Category Archives: Uncategorized

Let’s put the oldies back to work

Rama Yade, a French politician,  has suggested that senior citizens should be compelled to undertake some sort of civic duties.

Clearly she hasn’t worked out what the word “retirement” is supposed to mean. She’s made some comments about how “aging is a taboo subject in France” but I think the point is this: she wants people who have worked, and retired, to start working again and she wants to make it obligatory.

The response to her proposition has been near universally negative. I’m not surprised. It is an idea which can really only be described as completely stupid. If people wanted to undertake duties of some description without any personal decision on that front after retirement, well they would not be retiring in the first place.

Aging is not a taboo subject. People get old and they do what they like. Yade really should work that piece out before trying to line people up into forced voluntary work again.

We choose to go to the moon

I was just a month old when Eugene Cernan and Harrison Jack Schmitt left the Moon behind for the last time and since they left, no one has been back. I wasn’t even alive the last time the V-15 flew, in 1968. It still holds the record for the high speed achieved by a manned aircraft.

Technology has entered our lives a lot since then; well, in parts of the world. We carry little boxes around that allow us to talk to people anywhere in the world (at some financial cost but the technology is trivial), which take photos, which make television, which allow us to play games, which allow us to read newspapers. We fly around the world almost trivially, and we drive all most trivially. Our trains are faster than ever before, well some of them.

But none of these are big visionary changes except maybe the trains. No one stood up and said We Will Do this.

When people think about John F Kennedy speeches, I suspect that the one which comes to most people’s mind is Ich bin ein Berliner.

I don’t. I think of We choose to go to the moon. There’s a line in it which I think resonates greatly and illustrates the difference between a generation which went to the moon, and a generation which has not.

Its hazards are hostile to us all. Its conquest deserves the best of all mankind, and its opportunity for peaceful cooperation may never come again. But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas?

We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.

Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? (okay, a bit more than 35 now) Now, flying the Atlantic is trivial. But space travel remains, pretty much, non-trivial. Challenging. Massively expensive. Oh we’re talking about space tourism but…even now, you don’t rock up to a spaceport and say here’s a lot of money, I want to go to space…

We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.

For me, this is the key piece. We accept challenges. We seek them out. Or at least, we used to.

Now, then, our brightest and our best don’t seem to be working on challenges like going to the moon. NASA is aiming for Mars in the 2030s. I know I’m getting old, and I know time is flying, but that seems like AGES away. It’s a far cry from the attitude in 1961 of We’ll get to the moon before the decade is down. Possibly it’s because he’s dead, but I can’t think of a politician since Kennedy who pulled inspiring stuff like this. And God knows the man himself was far from perfect.

Certainly, none of the ones in Ireland seem to operate beyond a vision of the next election. It’s a limited horizon to say the least

Well, space is there, and we’re going to climb it, and the moon and the planets are there, and new hopes for knowledge and peace are there. And, therefore, as we set sail we ask God’s blessing on the most hazardous and dangerous and greatest adventure on which man has ever embarked.

Where is the adventure of our generation?

What is the defining achievement of our era?

I’m not suggesting that Ireland puts money into a space program seeing as we hardly have money to put into education and health at the moment. But our priorities don’t seem set – and this is a world wide issue – on a grand future any more.

Reality and fiction

One of the very few works of chicklit – for want of a better word – that I have returned to time and time again is The Glass Lake by Maeve Binchy. Maeve Binchy has never, per se, been my favourite writer but that book spoke to me for several reasons; I felt greater empathy with most of the characters, they seemed to come far better to life to me.

There is one jarring scene in the book though, where Kit McMahon’s father is meeting his friend Peter for a drink. Peter has left the house in a temper because his wife is fighting with his two daughters for whatever trivial reason. He doesn’t want to deal with it because triviality is not what he is about at that point in time. Peter is the local doctor and that day, Peter has attended the death of a baby in one of the more rural locations around Lough Glass, the town where much of the book is set. The family of the mother have let him know that it is for the best that the child has died for he didn’t have any father, you see. The book is set in 1950s Ireland. Peter rails against this because the child could have lived, could have grown up happily in the care of his mother in the hills. There was no need for this child to die.

