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.