came this ⇐⇒ far from getting him up to work for us, but it never happened and then he died. Séan The Mow is about my age and owns an MF135 tractor which is older than any of our children. It's super-dinky and he's super careful. Young chaps with big tractors tend to race around like it was a cross-country rally both on road and off- [Séan's opinion]. 

For small buckety field with doubtful margins, tearing around is a recipe for >!kerChang!< broken kit when, say, a mowing bar meets a lump of granite which has tumbled off the field boundary into the long grass. We have two fields on the far side of the world lane which we really need for grazing between {15 Apr and 01 Jul} when the main paddocks are going All Trad.  Being under-stocked, these fields tend to grow bracken Pteridium aquilinum and rushes Juncus ?effusus. In 2022, it took me 2½ hours to scythe the most bracken-jungly small corner of one field. I was only 68 then - a fit young stripling; but as an annual solution it's barely sustainable. Séan did the whole field in the same time: bracken thistles rushes gorse and miscellaneous thatch all together. See [L] that could, the little MF135 taking it handy. Being so small means that the tractor can e a s e  its way through any small gate no matter how tight the turn, and also up a real narrow uneven slope between two trees to reach the top step of the field.

Part of the contract was to mow a sadly neglected heritage apple orchard at the bottom of the field over the lane. [Above] you can see Séan making a start on that task. His fully extend rig is less than half the width of the Big Boys Tonka Toys which were roaring around the bigger fields. Volume is the cube of linear dimensions, so those tractors are 2 x 2 x 2, call it 10x the size of the humble MF135:

  • MF135 45 horsepower = 31kW; 1.4 tonnes in her socks
  • Claas Arion 630 = 121kW; 6.6 tonnes

Apart from anything else, the bigger tractor is nearly 4x more powerful but 5x heavier and will compact the soil that much worse. Leaving the footprint which will absorb less rain and send the water down hill to cause flash floods downstream as well as ripping out the pearl mussels Margaritifera margaritifera and riparian trees. This MF135 is held together, literally, with baler-twine and, metaphorically, with prayer. The inset shows the lucozade bottle half full of bar oil which miraculously sits on a I-beam above the PTO - convenient to its task. No matter how lumpy the field or pot-holey the road to the job, this bottle never bounces out of its trough to be lost.

Wednesday 10 July 2024

Haircuts all round

Last week was a Festival of Cutting. Starting with getting the sheep shore at very short notice but before there was a risk of fly-strike and the other perils to which unshorn sheep are Summer hostages.

A good few years ago, we designated our four largest fields [total area 11 acres =  4½ ha.] "traditional hay meadows". Apart from making a statement in a determined voice, all that is required is keeping grazers and mowers off the meadow between 15th April and 1st July each year. The reasoning is that, because so many dicot / ungrass wild flowers blossom and set seed in that part of the early Summer, not-mowing will give a boost to biodiversity. Not only the directly affected flowering plants but any species-specific invertebrates and whatever eats / parasitises them in turn. It is quite wonderful at Solstice time to get down among the seed-heads and find orchids and forget-me-nots and clovers under the bright yellow top-storey.

Last year I trimmed the field margins of brambles and in-bleeding ferns with my scythe to encourage the mowers to get closer to the field edge. But quel désastre! the fields weren't mowed as soon as the bracken had dried off and blown away . . . they weren't mowed until October! A sorry sequence of equipment break-down, parts-unavailability, crappy weather, a dose of illness, more crappy weather, a bereavement and more rain put the hay well beyond its best-before. Indeed, a combination of spite and ignorance saw the-field-over-the-river being left unmowed at all at all. As tractorless blow-ins we are dependent on our neighbours and contractors to cut and ted and bale . . . and plough and harrow and till, come to that. 

After last year's debacle, on 1st July prompt, TB The Farrrmer  went to ask whether our most recent cutting-and-baling neighbour was up for it again. He, poor fellow, is going through the wars healthwise and is in any case downsizing as he approaches retirement. So that was a No. But within a couple of hours, possibly on account of arriving bearing cake, a new neighbourly contractor was lined up. And two days later, well after the end of any 9to5 working day [farmers, remember] a medium-to-mighty sized green tractor drove through the yard and started to fell the grass [see above L]. He finished before midnight but after we'd all gone to bed. The following evening, subcontractors with mighty-to-huge rigs came through the yard to ted [turn and gather] and bale and wrap the barely wilted grass+wildflowers:

With the tedding sprongs out-spread, the gatherer-of-windrows is almost as wide as our polytunnel but the arms fold up so that the rig can fit through a standard 12ft = 3⅔m farm gateway. If that gateway has overhanging branches, all bets are off. I was advised to trim back a rather lovely birch Betula pubescens which I had [foolishly?] planted near the gate into the Home Field. These giant machines went through that gate with a handspan to spare on each side. But, because enormous, they went about the task lickety-spit . . . not great in the corners but super-efficient on a straight run. The baler loads up two spools of wrapping plastic which are 1500 m (!) long but still heftable by one person: it's 25μm thick.

We have learned the hard soft squidgy way to insist on getting bales off the field asap after cutting. The one year we left them in a corner until they were sold / required, the getting turned that corner into a set for Passchendaele 1917 from which it never recovered. Accordingly the bales went off  that night before twilight turned to full darkness. Big sighs of relief and a glass of plonk to celebrate a timely resolution to 2024's hay problem.

Monday 8 July 2024

De gritting

1978 is a long time ago, but I was there. Where? Working in Diergaard Blijdorp in Rotterdam. I was hired as an extra hand while we /they set up the World's Greatest Aquarium Exhibition. One of the consequences is that I know loadsa Dutch words related to aquariums, fish, water [dekruit, verversen, koraalduivel, schoonmaken, zeemen] for which I draw a blank entirely in English. Dekruit is the pane of glass laid on top of an aquarium to stop the fish jumping out and crap falling in. 

One of my regular tasks was water-verversen which required siphoning out a third of the water in a tank and replacing it with fresh water. At the same time I had to look to the water filters replacing the filterwatten = polyester batting at each end of the filter; and like the water, changing a portion of the activated charcoal with fresh. It would be a, possibly fatal, shock to the system to replace all the water or all the charcoal all at once. Activated charcoal is as much a rich microbial ecosystem as my sourdough starter.

The submersible pump at the bottom of our bore-hole finally died this Spring after 28 years of reliable service. We were a week using old-fashioned rain-water in buckets but then got a new pump + pressure-cylinder + pipes + cables + switches + filter. 