This baby, its mother, its family are tangential to the primary plot of the novel, almost unimportant in certain respects. Binchy could have chosen any sort of a bad day for Peter to have. He is a doctor in 1950s Ireland. TB kills people. Farm accidents kill people. Road accidents kill people. Polio is still a problem in the country. Instead, very deftly, Binchy includes a fatherless child of an unmarried mother, abandoned, if you like, by the father of that child. And the death of the child is preferable to his survival because he didn’t have a father. We know nothing about them; we don’t even know their names. They occupy at most a few lines in a novel of around, oh, seven hundred pages as far as I remember.

But the baby is not tangential to life in 1950s Ireland. He is a searing commentary on social attitudes in Ireland during that time. And, in certain respects, the mother of the child, no doubt a young woman, and almost certainly somewhat naive, had a lucky escape. She did not wind up where a lot of poor young women wound up. I don’t use the word poor in its sense as unfortunate (although it does fit), but in its sense as less well of economically. It is not the unmarried mothers from the well of families who wound up in the Mother and Baby Homes or the Magdalene Laundries for extended. £100 bought you out of staying in at least one of the Mother and Child homes for a year to work your costs off. And the healthy babies were adopted or fostered anyway.

I’ve always found that tableau of Peter, going for a drink with his friend to try and work through the idea that a child might be better off dead than loved by his mother and not finding the relief of talking it over because that just isn’t the night for it to be particularly jarring.

While the primary plot of the book focuses on a girl who does not actually wind up pregnant at any stage during the novel, the question of pregnancy before marriage is very much otherwise present in the book, and touched on in different ways. The town has the memory of a girl who reputedly drowned herself because she was pregnant. The primary character’s mother is believed by Peter to have drowned herself because she was pregnant also. When his own daughter winds up pregnant, he is only glad that things have changed enough that she does not drown herself. And it is not the only book in which Maeve Binchy deals with the question of pregnancy. Circle of Friends focuses on the issue too with respect to the fate of Nan. Pregnant. Father of child abandoning her. The edge of respectability such that her mother will not take on the child and pretend it is hers, a wonderful miracle and late pregnancy, wasn’t God so good to them to grant them another child with Nan already so grown up. In the book, Nan reviews her options dispassionately to the extent that she knows none of them are options at all in 1950s Ireland.

We need to make sure we don’t go back to that way of seeing things.

I’m mindful that much of what I have written here lately is less than uplifting. I want it to be different and I have some personal projects to deal with which might, if I am lucky, be more uplifting.

It’s My Life…

My twitter feed is full of moaning this morning, mainly by people who are not Garth Brooks fans moaning about people who are.

We seem to have an issue in this country whereby people judge others for the simple sin of not conforming to their narrow definition of what is being acceptable. It’s a problem, and it’s writ high in the reaction to the Garth Brooks concerts. He’s just sold out three nights in Croke Park.

To put that into context, so have One Direction.

So there are a lot of Garth Brooks fans about. Given that he doesn’t, compared to One Direction, get that much air play on most of the radio stations here, and hasn’t played here for quite a while, in music business terms, that’s quite the achievement.

My twitter feed is full of people who have:

  • never heard of Garth Brooks
  • if they have, are dismissing concert purchasers as culchies
  • dismissing concert goers as lacking class and intelligence
  • suggesting they’d be better off spending their money on 2 or 3 bands which are less famous shall we say.
  • despaired for Ireland because Garth Brooks has sold out 3 nights in the biggest concert venue in the country

All this misses one major point. There are people out there – approximately 200,000 of them – who have done a quality/price assessment and decided Garth Brooks is worth the money. Good luck to them. They are out to enjoy themselves.

So motivation – Out to Enjoy themselves. 

The moaners, the complainers are not. They are out to put people down, judge them, be nasty. It’s sad if that’s what constitutes enjoying themselves, but hey…this is Ireland. You’d never get on with living your own life and let other people live theirs right?

And yet, I think the whole idea of living and let live is likely to result in more happiness than bargying on about how stupid Garth Brooks fans are for queuing for tickets. It’s just a pity not enough people realise it sometimes

declaration of interest: I own no Garth Brooks CDs, no One Direction CDs (although you should watch this by the way) and I have tickets for neither concert and tried to get tickets for neither concert. I really just wish people would focus on what makes them happy rather than complaining about other people making themselves happy.

