NCH: Igudesman and Joo

Force of circumstance, it was a tight run thing to see whether I would make it to Igudesman and Joo last night; and in the end, fortune prevailed. This is a good thing. The concert was great, great fun.

The National Concert Hall was about half full which in some ways was disappointing; the gig was such that I think the next time the pair come to visit, they will sell a lot more tickets.

If you’re not familiar with them, their big, big viral hit is I Will Survive of which there are a number of versions on Youtube (but here’s one) but that is just a mere hook into the monumental crazy experience that is one of their gigs. Before they close out with that, you will experience the frustration of a time share piano, the wonder of seeing a concert pianist playing Eric Satie while lying on the floor and seeing a kungfu violinist. And I must confess it is completely news to me how much in common All By Myself has with Rachmaninoff’s second piano concerto. It’s hard to pick out the most effective moments – this version of Rondo Alla Turca by Mozart is evidence of musical talent on a scale which few can offer. If you don’t play music, what they do here is incredibly difficult to do and get right. They did that last night too.

What is on show is some very interesting and rather crazy comic talent, very, very sharply scripted (and they stick robustly to that script), but it would not work at all if the musical talent was not there, underpinning it all. A tango dancing violinist would not be all that entertaining if he didn’t happen to also be playing Libertango near perfectly. And for all the physical comedy involved with contending with Rachmaninov’s handspan chords in one of his Preludes, the truth is, before the props come out, Joo has already demonstrated that he is technically a very strong musician as well. Both Igudesman and Joo are consummate musicians and that is why they are so effective at what they do on the comedy side. In one respect, Victor Borge was the same; his comedy would not have worked without his also being a very strong musician technically speaking.

The boys got  standing ovation and a super reception last night. Ultimately I hope they will be back and that word of mouth will do for them what I’ve seen it do for people like Tommy Emmanuel in the past…grow their audience. What was refreshing (and not often the case on a Friday night) was the noticeable presence of children in the NCH.

The duo’s YouTube channel is here.

The shadow of the wind

Following the abject disappointment of Possession: A Romance, and wanting a book in which to lose myself, I decided to pick up The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, mainly because he has a bunch of other novels and if I didn’t find him wanting on this occasion, I was set up for reading material until after Christmas.

I’ve actually read The Shadow of the Wind before, and somewhere about the temporary bases of my life, there is a copy of it, probably still sporting a Richard and Judy Book Club sticker. What I remember most about the book is the feeling of exhaustion on completion; a book that I wanted never to stop. What I could not remember was the plot; and maybe this is understandable; I am reasonably sure it is nine or ten years since I read it. Why that gap exists I don’t know; whenever I have seen the book on someone’s bookshelf, I have only felt some sort of distant love for a journey I took, once. What I was looking for in the past few days was that journey, again. It did not disappoint.

A look at the Goodreads and Amazon reviews for this book reveal that it is more highly thought of than Possession, with 4.3 from Amazon on 811 reviews, and a 4.21 from well over 210,000 ratings from Goodreads, which are orders of magnitude more than rated Possession by the time I got to it last week. People have clearly loved this book on a scale which was not really the case for the AS Byatt. Sometimes, it’s hard to understand why.

For me, the over-riding question is this: how does a 17 year old Spanish boy in a post Civil War Spain seem so much more real than a pair of current day academics, particularly given the increasing profile of academic poverty and lack of tenure all across the world? Logically, you’d have to assume that books with some connection to your current reality might have a greater hook in believability; livability…

I really don’t know how to work that question out. All I know is that when I read this book, it is so utterly compelling that the rest of the world fades into grey. I have no idea what has happened outside the pages of this book for the last 24 hours.

Credit for this isn’t Zafón’s alone; I have yet to read the book in Spanish and the English edition has been expertly translated by Lucia Graves. I owe a lot to her. My life would be the poorer without this book.