The [miserable, incompetent, acursed] original plumber (we are now on our fifth!) installed a grit-filter . . . on the line which went from the pressure cylinder to one of the sheds. Any sand in the system went straight into the house where it a) wore out the tap washers and b) covered the bottom of the header-tank with nearly an inch = 2½cm of fine white sand. It was plumber #3 who figured this out and moved the filter further up the system . . . so it actually worked where needed. It was Younger Bob who bent double in the attic one afternoon and siphoned the sand out of the header tank. There's some suction in a 6 m fall! Younger Bob also developed the habit of cleaning the filter but then stopped because a) there was no more grit in the bore hole (??) b) he was a-feared of ripping the whole filter away from the steadily greening copper pipe to which it was attached.

Seems that the grit-filter, in a recently disrupted bore-hole, needs to be cleaned about once a month. We know something is amiss when the kitchen faucet starts to wimp out to a dribble rather than a manly gush-forth. 1st of July, I was Home Alone, and went for the filter with a couple of buckets of clear clean water and a bottle-brush. The Before and After picture above shows what can be achieved with 10 minutes of gentle scrub-a-dub-dub. And yes we are back to full-pressure.

Sunday 7 July 2024

Grifting the croft

Whaaa's happenin'?

Saturday 6 July 2024

Proxy Vote

The country next door, still masquerading, in medieval cos play, as An Kingdom just had a general election. I was born there, grew up there, and left there more or less as soon as I was old enough to vote. After college in Dublin, and Grad School in Boston, I returned there at the age of 29, for the first of all the short term contracts along which my "career" has teetered. We lived in Geordieland for the next 7 years and I must have voted in the General Election of 1987 but I have no memory of doing so. With no help at all from me, or any of our friends-and-relations, Margaret Thatcher and the Conservative Party won a third term at the helm of government.

By the time the next election came round, we'd moved back to Ireland, and were a-voting in a pluralist democracy and a republic. But I've paid attention to UK elections partly because I have family [ancestral, collateral and descendant] over there; and partly because economic and political decisions over there do have impact over here - Brexit for starters. At the moment I have voting-age family in four, maybe five, different English constituencies. I sent them an exhortation early on Thursday morning to "Vote Early and Vote Often" and suggested [quip clipped from Metafilter] an appropriate beverage after polling might be a bottle of Sangre de Tory. I think "we" have helped to see off the Conservatives. It's hard to take the thing seriously when the results are announced [here knocking the stuffing out of Tory Leader hopeful Penny Mordaunt] by a chap in a great frilly bib like it was all a Restoration comedy ca. 1670.

At least in Stroud and Didcot, Conservatives have also lost their seats. Thanks Fam!

  • STROUD: 2024 LAB 46% CON 26% - 2019 CON 48% LAB 42%
  • DIDCOT: 2024 LIB 40% CON 28% - 2019 CON 51% LIB 32%
  • BATH: 2024 LIB 41% LAB 18% - 2019 LIB 55% CON 31%
  • HACKNEY 2024 LAB 60% GRN 23% - 2019 LAB 70% CON 12%

If you care, there is plenty of data to crunch and opinion to ignore out there. Starting with Wikipedia, whence I have culled the numbers in the list above. Here in Ireland we elect our pluralist democracy using STV proportional representation, it is not without its problems - not least round after round of counting. In the UK, they blast through, starting immediately after polling stations close at 22:00hrs, pulling an all-nighter and getting a very good idea of who has won before breakfast and everything ironed out by lunchtime. Counting efficiency aside, I'll just draw your attention to the egregious disenfranchising consequences of continuing to operate on a Winner Take All protocol in single seat constituencies. 

There is a clear trend in the data here: more votes == more seats in parliament but in the detail it is crazy unfair. Democracy requires that if more people vote for such-an-outcome, even if that outcome is contrary to my druthers, then the majority gets the win. Even if that outcome is sexist, racist, ageist, fascist or murderist. In the Election on 4th July 2024, the inequity and iniquity of the British electoral system is high-lighted by the bum's-rush meted out on the (dreadful populist racist) Reform UK bund of Nigel Farage. They secured 14% of the countrywide votes and only got 4 MPs elected . . . the same as the Greens with less than half their tally of votes. Contrariwise, the Liberal Democrats, with many fewer [85% of] votes than Reform, nevertheless got 71 seats (18x more than Reform). And the Conservatives have seen the biggest loss of seats since records began despite getting 2/3 as many votes as Labour. [note added in press, Reform secured a 5th seat late in the day; but my analysis of unfairness stands]

British rellies: you do you, of course; but surely it's time to move along from a) a Monarchy b) a manifestly undemocratic democracy c) frilly bibs and tricorn hats except in costume dramas.

Friday 5 July 2024

counting sheep

I do this every day, several times a day.  But I certainly do not do it yan tan tethera methera pimp . . . because no spik Brythonic. Then again, there is never a circumstance in which I wag my finger going one two thr for fiv six sev ate nin ten . . . 

There was a shock of recognition when I found myself watching The Real (Weird) Way We See Numbers 16m on YT. Dunno how I've missed this Be Smart channel of Dr Joe Hanson because the fellow has 5 million subscribers and it should be my jam. That is almost exact 1 million times more than there are subscribers to The Blob. Hanson lays out the idea that we absorb a gestalt insta-clock for 1, 2, 3 probably 4, possibly 5 items but beyond that we are reduced to counting. We know, for example, that the plate with three buns is more fattening than the plate with one bun. Indeed, herrings and magpies can many manage that life skill as well as we can.

When it comes to larger numbers, you need a much bigger difference to be confident about which plate is the plate-of-power. 4 petit-fours vs 6 ditto? no problem. But 40 M&Ms vs 60 M&Ms? that is a punt that at least some of us will fluff.

