Some things really amazed me

I wonder if anybody in the government has sat down and questioned this absurd urge placed upon us to drive 5 miles less every day to save the planet. The logistics alone are impossible, and at what point does one make a decision not to go somewhere, because it is more than 5 miles longer than you have allowed for the day. Who’s going to sit down and map out their mileage to achieve this? I know that it is a ruse to make a point, but it is so pettifogging and muddled, I believe the point is lost.

Reality in filmmaking
So many of the films that are produced these days are divorced from reality, not because the story is unreal, but because its interpretation by the director includes bizarre, impossible features. Okay, if you want a fairy story then it should be couched in that environment, not in an everyday one. These martial art pictures are fair enough, you know the hero is going to be able to, not only leap vast distances, but is also going to be able to nail half a dozen of his own kind in a matter of minutes.

The other day I was looking at Notting Hill, and in particular at that section in the story where the hero has parted from his truelove, and is walking down the street to the tune of a song which says, that it snows when she has gone. To my simple mind this was one of the greatest piece of filming I have ever witnessed, because the hero not only walked full-length of the road, he started in sunlight went through all the stages of rain hail and snow, with barely a break, surrounded by a very lively street market. When I thought about it I realised that it must have taken days to choreograph so that it was so seamless, which in turn made it so very effective.

When you are, as I am, responsible for somebody’s health, you have long hours a night to watch old films you have seen before, and very often it is the duplication which causes you to see things that you would have missed the first or second time. The opening sequence of, ‘ Once upon a time in the West’. Where there is a thug sitting waiting for a train, in order to kill one of the passengers descending from it. The sequence follows the route of a fly creeping across this man’s face slowly and aggravating him, until at last he catches it in the barrel of his 6-gun. To me that was pure genius, what with the time that it took to choreograph and film, and the incredible delay in the viewing of what one knew was going to be a stand-off, slowly built up the suspense.

A lot of our lives today are governed by economy rather than skill, and the quality of the goods, the choices we have, and the speed with which we now rush, doesn’t allow the sort of quality of expression and product that I have mentioned above. You have to be as old as I am to be able to draw comparisons; they say comparisons are odious, believe me, if more time was given to the aesthetic rather than the throughput, I think the quality would rise rapidly

14.05.08, Financial Anomalies

The Backlash of the Credit Crunch must be presenting Alistair Darling with a confusing headache. The repossession of an increasing number of houses might be doing solicitors, surveyors, and the auctioneers an increase in their incomes, and consequently the tax they pay, but the lack of building, and the lack of sales, are having a knock-on effect on the building industry as a whole, and the estate agencies. In consequence he is losing not only stamp duty, but the reduction in income tax from the rest of the industry. When he took over from Brown he was under the impression it was just a sleigh ride, how wrong he was.

The unnecessary swingeing rise in the cost of fuel, increased by the rise in VAT is slowing down the overall spending and hence the revenue. Eire has a reduced levy on fuels which is prompting an incredible cross-border trade. The knock-on effect of the rise in fuel prices we all know about, because we suffer. It is interesting that a lot of the immigrants have already seen the red light and are away home. We, like Alistair Darling, have nowhere to go. The only bright light on the horizon is perhaps the fact that now we should be able to get a plumber, a joiner and a painter, because their house building contracts will be slowing down and then they will be forced to take on our mundane little jobs

The DeLorean Syndrome My pint is always half empty rather than half full. My long memory causes me a certain amount of doubt when I hear of this incredible number of enterprises that are being examined for sponsorship in Northern Ireland. In the past, a new batwing car, designed and intended to be built by an American here in Northern Ireland, all failed miserably with the loss of millions of Government seed capital. Currently there is a great hurrah about American businessmen coming here to open up new businesses in order to provide work in underprivileged areas. I believe the idea laudable, what I don’t understand is, if the American economy is as bad as we are told, why they are not setting up there to help their people, rather than here, unless it’s because they are getting a vast handshake to get them started – the DeLorean syndrome. The inference that I have taken from what I have heard and read, is that these people are looking for special skills. What I question is if we will be able to fulfil the demands, or out of the blue we will have to import hundreds of skilled immigrants to complete the contracts, and have to house these foreigners who will not be spending their money here but sending it home. I question everything that our current leaders do, because up to now it seems that they shoot first and ask questions afterwards. Over the years we have had a number of new starts, sponsored and government-funded to provide labour, and I think I’m right in saying that in some cases once the contractual period had passed, the project either found a new home, or died. Our expertise will be used to design the initial system, iron out the wrinkles, and once the operation is running and children can operate it – bye bye!