An open letter to Aodhán Ó Ríordáin

Dear Aodhán,

You are my local TD and I voted for you at the time of the last election.

In fact, I found the last election difficult because there seemed to be so many more candidates not to vote for than to vote for. But I voted for you because

a) you seemed to have a reasonably decent record as a councillor

b) you were young and I firmly believed that what the country needed then, and now, even more so, were new voices, a new generation of representatives, for a country desperately in need of a vision; desperately in need of change.

So there’s this

 

And now, I find the next election will be even more difficult because in this little tweet are encapsulated a lot of reasons not to vote for you or any of the government parties again. It is fair to say that the Green Party got more out of Fianna Fáil than the Labour Party has gotten out of Fine Gael.

I am not happy with the budget, Aodhán. If it is key in rebuilding our Republic, and its values, it is clear that the values are not values I can identify with.

The budget does nothing to suggest that post recession we will get the values of a Republic. All it does is tell me that the government will protect some people while hanging others out to dry. It hung a lot of groups of people out to dry.

Take this:

Eamon Gilmore: “We’re not cutting their benefits.”

Jennings: “But you are. From 188 to 144 or 144 to 100 Euros.”

Source: http://www.broadsheet.ie/2013/10/16/were-not-cutting-their-benefits/

Under discussion is the younger generation of Irish people. A generation that you and your colleagues appear to be working very hard to either a) radicalise or b) force to emigrate.

I was 22 the winter of 1994. I emigrated for 5 years. I am not saying it was a bad thing; I learned a lot from the five years I was out of Ireland. A lot of people did, and a lot of my generation came home and, I would say, along with our new European neighbours, had a great impact on Irish society and values. What I am saying is that if I was 22 now, I would not be hanging around to try and get on a FAS place if that’s all that was on offer, or stay in full time education, if that’s all that was on offer. People start in education at the age of 5. Seriously, trying to keep them there until they are 25 so you don’t have to acknowledge a youth unemployment problem is infantile and cowardly.

How Eamon Gilmore – your party leader – can, in all conscience, claim not to be cutting the benefits of those under the age of 25 is absolutely beyond me. Welfare paid x, now it pays x-44E.

This is a cut, Aodhán, and if you understand it, please ensure that Eamon Gilmore learns it.

He went on to say this:

Well to be clear about it, what this Government is about is ensuring that young people have a job or have education or training.

To that end, I’d like to note – because I checked the other day – that youth unemployment in Ireland is about 30%. Getting people into non-existent jobs is a fools’ errand. Cutting the support they have will not get people into jobs that do not exist.

I can’t comment on training in general, but Aodhán, I’m back in full time education following redundancy, which, incidentally, I am paying for myself, and I can tell you that being in full time education is not cheap, even allowing for the fees structure which we have here. When I hear talk about keeping young people in education and training, I see politicians trying to paper over the crack that there are no jobs.

I could talk about a bunch of other things – but no doubt you’re already aware that the medical cards streamlining/free health care for the under 6s hasn’t done much to suggest the government is offering a value system worth anything. Care for the under-6 cohort is a nice idea, but at the expense of people who’ve already gotten sick?

It’s perverse in my view.

One of the issues I have, more than anything, is that the budget speeches by Michael Noonan and Brendan Howlin, revealed the current government as petulant children. I expect more from highly paid politicians who are screwing me over than I do from four year old children.

The story of insolvent Ireland is familiar to all our people and the sacrifices people have had to make in recent years are well known. Reckless policies were pursued by the Fianna Fáil led Government. (Michael Noonan)

and

This Budget and Estimates sets out to deliver on this Government’s promise to the Irish people at the last General Election – to fulfil our commitments under the troika programme foisted on the Irish people by the previous Government and to restore Ireland’s economic sovereignty. (Brendan Howlin)

Fine Gael and Labour have been in government for almost 3 years now. Barbed comments about the previous government like this are unbecoming to professionals.

Why should I vote for parties who think this is acceptable behaviour? And seriously, in a budget which removed tax credits from redundancy payments, cut unemployment support for the youngest unemployed people, and cut maternity benefit having taxed it last year?

