Category Archives: life in general

Saturday mornings

I like those Saturday mornings where I wake early, and get up * reasonably * early and have a chance to ease into the day. I like doing it during the week as well but for some reason that’s not happening much lately.

Facebook has been begging me to install their mobile app on my phone for ages but I’m just not interested. I took twitter off my iPad and I’m getting close to pulling it off my phone although if I do that at least on the phone it will stay logged in on a browser. I get a lot of my news and quite a few interesting bits and pieces through Twitter – far more than I ever did through Facebook. But it is too easy to get hooked into reloading twitter all the time and that distracts me from being distracted by my own thoughts. Saturday morning’s get me back there sometimes.

I never feel all that great if I stay i bed late on a Saturday morning. Mostly I like to be up before 8 if possible, well before 9 at best. After that things start feeling not great. I feel behind, unrelaxed. Online social media often contributes to my still being in bed at 10am on a Saturday morning and it frustrates me.

I sometimes wonder how much of this is evidence that in fact, and in agreement with all appearances and a selection of calendars, I am getting old. Not so much the getting up early – because I mostly did that anyway – but the feeling that social media is not bringing so much to my life any more.

Saturday mornings bring the opportunity to relax a little, think about where I am in the world and what I want to do. They are always much better if I am not also trying to frantically catch up with things. There is pleasure – surprisingly enough – to be got from the sound of getting the washing machine done on time and listening to it going through its cycle early on a Saturday morning. It gives me a feeling of control. And relaxation because at least I don’t have to scrub the clothes thanks to technology.

I wonder sometimes – coloured a lot by what I read on line – how much time we devote to not being stressed, not being under pressure. Even our hobbies can add pressure by adding a time dimension to them – three of my local swimming pools close at 12 on a Sunday which puts you on a bit of a time table. The please on Saturday mornings for me is not being on that much of a timetable. Not needing to rush out the door.

I like Saturday mornings. Above and Beyond in the background. A leisurely breakfast and the knowledge that no bus I get on today will be the same as a sardine can fitted with a sauna.

I must buy all the things!!!!!

Someone posted a craft link to my Facebook feed the other day on how doing craft stuff and buying craft stuff were two separate hobbies. I totally understand this.

Yesterday, I bought some mechanical pencils. When I lived in Ireland, basically, if you wanted a mechanical pencil, it was a 0.5mm or a 0.7mm you got. And the choice in the cheap price range was a bit pathetic. This is why I tended to bulk buy mechanical pencils when I was out foreign. They had pretty pencils. They had good pencils like Uni Kuru Togas and Uni Shalakus. They were pretty, and they came in a nice range of colours and as 0.5s went, they tended to stay fairly pointy.

When I started drawing I realised that I needed something slightly finer again to deal with fur. I drew mice.

And evil looking kittens.

And I struggled to find anything finer, like that really nice 0.3 the guy on the Youtube video was using. I tore Dublin apart looking either for a clutch pencil that was nice and long (duh) or a 0.3. I eventually found a 0.35mm Faber Castell. For a long time, that was the only 0.3 pencil I had. I bought some class of a Japanese one in Delfonics in Paris once for a friend who liked particularly lethal stationery and spent months afterwards regretting not buying two.

We’re talking about 0.05mm here but the other problem with this is the lack of replacement leads.

Which brings us to yesterday. I discovered another stationery shop in Luxembourg a few weeks ago and yesterday, I got to go and Check It Out. It didn’t have Uni Kuru Togas (pity) but it did have a few Pentel Orenz in various sizes. I have coveted a Pentel Orenz for ages. I actually owned one (having picked it up in Delfonics in Paris a few weeks’ ago) but they had them in a lot of different sizes and colours. And they had other Pentels that I didn’t see too often. I’ve a bundle of Pentels in the mechanical pencil role but they are 0.5s and 0.7s.

You know, when you start drawing they keep telling you to, you know keep trying stuff till you find what you like. I have a lot of pencils both wood case and mechanical and clutch. I’m finding that I like different pencils for different things.

Anyway, my little eyes lit up, and I bought 2x 0.2s and 2x 0.3s. I was strong on the 0.7 and 0.5 front, even to the extent of not buying a 0.5 Pentel Graphgear which I sort of thought I didn’t have but rationalised it on the grounds that I had about 4 Kuru Togas and 5 Shalakus, all 0.5. And that wasn’t including all the other 0.7s (hello Faber Castell and Caran d’Ache). There’s a moratorium on a number of stationery items at the moment although it’s possible if they were selling Kuru Togas in anything other than a 0.5 I’d have capitulated.