07.05.08, Is Assessment A Blunt Tool?

I looked at the news today and was unsurprised to find that the PM was once again tinkering with the legislation. Ever since Tony Blair was in office every aspect of our lives has been brought under scrutiny time and time again, and many of the changes made have not, in the long run, been helpful.

Just for openers, I wonder if anyone took a sample of those doing the eleven plus and assessed them in the proposed manner as well, and then compared the results, and more importantly, published the results of this research. I’m surprised it hasn’t been lauded in the Press if it was so successful that we were all to be faced with the change of system. It would have shut up people like me!

In Northern Ireland we have been particularly proud of our education system, the level of grades and university places, and our place in the league tables of the UK. We are one of the last parts of the United Kingdom to retain the 11 plus, now there is a move afoot by the Minister to do away with that by 2010. The reaction to this has turned the whole of our education system upside down. We have a split system here where we have segregated schools, desegregated schools, and the usual mix of nursery elementary and secondary. We do not have private schools, but some have fee-paying pupils. What is now proposed by some of the secondary schools is that they conduct their own entrance exams, and only those reaching the standards required will be given places. There are a large number of schools throughout the Province that have a high reputation, and in consequence parents have been known to move house for their children to be able to attend. The other day I heard that one of my great-grandchildren had her name put down for kindergarten a week or two after she was born. The fact that the schools are confident that their new policy of entrance exams will not reduce the queue of people waiting to enrol children, is a clear indication that those people who respect education for what it is, are prepared to take the risk of the children suffering some worries for a very short period of time, and accept the subsequent expense of attending these schools, even at the expense of other choices.

I in the 30s, had the benefit of the LCC who introduced the 11 plus equivalent, and the scholarship system that went with it. We, parents and children, were delighted with the system, and we believed that others around the country were envious. Now, nearly 80 years on, a minority of psychologists, coupled with parents who have not the ability to see the advantages of academic selection, that the fact that while it may present worry and tantrums for a very short period of time, in the long run, is better than the random nature of the teacher assessment system. I believe in time there will inevitably have to be a reversal back to academic selection, but the sort of experiment taken on such a vast population instead of a trial, is unfair to those affected. Many of us have been complaining that our education system in the UK, taken overall, for a number of reasons has steadily become downgraded, and that the entrance requirements and degree standards of the universities have consequently been lowered to maintain the throughput.

Those who might read this article, will probably each take something different from it. This is the nature of thought processes nurtured in different environments. If you accept these two statements, you have an example of the permutations of reactions that will be placed as assessments across-the-board, randomly influencing the future of young people. In other words, I suggest that if you have 10 children each assessed by 10 different teachers, the assessments will vary considerably in each case. Every one of us knows that some teachers more than others have favourites, and we also know that individuals do not all react on parallel lines. I suggest therefore that without a major yardstick, personal assessments affected by inference are a very blunt tool.

18.04.08, Are Those in Britain Sitting on a Time Bomb

What I wrote yesterday opened other avenues of thought. Aggression achieves nothing, and religion is often an excuse for aggression. I only have to mention the Crusades, the Conquistadors, Bonnie Prince Charlie in the wars of accession to make the point. The incredible massacres of WW1 and WW2 achieved nothing. The uprising resulting from the Salman Rushdie book always left me with a feeling that it had been engineered to make a point. It implies that a person’s thoughts, if uttered are treasonable, and there is no place for free speech. It is not the British way to care very much about what someone writes, or even says, we are more phlegmatic. Internecine conflict, as I know, can be unreasoning, random and vicious, but we have moved on from the mindless random shooting and bombing, to a much more destructive, and again mindless form of warfare, the roadside bomb, the car bomb, and the suicide bomber. These are not selective, merely a demonstration of international hatred, and political pressure.