In one respect, I am pretty sure that originally, I was drawn to this book by the pretext of the book; the idea of there being a vast library of books from which I could choose one; one for myself. What I would not have given for such a library as a child. Many twisting aisles of bookshelves, with many books of intriguing title. When I think of the Cemetery of of Lost Books, it is a world that I have created for myself. One of the core concerns I had with the film adaptations of the Harry Potter books and the Lord of the Rings trilogy was a desperate fear that the Others’ worlds, the Others who who had the ability and wherewithal to bring Their Hogwarts to life, would ruin the world I had created for myself; I would have the exact same fear with this.

A book which transports you, and builds itself inside your mind, every brick, every pane of glass, and every pile of books is something special. Something which takes you away, and sketches a broad world inside your mind…for all the books that exist in the world, there are few enough which do this. I read this book almost as pages of soft pencil sketches drawn in front of me, a book that comes to me in stunningly drawn artworks, and not words. I probably could not read this book and try to find it in today’s Barcelona because today’s Barcelona is not in the broad pencil sketches which haunt my mind even now.  The Barcelona of The Shadow of the Wind is my Barcelona, every stone laid by my imagination.

Everyone has their own book which touches their lives in such a way that to pick it up is to travel without wings or wheels. For me, at this time and this place, and at a previous time and other place, it has been this book.

 

Possession: A Romance

Possession: A Romance was released in 1990 and I finally got around to reading it last week. If you have not read it, it is worth noting that this piece will feature spoilers of detail – in general, the core plot of a romance generally can be distilled down to “two people eventually fall in love” and most of the rest is window dressing.

The book has won a bunch of awards, is highly popular, features in lists of books to read and currently (ie Dec 2014) has an rating of 3.86 from Goodreads.com and 4 on Amazon.co.uk. In short, quite a lot of people like this book. For the record, Goodreads has it rated by well over 40,000 members; Amazon has it reviewed by a few over 90 people. It might, at some point, be interesting, from a datascience point of view, to compare Goodreads and Amazon ratings.

Many years ago in a French literature class, a lecturer recounted an encounter she had had with a major Irish playwright subsequent to some honorary award he had received but in which, she thought, the speech outlining why he was to get this award had listed a couple of his major works in the wrong order. She asked him whether in fact, the sequence of production had not been the other way around for two particular plays of his. His response was “Whatever you say.” From this, she took away the salutary idea that maybe literary critics and academics spent a lot of time looking for meaning and significances that just didn’t exist. I have wondered about this for years; that a cohort of people spend a lot of time looking for things which just aren’t there.

I am pretty sure the average academic whose life work is focused on doing this might find that idea to swallow. This brings us to Possession: A Romance by AS Byatt. I did not like it. I was not impressed by it.

For the tl;dr version of why, I felt it was a contrived plot featuring unenticing characters with a vaguely ridiculous closeout.

Books are a method of mind travel; the most engagement you will get from a book is by wishing yourself to be a character on the pages, or to be with a character on the pages. I have a suspicion that this explains the extraordinary success of some books and failures of others. Who would not have wanted to go to Hogwarts? I wanted to be on the Dawn Treader. I wanted to be on the Brendan. I wanted to travel back in time on many occasions. I wonder if much of the joy about Possession comes from people who want to find a mystery letter in a long bound tome in the British Library and can overlook the fact that basically, at the outset of the novel, the character who does is a loser. That the book may be an icon of day dreaming for the literati, a fantasy which could happen to them as they peruse the minutiae of some not frequently read author to whom they have devoted their lives and on whom they feed.

It is entirely possible that my view of this is coloured by not agreeing with the assumption that a couple of literary experts, choose any of the characters in this book as they are all profoundly guilty of this have the right to invade the privacy of someone long dead. Of reading the love letters he wrote and received. Of editing them. For this reason, although I read it as a teenager, I have never felt comfortable with the publication of Anne Frank’s diary either. When people write with some expectation of privacy, even if they are dead, it strikes me as profoundly lacking in respect to break past that expectation and poke around in their mind.

Given that much of Possession focuses on the desperate and rather unedifying search for a set of love letters, and closes with the justification that someone long dead meant people to find a particular final letter, purely on the grounds that they buried it with the recipient rather than burning it, I found it hard to identify with any of the characters. They all struck me as rather self-absorbed and lacking in respect for the characters they exploited for financial gain.