Today then, I needed to find homes for these new pencils, the joy of my life, which which I would be drawing fur till the cows came home, metaphorically. I have seen no cows since I left Ireland. As part of that job I also did a census of boxes of mechanical pencil leads. I took the opportunity to tidy out the pencil section of my tool box (this means I didn’t deal with the fineliners) as well. From this experience I learned that I have a lot of 0.3mm mechanical pencils. Now, the one that was in my handbag pencil case has been causing trouble but because it was one of 3 Staedler Mars I’m not entirely sure whether it’s the same one that came out of my handbag pencil case (it’s a small case to impose discipline), these new ones which I got yesterday and the infamous Faber Castell 0.35 which I bought a few years ago from the only shop in Dublin which did, at the time, sell something that fine.

As a result of this exercise – I deliberately did not take any photographs, I have discovered that

  • the reason my tool box wouldn’t close was because it had LOADs of pencils in it. It’s still pushing it tightness wise but it looks less uck than it did this morning
  • I have enough pencil lead to open my own shop but surprisingly enough, the lead I am least well supplied in is 0.7 of any graphite grade. I have more 0.3, and 0.2 than I have of 0.7. I think this is linked to panic buying. IF you know every shop will have some variety of 0.7 then you don’t panic about it. Given that historically I’ve found it impossible to get either 0.3 and smaller pencils and associated lead, I clearly binge bought it any time I saw it.
  • My desk is nice when it’s tidy.
  • I also have a lot of international ink cartridges, colour blue (they were in the same drawer as the pencil lead supplies). I have no idea what to do with them; I have plenty of fountain pens, this is true, and many of them even take international cartridges (I have loads of Lamys too). But I really have no idea how I accumulated so many blue cartridges because I do not buy them. I’m pretty certain I did not ship them from Ireland. And while you tend to get a cartridge or two when you buy a cheap fountain pen (like 10E worth of neon colour plastic things), I still seem to have an order of magnitude more blue cartridges than can be reasonably explained by the number of dirt cheap plastic school kid fountain pens I have acquired in the last year.
  • If I had any guts I’d do something about the fineliner supply in my tool box but to be honest, I think one of the key issues there is the inability to differentiate between the “live” fineliner and the “spare fineliner because the wretched things go dry at the most inopportune times”.

Anyway, courtesy of this morning’s work, my pencil lead selection is currently tidy, and there is a moratorium on buying any pencil lead at all. Whatever I have, I need to work through and this includes the random colour lead I seem to have acquired as well. No more. Although, no wait, I am allowed get graphite when I run out of that. But we’re talking about an event sometime in the long term here.

I’m getting good at actively not buying any more cheap plastic fountain pens (I dread finding out about the colours of next year’s special edition Lamys). This at least is not adding to the orgy of blue ink in one of my stationery drawers.

I need to spend more time drawing. I did a dragon for Inktober the other day but I seem to lack the time to actually do anything major, any painting lately. I also started designing this year’s Christmas card – I’d apologise but the Christmas card designs tend to need to be done several times. I don’t have any of my large format watercolour paper with me so it gutted me this morning to do this, but I bought some. I have about 150 sheets of the stuff in Ireland. That aside, I think one of the key reasons I don’t draw much is that my desk suffers from Flat Surface Law Syndrome, the one that says No Flat Surface Remains Uncluttered for more than 5 seconds.

For weeks I’ve considered that a good solution to the lack of desk space would be buying more desk space but really, I think what I need are more shelves. It frustrates me that I can’t keep my home desk tidy when my work desk looks immaculate. I think it’s because my electricity bill does not travel to my work place. Things wind up on my desk though because there is no home for them.

There was a time I used to buy books and CDs. They did, in all fairness, take up more space.

Wandering through pages

I’m not entirely sure how but this popped up on my twitter feed this morning:

Alex Stubb wrote a piece for Finnair’s inflight magazine on the question of reading and the fact that he seemed to be doing less of it. I must confess I was a bit envious of his 4000 books. I cleared out a good lot last year when I was moving house, much to my sadness. What he said about the place of reading in his life resonated. I have been thinking about this on several fronts myself lately. I’ve recognised that I read far less than I did in the past. This despite the convenience of a Kindle which currently has a queue of about 200 books to read. The fact that I have not been reading much has not necessarily meant that I have stopped actually buying books.

