It seems the gobshitery death star has left orbit, at least temporarily, but since this is Limerick, we can be fairly sure the Dark Side will return.
For the moment, though, Councillor Pat Kennedy’s ludicrous idea to rename the Shannon Bridge has been defeated by the forces of ridicule, which is a very good thing in a small town like Limerick. In small towns, people like Pat Kennedy start to get notions about themselves and it’s important to slap them down every so often. Remind them that they’re nobody in the great scheme of things, apart from being small-town councillors in a small town.
It’s amazing how important some people think they are without the benefit of somebody reminding them that they are nobody at all. And when the job involves putting on a robe and wearing jewellery, it’s extraordinary how seductive such pageantry is to limited men with small life experience.
Of course, small town people aren’t all limited, just as big-city people don’t all have a wide vision. People from backwaters like Limerick and Dublin have achieved extraordinary things, while New York and London have produced incredibly narrow and venal individuals, so let’s not get too sniffy about it.
But at the same time, isn’t it sad that we’re still producing puffed-up self-important politicians like Pat Kennedy, and isn’t it even sadder that some people take them seriously?
We truly were ready to believe good things about the crowd of people calling themselves Limerick City Council, weren’t we?
Of course we were, especially after their inspirational unanimous vote in favour of marriage equality, which I praised yesterday. Marvellous, you might have been thinking. A progressive local authority, bucking the trend and challenging stereotypes of parochialism and inward-looking stupidity.
But Limerick City Council are cruel and fickle lovers. They bring you to the brink of ecstasy and then they wander off for a beer. The cads.
You see, after their sublime moment of solidarity with the LGBT community, Limerick City Council decided to have a hick moment and voted today to name a bridge after an American president.
Did they offer a rationale for this? Not really,or at least nothing that could be regarded as an intelligent argument.
They just voted for it, in a meeting that, astonishingly, is held in secret. And before you say it, I know. I know already that it’s just a meeting of a local council, but that’s beside the point. It’s still laughingly referred to as local democracy, despite the calibre of the participants.
What did they vote for?
These fine upstanding custodians of local democracy decided that the Shannon Bridge should be renamed the John F Kennedy Bridge, for no reason capable of understanding by a reasonable person. After their triumph yesterday, they threw it all away, exposing themselves as the limited bunch of political no-hopers we always suspected them of being.
Ballymagash lives on in the shape of this crowd.
Those who voted in favour of the name change:-
Pat Kennedy, Kathleen Leddin, Joe Leddin, Tom Shortt, Cormac Hurley, Kevin Kiely and John Gilligan.
Diarmuid Scully, Maurice Quinlivan, Maria Byrne, Michael Hourigan, Jim Long and Denis McCarthy
A peculiar mixed bag. I wouldn’t have guessed this, but there you have it. It’s a list of those in favour of gobshitery, and another list of those against it.
If they really wanted to commemorate JFK, why didn’t they call it the Shag Anything That Moves Bridge?
It was a good thing to have that row about the City of Culture because it forced people to re-examine what exactly it was all supposed to be about, and that process won’t end today or tomorrow.
My personal view is that the City of Culture concept doesn’t have a long-term future because Ireland is too small. We have three or four cities, depending on how elastic your definition of a city is, and we can hardly keep shuffling this event from one to the next, even if it only happens every five years. People will get sick of it.
Besides, the entire definition of culture is so nebulous, so ill-defined and arbitrary, that’s it’s bound to cause friction between those who feel a sense of entitlement and those who feel excluded. Some uncharitable voices from outside Limerick have suggested that the whole City of Culture thing was simply a cover – a means for Minister Michael Noonan to channel some government cash back to his native city without being accused of favouritism, and perhaps they’re right. But at the same time, perhaps they could take a flying fuck at a rolling doughnut, considering the amount of preferential treatment other cities have received over the decades. If they could perfect that move, we might even include their performance in our events for 2014.
Even though I was disgusted at the treatment Karl Wallace received, I have misgivings about a year-long cultural event that requires an artistic director and nothing else. Is that what culture is — art? Are there no other channels of cultural expression?
Whatever the answer is to that question, the City of Culture project is back on track, and that can only be a good thing, but it’s a single year — no more than that, and what will happen when it’s over? Will we retreat behind our ramparts of resentment and curse the way we’ve been neglected by the government, or will we embrace a bigger, more open way of thinking and perhaps establish Limerick as something unique? We could look beyond the narrow and rather vague concept of culture in the sense we’ve become used to understanding it, part entertainment and part quasi-religious fetishism. Instead we could shift our focus onto the thing that makes all innovation possible: creativity.