Here’s the issue Aodhán. You and your colleagues left income tax and USC alone. And your colleagues peppered their budget speeches with barbed comments against the previous government. This is the activity of a government desperate to stay in power, and completely lacking in vision or even basic cop on. If your colleagues were seriously good at their job, they wouldn’t have to keep reminding us how bad the previous lot were.

It is in this context that you want to talk about the values of a post-recession Republic. I believe that values, in general, are typically absolute. Are we the kind of people who screw over the weakest in society and protect the strongest? Are we the kind of people who wait until our back is against the wall before we do something about a major problem? Is our primary value “Sure it’ll be grand”.

Why do you think those values need to change whether we’re rich or poor if they are based on how we treat each other?

The budget was one for I’m alright Jack. Those who lost most from this budget are the ones who aren’t alright.

It is in this context that you will be looking for my vote again in a couple of years time. The context of being someone who seems to think values are negotiable based on whether we’re in a recession or not.

I can’t see myself supporting you.

Regards,

Treasa

 

 

 

on the Seanad referendum

I’m deeply concerned about the order in which we do things in this country. Enda Kenny has given us an opportunity to abolish or retain the Seanad but without the sense of reforming the Dáil first. Given that the Seanad provides some oversight and debate, it seems to me that if you want to get rid of it, you’d sort out the Dail and oversight requirements in that chamber before you get rid of the Seanad. I fear that if we get rid of the Seanad before we sort out the Dail reforms, we will never see the Dail reforms.

In normal circumstances, I don’t understand why we can’t have the Dail reforms first and I don’t see any discussion of that with Fine Gael and Enda Kenny. Enda is refusing to debate the issue with opposing politicians which is – in my opinion – not really the actions of a genuine leader with his heart behind his policy. All they are doing is bleating about saving money, but the figure they have put forward, they cannot actually stand over.

A lot of the argument appears to centre around the notion of “I don’t know what it’s for therefore it’s a waste of money”.

Well I don’t know what a lot of things are for but that doesn’t automatically make them a waste of money. The sad part is, this is used in an argument in a country which is simultaneously boasting of its high rate of education. I am at a loss to support the idea that we are such an educated nation when many of our debates take place on a massively superficial level and are often coloured by a culture of envy.

I am voting against the abolition of the Seanad. In my view, Fine Gael and Labour, and the other supporting parties, Sinn Féin, the Socialist Workers Party, have singularly failed to make a rational case to abolish it. It’s incumbant on them to do so, to change the status quo. If their argument amounts to, grosso modo, “it costs money and I don’t know what it’s for” plus “it’s elitist” when there are simple solutions to both issues a) education and b) universal suffrage, then I do believe the rational response is to reject the referendum.

Having your time over again….

It’s not 9am yet on a Saturday morning and I have already read quite a lot. I have read about the headteachers in the UK wanting someone to deal with the moving of the GSCE English goalposts during the past school year. I have read about a woman who quit California to move to Costa Rica at the age of 35. I have read about a woman diagnosed with MS climbing Mount McKinley and in that random roundabout not fully awake way I noticed something. My reading material came from The Guardian, Outside Magazine and Adventure Women and it struck me that there was so much of a discussion to be had about the choices you make at the age of 16 and the choices you would have made at the age of 16 if you knew then what you know at 35.

And that discussion very often gets summed up as people starting sentences with the words “If I had my time over again….” and end with no evidence that they live in the now and that things are possible in the now.

I think they’re afraid of the choice.

But it’s not a question of restarting from the age of 16 to have your time over. You can start any time to change things to the way you want them to be now rather than the way they are if you wish things were different.

Moving mountains.

I’m actually completely covered in red, blue and orange ink at the moment as I have been working on my Bucket List.

I hate the term bucket list but everyone uses it so occasionally I capitulate. Anyway I own three books on calligraphy, two dip pens, many bottles of ink, a number of nibs and some sort of will to try out calligraphy. I got the books out today. I do a really nice letter V, it must be said.

Then I decided I was going to hand write a blog entry and then realised that actually, today I wasn’t. But I’m still covered in ink.

About 25 years ago when I was still a young girl at school, and like most schools in Ireland, I had to do some religion classes. I recall one or two of them for various reasons, but the one which springs to mind today relates to the question of the power of faith in God, and how much it could achieve. On the day in question, we were told a story about a woman who lived in a house near a mountain and the mountain cast a shadow over her house and really, she didn’t much like it. Excuse me if I paraphrase it.