So far this year, I have finished reading 12 books. This is about 8 more than usual lately and this is mostly because I decided to make a concerted effort to read more. I just haven’t formalised it in a 1+1+1 plan like Mr Stubb has. But I am inclined to follow his lead, or at least give it a shot. I’m not able to do 1 hour of exercise every day on the grounds that in theory, most weeks I go swimming 3 to 4 times and that’s a minimum 2 hour cut out of my day. I also feel that twitter absorbs a good deal of my time but not necessarily productively. So in addition to reviewing and rebuilding my reading habit, I’m also looking at chopping the number of accounts I follow on twitter.

Two things led to the loss of reading from my life. I felt the loss of Terry Pratchett enormously. Additionally, I used to read a significant amount of children’s fiction and with Harry Potter, I seem to have tapped out of that lately. Most of what I have been reading of late has been non-fiction. I’ve just finished Motherfóclóir which is the better of the two books focused on using the Irish language which I read this year. I also finished Silk Road by Peter Frankopan which is a book I had been travelling with for some time. More frivolously I have started reading Calvin and Hobbes again. But I have also drawn heavily on the field of science and genetics for escape.

I have a massive reading queue, and it is hard to know what to start with. I have some frivolous German stuff, and a classic of travel writing by Heinrich Boll lined up. In a way, I feel a bit overwhelmed by the number of books both on my kindle and on my Amazon wishlist and I wonder if that perhaps, contributes to the paralysis I sometimes now feel about reading. Like I have a lot of books to get through.

Mostly recently acquired are the memoirs of a US interpreter which I expect to be relatively easy to read, and apart from that, I have been journeying with Empire of the Word by Nicholas Ostler for some time. I think it is sometimes more difficult to make progress through very in-depth, long books on kindles. We lack the visual evidence of progress; the movement of the bookmark through the pages. I regret that and somehow, I need to be practical as well.

What I lack at the moment is a way into fiction. The last piece of fiction that I read that truly took my life by the scruff of the neck and pulled me out of reality – and it was a re-read – was Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. I have another of his other books to hand but I have somehow not found a route into them.  In a way, I think for years I was sated by the escapism guaranteed by a visit to the Discworld but I don’t think Terry Pratchett would appreciate the idea that he had spoilt me for other books.

I need to get involved in a little exploration. Just as soon as I’ve read a few more of these books I have lined up for the last 5 to 10 years.

 

 

 

Generation Emigration and the Irish Abroad

I’m not entirely sure when but at some stage during the last recession, the Irish Times started running a regular feature called Generation Emigration.

I was living in Ireland at the time, as I did for all of that recession, and I was mildly annoyed with them. Firstly, this was hardly the first generation to have emigrated in mass numbers and the previous lot were less than 10 years previous. I emigrated in 1994. A lot of people I know did. And secondly, emigration can either be mourned, but you’ll be more successful if you see it as an opportunity and an adventure rather than a complete imposition.

I’ve no doubt the Irish Times did this because it paid them to do so but having read a bunch of the pieces, I found it all mildly depressing, and perhaps that was the angle they were aiming for. They’ve since renamed the section The Irish Abroad which I suppose is a little less depressing.

I don’t know that it was the label Generation Emigration that made it depression. It’s just I read enough pieces talking about people missing home that even though I was in Ireland, I was starting to climb the walls, and then when you got the pieces about people who had decided to Come Home it was really depressing.

I did all this. I did the emigrating in 1994, and I did the Coming Home in 1999. One of the things I knew then and still know now is that having lived elsewhere changes you and there will always be things that you miss. Certainly, Lidl and Aldi alleviated a lot of those things over time and eventually Tesco started stocking couscous as well. But nowhere in Dublin did hot chocolate like they do in Italy and only in that small village in Germany where I was working for a year could you get that really nice Mohnkuche. The years after coming home from Brussels were spent desperately missing street waffles. And I couldn’t get a decent haircut for love nor money.