Also, in my view, when someone buries something with a coffin, it might well be with the expectation that “I personally cannot destroy this myself as I have some personal anxieties about so doing, so I will bury it with him when he dies and so he shall have it, albeit without having read it, and I shall not feel guilty of destroying a letter which was not meant for me. Plus, helpfully, as it is buried with a coffin, it will almost certainly never come to light again because frankly, no one would dig up a grave…”

But no. Definitely, she must have meant for Maud, a woman who was born years later, whose existence she could not necessarily have conjectured to find the letter. This is odd since frankly, whatever else you could say about Maud, she doesn’t come across as the sort of person who would stand over a grave with a shovel to get at some mystery box.

I would like to say I hated them all, but frankly, that overdoes it. Mainly, I identified them as the kind of people I would avoid at a dinner party. In any case, only four characters appeared to be built as characters, namely the two primary characters (the ones who ultimately we are rooting for to wind up together, and the two who are long dead, whose private lives is being raked over by a bunch of people for financial and professional gain who would be too snobby to do the same for The Sun for living celebrities).

Too many of the characters were introduced purely to drive plot along; the person who located the diary of another writer in France which revealed that the woman poet at the core of this mess was clearly pregnant at that time. A cardboard cut out who existed purely as a device to tell Maud and Roland that Christabel had had a baby. It did not appear to occur to any of the modern experts that if someone goes missing for the guts of a year in the 19th century and she is female and they have suspected, now at least, that she had an affair with a married man, that she may have been pregnant.

Roland’s boss exists solely to provide us with a good reason as to why Roland is a loser without a job of any reasonable earning potential (Roland has seen his standard reference for him and it is not particularly exciting) and then morphs into a device by which the letter which Roland found and removed from the library at the outset of this mess is returned without repercussions, and a device by which we are given to believe that after a number of years of inadequacy, in the end, Roland is sufficiently hot stuff that universities in three countries are desperate for his services.

Another Ash scholar, who is depicted as generally creepy and personifies all that is horrific in this personal need to take ownership of the lives of dead people for professional and financial gain is purely a device by which we might believe that all of a sudden, a lot of people have figured out that Ash may have had an affair. An ex-lover of Maud is a device to drive the plot into a race between the creepier of the Ash scholars and Roland and Maud.

All of these characters come across as having the substance of a sheet of white paper. Seriously, I could not imagine anything more depressing that sitting down to dinner with any of them.

Ah but the book is beautifully written is a common refrain. What of it? The plot is mundane: Roland and Maud are thrown together, he’s a loser and she’s written off as a feminist with the implication on the part of other characters that her work and the work of women like her is of less value in literary appreciation. 500 pages later, they wind up in bed together. This is predictable from the outset; the problem is ultimately you wind up just not caring. Roland’s girlfriend exists purely as a plot device to add greyness to the losershipness of Roland’s life, and to provide links to other plot devices in terms of legal advice. When most of the characters in a novel come across as mere machines, it really doesn’t matter how beautiful the language is if there is nothing of real substance beneath it. Pride and Prejudice may be the most hackneyed and widely read romance of all time, and the reason for that is each of the characters is very deftly assembled in such a way as they come across, for the most part as human beings.

The closure, a scene of one of Ash’s descendants (another character with 1 dimension) and the creepy academic who is pretty much a badguy caricature at Ash’s grave digging for this box which Ash’s wife had buried with him in the 1987 UK storm, came across as fundamentally unbelievable and at odds with the depiction of the two main characters, and the other cardboard cut outs which were bit part players in the plot of Roland finds a letter.  Ultimately, the main plus point is that it was over.

I wanted to enjoy this. I really did want to believe that it would be a rich a reading as it is painted to be. But the characters themselves did not come across as massively attractive to know, the plot was contrived. The flashbacks to the poor misfortunates whose lives were now the stuff of academic fluff were unengaging if reasonably accurately drawn. The beauty of the language was depressingly isolated.  At no point did I really want to stay in this story, travel in this story, be in this story. In that respect, the book was deeply disappointing. I am not a fellow traveller of the academics in this book, and the world created is not one I care to visit.