Anyway, she got wind of this prayer and faith power thing, and got it into her head that if she prayed hard enough, God would move the mountain out of the way and her kitchen wouldn’t be dark half the day, so she prayed before going to bed one night, that the mountain would be gone the next morning.

Unfortunately, as things would have it, when she woke the next morning, said mountain was still in place, casting a shadow over the house and her reponse was “Ah sure, I knew it wouldn’t be gone when I woke up”.

Strictly speaking, you can’t exactly blame her. The whole mountain moving thing, you’d like to feel, would be news all over the shop, were it to be happening on a regular basis. But this was not the moral of the story as it was sold to me as a 15 year old. No, the issue here was that she didn’t have enough faith. If she had had more faith, that mountain would be gone.

I have issues with this for a lot of reasons. There are a couple of reasons here. If you have a mountain in your life, there are certain inalienable truths about said mountain – unless it is a rather nasty live volcano – of which “it ain’t moving” is one. Anyone suggesting prayer could do this is actually not being very nice because ultimately, it sets them up for blaming the person doing the praying for just not being good enough. Nice if you’re not the person for whom this mountain is a problem. Issue if you’re the person whose kitchen never sees sunlight.

Secondly, there are other ways of addressing the mountain problem. Mountains cannot necessarily be moved, but places of habitation can. IN my view, the whole thing with the mountain is that you could suggest to someone that the things which are in their control can be changed. Where they live often can be changed. The location of specific mountains not so much.

Praying for the impossible generally results in disappointment, but more importantly, and perhaps more dangerously, it distracts you from the possible. This, incidentally is not an attack on religion per se, but it is an attack on how we seek to control other people’s lives. An awful lot of that goes on, even without the benefit of any sort of religion as a supporting argument.

Currently, in Ireland, there is a donor drive on for people to carry donor cards, be they kidney, or multi-organ and in that discussion, it has been noted that generally, the people who are doing the donating of organs are people who generally have died some point in their lives when frankly, they were not expected to. It is heartbreaking for the families concerned, but that is pretty often how it is. When you bear this in mind, and bear in mind that most people have some sort of a vague list of things somewhere stashed in their mind or on a post it note or something of stuff that they would want to do before they die, there’s a lot to be said for dealing with the here and now, sometimes, and not so much the future. This is not something people in Ireland tend to be fantastic at – they very often go to the pub and talk about it instead.

So.

Last year I knocked three items off the winds and breezes list of stuff. I went to an Olympic Final. I went to the Dublin Piano Competition final. And I went to the European Figure Skating Championships which also meant that I got to see Sheffield, not necessarily something I had ever planned to do but it was a fringe benefit.

I’ve taken lessons – at various stages in my life – in windsurfing, surfing, kayaking, kitesurfing and attempted at various other stages – whitewater rafting, bodyboarding, cableskiing, cross country skiing and climbing. I still occasionally climb. I do intend to go back surfing this year and hopefully kitesurfing. I’m very lucky to have had the opportunities to try some of these things, but I have also contributed to the effort to do so rather than just talking about it. Today, as mentioned above, I covered myself in ink and tried calligraphy. I know it took me hours because it is now 20 to 9 and I’m sure it was about 4 the last time I looked at a clock.

 

How can you ruin music?

According to the Guardian, Krystian Zimerman decried Youtube as destroying music. He was reacting to someone recording one of his concerts on a mobile phone – here’s the report.

I’ve mixed feelings about this. Mainly I have reservations about this because Youtube is full of absolutely exceptional music, and not all of it, or even much of it, is recorded on a mobile phone. I take the view that recording something on a mobile phone and sticking it up on Youtube is of questionable manners. But that’s a specific problem. The truth is Youtube acts almost like a world radio station on demand. I’ve bought a lot of music thanks to Youtube, and some of it is classical. A lot of the really good classical stuff on Youtube comes from television broadcasts. I don’t think you’d argue that Youtube is killing music if we are talking about well recorded television broadcasts. The Berliner Philharmonik has a fairly decent channel on Youtube, for example, and you can find some rather interesting, and previously difficult to find things there, like, for example, Leonard Bernstein’s Young People’s Concerts.

