Birds of A Clef: Mex

I have a sketchblog on the go (also on this domain) but I haven’t really been publicising it much.


Anyway, I have a couple of projects on the go, one being the vans, and the other, rather suddenly, being a collection of birds from a project called Birds of a Clef. It has caught people’s interest for some reason with the net result that requests have come in.

Like this one, for example.


I see these taking more control than the van did.

Getting around Dublin

There was word during the week that in terms of some new investment in public transport infrastructure in Dublin, DART Underground would be shelved and money would be put into Luas via Broadstone to Dublin Airport. During the past week, there was an editorial in the Irish Times pushing BRT because it was cheaper.

I was extremely disappointed in the Irish Times. If you read the BRT documentation at the time public feedback was sought, you might be aware that on the day BRT went into operation (if it did), demand for it would already surpass capacity. As such, building it was never going to be anything other than utter folly.

Doing things because they are the cheapest option is incredibly stupid, particularly if they don’t actually work. You might as well not do them at all, save the money and push it towards something that does work. We are incredibly wasteful in this country sometimes. I do not know how we change this, but our theoretically national paper of record could go someway towards not supporting inadequate schemes because they are cheaper than the alternatives when compared to the alternatives they are inadequate.

There appears to be no coherent, encompassing vision for transporting people around Dublin beyond the city manager’s desire to get everyone to cycle everywhere. In terms of public transport, there is disorganisation and chaos, and an utter lack of a future plan. I get told that when we eventually get all the private transport off the roads, the buses will be grand. This makes me sick in my stomach for a couple reasons, not least the fact that there is a long way to go before the bus transport network in Dublin is grand and removing the cars is not going to cater for that.

Dublin’s public transport system is a collection of errors cobbled together in a “yerrah it’ll be grand” way. Most of the people who tell me it’ll be grand, it’s fine, sure we don’t need…probably do not get the buses at the times I do. They do not sit in a bus on Eden Quay for 8 minutes while a driver change is not completing because the second driver hasn’t arrived on time. They don’t spend 15 minutes on O’Connell Street waiting for passengers to board a 16. They probably don’t wait forty five minutes for that 16 because they have bunched on the route and now, there are three of them within 5 minutes of each other, and they are 45 minutes behind the most recent bus before them.

What is needed is a coherent plan for the city that doesn’t depend on the political generosity of a minister for transport. These things need to be planned for the needs of the city. But we can’t even get these things right in Dublin where the lack of efficiency in the system causes me night mares five days a week and this has to be costing the city money in lost productivity and frustration. What hope have the other cities of getting any sort of a reasonable plan and financing in place when the main road between Limerick and Cork isn’t being funded properly either?

Currently, if you are transiting the city from north to south using a bus, in most cases, you need to get through what I now call the Pass of Thermopylae, basically the slip of a road from D’Olier Street onto College Green. It currently has one lane because of Luas works. Dublin Bus’s social media team explained that this was causing delays.

But these delays are never going to go away because at some point, presumably, there will be a tram running along the lane which is currently dug up. On several mornings it has taken 20 minutes to get from Eden Quay to Dame Street purely because buses aren’t getting onto D’Olier Street, a combination, I suspect, from a lack of bus stop space, and limited flow capacity onto College Green. The current works, remember, are being done now because we didn’t want to do them 20 years ago.

Ultimately, at some stage, someone is going to have to sit down and say “we have X flow rate of people through these areas and buses are perhaps no longer the most appropriate way to do this. There are 21 bus routes going through D’Olier Street. There are 10 bus routes coming down through Drumcondra. And ultimately, we are going to have to recognise that this costs money and needs to be managed over a time frame greater than the lifetime of a Dail. Public transport in the urban areas will have to stop being the sweeties of a transport minister.


Coldwater pleasures


Probably one of my favourite kite photographs of all time. Sometimes it doesn’t feel so long again but it was taken in 2009 and that means it is more than five years since I was seriously taking kite photographs.

Living in the real world

One of the things which annoys me about discourse in general is that if you are discussing things like work, unemployment, the downsides of work, at some point, it is likely that some person will say something along the lines of “they need to live in the real world”, or “you’re living in the real world now”.

Without wanting to go into it in too much detail, I got told I was living in the real world now in response to a comment that I was finding my city centre bus commute to be a hassle. It is a hassle for various reasons. It is unpredictable in length, depending on what bus model I wind up on, I have a greater or lesser likelihood of being extremely travel sick by the time I get to the city centre, and a journey distance of 6.7 kilometres can take anything between 25 minutes and an hour. If I’m getting really travel sick, it’s likely that the journey is also taking longer than usual. Some bus drivers are absolute killers on the clutch. I thought the buses were all automatic but some days I wonder.

Anyway, this apparently means I am now living in the real world. I find it annoying, and to be honest, dishonest. It’s been a feature of my life for the last 3 months. Prior to that, for 9 months I was “resting” meaning I was applying for jobs after finishing college, and prior to that, I was commuting over and back to UCD, leaving home at 6.55 to a) get across the city in a reasonable space of time and b) get a parking space at UCD. I have no doubt there are some people who would assume that because I was a student for a year, I wasn’t living in the real world. Prior to that I drove to work for more than a dozen years. That must have been a fantasy universe as well.

This real world nonsense is flung at people in a lot of debates. Teachers get told they should try living in the real world. I’ve taught teenagers. I don’t know one person in any job that I’ve worked in who has done the whole spiel about teachers having an easy life who has any even remote concept of what’s involved in teaching. It may not be the real world, fine. But as a dream world, it’s a lot bloody harder than most of the other jobs I’ve worked in. I think people use the real world as a signifier that they are, or have been envious of people for some reason. Sure, you’d like not to go into work for 9 months. Try dealing with the stress of managing finances in those circumstances. The real world varies. For some people it’s incredibly easy, compared to others. For some, it is incredibly hard. Often, over time, it changes.

Life doesn’t become more real either which way. It only is as it is and it’s up to you to recognise what you can change. I’ve played every game around the bus schedule to try and minimise the impact of it on my life. My life didn’t magically become more real in the last three months because I was getting the bus to work compared to the last 15 years where I mostly drove.

It is a pure intellectual insult to split people into those who live in the real world and those who do not.