 

Greenpeace in Peru

Greenpeace

This is Greenpeace’s apology on Facebook to the people of Peru for accessing the Nazca site without permission.

I have a lot of problems with it. I have a lot problems with the activity anyway but ultimately as an apology, this is disappointing. If you walk up to a restricted and highly fragile site with a view to using it as an advertising platform, that’s wrong. I’m not interested in Greenpeace apologising for offending people. I’d rather see them apologising for the activity of laying a [message of hope] up there. They should not have done it. The issue is not that the people of Peru got offended; it is that Greenpeace plonked an advertising hoarding up there. Sure it was temporary but also, it was grotesque. They would be the first to savage a commercial company who did the same thing, I feel.

When you are an activist organisation, you cannot afford to be hypocritical. The area where the Nazca lines lie is fragile. Land access is justifiably restricted and subject to certain organisational requirements. Greenpeace have been told by officials in the area that they have caused permanent damage; Greenpeace appear not to want to accept this.

A statement on the group’s Facebook page earlier in the week insisted that “absolutely NO damage was done” by the stunt, and that “no trace was left behind.” The activists laid out yellow cloth lettering next to the hummingbird with the group’s logo and the message: “Time for Change! The Future is Renewable.”

However, if Greenpeace were even remotely qualified to comment on this, they wouldn’t have sent people up there to do it in the first place.

And it is not a message of hope. It is a message of hectoring. It is an advertisement for Greenpeace. The fact that that Greenpeace are an NGO does not remove the commercial aspect of what they did there when they leave their trademark/brand behind them.

It seems to me, from the apology above, that Greenpeace aren’t really all that sorry about this. The actual act of plonking their advertisement up there is what is wrong and that is what Greenpeace should be apologising. Personally, I see something like this as an act of vandalism and Greenpeace’s apology should be reading:

“We are sorry we damaged a fragile landscape in our ill-educated bid to force people to think like we do. Being an environmental organisation, at least one of us should have considered that damaging a fragile environment is a bad thing to do, particularly when that environment houses a piece of humanity’s heritage which is unique in the world. It is obvious that we need to reassess our own values and stop using gesture politics to draw attention to humanity’s need to pay greater attention to environmental concerns. We are ashamed that none amongst us considered the counterproductive nature of striving for improved environmental care by damaging a fragile desert environment. Our campaign director X who was responsible for this has resigned”

Instead, we get “Sorry you were offended, Peru”.

 

Visiting the past

I had cause at the weekend to wander into the hidden storage of my life, looking for things put away some fifteen years ago which, I suppose, most reasonable people would assume I might not need again. But need and want are not the same thing and having reviewed online options, I decided that I already owned decent Finnish-English dictionaries and what appeared to be still considered the better of the Finnish language text books. In fact I also had a decent grammar book as well which is useful.

They are all in pristine condition, despite being out of the day to day running of my life for quite sometime. Some of them were located in under 10 seconds, much to my surprise. Others amongst them caused me to visit more recent pasts in storage. It transpires that when I was in my cassette buying phase (for those of you under the age of 25, music didn’t come on CDs but on cassettes and records) I was also a fan of Bad English and Alias. This came as a surprise to me in a lot of respects. I wouldn’t even recognise an Alias song now which is particularly surprising.

The tapes are stored in a carry all bag which I used to shlep my stuff around between 1995 and 1999, ie, for most of the time I was one of those much mourned items, an emigrant. It’s something of an odd feeling to look at this bag and realise that for five years, between it and a long gone rucksack, I could contain the most of my life when I chose to move house. Moving house was, at that point. For people in the future, moving house may, furniture aside, become much more easy again as books and music and films get stored in digital format; an entire library hiding on a Kindle, an entire library of music coming from a streaming service. But I hit the transition phase, that place where people bought more stuff, but it wasn’t small in physical size. 20 years ago, kids didn’t have loads of music because they didn’t buy loads of it. Now they store it on a little box that fits in your palm, if you like. And the same with books, well, most fiction books anyway.