Mais revenons à nos moutons . . .  if I'm lucky, the to-be-counted sheep are gathered in a shady corner burping up their cud for another go round. They like to hang out together with particular pals / rellies closer than their frenemies. Depending on the scatter, I do something like

  • 4 + 4 + 4 + 3 = 15
  • (4 + 2) + (4 + 4) + 1 = 15
  • (3 + 4) + (4 + 4) = 15
  • (2 + 4) + (3 + 4) + 1 . . . where is she? I bet she's gone all betty-no-pals AGAIN behind the gorse clump . . . + 1 = 15

(2 + 3) + 5 + (3 + 2) [✓] And, yes, I do count twice - especially if I get 15 the first time

Wednesday 3 July 2024

Hochschule für Gestaltung

Some tags sound better auf Deutsch, oder?  We turn to German for solid - dependable - engineering - think Audi's Vorsprung durch Technik . . . although that slogan was brought to life by an English advertising exec called John "BBH" Hegarty. I learned German for a year in school and built up an impressive vocabulary by obsessive rote-learning - grammar, not so much. I clocked gestalt as one of those words like saudades and hiraeth which fails to translate well into another language; for me it means look-and-feel. Later I learned about Gestalt Psychology which values a holistic rather than reductionist [boo, science] view of the world and our place in it. Gestaltung means Design in its broadest sense.

In Hillary Cottam's iconoclastic book Radical Help, I caught a rec for Hello World: where design meets life by Alice Rawsthorn. This book is a polemic for adopting a holistic view of design. It's not enough to look sleek; things we use have to be handy, and fit-for-purpose; price is important but cheap shouldn't be in the driver's seat. Especially not if cheap requires exploitation of workers and the environment. It may be a deliberate ironic meta-comment but the book is hideous to behold! The gutter margin is a mean 18mm and the page-numbers and running titles are stuck down in there in micro-font. The outside margins are a miserly 7mm. Winnie-the-"bear of little brain"-Pooh would be at a loss, let alone Fermat with his Hanc marginis exiguitas non caperet. At least it is typeset in Helvetica.

Thonet N.14 is an iconic bentwood bistro chair produced by Gebrüder Thonet since the 1860s. It is an engineering / design marvel able to support the most capacious bottoms for long enough to down a coffee and croissant, and yet be light enough for a child to carry. But design threads through the whole life of this product. It was flat-pack 100 years before Ikea: 36 de-constructed chairs could be shipped in a 1 m3 box with room to spare for the 10 screws and 2 washers required for each assembly.

The Braun electric toothbrush, not so much? Braun coming to Carlow in 1974 was one of the early coups of the IDA. At peak, 1,400 people were employed in the town making hair-dryers. One of the reasons for locating there, then, was the establishment of the Regional Technical College RTC in the town in 1970. Braun was famous for the design of its products (shavers, audio-kit, toasters) which owed a lot to the standards and aesthetics of Dieter Rams.

But Rawsthorn faults Braun for an electric toothbrush which wrought a miracle for the maintenance of her teeth BUT shipped in an enormous box embedded in polystyrene and had no sensible end-of-life disposal protocol. Also it took 16 hours to charge the machine so that it could operate for 2 x 2 minutes each day. That's crap design because it's off-laying so many of the costs of production, distribution and disposal on the planet. It is poor design to have all your iAccessories made in the PRC and your shirts cut and assembled in Bangladesh because wages are less.

Shown left is Alvar Aalto's iconic 1933 Artek No 60 Stool. 90 years old and still supporting bottoms - with a little more austerity than Thonet No.14. That's what most of us would consider good design: "form ever follows function" as Louis Sullivan put in 1896. We just need to adopt a broader view of "good" in design generally: cost? exploitation? sustainability? disposal?.

Hello World? Stick with it. I learned a lot about stuff to which I normally wouldn't pay much attention. That's because I affect to be above fashion, trends and stuff. But if we embrace the Rawsthorn hypothesis that design is everything, then how things look becomes integral to how things work and we should accept nothing but the best.

Monday 1 July 2024

Shorn the Sheep

Farmers are immersed in uncertainty but, like surgeons, have to live by their decisions. Actually for surgery, it's the patients who live (or die) by that decisiveness.  In farming, you may go out of business if you knock the hay just before a month of rain but nobody is going to die. Sometimes the prices at the mart seem derisory but you have to sell anyway. And sometimes in farming, good judgment and good fortune and good weather pay off and you make so much money your accountants have to dig up some losses allowable expenses, lest The Revenue takes all the fun out of your Win.

As tractorless, barely competent, micro-farmers (7 ha. 15 sheep), we are prone to a whole other layer of powerlessness. Last year, the grass (and other excitingly diverse species) in our 4x traditional hay meadows didn't get knocked till October! Irish weather runs to rain, or at least drizzle, so when a window of several consecutive dry days is forecast then everyone wants the mower, tedder, baler and wrapper in that order and Now. Mowers-for-hire would rather do big flat fields with good road access . . . so small places like ours get queued last. Then, last year, our preferred mower's tractor blew a cylinder-head gasket and was out of commission for weeks. Eventually, he had to sub-contract the job to someone else, who was fully busy elsewhere etc. etc. Consequencely late mowing, over-grazed other fields, unexpected payments. But at least nobody, and no sheep, died.

With shearing, it's a welfare issue. The price of wool is rock-bottom for the 3rd or 4th year in a row (and perhaps from here on out) at ~20c / kg - less than a tenth what it has been during our tenure on the farrrm. It's barely worth the petrol to haul the bale of fleece into the co-op for sale. But the sheep must be shorn anyway lest they pass out from heat stroke or get fly-struck or roll over get backed and unable to rise the ground. As with getting grass knocked, everyone wants the shearer at the same time and it's the same work to set up the shearing platform and oil up the shears for 15 sheep as it is for 150. 

Last night at tea-time Paddy-the-Clip, our heroic and dependable shearer from just the other side of the hill, called to say he could come, like, Now.  With the sheep-welfare issue and small-return for appearance issue, the Shearer takes precedence over tea, Dowager Duchesses, family zoom-calls, Full Colonels, favorite TV shows, Minor Eastern Potentates and The Match. Accordingly we dropped everything and mustered a) the shepherd's marker-and-meds bucket b) the longest extension lead c) my blue-marker-stained combats and . . . d) the sheep. 90 minutes after the call, the sheep were all lighter by a fleece and we were lighter by a wodge of folding money. Somebody cracked open a bottle of fine red wine to mark the occasion of getting the fleeces off before the dreaded bot-fly got on. Win!

Sunday 30 June 2024

End Jun Mixum

The Feast of St Martial of Aquitaine: just so y'know.

Friday 28 June 2024

Norwegian cheese

 For a while now, I've been a total TRIP groupie: The Rest is Politics is a podcast where Alastair Campbell (Lab.) and Rory Stewart (Con.) agree to disagree agreeably. We spent the Bloomsday weekend in Dublin, jest hangin', with Dau.I and Dau.II who are bunking together in D7. On Monday we went on a site-visit to the branch where Dau.I is currently Senior Assistant Librarian. We were there to bust her out of work for lunch, but I went browsing the This Just In shelves and came away with three (3) books. 