If we did that, if we shifted the frame of reference, everything would become clear, because creativity embraces all the shifting, fluttering definitions of culture and art and sport and science and engineering and medicine and every other human endeavour that demands original thinking and inspiration. Except accountancy, of course.
We have the resources. We have the university, we have the art colleges, we have the musicians, the artists, the teachers, the sportspeople, the craft workers, the food producers. We have the technologists. We even have the accountants, but let’s forget them.
We could, if we chose, build a new Limerick around the concept of creativity, thereby creating a real regeneration instead of the fake bricks-and-mortar sticking-plaster solution foisted on us by the discredited politicians of the past.
A very strange story appeared in the Sunday World about employees of a Tesco supermarket in Limerick secretly photographing customers and ridiculing them on Facebook. According to the report, which is a little confusing, they made a video of a vulnerable transgendered man with mental health problems and published this footage with disparaging comments about him.
The screenshot is hard to read, so let me transcribe.
Employee’s initial comment is this: What’s the deal around Limerick city this fella was bold as brass —
Random Commenter: From what [deleted] doesd be sayin, the seem to be cumin in to see you haha (smiley)
Employee: That’s the Butch Spanish thing fucked that yolk (sic) out of it.
Random Commenter: Creepshow! is that the one with the massive sticky outy bushy eyebrows?
Employee : Mad for [deleted] this one.
Random Commenter : No. He / she asks her beauty tips [deleted] sorry too funny.
Random Commenter : Hahhaha [deleted] your a gas man U no that. Ha.
Commenter: ahh lads I feel sorry for him. he told me his family used to slang him.
I think the paper got certain facts wrong. The man is probably a cross-dresser rather than transgendered, but it hardly makes any difference. The whole point is that if this happened, it was a clear assault on a person’s right to personal dignity.
Tesco’s reaction was rather limp, I thought. Apparently, they’ve launched a probe, which is something you’d normally associate with NASA, but this is probably just tabloid-speak. I presume Tesco said they’d investigate, or words to that effect.
Tesco and the alleged perpetrators would need to be clear on this: taking a person’s picture is perfectly legal but publishing it without that person’s permission is not. Publishing mocking comments associated with that picture is very likely to be defamatory.
If the reports are true, and I suspect that the Sunday World is confident of its facts, it leaves Tesco open to a major claim, even if, as Denning might have said, the perpetrator was on a frolic of his own. It also leaves Tesco open to prosecution under equality law, because this appears to be a clear case of somebody being oppressed for his sexual orientation.
Will Tesco want to take that risk?
More significantly, will any of us want to visit the Tesco shop at Arthur’s Quay, knowing that a staff member might secretly be taking pictures of us to post on Facebook later?
I’ll be avoiding Tesco for the foreseeable future, until I know for sure.
Remember fun? Of course you do: it never went away, and that’s why you can wander into a great bar like Cobblestone Joe’s and stumble across a bunch of talented motherfuckers like Jukebox Gypsy.
I don’t know what to call them. An acid-folk, skiffle-driven Dutch-Irish-Newcastle close-harmony fusion combo fronted by the young Jack Nicholson reincarnated as a Geordie. Lindisfarne meets meets Easy Rider, complete with tiny bald patch for added authenticity.
I don’t know what these guys are, but I can tell you, they do fun with a capital N.
They’re tight as fuck, I remarked to the Coolest Man in Ireland, who happened to be standing beside me, and no mean bass player himself.
Tight? he replied. Only beaten by a point. He says that kind of thing. He’s a bass player.
Tight isn’t the word for it. These guys hit every bang right on the button. Their harmonies are closer than a priest chasing an altar-boy but less sweaty, and they have the power to make a place jump. Make no mistake, my friends. This could be the wedding band of the 21st century as long as they only play at the weddings of demented, drug-addled drunkards but that’s fine. No shortage of clients there.
They do their own stuff. They do covers. They even put up with ill-mannered drunks talking loudly while they play beautiful quiet songs, thus proving what a bunch of decent lads they are. It surprised me, I must confess, given the presence of two Geordies in the band. I think it’s fair to say that the people of north-eastern England are not noted for putting up with shit. The Dutch guy, maybe not so much. While the Geordies are beating the shit out of talking audience members, he’ll be starting a commune, while the Irish guy will run a symposium on the holistic, vegan management of dreadlocks.