I’ve often considered, lately, how I would sort out completely clearing down my possessions. The furniture from IKEA, I’ve no particular emotional attachment to it so I could live without that, I suppose. After that, I run into trouble.

And yet, I know that we can recover from the loss of most things.

CD reviews: Alexandre Tharaud

It is nice, on occasion, to write about nice things, so I’m going to write about stuff I consider to be nice. such as, for example, some piano music, and specifically, one musician who, I don’t think, has a lot of traction here in Ireland and this really is a pity.

I say that mainly because I haven’t happened across him until recently. He’s been around a while, maybe a little under the radar.

If you are looking for an interesting album of bits and pieces, Alexandre Tharaud has a lovely album of pieces which he occasionally uses for encores, called Autographe. Standout pieces on it include Chopin’s Nocturne in C Sharp minor (posthumous) and an extraordinary transcription of Sibelius’s Valse Triste. Also worth a listen is an album called Journal Intime which is devoted to the music of Chopin (he has a couple of Chopin albums but this one is the stand out one for me).

I don’t know a whole lot about him other than what’s on his own site, and the occasional interview (from the point of view of online reputation management, someone’s done a really good job) but quick summary: he’s French, he’s done some very interesting stuff with a couple of French composers (really decent albums of Rameau and Couperin, for example, plus some Chabrier) and he’s age bracketed with people like Evgeny Kissin: not amongst the young showmen.

I like his style of playing a lot. The work done on the Autographe album is exceptional – very atmospheric.

This from the Journal Intime album is a good example.

It’s a major contrast to the brightness of some of the more high profile concert pianists who happen along the route to Ireland, I think. Recommended.

Whither constitution

So, moving on from the debacle that is Irish Water, there are now calls for a constitutional amendment to make sure that Irish Water can’t be privatised.

This is idiocy of the highest order and it is not what the constitution was designed for. Although to be fair, it’s hardly new to abuse the constitution to try and prevent legislation some people don’t like so I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised.

Irish Water is now a completely poisonous mess; not because many thousands of people marched in the streets on Saturday; it was a mess before that.

So, what needs to be changed to fix it? Well in the real world, the one inhabited by the people who vote and are supposed to pay this, it’s possible that it cannot, at this point in time, be fixed in such a way as it can start charging.

Here’s what I wouldn’t have done.

  1. I wouldn’t have hired John Tierney.
  2. I wouldn’t have allowed Irish Water to have access to PPS numbers.
  3. I would have had a lower flatrate per 1000L charge and no messing with household and children’s allowances.
  4. I would not have panicked and implemented a tax credit.
  5. I would not have panicked and talked about 100E rebates.
  6. I would not have done an about turn on household allowances if people don’t fill in the form. I’m not in favour of the allowances but if someone is going to be determined to implement them, they should be house related.
  7. I wouldn’t have given Phil Hogan the nomination for Ireland’s representative on the European Commission. But it’s fair to say I wouldn’t have done that anyway.

Here’s what I would do now.

Right now, the problem with Irish Water is NOT the risk of privatisation; it flatly doesn’t matter if it is or not because regardless, the problem is how usage charges were implemented, which is basically with all the finesse of an approaching fireball. Damage everywhere.

Updating the constitution really should be for key visionary changes in how we want this country to operate. Being nice to people. Banning capital punishment. It really shouldn’t be a political football used by one or other organisation, like SIPTU or the Labour Party, to stymy administration.

Fixing the problems with Irish Water now will be reputationally difficult but sometimes, hard decisions have to be taken. Fine Gael keep telling us that so it’s about time they learned that reality as well.

Irish Water, as is, needs to be abandoned. Closed down. Liquidated. It has cost money and it will cost money. But there is no way of fixing this.

Blundering on with a bad product without having the guts to deal with the reality of it being a bad product closes down companies as they throw good money after bad.