Having galloped through Rory Stewart's recentbio in May, it seemed only parity-of-esteem fair to read But What Can I Do? Why Politics Has Gone So Wrong, and How You Can Help Fix It by Alastair Campbell. Campbell is a prolific writer (and reader) of books, mostly about politics but he has interesting things to say about mental health [full metal mental breakdown 1986], sport [did I tell you I played soccer with Maradona] and leadership. This book can be read as a primer for (young) people who want to Do Something about the evil which stalks the land. Pick your evil, whatever riles your goat: bees, fitness, Gaza, housing, Маріуполь, mental health, period poverty, school dinners, sleep hygiene. Don't spread yourself too thin; keep focus; pick your battles

The first third of the book sets the stage for the post-truth world in which we now endure. In 1994, after another rotten in the state scandal in British politics, John "PM" Major set up a committee to set standards in public office. Thereafter everyone would know what was not okay chaps. The first chair was an eminent son-of-Kerry top judge Michael Nolan and the Nolan Principles set out the requirements for those who wished to serve: selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership. It is worth three minutes of your time to go through the executive summary, even if you only run an after-school ping-pong club.

eee but Cambell loves his lists and his acronyms. GGOOB getting good out of bad is his watchword for thinking positive in adversity. He cites a number of highly successful people HSP? who reckon that they were made by their set-backs. Operationally, he suggests that problems / campaigns can be more effectively approached by separating Objective and Strategy from Tactics. He was recently invited to inspire a group of Norwegian business leaders: that's when he learned that OST is the Norwegian for cheese. Each chapter in the second (how you can help fix it) and third (taking the next step) part of the book ends with summary bullet points of advice for wannabees.

You can't keep a successful author from churning them out: agents, publishers, and publicists require it. Campbell's latest ventures are a brace of kids' books: Little Experts: Why Politics Matters for primary school children, and Alastair Campbell Talks Politics for teens. Available in August.

Big shout-out to/for Fiona Millar, Campbell's power behind the throne and a person in her own right. She stuck by her man when he was being insufferably ambitious, when his life imploded and when he gave up The Dhrink. Here they are [50m] talking about their journey.

Wednesday 26 June 2024

Self medication

My bestie from Grad School dropped by for a visit on her way back to Boston from Germany.  She has not been to visit for 25 years, and our last facetime was in Summer 2014. One of the hazards of international travel is that, mask or nomask, you have to sit for several hours in an aluminium incubator tube with several hundred randomers. You need a pretty robust immune system to fight off the air-borne assault of millions of spittle-drops harboring billions of viruses and we are neither of us as young and fit as we were in the the 1980s.  

Upshot is that, over the weekend, a <cof> snot and sniffle situation developed. She was flying out on Tuesday and we agreed on Bank Holiday Monday that, if they could be obtained, some anti-histamines and a cough-suppressing elixir [as R] might make the difference between getting back to Boston as scheduled and . . . not doing so. Now pharmacists, and especially pharmacy technicians [who work damned hard facing a tetchy and demanding public six days a week, but don't get paid as much as The Boss] deserve a day off. If I ruled the country, I would go back sixty years when pretty much all shops and premises were closed of a Sunday. Call me judgemental but there's something amiss if the best that people can do at the weekend is to mooch down to the Mall and buy shoddy gim-crack which nobody needs and won't bring happiness or utility once acquired. But folks do get sick over the weekend. Not mortal call-the-doctor sick, let alone opt to spend many hours in the <cof> <cof> miasma of emergency care at the nearest hospital. 

It is a known thing that in any sufficiently large community, one of the pharmacies in rotation will be open for a couple hours before lunch on Sunday. Accordingly, I fired up the Interweb to discover a) whether Enniscorthy was a sufficiently large community b) which was the designated pharmacy on that Bank Holiday Monday. Well damme if I could discover that information.  I phoned McCauleys which has been gobbling up independent pharmacies across the Sunny South East but their phone robot tellingly offered: for the pharmacy press 1; for beauty products press 2; for photography press 3; . . . for hot water bottles press 9. Drugs and band-aids may still be the core business in Irish pharmacies but the wage-bill is paid by sunscreen, mascara and deodorant. I spent a l o n g time on hold after press 1

I then called CareDoc on the assumption that they could / should be a clearing house for out-of-hours medical care. They offered a menu and the advice that, if it was URGENT then call 999. It wasn't urgent and I would have sat on hold for a l o n g time IF I'd been confident that CareDoc would be the key. I wasn't that confident, so after 5 minutes I hung up and called the Gardai. If I was running the show, the pharmacists would sort out who was on call and then inform the Gardai. The Guards picked up quick enough, and the answerer agreed that it would be handy to have that information available on her desk but it wasn't.

It is possible the the Irish Pharmacy Union and/or the Pharmaceutical Association of Ireland, has a policy or standard operating procedure for ensuring minimal access to pharmacy products over the weekend but I haven't been able to figure it out.  I turned instead to La Torbellina de Tenerife our highly effective, highly networked neighbour across the valley. Her response? "Enniscorthy is rubbish. I'm much better connected in New Ross. Indeed, I am even at this moment on my way to the next village over and I'll pick you what you need in Ross. Wait, I have antihistaminics here in the house, I'll drop them up before I go".  So we sorted our non-urgent but important care issues in a timely fashion. But only because we have an accomplished magician in our midst.

The IPU and PAI have a case to answer and a policy to roll out.

Monday 24 June 2024

Go back where you came from

A curious collision of two different feeds occurred the day after my birthday. Over the last few years, I have slumped into a ritual of checking the headlines from RTE every day before breakfast. You may imagine that, as a protestant with a very expensive education, a cold bath before breakfast would be more my (bracing) style. I did try a cold bath once or twice in my youth in the sense of try anything once except morris-dancing and incest [whc quote prev]. But as a habit, it never took. 