When religion enters into the equation, as it allegedly did with the Satanic Verses, there are generally other, more abstruse reasons underlying, such as the self-aggrandisement of individuals, greed, jealousy justified or unreasoned, and territorial gain. Strangely, there are times when other ploys to achieve the same ends are mooted. I remember at the height of the Troubles in 1971, when the IRA was at its height bombing and killing, a Republican woman seen on television, was shouting that the Republicans would achieve their end because’ they would breed the Prods out’. It was ludicrous I know, but that is the level at which the hatred between factions can drive people.

When one travels across Europe, what is most apparent is the difference in the way of life, between one country and another. For example, when I spent a month at a time living in France surrounded by French families, I’ve found their way of life, their way of living even, were so different to what I was used to in England and Ireland. I may be wrong, but I believe that the Brits carried their rural interests along with their rural values, with them into suburbia, and that is why gardening to the British is so important and possibly why they are so phlegmatic. When I see pictures on television, of areas of London that I knew as a boy, I am often amazed at just how much these areas have changed by the tastes of the new residents, with their vastly different cultural background. If our cities are going to be carved up into small communities, for a start there will be political representation, at which the different needs of the different cultures will inevitably presents problems of choice. I think it would do no harm for some university which is situated in an area where there are large amounts of small national enclaves, to find out about the relationships between the different factions, how local government operates, and above all the degree of, the causes of and results of international stress, and if it does exist as has been postulated by the television programme. It is of course possible that this survey has been done, but if so I was surprised it wasn’t included in the programme.

17.04.08, An open letter to MPs and MLAs

Immigration, The Inconvenient Truth, was a programme produced by Channel 5 and presented by Rageh Omaar, an immigrant Somali. This is a plea to the MPs and MLAs not to consider the immediate concern, but to look at the long-term effects of what they will leave to those coming after us, causing them to complain in hindsight that we had the facts but ignored them. The government is complacently protesting that there is 80% racial harmony in Britain’ The programme partially confirms that, but it points to a more hazardous and dangerous future. The programme concerned the long-term effects, real and potential, of our multiracial society, that is now so insular. I have written of my own construction on and extrapolation of what I have read.. This programme is the result of research, not supposition, and is divided into two parts, the action and reaction of individuals, and the racial mindset mainly induced by the ghetto living of the immigrants, and their evident wish to maintain their own identity. Leicester’s white population is now a minority, and the various nationals from Africa, the Indian subcontinent, and Europe live in isolated communities, with generally little intercommunication.

Enoch Powell talked about a dangerous social fragmentation, and Omar has reiterated this and shows that. tension is created when a foreign community moves into an area. Woolwich is an example, where gangs consisting of Afro Caribbean are opposed to Somalis, to the point where non-combatants find it almost imperative to take sides. These fights take place in small areas, through tribal and territorial concerns. People looking for protection also devolves down to becoming a tribal concern. Since the 1960s, Leicester has steadily become primarily a non-white city, with the white population a minority. Highfield, part of Leicester, has become totally Muslim with a high number of mosques. Surprisingly, Leicester does not have the same degree of aggression that is evident elsewhere. What is happening is that there is total racial segregation with no communication between the various enclaves.

Segregation of the mind is the other consideration. The Salman Rushdie novel, The Satanic Verses, created a mental segregation, the British Muslim, which overrides ethnic backgrounds. Immigrants now find new identities, steeping themselves in .cultural and the ethnic traditions of their forefathers, idealising that culture and its traditions as they interpret them, in preference to the British way of life. Global communication aids and sponsors this. While British churches are empty, in the segregated areas religion has a strong influence and bonding. We have become a community of communities, each with their own culture, religion and tradition. 50% of the people in this country feel that there are too many languages, cultures and religions. In 2005 an unsubstantiated rumour created a riot which led to two deaths and a number of casualties. A multi-cultural society can result in the international hatreds being fought out on the streets of this country. These divisions are driving people apart rather than aiding them to accommodate their differences, and they themselves augment their differences as a badge.

I have lived for more than 60 years in a divided society in Northern Ireland, where segregation induces tensions, and aggression can well up from a small beginning and overtake the majority. When you hear that in recent years we have received nearly a million immigrants, and there are more to come, the worry must be not only as I have shown above, but the effect on the infrastructure, the inroads into the countryside to provide housing, and the whole way of life of the country.