And maybe then, we can start from scratch and do it properly and efficiently.

on shoe shopping

I don’t especially enjoy shoe shopping. Part of it is that I find it a hassle trying stuff on, trying to work out whether it fits, and hoping for the best. Trying shoes on in shops is never really that ideal.

I like to think I’m not very demanding on the style front. I don’t need 27 different pairs of shoes in every colour under the rainbow. What I need are a pair of runners or two, a decent pair of runaround town flat shoes, and two or three pairs of reasonably dressy shoes which I can wear to work and, more importantly, can catch buses on and drive while wearing. More often than not, lately, there’s been a flat pair of shoes for wearing until I get to where I am going…

You can’t see me now but I’m sitting at my desk wearing a pair of shoes I have quite a while because I haven’t been wearing boss shoes for a while on account of being a student. Comfort is my king. Running around UCD was a boots or trainers trick, and not four inches of torture.

I don’t know if it’s only be, or what, but I cannot wear very high heels while driving. 7cm is SERIOUSLY pushing it. Anything above that and the pedals feel all wrong. For the odd special occasion, it’s not a big deal to fling a pair of flat shoes on while driving. I’m looking for shoes I can wear to work, with a suit or a dress.

A nice, decent pair of black court shoes, circa 5 or 6 cm high, and with a pointed but not life threateningly sharp toe is what I am looking for. I’d like it in particular if they had a tapering heel but not stiletto. A particular plus point would be if they did not cost 245E+ Much better if they came in below 100E. I’m all for buying good stuff but I have to be prudent for a short while here and shoes, unfortunately, are consumables, unlike, say, good pens.

This however, is too much to ask. I’m watching carefully for a Repetto sale – I like Repetto shoes but right now, they are above budget and need to be delivered from France. In the meantime, having gone through the three big department stores, what I am looking for is not available from what I can see. There’s a gap in the market between absolutely flat, and 3.5 inches high and growing. I know it’s coming up to Christmas; I know the glamour shoes are all the range. I’m aware that there are shoes which are probably not shoes at all but throwing weapons. What there are not are simple, beautiful mid heel court shoes without a million decorations in plain black leather.

It breaks my heart.

Irish Water

I am but a simple person but if I wanted to implement a user pays system for water charges in Ireland, here is how I would have done it.

  1. Sorted out the infrastructure
  2. Install household meters
  3. Send usage notices to house holders
  4. Do this over a period of at least a year
  5. Set up a utility company to charge per usage in a similar manner to the other utilities: ie every two months rather than every three.
  6. Implement an over time diminishing tax credit.

In other words, before founding Irish Water or some equivalent, I would have fixed the principal problems with the water network. Irish Water’s twitter feed is a daily litany of things being fixed. This really shouldn’t be happening. There is no way that the infrastructure should have been handed over in the state it appears to be in.

Additionally, as the more sensible approach to water charges is to base it on usage, over time before charges fall due, users should get a picture of their usage.

Then, when the network is okay, and we the people are familiar with our usage in actual terms, implement charges.

This, in my view, would have been the sensible way about doing it.

However.

  1. a lot of people are unhappy about how the meter install company was selected. More information on the rationale would be helpful
  2. a lot of people have pointed out that they are having trouble reading their own meters. Irish Water has suggested people will never have to do so. However, the vast majority of people in this country are well acquainted with the idea of checking their electricity and gas meters, some because they do it be default, some because they move house every once in a while. According to a conversation I had with someone on Twitter, by the end of September, Irish Water had not yet figured out what process would be in place for someone moving house.
  3. Because of the way Irish Water was set up, and the lack of transparency about usage, a system of allowances was set up, to be administered by Irish Water. Who decided that they needed the PPS of the accountholder and their children (but not any other adults) to ensure people got the right allowances. The only allowance which is linked to an individual is the allowance per child. The other allowance is household linked. It should not need a PPS number.
  4. Because of the screaming and howling about all this, a terrified government appears to have come up with the idea of a tax credit as well. The implementation of said tax credit doesn’t look to be exactly clear yet. But we do now apparently have a water charges system that a) involves usage allowances and b) tax credits. This doesn’t strike me as an efficient way of arranging things. Most other countries get by with a simpler set up.