So the RTE headline which arrested my attention was Law to strip citizenship to be enacted before Dáil summer break. Helen McEntee the FG Minister of Justice, is presumably bringing this before cabinet for their appro as a way of garnering a headline now, followed by some extra votes from her Othering constituency come the next election. This lamentable thin-end of a wedge is presumably informed by the sorry case of Shamima Begum a Brit who left school and country at 15 to support the Islamic State in Syria. Shamima got married out there, had three children who died, and returned home chastened, not to say battered, by a series of unfortunate events / choices. The UK passed the Nationality and Borders Act in 2022, so facilitate the ejection of undesirables.  The Act allows the Home Secretary to revoke citizenship if the 'perp' is eligible for some other citizenship. According to a UK Tribunal, Bangladesh, whence Shamima's parents came, would allow Begum to apply for citizenship through them. According the Bangladesh, that is just not true (and they don't want her).

The other feed-floater which crashed up against The Minister's certainties was a quote from celebrity US film critic Roger Ebert (18Jun1942 - 04Apr2013) [bloboprev "The ability of so many people to live comfortably with the idea of capital punishment is perhaps a clue to how so many Europeans were able to live with the idea of the Holocaust: Once you accept the notion that the state has the right to kill someone and the right to define what is a capital crime, aren't you halfway there?

Ahem, quite so! Even without this new strip-citz legislation, I have been invited by a forty-shades-of-green-washing colleague to "Go back where you came from" when I shared that my ancestors were horse-riding protestants. One of the delights of my boring Anglo patriarchal existence is the ethnic diversity of my acquired family - adding French, Lebanese, Toubou, Punjabi spices to my Scots, Irish, Welsh stodge. Presumably The Minister, confident that her new law would only be applied in very limited circumstances cannot imagine circumstances where members of my family will be Nakba-ed out of their right to remain because they failed a freckle count.

A civilized society
works on / with / for its hard cases
it doesn't kill expel them

Don't forget Martin Niemöller: Zuerst kamen sie . . . When they came for the socialists etc. bloody etc.

Sunday 23 June 2024

Sankt Hans Afen

You're allowed to have a bonfire tonight [you'll never take me alive surveillance drones!] because it is the eve of the feast of St John the Baptist. Festa de São João do Porto or Fogueres de Sant Joan, Alicante It's the solstice counterpoise to Christmas.

Friday 21 June 2024

Traditional Hay Meadow

It's nice to be incentivized for something you'd be doing anyway. Like when I was sent on a chainsaw use and maintenance course as a brand-new member of the Irish Timber Growers' Association and came away with safety chaps, helmet, gloves and boots and a cheque for £178 from Social Welfare for taking a week off from "productive investments" on the farrrm. It is, so, a farm . . . with a herd number for the 15 sheep, and finely-coloured informative satellite maps of each field on-line at the Dept Ag in Dublin. We don't need to make money from the farm - which serves other purposes for us, like raising a brace of honest, can-do, effective humans to adulthood. 

The idea of incentives is based on a certainty that particular policy is good for the polity. As a tax-payer, as well as a recipient of some of the gumment's largesse, I'd like to think that Agricultural policy decisions are evidence based rather than an idea cooked up in an office in Dublin and not subject to peer-review. We used to know an Nth-generation sheep-raising family from County Wicklow. In the 1960s, they had been encouraged by a man from the ministry to knock down all the 19thC stone out-buildings and replace them with modern, space-efficient, galvanised steel hay-barns. They sort of knew where all cut-stone lintels and sills were buried but were not (yet) cash-strapped enough to dig them up and sell on to architectural salvage.

From about the same Big Ag in Ireland began its love-affair with Lolium perenne ; Seagalach buan ; perennial rye-grass. Careful research from back then established that cattle fed on rye-grass delivered more meat and/or more milk than any other diet in the study. I guess there were parallel experiments proving that a ryegrass monoculture yielded more tonnes per hectare than anything else available /imaginable. Especially in a world where unlimited cheap nitrogen was availble in pellets. In the Animal Farm mentality of the time, if ryegrass is good, everything else must be bad and herbicidal sprays were developed to kill all the 'weeds' or at least all the dicots: chekkitout 2,4-D aka 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid which was one of the components of Agent Orange. And we know how well that cunning plan worked out?

Two generations of family farms have been told (resistance in useless) that monoculture Lolium perenne is the only way forward; the only way to be financially viable for the next two generations. In the last five years, there has been a complete volte face, and Joe and Josie Farmer can now get extra money for leaving their hay meadows uncut for an anxiety-inducing long time.  'tis a rare farmer who saves, like, actual, hay nowadays. Hay needs a whole family and the neighbours as well; not to mention a predictable week ahead of dry settled weather. Silage otoh needs a single effective to operate in sequence a mower, a baler and a polythene wrapper.

But for us, this is Our Scheme: leaving the meadows uncut between 15-Apr and 01-Jul generates €50/ha a spectacular vista of wild flowers; best viewed on your knees. Dactylorhiza maculata the heath spotted orchid [2023] is only the bonus cherry on the cake of colour. Last year, our Ag Advisor was delirah to find so many of the positive indicator species so abundant that he could tick enough of the boxes on the checklist to ensure that we got maximum payment . . . for that small part of the €quation. 

It seems that we have become Best In Valley for Trad Hay Meadow and on the 1st Thursday in June we were volunteered to host a KTG Knowledge Transfer Group meeting to show our neighbours how it  can be done. Fair enough, happy to help. It caused a mild frisson of anxiety when I gathered at short notice that, as well as a table for the paper-work and 20ish seats to listen to the technical introduction, I should also provide tea (and cake, or at least biscuits). The picture above shows 20 bemused farmers aged 30 to 80 standing in a field up to their knees in 'dirt' [technical term] and being told with a straight face and earnest delivery that hay-rattle Rhinanthus minor gliográn,  sheep sorrel Rumex acetosella Samhadh caorach, and stitchwort Stellaria graminea tursarraing bheag were highly desirable harbingers of healthy stock and deliverers of micro-nutrients.

Additional irony: in order to access this field everyone had walked past and ignored the TRADITIONAL HAY MEADOW PLEASE KEEP TO LEFT FIELD EDGE sign, the back of which can be seen in the top right corner of the picture. 