I couldn’t record any of their gig tonight since I didn’t have a real camera with me, so I’ll have to rely on other people’s videos.
Here’s a clip from a gig at the Long Dog in Kilkee. Have a listen.
Let me repeat: these guys are great fun, with a capital U. Next time you see a poster for them, just go. You won’t regret it.
It would be a crime to waste this fine weather, so there was nothing for it but to get out on the water. Living here in Limerick, we have so much beauty on our doorstep, it’s never more than an hour’s work to get out there and enjoy the wonders of nature.
Today’s plan was to head for the Cliffs of Moher, but unfortunately, due to mechanical problems, we had to cut the journey short. Feckin mechanical problems are a pain in the arse, but not to worry. Let’s launch the boat at Tarbert instead. We’ll head for Scattery Island, have a stroll around and on the way home maybe catch a few mackerel for the dinner if this fancy new fish-finding gadget works properly. We might even bump into some of the many dolphin who inhabit the estuary. Who knows?
Here we go. There’s Scattery Island coming up. The last resident left in 1969 and now the homes of the old families are falling into ruin. Not only that, but the ancient monks who built the original monastic settlements are as dead as disco. I bet you don’t know that this uninhabited island in the Shannon estuary still has a bishop.
Yep. Scattery Island is a titular diocese and its titular bishop is Frank Caggiano, an auxiliary bishop of Brooklyn.
Frank’s parents moved to Brooklyn from, of all places, Caggiano, Salerno. He joined the priesthood and now he’s the bishop of Scattery.
Bada-bing, bada boom.
How did its name come about? Like almost every placename in Ireland, it’s an anglicisation of the original Irish. Inis Cathaigh was transliterated to Inishcathy. That in turn became Iniscattery and eventually Scattery, losing all its original meaning.
It has an interesting history: this is where the Shannon estuary pilots lived, the people who safely guided ships past the treacherous shoals, sandbars and rocks that threatened the lives of many an honest sailor. The old families made a good living from this ancient trade, and it’s said that even during the awful events of the Great Famine, nobody on the island went hungry. The old graveyard is testament to this: as we wandered around among the graves from the 1840s, it struck me that these were not the burials of poor people, but of the well-to-do, by the standards of the time. Hand-carved headstones, family vaults and a general feeling of prosperity through the generations. But nothing is free of tragedy. Every fourth stone records some young man lost at sea, or a few children who died “at a young age”.
Life might have been more secure on Scattery than it was on the mainland, but it was still hard.
There’s an ancient monastic settlement on the island, founded by Saint Senan in the 5th century. Senan is still a common first name in the locality, all the way from Kilrush to Labasheeda (Leaba Síoda — the bed of silk). The tourist people have painted up a couple of the cottages and built a visitor centre which was closed when we got there, but they seem to keep the place nice and tidy. All the grass is close-mown, something the ancient monks would hardly have done, given the acute shortage of petrol lawnmowers and electricity in the 5th century.
They built one of the first round towers with a fatal design flaw, though of course they could hardly have known that the Vikings would come charging up the river in their longboats four hundred years later.
What was the flaw? Well, most round towers don’t have a door at ground level. This one, for example, not too far away, in North Clare. See the height of the door? That’s to keep Vikings out and hopefully keep pillaging to a minimum.
Senan, I’m afraid, being a trusting sort, built his tower like this.
Not great for keeping the Vikings out. By the way, have a good look at that picture. Notice how the quoin-stones, the carefuly-cut cornerstones of the walls have been removed.
Was that the Viking? No.
Was it the evil English landlords? No.
Why, none other than the Irish parish priests of the 19th century, stealing them for their new churches.
Isn’t the colour nice? That’s not a characteristic of the stone, I was informed by my infinitely-knowledgeable companion, but a kind of of lichen that thrives in clean air.
What a lovely place.
Inis Cathaigh was part of the Viking settlement of Limerick, and this was where the legendary king Brian Boru killed the tyrant Ivar, last Norse king of the city-state of Limerick in 977, together with his two sons. All very Game of Thrones.
No other invaders sailed up the Shannon, apart from the Normans and the English, but in the late 18th century the British administration became extremely nervous about Napoleonic forces and created a number of artillery batteries to pound the hell out of intrusive flotillas, much as the Turks did to the British forces at the Dardanelles in 1915.