Emigration and a plea. I plead particularly with the MLAs in Ulster, Wales and Scotland, to think seriously about these long-term effects, and apply some sort of restriction so that their own cities do not become a collection of isolated ghettos. I am not competent to judge whether we need this level of immigration, what I do believe is, is that it is sponsoring an unusual level of emigration to countries like New Zealand and Australia, where the way of life is still British. These emigres are the cream of this country, trained at our expense in the professions that we need, and which are being replaced by foreigners. It is unsurprising that the standard of the 3Rs has dropped so radically over the past few years, as a significant proportion of the country is populated by people who in their own homes speak another language, and have difficulty with English, which is a complicated language in itself.

11.04.08, More Politics.

Political Ironies and political apathy. Politicians in Northern Ireland,England, Eire and America are celebrating the first 10 years of the Good Friday Agreement. It is ironic because it was the Westminster politicians who foolishly sent in the Paras on Bloody Sunday. The whys and wherefores of that day have been rumbling on for 39 years, costing millions and getting nowhere. It is ironic because some of the very people who are doing the celebrating in all those countries, were physically taking part in, financially and advisedly contributing to, sympathetic to or turning a blind eye to, a conflict that caused the death of so many innocents, to a greater extent than their efforts in the final agreement. We, Catholic and Protestant, but the silent majority, who felt we had got it made in 68, had it taken away from us, and if truth be known it is still rumbling on, like a dormant volcano. People are still being killed, politicians wrangle and fight their corner, the police, the fire service, and the ambulance service,are all being stoned and petrol bombed by would-be freedom fighters for excitement, parentally unchecked. The silent majority knew from the outset that there would be no outcome, they had seen it all before. What definitely started out as a legitimate grievance, ultimately became a gangland war with money not the righting of grievance as the main objective.We have seen the same thing happen in the Balkans, in Africa and elsewhere.Be wary of political apathy

Political Overstatement. In the past, I have been critical of our parliamentary system, but I have been very unjust to those MPs who work on our behalf, under the strict direction of those at the top, or to those who are small in number, but represent a large electorate. When a party is in an unassailable position, it is open to mismanagement, and misdirection by those in control. We in Northern Ireland have had the most amazing political transformation, whereby a party which was virtually unassailable, and had a high representation in Westminster, suddenly lost all but one of its seats, with the result that one person is having to carry the burden of a very high proportion of the electorate, because political apathy allowed the number of people voting to drop so severely that it caused this reversal. I’m sure that there are many more of the 646 members of parliament who are also there either singly or in very small numbers, representing large electorates, and working hard. To these I offer my apologies for some of my sweeping statements.

Can overstatements be legitimate? I’m writing about the disparity between a statement put out by the IMF, and those made by Alistair Darling about the state of our economy. I suspect that the large differential is as much to do with the face-saving of the Prime Minister, our last Chancellor, as it is to do with preventing some sort of financial crisis through panic. I remember when France fell Churchill made that wonderful speech which in effect made no bones about our dire situation. I believe that it is totally wrong for people in charge to make statements which, with the level of background expertise and real knowledge they can call upon, are misleading to the level that we are discussing here. If anything the IMF statement was such a shock, that it alone was enough to cause panic in some areas. Have you noticed how many flyers are coming through the door giving incredible discounts because cash flow is drying up?

10.02.08,Raandom Thoughts. A heinous racket!

A heinous racket! Whether this is common or merely in one hospital in Northern Ireland, I am unable to say as I have not researched it, but heinous it certainly is. A young woman, heavily pregnant and with a serious lung complaint had been sent to the hospital for attention. She entered the car parking area drove round for half an hour not finding anywhere to park and in desperation parked in the empty area for handicapped drivers. She then rushed to the hospital. When she came out she found her car clamped, any explanation fell on deaf ears and she was fined 50 or £60. But it is evident this is a racket, because it also is not the first instance. Let us examine the sequence. The car was allowed to enter the parking spaces, while there were a number of empty spaces for the handicapped, there was none for those who hadn’t a blue badge. To get out of the parking lot one required to take one’s parking ticket into the hospital and pay for parking at that point. So she would have had to leave her car somewhere to go and pay for a ticket to get out. If the disabled parking spaces had not been included in the overall parking facility, then the barrier would not have allowed her in, so the fault lay with the parking organisation. The fact that it had happened more than once was a clear indication that one must assume those in real authority, were never informed by the man collecting the £60. It is unlikely that he ever passed that £60 on to his employer, otherwise this farce could not have been repeated.

