Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Posted on The Antiroom this morning on the impact of proposed child benefit cuts. I am in general pro means-testing for child benefit but the UK has taken a sledgehammer approach.


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I’ve got my eye on a piece of ground opposite the house. In fact, I can see it from the window. In fact, I can see it from three windows. It’s dullish, there’s nothing growing there but groundsel and stickyweed (whatever its real name is) and in the spring and summer great umbrellas of deadly hogweed, a thick-stemmed brute which somehow manages to spread across a tarmac road and over a granite wall into my garden.

Now, Lidl are selling sacks of daffodil bulbs for 7.99, so I am screwing up the courage to get out my bulb dibber, sneak across the road at dead of night, and bury the lot in clumps which by March will be cheerful gangs of daffodils that I won’t tire of admiring till their heads drop and summer’s on the way again.


I’m screwing up the courage, but I’m not there yet. Why do I hesitate? I’d love to hear encouraging stories of guerrilla gardening.

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Remember, Remember

In May 1798, between 36 and 40 United Irishmen were herded onto the fair green in front of the parish church in Dunlavin in County Wicklow, and shot, watched by their neighbours and families. All but a few died; it is said that one who didn’t die immediately objected to the bodies being looted by the soldiers’ wives, and so he was shot again, dead this time.

Well-known local historian Chris Lawlor recounted the events surrounding 24th May in The Massacre of Dunlavin Green, published for the 200th anniversary of the massacre, in 1998. That year a memorial to the dead men was erected outside the church,and the site of their burial in a pit at Tournant graveyard was marked by a small memorial stone. The neglected graveyard holds the remains of other Dunlavin people, some of whom died as recently as the 1920s, people whose grandchildren could easily still be alive, but nettles and stickyweed mount the shoulders of the cracked and eroded headstones, and you can’t beat a path from one side of the graveyard to the other.

I don’t know if it’s the local authority or the church who bears responsibility for the upkeep of the burial ground, nor even who owns the lands now, but surely someone could rise to a strimmer? Our tendency to play fast and loose with our heritage is no revelation, we’ve been happy enough to chuck away a Viking excavation site here, or demolish a terrace of Georgian houses there. Can’t be helped, they said, we need a new civic office (or an electricity board headquarters) instead. Public interest. Balance of convenience. Shocking cost of maintaining old buildings. Dry rot. Objections? Overruled. When I was about seventeen or eighteen my father told me about some planning argument over the Merrion Hall building just off Merrion Square. This will be interesting, he said, let’s keep an eye on this. I was only half-listening. Some months later he hustled us out the hall door into the evening, down past Government Buildings to watch, appalled, the fire that gutted the Merrion Hall. The Davenport Hotel was plonked, sharpish, on the nearly-cooled cinders.

But back to Dunlavin – there can’t be much weighing-up of interests here, can there? At what cost would the maintenance of this small but important graveyard come?

Memorial stones will not do our remembering for us.

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Oh, my Lord

Well. Ian Paisley was all snuggled up in ermine yesterday and is now Lord Bannside. There you go. And he won’t be supporting reform of the House of Lords, surprise, surprise.

Earl of Dublin

I was at Russborough House over the weekend, tripping over the roots of an enormous redwood – or Wellingtonia, I discover – which turns out to have been (graciously) planted by a previous Prince of Wales and Earl of Dublin. The tree’s done well so clearly the gracious approach works – must try it myself – and he allowed sufficient space for the root ball, but less horticulturally, my reaction was to think what, can this possibly be a title Charlo might still use today?

That Prince of Wales, the tree-planter, was Queen Victoria’s son, who became Edward VII, but apparently the title of Earl of Dublin was “merged with the Crown”, whatever that means, in 1901, when Queen Vic died and the Earl of Dublin took the throne. But is merging with the Crown enough? My vague understanding is that the Crown can be a sort of resting-place for unused titles while their original bearer gets on with incompatible dukedoms or kingdoms or whatever. The titles still exist, and can one day be wrapped up in ribbon as a little treat for someone’s birthday or perhaps if they get a good school report or become milk monitor.

Ian Paisley, apparently, chose his title to reflect the start of his Parliamentary career. Who came up with the Earl of Dublin, and isn’t there some mechanism for extinguishing a title which lays claim to a capital city outside your jurisdiction? Wouldn’t the Queen would be annoyed if this State made me Lady London? Oh, I don’t know. It just seems rude and inappropriate, somehow, not to extinguish an Irish title like that. Perhaps a royal expert can set me straight on what really happens in these circs. In the meantime let’s calm our rattled nerves by gazing into a blue Russborough sky through the branches of the royal Wellingtonia.

Russborough House Wellingtonia June 2010

The Wellingtonia at Russborough House

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Not only has church fete season kicked off, guaranteeing a glorious summer of fairy cakes, second-hand fondue sets and the smell of freshly mown brass bands, hurrah, but for the next couple of months there’s event-gorging aplenty.

My wishlist at the moment, with budget, work, childcare and dogcare out of the picture:

Pat Boran reading from his memoir The Invisible Prison in Blanchardstown (tomorrow, 20th May)

La Traviata on 5th and 6th June

clashing partially with

1st – 6th June 2010
I want to be at Natasha Walter, Antony Beevor, the Gallery Press 40th, David Mitchell, Joe O’Connor and pretty much everything actually.

Dunlavin Arts Festival
18th – 20th June
Never been but is only an hour away and a few forebears farmed there.

5th – 10th July 2010
Anthony Horowitz, the Fish readings, Leanne O’Sullivan, Peter Sirr. Perhaps Michael Palin. 

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