They built gun emplacements at six locations: Kilcreadaun Point, Doonaha, Kilkerrin Point, Carrig Island, Tarbert Island and Scattery.
The Scattery position is extraordinary. It’s a massive redoubt , built of clean-cut ashlar stone with a moat all round it twelve feet deep. The walls are battered to deflect cannon-balls and it’s reached only by a bridge, formerly a drawbridge, with a portcullis to keep out attackers. There are six gun emplacements outside it, heavily dug-in, and in the one that’s been exposed, you can see the channel carved into the stone base for traversing the cannon.
These were huge 24-pounder guns. In the absence of any photography from the Napoleonic Wars, due to the fact that there were no cameras and no photographic technology, here’s an example from the American civil war. This is one seriously dangerous cannon. You didn’t want to be out there in the narrow river with people firing this thing at you. Even more, you didn’t want a fort firing six of them at you, simultaneously.
The block-house is described as bomb-proof and besides its killing loop-holes, it had mounted two howitzers on its roof.
Even today, you would not lightly decide to storm this thing, unless you had air support, which didn’t exist in the 18th century. You might even call it impregnable, unless the attackers were prepared to expend unlimited resources, which is never an option in warfare.
Look at this.
Happily, the Scattery battery never had to kill anyone, since the Napoleonic forces found more pressing errands, much to the disappointment of some locals who hoped to benefit financially from their intervention. Meanwhile, the labouring man continued breaking rocks and cared not a jot which wealthy individual, whether Irish, French or British, oppressed him.
Time to go, boys.
This has been a great day out. Sadly, the fish finder fails to reveal great shoals of mackerel, so there’s going to be no delicious freshly-fried fish.
Will we catch this fellow on a line with a rod? I think not. Nor would we want to.
Here’s a video provided by a friend. Mungret to Scattery
Browsing in a boutique, you feel a tap on your shoulder. The proprietor whispers ‘ your husband called… he said you can buy anything you want’.
The wrongness echoes in your ears. It takes some time to sink in because you’re single, own your own company and live in the 21st century.
Looking around, as he swaggers off, you see his staff giggle. Its not the first time that line has been rolled out. Its usually gets a laugh. Isn’t that why he printed it out and stuck on the boutique window himself?
But you’re not laughing as you fall in step and return the tap. ‘Excuse me, but, what did you just say to me’?
There seems to be genuine confusion. ‘Sorry love?’
‘Sorry? Why would my husband call, and what for again?’
Both staff now look nervous. This is not the tone used around here. Not in this boutique. This is the fashion district in Limerick City. Doesn’t she know this? They look at each other, their thoughts the same ‘ I don’t know her either’.
Sensing the reaction of the staff, the boss stares. Quickly they become busy straightening shop things on the counter, two faces reddened from a chastising scowl.
Shark smiling, his priority becomes face- saving. Is he obliged to answer some sort of a customer who seems vaguely familiar?
‘ Well now…’ he nearly says ‘love’ but stops this time.
You match the smile but are not in any mood to be blindsided by the vaguest of platitudes, nor are you angry enough to be provoked. You are relaxed enough to repeat the question which hangs in the room alongside clothes you will never buy.
The boss is silent neither smiling nor frowning, heels rocking, ignoring his swinging arms and sweating palms as, hiding her mobile, one of the staff begins to dial the shop phone. It rings and allows the boss to raise a ‘just one second love’ finger to you. The staff smile at each other relishing the drama of this cute call.
As always the day is too short for this carry on. You start to leave but not before catching the eye of the staff member who didn’t think to throw the lifebuoy to the shop phone. She doesn’t appear happy.
The boss slowly puts down his phone. He is aware that you are now outside with your phone raised to photograph the printout on the window.
Later, before the monthly City Council meeting, a colleague reminds you about an upcoming event to promote plans for the Limerick fashion district.
You look at the picture in your phone and wonder, if you were married would your husband be the type of person who would call a boutique on your behalf?
It’s the May weekend and therefore it must be time, yet again, for Limerick’s Riverfest.
I blundered into town this morning as usual and found myself caught up in the classic festival dilemma: if I’m enjoying this, what am I missing?
Bands everywhere — good ones — tumblers, fire eaters and conjurers, the occasional politician for light relief and barbecue competitors all in a row. I spotted one current minister, one former minister and many assorted lunatics.
Isn’t it good when a plan works out and you find yourself wrapped up in a full body massage of the senses? Good food, good drink, good music, good weather and good company?