So, what would be the best thing to do? Well, the Irish Government are in a bind, really, because they have to do this. It is not unique to them – I had correspondence with John Gormley on the matter and at that stage, the Green Party at least, when they held the Environment ministry, had no intention of reducing income tax to cater for the fact that water which we had previously been paid for through taxation was now planned to be charged via a utility. It is hard to say how Fianna Fáil and the Green Party would have implemented this (because I am certain they would have (my contact with John Gormley dates back to March 2010)), and it is evident at the time, John Gormley’s expectation was that the central coffers would not necessarily suffer by people paying water charges directly to a utility.

The issue for me is not that it’s happening. It is that if there was possibly a way to do something badly, the Irish Government appear to have managed to choose every possible poor decision in so doing.  This is what I find irritating. We were starting a water utility from scratch and we could have made it work if we’d tried.

It would help if some people with the power to change things – presumably we do have some – had the guts to recognise this and fix things. I’d prefer they avoided cosmetic things like firing half the managers. It is the whole way the system was set up from the outset which needs review, and not just the current people in charge.

Mortgages

During the past week, the Central Bank made noise about implementing rules around minimum deposits and maximum salary multiples for mortgages.

In summary, this is a good thing. If we had this in place 15 years ago, or more to the point, enforced it, it is possible that a lot of people who are in negative equity now would not be, a lot of houses built in places where we don’t need houses would not have been built, 15% of our economy would not have relied on construction, thus skewing employee skillsets, and we would not have had to bail out the banks. So much.

There is screaming and howling about this because of house prices now. House prices in Dublin, in particular. In summary, house prices in Dublin are clinically insane.

When this becomes a problem, what the people of Dublin, and Ireland, do, appears to be to scream at people in charge to find ways of giving housebuyers more money. Sort out affordability.

Sorting out affordability always seems to mean bending the roles to give people more money. It NEVER seems to involve chopping down the cost of housing. The interesting thing is, a lot of the people screaming about this and how will they ever afford their own home don’t appear to have the financial nous to understand that a net impact of a policy like this will be that prices come down. Whereas saving 100KE for your 500KE house might look horrifically impossible from here, if your house collapses in value to something more reasonable like 100KE, all you have to save is 20KE. It’s still a lot of money of course. Simple truth is that if a lot of people suddenly can’t afford extant house prices, house prices are going to come down.

Of course, this means that a lot of people who own houses will shout about their losses.

What it boils down to, however, is a choice between them – and they contributed to the financial collapse here by overpaying for their houses – and the future of the country. Sorry, but that’s how it is.

Discussions around the property market in Ireland have always featured a lot of discussion on blame. Whose fault is this current disaster? A lot of people like to blame the generation older than mine because they benefitted. But they benefitted because many people in my generation lost the run of themselves and over extended themselves. No one was ever forced to do this except by themselves. Simple truth is if people aren’t buying property, property prices will come down, probably slowly as people try to catch falling knives.

I read a rant on the subject this morning which depressed me. Firstly, home is not linked solely to owning property; it’s how you live in it. Secondly, the person writing it seems to think that having a massive debt around her neck was a good thing.

Instead of screaming for more money, the priority should be to reduce the cost of housing. Let me put one example on the table: a two bedroomed apartment in Brussels to rent will set you back somewhere around 900E. It will be far better serviced by helpful things like transport infrastructure and healthcare and commerce and it will not be out in Ashtown or Ratoath which is probably where you’d have to go to pay similar rent in Ireland.

I don’t know how you fix some of the structure problems of property in Ireland: I think you’d need to knock a whole pile of buildings and build properly designed accommodation (not the apartment complexes we’ve built, that’s for sure) and start over. What you don’t do is feed more money into the system. We’ve already had one huge, economy killing fiasco. It would be nice to have learned from the experience.