The biggest problem when I emigrated the first time was tea. You couldn’t get that very easily at all or at least, you were stuck with Liptons Yellow Label which is the equivalent of hell for the discerning tea drinker; that is to say, someone for whom Barrys is the top level of tea. But there wasn’t much else. When I got back though, there were lots of things. Stroopwaffel (Lidl helps now and again), Parma Ham (took a few years but everyone eventually caught up), Butter with salt crystals (take a bow, and quite a bit of money, Marks and Spencer). Your horizons broaden and then, when you go back, they narrow again a little. I read a lot of pieces from people coming home that just made no sense to me because they focused very much on how everything was going to be perfect in Ireland this time. There never seemed to be any consideration given to the idea that in fact, being away changes people and well, with it, comes a little bit of longing. Of homesickness for a bunch of different homes.

Emigration now is different. I emigrated again last November. When I left the first time, I wrote lots of letters. Now, we have email, Skype, Whatsapp, Facebook. Phone calls don’t cost a fortune any more either. Ryanair makes a lot of journeys a lot easier and a great deal less expensive. Aer Lingus have seriously upped their range of routes. It’s all, in practical terms, far easier than it used to be.

It’s just, for some reason, I read a lot of pieces in the Irish Times that suggested emigration was really hard, and coming back was a lot easier. For me, it really was the inverse. Leaving wasn’t so hard. IN a way, it was an adventure. Coming back left little pieces of me in Finland, France, Germany and Belgium. Maybe not so much in London. And yet, I knew this would be the way it was. I sometimes wonder if the current returning ex generation emigration are set up to face this.

Cities for living

tl;dr: read this Intelligent urban transport systems

When I left Brussels for Dublin in 1999, I was operating under the assumption that Dublin was becoming a better place to live. The bus system was still catastrophic, but the Luas was under construction, and there was a buzz around the place which suggested there was a focus on how people could live more easily in a city which to be honest, had been a bit of a disaster when I was in college there in the early 1990s. People from Dublin do not tend to like hearing this but fine.

However, against that any time you as a returning emigrant highlighted things that could be done better (and were elsewhere), there was still a prevailing attitude of “Well here’s the Ryanair website, off you go if it is so much better in France”. Most people would take the view that health care in fact was better in France. In general.

I spent 17 or 18 years in Dublin before eventually escaping again. It took about 5 years of planning, battling, thinking about stuff and trying to catch opportunities before it all came together and I got out. The thought of growing old in Dublin depressed me and when I look at debates around certain aspects of living in Dublin still going on I reckon I would be old before Dublin reached a stage where in fact it was an attractive city to live in. Essentially, it can be very difficult to create a healthy life style in Dublin – I managed it for around 12 of the years I lived there and when it went bad, it went quite badly. In the end, I was losing 2-3 hours a day in commuting over a commuting distance of 7 km. It’s one thing to lose that sort of time if you’re travelling 60 km each way. It is ludicrous if the distance is 7km. I walked it one day. It was deeply unpleasant as well.

I’ve long been of the opinion that people in Dublin would be a lot healthier if the place had a coherent, dependable, integrated public transport system. It doesn’t. Not only that, it isn’t getting one any time soon. There is a current project in place which will displace 13 million bus journeys to facilitate something like 1 million bike journeys. There just isn’t an integrated consideration of the question “How do we make this place a good place to live”. Symptoms are attacked piecemeal, other problems are not addressed at all. All in all, if I had to pick one word to describe trying to navigate Dublin, the word Stress would line up.

I whinge at length about public transport in Dublin, but in particular I want to highlight a key problem in that particular city – I am not sure that it is unique to Dublin but my experience is that it is particularly bad in Dublin. It is a city and society in which the default is an unhealthy lifestyle rather than a healthy life style.

For more than 10 years, I worked somewhere that was a guaranteed 20 minutes from where I lived. Every single morning, that’s how long it took me to get there and that’s how long it took me to get home. This meant I had more time to do things like go swimming three times a week, cook in the evenings when I got home without being utterly exhausted, go climbing, do more needlework, go to more concerts. The logistic reality of my life was not all that stressful in the grand scheme of things. When I started working in the city centre I attempted to make public transport work for me because really, it’s more environmentally sound, and in theory it should be a bit cheaper. In reality, the transport times across two jobs in two different city centre locations were either completely unreliable, or consisted of a mode of which one was completely unreliable. I eventually went back driving because the journey times were generally more reliable, and came in at shorter than the public transport options. Again, that was for 7km, and one of them was sa point to point bus service.

People cannot live healthily like this. And yet in Dublin we just took it for granted? Appointment at 7pm? Travel wildly early because travelling on time didn’t guarantee you’d be on time. The amount of time wasted in inefficient travel in Dublin for me was just beyond calculable and it was utterly depressing.