Censorship. Away back in the dark ages I used to think that the censorship of films and radio programmes was carried to ludicrous extremes. Today I believe there is a strong case for some form of uniformity in the standards of entertainment. Before I go further let me remind you that I spent nearly 5 years on the lower deck of the Royal Navy, and worked in one of the toughest industries, heavy engineering, and so I’m not highly sensitive to crude comment and bad language to the extent that swear words are inserted between syllables in a word. Some years ago there was a film called Shaft, presenting the exploits of an Afro American detective. The one thing it did not contain was racism. Yesterday on TV was a programme entitled Shaft, in which a very unpleasant excessively rich young man, to the amusement of his excessively rich friends, did his best to annoy an Afro American who had come into the bar. This ultimately resulted in the Afro-American being beaten up and killed, and the young man having his nose broken, gratuitously, by an Afro American policeman. From that point on the steady flow of bad language, and arrant racism would probably have shocked some of my naval colleagues, and the actual violence was not only excessive from every angle, the outcome of the actions was impossible. For example at the request of an Afro American young woman, whose child was being bullied by the head of an Afro-American gang, the same policeman pistol whipped the boy who was the head of the gang, across the mouth with such force that it would have broken his jaw at the first attempt, but he did this four times and the boy was still able to speak. I believe this level of filthy language, racism and excessive violence is becoming a standard feature in films coming out of America, and they appear to be vying, one with another, to be more disgusting and more violent. I’m no prude, but it is time, in view of the violence in our schools on our streets, that it is not portrayed as the norm.

Music and especially Jazz. I was brought up in the 30s with a gramophone having a huge bell speaker playing classical music, and the latest hits. Always I have collected music, from opera to bop, classics to syncopation. My daughter encouraged me to listen to music on Sky TV, but I found it impossible to find any station playing music that had a melody. Jazz, people like Art Tatum and Charlie Parker have always been beyond me, because I like a melody, at least in the opening bars, what they do with it after that I find interesting, but don’t always understand. I have really never understood opera, I love the arias and those choral sections, but what is sung in between in a foreign language I’m afraid, leaves me cold. So I do not understand some of the frenetic, and totally un-melodic, alleged music, which is so prevalent, and apparently so repetitive today. Some is wonderful, and well worth listening to, but it is the majority that I’m complaining about. Rap is an alien, Afro-American culture, which I cannot appreciate as an art form. The first two or three when I heard it I thought were clever, but no longer. Big band sounds, constructive jazz, and country and western, all have their place, will live forever, along with the classics, even becoming classics, but I believe the sell by date of some of what is produced today is the day after it was produced. It is an assembly line of the get rich quick, at the expense of the lives of those young people who believe they have a future in music, but are quickly dumped, when another young ingenue comes along.

A Letter to the NI Toutist Board, or any TB.

This basically is a corollary to the two pieces on Ireland preceding it.  Originally it was intended as a letter to the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, but as immigration seems to have taken hold, I think it could apply to a lot more. In effect I am writing to the NI Board and if it rings a bell in your manor, so be it. There will be some explanations for the general benefit which our Board will be aware of.

We live near Groomsport, what was a fishing village, but with fish quotas, it has become merely a small tourist backwater. It is at the mouth of Belfast Loch, with extensive views of the North shore, a neat little harbour, and small sandy bays. When one stood on the harbour wall, all one saw was the odd tastefully designed house, the Copland Islands, the Town front, and grassy slopes overlooking those bays. Now, there is ribbon spec building on those grassy slopes, that have commercialised beauty for the profit of individuals, at the expense of generations. In this high tech, high speed world that we have generated, beauty in any visual form, and especially long vistas are not just ‘nice’, they are an essential for the health of the mind. This is not psycho-babble 2007, it is a fact that has been recognised since I was a boy, and is why people stream to the coasts and airports every holiday, driven by an inner need they are not aware of.

We used to build two-up-two-down houses at 70 to the acre, from the days of the industrial revolution, up’ until the late 20s, when affluence was beginning to filter down the class ladder. Now we build them at 12 to15 per acre for spec building and about half that for posh estates. It doesn’t take an Einstein to work out what went into one acre now needs 7 to 8 when the roads and verges are taken into account. Remember in the old days, and I’m talking 1930s and 40s, there were often 6 to 9 people per tiny house, now it averages 3. The government is talking of us now needing a vast housing project, and intends building 3m houses in 13 years, 3m houses equates to 500,000 acres of land, plus revamping arterial roads to accommodate commuting, which means more land. We seem to be getting about at least 100 000 immigrants pa. At even 3 to a house, that means another 4,700 acres pa.