When the midges got insupportable, everyone trooped back to the yard for tea and cake. I believe this was the 1st of 10 KTG meetings, for which all regular participants can claim a PPD personal professional development payment. Bob's Famous Flapjacks and a rather nice brack with cherries, sultanas and marzipan cubes were much appreciated. Hopefully the exercise will induce some of these strong silent farmers to discover their inner chef, rather than buying two packets of Marietta biscuits for company as usual.

refs: The official guide to indicator species

Wednesday 19 June 2024

oof oeufs

 In the preface to his 1490 printing of the Aeniad, Wm Caxton set in motion the unification of the speech (or at least the writing) of anyone who lived in England. In my dayes happened that certayn marchautes were in a ship in Tamyse for to haue sayled ouer the see into Zelande  and for lacke of wynde thei taryed atte Forlond. And wente to lande for to refreshe them And one of theym named Sheffelde a mercer cam in to an hows and axed for mete, and specyally he axyed after eggys And the good wyf answerde, that she coude speke no frenshe. And the marchaut was angry, for he also coude speke no frenshe, but wolde haue hadde egges and she understode hym not. And thenne at laste a nother sayd that he wolde haue eyren then the good wyf sayd that she understood hym wel. Loo what sholde a man in thyse dayes now wryte, egges or eyren, certainly it is harde to playse euery man, by cause of dyuersite & chauge of langage. Nope, we're not talking about these eggs:

They tooo small, they robin's eggs! making their start in life in a little-used letterbox in Waterford: the parents devoutly hoping that their reprodustive hopes didn't get sliced in a rain of unwanted election flyers. I'm sure robin's eggs are more or less the same as Ballyfree eggs but it requires a lot more to make an omelette. 

I am here rather to share some newly acquired knowledge about reading commercial eggshells. New to me; I daresay you've known all about these eggy life-skills for years. Since shortly after the Rose Fitz-Kennedy Bridge opened we have discovered a rural rat run through Rathgarogue, Co WX, which allows us to by-pass New Ross altogether and shave 10 minutes off the journey time from Chateau Blob to The Déise. Bonus is that there is an honesty-box supply of organic free-range eggs [€2.50 / six] just at the Northern edge of the village. Turns out that we've been missing a trick because organic eggs is a mere sideline to their core pork and bacon business

We had a cock-up on the commissariat front recently and had to buy eggs from, like, A Shop. There is a heckuva lot of reading on a modern shop-bot egg: almost as diverting as a corn-flake packet. Even apart from the sell-by date. One egg was stamped 0 IE R 178A and another from a different source had 1 IE R 150. This is clearly a Good Thing mandated by Brussels to promote food traceability and quality control. Because I can't see Big Egg offering to purchase an automatic egg-ID stamper seeing it rather as drain on share-holder value. This quite apart from any suggestion that Egg Capitalism would be interested in foisting peculiar-eggs sourced in . . . Britain on the unsuspecting EU consumer. I've no idea how egg-labelling goes down in Germany or Portugal but I am tickled that some EUrocrat noted that their are 26 counties in the Republic and matched each county, sorted alphabetically in English, to one letter of the Roman alphabet. On a very small 'sample' I deduce the Monaghan [R] is the epicentre of Peak Egg in this country. The rest of the ID 150 or 178A is a unique code for each producer. Rathgarogue gets a derogation on each-egg labelling presumably because, selling a few dozen eggs a day, it would take them 30 years to pay off the loan required to buy a modern egg stamper. Each box is stamped with their producer's ID. 

More: IE is obvs from context Ireland and the first digit is a code for chicken welfare:

  • 0: organic
  • 1: free range
  • 2: barn
  • 3: cage
You do you, not gonna judge you. but in reality things are not always implied by the legislation.  Free range differs from barn thus "must have continuous access to outdoors during daylight hours, to fresh water and to external areas which are mainly covered with vegetation. The birds are housed in hen houses, where part of the floor is covered in straw, which allows the birds to exhibit their natural behaviour." With a facility housing 100,000 birds, access to outdoors might be a door at the far end the shed. Do not imagine for a minute that one of the few employees of the business adopts the persona of an old-style army gym-instructor and hooshes all the birds out into the Fresh Air after breakfast and won't let them in again until dark. In Ireland, it's bloody freezing, probably raining, out there, 5 days out of 7.  Producing eggs is a metabolic process and at least partly dependent on the ambient temperature.  Our experience is that chickens definitely know enough to come out of the rain if they could. This is all stacked towards a consensus that free-range is less than open range or wide range. It's actually difficult / impossible in regular stores to purchase eggs that are both organic and free-range. But Rathgarogue Organic Farms [Eircode Y34 XN20] has that covered!

NowaEurope eggs = eieren = jajka = ovos = uibheacha = ägg = αυγά = vecja = huevos = munat

Monday 17 June 2024

Still chuntering along

Dau.I and Dau.II are now bracketing 30! Right now they're living city centre in a tiny flat where neither the bathroom, nor the kitchen has a window. It's okay, it's how millions live, but it's different from how / where they grew up. For reasons, and without consulting them, we chose to buy a remote farmlet, where the nearest inhabited home was 300m away; where the nearest shop was 3,000m distant and things like theatres 30,000m over the horizon. It might be short on amenities but it is long on wildlife, fresh air, . . . and chores. I was away working for much of those early years at the turn of the century, so it was on The Beloved to facilitate all the off-site stimulation that seemed desirable: the HomeEd meet-ups; the ballet classes; the tin-whistle, piano, saxophone lessons; the trips to the beach; the Speech & Drama sessions. So many car-miles, so much carbon foot-print but then again - so many audio-books, so many round-the-universe discussions, so many rice-cakes.

One of the regular tours was down to the Talbot Hotel in Wexford for afternoon sessions with Red Moon Children's Theatre. That was a 90km! round-trip which was tolerable for a twofer. But after one season of imagine you're in a balloon Dau.II dug in her heels, folded her arms, and announced that Drama was a drag and she was not going to do it. Figuring that the 90km might be part of the issue The Beloved spoke to Red Moon and asked if they'd consider bringing Moonhommed to the Mountain. The colonization of Co Carlow was agreed in principal, a date in September was fixed, Rathanna Community Hall was booked and The Beloved started a One Woman campaign to get small bums on seats for the first session. She knocked on every door in three townlands and thereby got to meet all the neighbours, some of whom had small children and some of whom offered money to the venture. It was hours and hours of work and A Lot of tea.

Michael and Eileen Red-Moon came on a scoping site-visit. Michael looked through the kitchen window at the back of the Hall at the truly spectacular view of the southern cwm of Mt Leinster rearing up from the flat fields and hedges to the craggy summit. Cripes, he said, I'd come and work here for free just to catch the changes in that view every week. Eileen told him to stop his romantic guff, this was work for, like, money.