Time wasted like this has all sorts of knock on effects. It puts stress on parents trying to collect kids from childcare, arriving home later from work cuts into time for doing stuff like oh preparing and cleaning up food, doing any sort of a hobby, getting exercise. I can clearly flash back to having spent a crazy amount of time figuring out how best to fit swimming into my schedule and still failing because an 8km journey could take up to 2 hours. Arriving home at 8pm with a need to be up at 6am has a fairly desperate impact on your ability to manage things like a regular healthy eating habit, a reliable sleeping patter and any sort of relaxation. We have increasing rates of burn out and our health indicators are pointing towards obesity and diabetes and other environmental issues in the area of air quality.

As a society we create an environment where the default option is to be unhealthy and to be in an unhealthy environment. It’s a macro level problem. And we expect people to fix it on a micro level. Individuals need to fight hard to sort out diets and eating habits, and getting enough exercise even as they still don’t have time for either and are trying to operate in a lifestyle which is designed to counteract every effort they make. It doesn’t have to be that way.

When you move outside the public transport side of things, there is also the general social issue of presenteeism. Where people work crazy hours and make a virtue of it. Despite the fact that it adds to their stress, adds to the amount of time they don’t spend recovering, doesn’t necessarily add value to their working day. And then they complain about people who they perceive to have easier lives and instead of working on the premise of improving life for all, they look to disimprove life for all

It’s corrosive and it is something we will have to address urgently particularly in the wider context of things like minimum basic income and especially automation of jobs and moves to replace workers with intelligent systems (for a given value of intelligent anyway).

It is clear that we need things to be sustainably financially for things to operate without causing war or catastrophe. But against that, we need to ensure that the benefit of things are shared relatively fairly. We don’t tend to have this debate either and ultimately, it is not going to be healthy to have an increasing number of people unable to find work while another sector overworks itself to an early grave.

I suppose, the point I’m making is we don’t ask whether the way our society operates is healthy and whether our objectives are sane and sensible in terms of enabling people to live healthy lives. I’m not sure how we start that conversation. But I do know that reliable transport would make people’s lives a lot better.

Trail running shoes moan

When I started “running” for a given value of running earlier in the year, I had to go and buy trainers.

This was hard and I wanted two pairs: one to run in and one to mooch around in. I now don’t like the mooch pair and they were Nikes. I loved my trail running shoes. They are a gorgeous black and aquamarine. They are also no longer available. And ASICS have annoyed me by not having nice colours for the replacement range.

Am annoyed. Amazon has the older pair in every size except mine. Mutter, mutter. The search starts again.

A Library, A Library, My Kingdom for a Library

Very few things make me terribly, terribly envious of other people, but home libraries, grand pianos and home swimming pools are on that short list.

I’ve always wanted a home library. A room with floor to ceiling shelves full of books. They don’t all have to be “worthy” books – although I have a collection of dictionaries which probably exceeds most normal people’s need for reference books.

Of course, I own a kindle, and carry around 300 books with me at all times. I can probably fit more books on the kindle than I could in shelves in my current living room.

But.

Actual, real books are special. Of course they are. They have a user interface which kindles really can’t touch. You know by looking at a book just how far through it you are, or are not. The average pocket book is more comfortable to read in bed than a kindle is.

Books have a special smell. Eau de Parfum de Brand New Book which slowly, over a long time period, moves to Eau de Parfum de Musty Dusty Book.

I love new books. I love leafing through them. I especially love the 2017 Edition of the Illustrated Grand Larousse. Did I mention I liked dictionaries?

I love casting an eye over a bookshelf and thinking “Today I will read (or reread) this book or that book”. It’s not the same as doing it through a kindle.

I don’t really care what my house looks like out on the outside. I care that it has a library, with floor to ceiling bookshelves, slowly filling up, in a chaotic but very personal mode. Not for me this utterly ridiculous idea of sorting books by colour to make a Statement. This is not about interior decor. This is about exploring the world.

In the room a comfy armchair with a table and a lamp so that I can see the words and have somewhere to leave a cup of tea as I vanish into a world that only exists in the imagination of a random stranger somewhere.

If the room is big enough, you know, I’ll put the grand piano in there too. Maybe a beanbag too for those days when the armchair is just too formal. Days when, outside it is raining but on the pages of a book in my hand, the world is full of possibilities, and no risk of getting wet, only of travelling a world currently unseen.

I’ve always felt that lots of money was wasted on socialites. I’d spend it on books if I had it.