Farmers are suffering for a number of reasons that most of us know, Many are giving up, and the price of land for building being what it is, others could be tempted. I sometimes wonder, like architects and engineers might, if, when politicians are talking housing, they are forgetting sewerage, drainage, electricity and phones, the mummy run which clogs arterial roads, the shopping traffic, shops and all the rest of the infrastructure, which takes up more land, was never properly thought of initially, and then becomes a headache. It is one thing to put down an estate, but it can become a town, we have all seen it. Then the effect on the landscape is different to the original planning approval, and wars start about Sites of Special Interest, and all the other ecological concerns.

Tourist Boards are interested in preserving the heritage for visitors, the tourist industry generally, and income. I kneel before them beseeching, that they are well placed for an overview of development and should not only have a greater say in planning policy and decisions, they should be fighting for this green and beautiful land against the onslaught of commercialism.

65 Years Of An Englishman In Ireland, Part 2

Here I propose to deal with the leisure pleasures, and the quiet serenity of this beautiful island, North and South.

For those who like walking or scrambling up small mountains, walking for the scenery, not to keep fit, there is such a varied scenery, from the sea shore, bays, inlets, cliffs and sandy beaches throughout the coast, and there are rivers and lakes inland, with access to it all never much more than 60 to 70 miles from the larger towns. One is spoilt for choice. Many of the beaches have few people on them and can stretch for a mile or more, and we do have the Gulf Stream still. There are also beautiful mountain ranges which can be easy or hazardous, whichever you wish, like the ‘One man’s pass’ in Donegal to the Mournes in County Down, and beyond.

The ever-pictured whitened, thatched cottage, the jaunting car and the donkey with panniers are still to be seen, once in a while, in the remote parts of the West, where they still speak Irish naturally and not just to fool the visitor. Obviously, at fairs and special fetes, The Tourist Board, North and South, will bring some out to impress the visitors. We used to have Horse Fairs in the streets of towns and villages, when young gypsies would run, trotting a horse so the customer could assess its gait. Those days are rarer, there are still special fairs like the Old Lammass Fair at Ballycastle, where one can see it while chewing yellow-man, a sticky form of honeycombe. The turf bogs on high ground have not all gone, they can be seen as part of spectacular views, in many counties and many are still worked. Like the Lake District, the better known beauty spots like Killarney, are best left for an off-season visit, as they will be thronging and parking near the better views is difficult.

Accommodation and Food and Drink. There are a few multi star hotels, but the general run is moderate comfort in pleasant surroundings, reducing in price to some very good B and Bs. Both Tourist Boards have grading and web sites which give a wide range of information. Booking, off season is generally unnecessary. While there are nationally renowned restaurants throughout Ireland, they are not thick on the ground, and the best that can be said for most is that it is well cooked, farmhouse fare in generous quantities’ There is the Ulster Fry, served in the North in most cafes and restaurants up until eleven am, consisting of anything you may wish to order at ridiculously low prices. It is even used as a come-on in some shops. Drink in Ireland is an experience. While the police are alleged to enforce the open hours, in some country districts, if you were to ask the barman what time he closes he might say ‘October’ In Dublin in particular, where people come from all over Britain, if not further, for Stag Nights, there is a roaring trade in music played traditionally, and also singing is allowed. In the country pubs, the weekend will bring out the boron, the pipes and the accordion. Just remember, in Ireland, drinking isn’t a social grace, it is serious stuff.. The staples are mainly Irish Whisky and Guinness. The latter, if properly kept at a correct temperature in a traditional pub, (in winter I have seen candles burning near the wooden barrels), is a meal in itself. Irish whisky is vastly different to Scotch and especially the Highland malts.