On the day of registration, Dau.I (who was invested) and Dau.II (who was willing to help) were setting out chairs . . . so many chairs.
Michael: that will be enough chairs.
Dau.I: nope, we need 30 kids to break even, and the Mammies may want to sit.
And it was so! That first year 30+ kids from 2 different age groups committed to paying €5 each to imagine they're in a balloon. That was the same group size as the mighty metropolis of Wexford could muster. The creativity and energy of children is an enormous resource for the tapping.

Things moved on. After a tuthree years, there was a putsch and Red Moon were replaced by a younger theatre chap from Kilkenny. After a couple more years, Dau.I and Dau.II (who did participate) out-grew the after-school classes demographic. The Beloved performed her Exit Strategy: handing over the purse to one Mam, the bookings to another, registration to a third. 

A few years ago we were in the Post Office in Borris (12,000m distant and at the edge of the RathannaDrama catchment). One of the original Mammies from 2002 recognised The Beloved and saluted her for starting it all way back when. It seems the venture is still chuntering on. It is just possible that the first cohort, mammies in their turn, are enrolling their kids for September 2024.

The reason I'm remembering this now, and it's possible that I've told it already, is because of a similar story at the end of Hilary Cottam's book which I reviewed on Friday. When Participle set up their Circle experiments to empower and engage The Olds, the business model was a Club with each member paying a Sub. Some bystanders were knee-jerk outraged: these Circles delivered so many Good Things for the community that surely the local authority should be picking up the tab. It smacked of Co-pay which is an invidious idea allowing those responsible to weasel out of the full cost of service provision. Not so: neither for Cottam's Circles, no more for Rathanna Drama. It is an absolutely certainty that, if funded by the CoCo, The Drama would have been eliminated in the post-crash austerity [prev, last para]. By handing the reins of the cart to Mammies people invested in the success of the venture, it could not be obliterated by an anonymous bean-counter in County Hall.

Sunday 16 June 2024

Bloomsday 24

more and more for less and less

Friday 14 June 2024

Change Islands

Something is rotten in the State.

My Parapals Rory and Alastair, for all that they mad-busy, are great readers altogether. I've taken on board a few of their book-recs out of respect to their sense of what's worth spending time on. The latest rec to be eased out of the library has been  Radical Help: How we can remake the relationships between us and revolutionise the welfare state (2018) by "social engineer" Hilary Cottam. 

Cottam's thesis is that William "Charterhouse, Balliol" Beveridge's 1942 vision for a Welfare State is no long fit for purpose in a post-industrial society top heavy with extractive plutocrats and ranks of declining Olds. And always the ♇!⊗king market, as if competition was always obvs better than community and cooperation. Maybe Capitalism = Koyaanisqatsi = "a state of life that calls for another way of living": Caring for each other is not about efficiency or units of production. It is about human connection, our development, and at the end our comfort and dignity

In the UK, there are 100,000 neighbours-from-hell families, each of which is costing The State about £250,000 every year. One case study of a (single parent four offspring one preg) family in Swindon clocked 74 different professionals from 20 different agencies (tutors, counsellors, police, housing, health visitors, the social) involved in the family's care and attention. Cottam's people shadowed (with a time sheet) the eldest boy's social-worker and found that 74% of his time was spend on Admin (the forms, the forms); 12% on the phone haggling with other agencies; leaving 14% of the working week for actual work with the chap. But that social-worker's case load was much longer than one troubled teenager. 5½ hours a week spread across a dozen kids barely gives a social worker time to take off his coat, and in-fill another questionnaire before driving off to the next meeting. FFS don't use neighbours-from-hell and the like, it lacks compassion and smacks of hubris - the overweening complacency that it could never happen to me coupled with victim-blaming.

Cottam sets out the stall for the UK welfare state as it now stands. The Irish equivalent is not substantively different. When novel "obvious to all thinking people" good things are suggested, The State puts the kibosh on them double-quick:

  • See the same doctor? Too expensive
  • Help another person? Too risky
  • Provide solutions through a known community group? Against the rules of competition

Manage need vs develop capabilities

The middle section of the book looks at left-field "Experiments" or pilot-studies with which Cottam has been involved; professing, if not actually solve, to ease the burden of problems in 5 areas where The State is only rearranging the deck-chairs and not delivering a lot. Well 1 million people are employed to help make things better for their fellow citizens - 1 million adults not collecting the dole, so there is that. For ten years, Cottam's NGO Participle did the state some service and demonstrated how agile, focused orgs might deliver more QALYs for less money.

  1. Family. Their Life programme set in place mentors / listeners who had time to listen to the manifold problems of the dispossessed; develop a holistic view rather than silo-thinking; engender self-respect by respecting the troubled rather than joining the line of comfortable people who want to beat on them
  2. Youth. Their Loop programme swept up lost youth and found them work-placements in the community - a bit like the best examples of Irish Transition Year work experience. The pilot study was going gang-busters with obvious benefirs accruing to The Yoof, The Community, The Employers. But when they held an open day for government agencies, the scheme was immediately closed down . . . because teens were developing a relationship with an adults who was neither a family member, nor a teacher. In the eyes of The State, all adults are potentially if not probably predators on the young.
  3. Employment. The first thing in Backr was to call out the complete failure of Job Centres to place the unemployed in work. They then created a network of MeetUps where job-seekers could network, commiserate, and even crowdfund money to get small businesses over the threshold for creating a new position.
  4. Health. Another problem, another daft label. Wellogram applies similar holistic views to health and well-being. It's normal now to refer people with unlabelled malaise deeper into the maws of the NHS. Maybe it's better to take them out of that mill altogether and treat their loneliness, stress, and feeling crap with kindness and a cup of tea. The GP has no time to listen and for some people some of the time, tea and chat is at least as effective as [and FFS cheaper than!] anti-depressants, anti-biotics or anti-inflammatories. Health education is the unsexy, unfunded, unseen part of the health service: but it doesn't have to be like that..
  5. Aging. The End is Circle. This experiment facilitated Elders getting together and telling each other that they could so do more for themselves rather than relying on the State or it's agents. Call me the complacent patriarchy but I've found that fixing stuff, making stuff, myself is empowering. It also frees me from dependence on someone else's timetable, engagement and priorities. And it saves money. I know, I know it's a short step from victim-blaming but making people do for themselves can be done with kindness, with panache, with respect.

There you have it. Dozens of ideas, thrashed out round a conference table, and rolled out into the local community. Some of the schemes are still chuntering along years after the initial funding dried up.  Related to this is Samuel Smiles [prev] and his vision for the world in Self-Help (1859). But what do I know? I've returned Radical Help to the library. You can read it next. It might outrage you enough to do something different.

