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The gates of history

gate of historyYou can pass something for days or weeks on end and it doesn’t stimulate much thought – and then one day it does.

I catch a train to work every morning and on the way to the station I pass a car park.  Nothing very remarkable about that.  But I also pass the remains of a gate.  It stands on the perimeter of the car park boundary like an alien intrusion.

It’s a little bit incongruous, in the middle of a fairly barren expanse of tarmacadam splattered with a few lonely looking cares.  It seems like someone started and then forgot about building something.  That is until you realise that someone did build something and this is all that remains – not a beginning (although once it was that too) but an end.

It’s not that long ago that there was a house here.  I have vague memories of it.  As far as I can recall it was two stories, cosy looking, maybe ivy clad, with a garden that was bit overgrown but all the more authenic and slightly fitting for being that way.  If I remember correctly, it was a fairly large house and rather appealing.

People even wanted to buy it and that it would make a nice home.  It was a quaint old building with the certain something that give some houses a character and an appeal all of their own, it was in a good location, with a generous amount of green space.

And then one day it was gone.  Bulldozed for some ambitious development scheme during the Celtic Tiger.  At this stage, I have no idea what the plans were.  I had no interest in the at the time.  I thought the house and garden was a perfect little oasis as it was, a bit of a haven of greenery and scenary for eyes and the mind.  Then the Great Recession came and the house was gone, the garden was gone and the plans for the wonders to some fell through.

Now there’s  nothing but a windswept car park, a smattering of cars and the lonely gate.  And the odd thought and memory of the morning passer-by………..

[Tom Clancy’s] Jack Ryan


I didn’t hold out much hope for this series.  I’d read some of the original books by Tom Clancy on which the series is based and they were not most subtle.  The Hunt for Red October was the first and perhaps the best known of Clancy’s books.  It came out way back in 1984 with the Soviet Union still in being and the Cold War with the US looking like it might never end. They were books very much of their time.

In Red October the Americans are almost always the virtuous good guys and the Russians, and everybody else, children of a lesser deity.  Black and white were the theme colours and little was complicated by shades of grey.  Square jaws, red, white and blue and the Star Spangled Banner… get the picture.  They were good stories and massive bestsellers but could be hard to take for non-Americans. In the age of Trump, they would come across as a parody or a tasteless joke.

The TV series however is entirely different.  It takes the basic skeleton from the novels but thankfully adds far more meaty substance to the plots and characters.  It isn’t cynical or negative but it is realistic.  The characters are less black and white, there is more than one view and no one has all of the answers or an easy life.

It’s less gung-ho but most definitely does have action sequences and moments of tension.  The story has its focus in the Middle East but, like real life news, it makes connections and roams the globe.  The main opponent is Muslim but so is the head of the CIA unit that Jack Ryan works for.  All of the characters have histories that explain, to some extent, their outlook on the world and their motivations in doing what they do.

To say anything more would be give away some of the pleasure in watching and learning as the series develops.  Do give it a watch if you like an well crafted, soundly written and entertaining action drama.

When is a train not a train?

Navan view railway station

Have you ever been truely bamboozled by something? Brought up short by an incongruity your senses just cannot reconcile?

Let me give you an example and see if you know what I mean.

Navan in Co Meath is the fifth largest town in Ireland (according to Wikipedia anyways). 25,000 people live there.

It’s an hour or so from Dublin by road. Thousands of commuters travel everyday to work in the city.

Now, you might be thinking that such a large sized town would have a rail link with the capital. But no – you can’t get from Navan to Dublin by train.

Here’s the astounding thing though. Navan does actually have a railway station. And train tracks. And level crossings. All working and operational. Everything you need for trains to run. And trains do run from the town.

The rub though is that they don’t carry people. Only lead/zinc ore from Tara mines to Drogheda port.

So here’s the situation that flummoxes me.

One of the largest towns in Ireland and main dormitory centres for Dublin has a working railway line. But it doesn’t transport passengers. And the situation has been like this for over twenty years. Yet all the way through the Celtic Tiger years very little was done.

Is there a context where this makes sense? Is there a logic I’m missing?

Surely the investment would have been worth it to remove cars from the road?

And still is?

Yours in befuddlement.

The 1950s: the mental Jurassic Park of David Quinn

Childcare Costs

The Irish Times reports a proposal being considered by the Irish Government to implement a limited subsidised childcare scheme.

It might be surprising to realise this doesn’t exist already; maybe even more surprising that there is opposition; and perhaps most surprising that those opposed to caring for children consider themselves ‘pro-life’.

Does David Quinn know it’s not 1950 any more?

And the same point as with abortion, applies to this scheme – if you don’t want to avail of it,  fine,  but don’t set your own personal perspective as the inflexible arbitrary norm for everyone else.

And has he seen the costs of living recently?  Does he know how much the average person earns?  And that in the vast majority of cases one income is not going to keep a family fed,  clothed and housed?

I’m guessing most of the people he knows are rather well to do,  upper middle class,  as comfortable financially as they are conservative socially.

But his little world is a fantasyland,  a mental Jurassic Park of an imagined society that never actually existed,  except for a tiny number of very privileged people.

For everyone else, life isn’t and never has been as Quinn imagines – it’s rather more demanding and at times desperate,  with worries about making pennies stretch and holding everything together day by day.

A little subsidised childcare might go a ways to making things a bit easier. I can’t for the life of me see what’s wrong with that – I don’t have any kids, I won’t benefit,  but I think it’s a really good idea,  and not unfair or unjust to me in the least. I’m fairly certain a lot of people think the same way.

I can’t fathom how or why Mr Quinn views the world as he does,  but his outlook seems to lack,  or expressly deny, understanding,  empathy, and basic humanity.

I suppose we live in hope,  and one of these days,  like Mr Scrooge,  he might yet develop a heart…..