Public Transport, taken generally, has been a poor joke since they took away our rail network. There is a reasonable service between the cities of Belfast and Dublin and in the vicinity of the cities, and there are fast, long distance buses. If you are not very rich, I suggest you obtain brochures of the areas you would like to see, and spare some time for looking through time tables to plan your holiday to get the best out of it. If you are rich-ish, hire a car or drive here, if you are disgustingly rich, take taxis

I think you would love this country as I do. Touring is still a relaxing and charming experience, off the beaten track. If you get a guide book out of your local library, brochures from the tourist boards, and above all a relief map, and plan it in a general way, with built in time to wander further, I believe you will return While Ireland has always had its ups and downs politically, visitors will not be aware themselves of anything untoward. Even through the Troubles in Ulster, visitors enjoyed holidays here and neither saw any evil or heard any

This is a skim over somewhere with history, folklore, superstition, and above all a welcome.

65 Years Of An Englishmsn in Ireland, Part 1

This is not a travelogue, and I’m not part of the Irish Publicity machine. What I write here is basically my own observations, interpretations and analysis, coupled with recent comments gleaned from newspapers. I write it, because I believe that over the next five years the Ireland that I have known and loved for all this time will start to change irrevocably, through so-called progress, the influx of strangers, and the fact that, by modern-day standards, there is the opportunity for tremendous development, and consequently tremendous speculative building..

In General When I came here as a sailor my conception of what I would find and what I did discover, were vastly different, I believe my conception was very common in England at that time, and apart from views of the troubles on television, I believe English people as a whole know little of Ireland. Geographically it is like a bowl, with a coastal area largely comprising high ground, high hills and mountains, with the centre of the island having lakes, arable land, the inevitable bogs, all generally at a low level. The scenery from one end to the other is mainly unspoiled, breathtaking in many cases, and a joy to behold. Apart from arterial roads, driving is still a relaxing exercise, with little ribbon building, few large conurbations, and miles and miles of coastal road with outstanding views, all within comparatively easy reach of our towns and cities.

The influences on Irish life since the 30s, could be divided into sections within which there has been little change. During the war years, ’39 to ’46, apart from the expansion of the shipyard and the aircraft factory, there was little change in our daily lives, the one common to all of the UK as a result of the war. There was little or no development, and our way of life changed little in that period. It was not until the mid 50s when we started to see the beginnings of development, expansion, and the new prosperity, with the introduction of up-to-date cars, holidays abroad and a strong building and infrastructure programme. .This expansion was probably steady until 1969/70, just 17 years, when the Troubles took hold, when public money was diverted to security, damage repair, the police and the military, compensation and to some extent political appeasement. So for those years, from ’69 to nearly 2000, there was nothing like the expansion, development and modernisation that was being achieved in the rest of the United Kingdom, nor for that matter in Eire. In retrospect, seeing what has happened socially in Great Britain, I think we have been saved much of the wrong type of development, that appears prevalent across the water.

In consequence of all this stagnation, we have a lot of ground to make up, but by the same token, it is the fact of our underdevelopment that makes this country so pleasant to live in and pleasant to visit. There is not the same sophistication, the same bustle, it is more relaxed, and behind the times.

Politics Ireland would not be Ireland without politics, so let’s get that out of the way to begin with. Whatever I write is bound to be wrong in the eyes of some of us, but with free speech at least I am allowed to give my viewpoint. Initially I had to learn that basically there were too strong factions functioning here in Northern Ireland. There were those who wanted to remain with Queen and country, and those who wanted a united Ireland, and in theory never the twain would meet. In actual fact a fair proportion of the middle-class, and those in the upper class who were not involved in politics, were not as strongly divided as were the remainder. Not only then, were mixed marriages frowned upon, in some instances they still are, but today the retribution is not as virulent. At different times in recent history the political differences have been used as more than a political ploy, but when the Troubles erupted sectarianism became rampant. There is no shadow of doubt that it will be more than decades before the differences are ignored, as it seems there are two attitudes to the general government for the whole country. Some people in Northern Ireland object to the Eire government having an input into Northern Ireland politics, which they feel should be solely British. By the same token there is a strong movement, and a steady change in the scene, as political parties from the South are considering having a hold in the North of Ireland. So it is likely that there will be an underlying tension. In my view, Northern Ireland politics is basically not about religion, but about the fear of being taken over by a faction that is contrary to your own political beliefs, be it Protestant or Catholic, and will cause one to suffer as a result. Until that fear is totally eradicated, there will always be an underlying political friction. On the other hand, visitors usually only see the beauty, the peaceful countryside, and are always made welcome.