Change Islands? A decade ago The Blob wrote a neat 900 word essay about fishing on the North shore of Newfoundland, parcelled it up, tied it with a green white & pink ribbon and launched it into the blogosphere. The next day I butterflied off to write about Sellafield / Windscale about which I was marginally better qualified to express an opinion. That was then, this is now, and flitting about long ago and far away won't butter no parsnips. 


Wednesday 12 June 2024

99 is the sailor

In my culture "99" means an ice-cream cone supporting a stick of chocolate at a jaunty angle. But it can also refer to a [reasonably] venerable age. I qualify the age with [reasonably] because there are hella many centenarians about. 30 years ago my Scottish grannie turned 100 and got a telegram from Mrs ♛indsor. She also got A Lot of 100th Bday cards from neighbours and [not many left] relations. She got nothing from her pals because they were all dead. What struck me at the time was how few dupes there were among the cards: Hallmark et al. must have a market, so there must be a few customers out there. Obvs, they are expecting more sales for that particular bday than 98 or 103. We're not there yet, but last week Pat the Salt celebrated his 99th Bday:

It's 8+ years since Pat's wife died. And it's been "interesting" to observe the changes as the years tick past. Having run away to sea at the age of 14 and spent most of the rest of his teens churning around a world at war, he has enjoyed pretty robust good health. He could so easily have died by torpedo, storm or scalding cocoa as a youngster, that the gods seem to have cut him a fair hand healthwise for the rest of his life.  As Pat moved into "His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide for his shrunk shank . . ." territory, a lot of new people entered his life to compensate for some of the deficits of age. For some it's just work; but for others, including those on the payroll, it's clear that there are bonds of  affection and respect even if recently forged. 

One of the latter, Seamus the Ornithologist [above red R] who came out from Waterford every Tuesday as a conversational companion. The charity which brokered the deal covered Seamus' bus fare but couldn't manage minimum wage for his time. There are for sure ethical, social and economic questions to be asked of The Voluntariat. But since Seamus has retired in his turn, he's been dropping in on his old WWII Mentor because they are genuinely fond of each other. And he seems to have kept Pat's birthday in his diary; because he turned up with a couple of hours notice on Der Tag. I don't think it was the smell of cake! Supervalu do a line in these micro iced cakes and The Beloved went up and bought a few for the current team of HSE carers who are rostered to Pat . . .

But, there was an under-count and I was dispatched to Supervalu to purchase two [2] more cakes. Phew! luckily there were three still standing on the display table and I was able to snag The Best brace o' cake. Phew! because I would have had to make an iced-dainty decision in real time. Are 2 eclairs == 1 micro-cake? 3 eclairs?? 2 eclairs and a strawberry flan??? 1 eclair and a box of fence staples???? The permutations are effectively infinite and I was certain to be wrong-footed whatever I chose. 

Anyway, the important data is that Supervalu shareholders are assured of a Christmas dividend Pat got to have 🎂 on his 99th Bday and he was saluted by those who cherish him.

Monday 10 June 2024

Hail fellow

. . . well met. I must have met Dan Bradley in the Summer of 1990 when I came back to Ireland for a week long scoping exercise in Trinity College Dublin. I was then 'resting' in the NE of England having run out of steam as a population geneticist. I had secured an EU 'retraining fellowship' to convert whatever number-crunching skills I had from pop gen into a more useful area of science. That would be molecular evolution using bioinformatics. During that week, I hung out in the binfo lab which was hosting the fellowship, found I could do the work, found an old farmhouse to rent out near the airport, found my way down to coffee and probably had a few pints in the Summer evenings.

When I came back in October on salary, I defo met Dan because by a peculiar set of circumstances his boss was my boss. Dan had just finished a PhD looking for lesions in genes that resulted in retinitis pigmentosum which causes late onset hereditary blindness. Like me, he was also stepping sideways - into the genetics of tropical cattle. His boss Paddy Cunnngham had bigger fish smaller flies to fry running the screwworm eradication programme out of the FAO in Rome. Cunningham had recently landed a huge research grant, and hired a postdoc [Dan] and two post-graduate students Ronan Loftus and Dave MacHugh to prosecute the cattle project.  My boss, Paul Sharp, as tenured faculty could act in loco parentis for these three orphans. But they didn't need much hand-holding; being recklessly brave and technically competent in adverse circumstances in the Third World. And quite undaunted by the institutional bureaucracy of TCD. For the next tuthree years, the two labs would have a joint Christmas dinner which seemed to require G&Ts between each course, and telling cray-cray war stories from the bush.

Irish science had been absolutely in the doldrums through the 1980s, and the cattle project was one of the first big-money rumblings of what became the Celtic Tiger. in 1992, TCD scrabbled together the money to create a new lectureship in Genetics. It was exciting: we all sat through job presentations from the short-listed (Top Gun) candidates - before they went in to be formally grilled by the search committee. In the pub that evening, Paul Sharp confided [I got all the important information in the pub] that he'd been asked his opinion for the best candidate as "the person most like to bring in the largest grants". The most intellectually stimulating science or the best teacher of genetics came further down the list of desiderata. Paul's unequivocal answer was "Dan Bradley"; and it was so.  Turned out Dan had an even better nose for writing citable papers of which he's contributed more than 25 to [super-prestigious Nature | Science | PNAS]. That's about as many papers (crappy + marginal + okay + pretty good = all my papers) as I've been party to . . . six of which were actually coat-tailing on Effectives from the Bradley lab.

Pure science is fine; bringing in big grant money gets you Best Boy status with your employer; launching a successful Campus Company is pure gold. Dan was one of five founding directors of Identigen [multiBlob] which is still trading well into its third decade.

I should add that as well as being a great scientist who can tell it so that non-specialists can appreciate its importance, Dan is a good bloke and a loyal friend. He brought me to hospital when I was whacked off my bike in Westland Row in 1998 and was smart enough, and kind enough. to know that I'd be so long in A&E that I'd need a Mars Bar and an Irish Times.

In the middle of May, Professor Bradley was elected Fellow of the Royal Society. Short of a Nobel, that's about the biggest gong you can acquire as a research scientist in the English speaking world. No slouch the chap who escaped from a chicken farm in Maghera, Co Derry to go to Cambridge. Chapeau! and a sweeping respectful bow.