Feierdag

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Luxembourg rather sensibly has its national big party event in the middle of summer. I was thinking of this as I considered the absolute novelty of standing outside in the warmth of 30 degrees to watch a fireworks display rather than standing out in the freezing cold waiting for the rain in March.

23 June is Bonfire Night in Cork. When the Independent Republic of Cork is declared, make that the Independence Day festival. Trust me. You’ll wonder how you tolerated marching bands in March. There is no comparison.

In Luxembourg, the whole national celebration thing starts the day before the National Day. This includes turning the place into a giant street party. It is unbelievable.

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This is from the Ville Haute near the main expensive shopping district. Just around from this the party starts.

Bar after bar after bar has DJs playing sets on the street.

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including dry ice machines

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and like 20 metres away from all these club on a streets you have gigs on a street.

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These were the headliners on Place d’Armes. Around the corner in front of the Hotel de Ville there was this lot.

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That gives just a bit of a taste of the atmosphere there was in that square last night. This was their audience by the way.

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This here was the main stage where the Military Band were lined up to accompany the fireworks.

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They were brilliant. You can here them in the following videos.

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Jupiter Bringer of Joy

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Jupiter Bringer of Joy

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Bolero

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Bolero

Here are some stills of the fireworks.

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This was me at one of the gigs.

I have to say last night was great fun. There were food stalls everywhere. In the Knuedelplatz, where the guy with the fiddle and the girl on the accordion were rocking out, you went and exchanged cash for tokens. There were stalls over the place selling light sabres and light up hairbands. The buses were rerouted for the evening and free – seriously, they are dead serious about getting people to get buses. Three routes were added to support park and ride. Bunch more photos and weirdly aligned videos (don’t look at me – this happened automatically) to be found here.

Shop boys

There’s a Neil Gaiman book called Stardust the film adaptation of which is, in my opinion, one of the best film adaptations of a fantasy story going. The sort that leaves you feeling uplifted and happy rather than relieved, that is. It probably isn’t as epic as The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

The chief male character pops up at the outset working in a shop. He has a crush on the local lord’s daughter, who dismisses his interest because well he’s just a shop boy. Later the non-bitch love interest points out that there are shop boys, and there are boys who happen to work in a shop for a while. This is shortly before he becomes local king. In many respect, it’s a fairly simple rags to riches story where the poor boy with no power at the beginning turns out to have rather a lot of it. It is a wonderfully filmed piece of cinema, the music is lovely, the costume is lovely, but there is still this idea that you are only worth something if you wind up rich and successful at the end

That being said. I was at a family occasion lately, and time past were being discussed. The times past being discussed were dances. I grew up in the disco era so all of this was completely alien to me. We had to deal with “the slow set”

Dances in times further back than that – a lot further back – were the stuff of legends. The boys did all sit along one wall, and the girls did all sit along the opposite wall and the ritual was basic enough: the boys asked the girls to dance and the girls, except under extreme circumstances, could not say no. A typical extreme circumstance involved too much alcohol which sometimes leads me to wonder how often in fact, women got to say no at dances down the country. How much was too much? If you said no, you got a scathing review o DanceAdvisor which operated on the bush telegraph anyway. And it was as durable as the internet appears to be. Memories were sharp on this matter.

Society being what it was at the time, there were social “clues” which mattered a great deal. The one which was new to me was the one where a man had 3 pens in his shirt pocket. I dare say the number was variable, but what mattered was if he had pens at all, usually fountain pens, because this meant he was a Shop Boy. The girls liked and aspired to hook up with shop boys.

Because dancing was an essential tool on the road to getting married and being provided for – I hardly need tell you that in the grand scheme of things, economically women were not the strongest in Ireland at the time – things like this mattered. The farm boys did not like the shop boys because typically the shop boys got all the girls. They weren’t thinking in terms of “there are boys who are shop boys, and there are boys who worked in shops for a while”. The life you might lead as a woman who married a shop boy was likely to be very different to the life you would lead if you married a farm boy.

I found this fascinating because most of my life, a townie, listening to people talking about mating rituals down the country, what mattered was road frontage. That you had land and it fronted onto a main road. That sort of land was wealth. But farming brought with it a lifestyle which many a young girl did not aspire to. A shop boy was a boy with a prospect of a better and easier lifestyle.

A boy who was a shop boy just for a while might never cut it in a dance hall in rural Ireland.