But you don’t ruin music by putting it up on a website. I don’t know if you can ruin music because to some extent, it is a living breathing thing. You can maybe change the paradigms of the music business – massively – but this is not unique to Youtube. At the heart of it, we’re not really talking about music there, but the ability to raise money from music.

At the turn of the twentieth century, the measure of successful music was large sales of sheet music. No one much cared about recording. The business moved and adapted to recording as that disrupted the existing music industry. Even now, the digital piano market is hugely disrupting the analogue (for want of a better description) market and putting piano tuners out of business right left and centre. The business winds up evolving and changing. Music itself, however, goes on. We still play Schumann, we still play Chopin, some of us on CD, some of us on pianos, some of us streamed from Last.FM or some other radio station.

Arguably, it’s not so much killing music to record something on a mobile phone. It is, however, deeply impolite.

I’d prefer that people were reminded of that, rather than being lectured about how they are killing music. Music has been around for a very long time, a bit like life itself, it survives and adapts. Manners, on the other hand….

 

Nice shops in Dublin

One of the things which worries me most about life around me at the moment is the tendency of people to complain and moan and whinge. So as far as possible, I am trying to avoid falling into that trap and I will freely admit I do not always succeed.

I want to say nice things about a couple of shops in particular, both shops which I have been in a bit recently, one where I tend to spend quite a lot of money and one where I will, at some point in the next year or two, spend what is for me, a seriously amount of money, in one go (and no, I am not talking about a car dealer).

I’ve written, previously, about the people at the Pen Corner. I want to reiterate this. I have significantly more pens in my possession now and a substantial collection of bottled ink to go with the fountain pens, all of which came from the Pen Corner. The staff there, in my experience, are unfailingly friendly, helpful and knowledgeable about their stock. They have beautiful pens (I learned this weekend that they have Du Pont fountain pens, another thing for me to aspire to) and they have beautiful stationery downstairs. They are a reliable source of Rhodia paper, for example, some beautiful greetings cards, beautifully handbound notebooks. As a source of beautiful things, it is second to none in Dublin.

I’ve lately been in a place called Pianos Plus too. This shop used, quite a long time ago, be in the city centre, somewhere around Temple Bar I think. It is now somewhere off the M50,. I know how to get there (now, after several occasions getting lost somewhere around what I think is called Park West or the Nangor Road – it’s a bit like a vortex in there).

I love Pianos Plus. I have just one childhood dream left at this stage of my life and that is to buy a grand piano for myself. It is why, for example, I haven’t bought any piano yet. A piano is for life and I want my piano to be a grand piano. And having spent time in Pianos Plus, I have also decided that it will most likely be a Kawaii. I’ve wanted it for a very long time, and a few weeks ago, knowing that it will be another few months to a year before I get there, I just felt the need to go and check that this was still the case. It is.

The people in Pianos Plus are, like the people in the Pen Corner, unfailingly helpful, and absolutely knowledgeable about the pianos they sell. I can tell you right now that there is a most beautiful reconditioned 1882 Bechstein in there; I played it a few weeks ago and fell in love with it. I’ve been in a lot of piano shops over my life. Some of them have been more or less precious about the instruments they sell. In my experience, if you can demonstrate you know how to play the piano, Pianos Plus are not so precious because they know pianos are there to be played, and not just dusted. This is why, when the time comes, I will buy my piano from them, regardless of where I live in the country. Because they have built a relationship with me ever before I walk in there with the credit card to pay for the piano.

Another shop I want to mention is a shop called John Gunn. If you are interested in photography, the staff in Gunns are unquestionably the sweetest people to deal with. I bought my last camera and my most recent lens in there. Again, they are unfailingly helpful. Their staff demonstrably take photographs. They may be selling you a camera, but they are selling you also the soul that goes with taking good photographs.

Two other specialist shops which I will mention in passing are Kitchen Complements and Stock, both specialist kitchen shops. Pretty much all of the specialist kitchen equipment which I have bought in Dublin has come from one or other of those shops. Again, their staff are unfailingly helpful and knowledgeable about their stock. There is a lot to be said for shops of this nature sometimes.

We lose sight, I think, sometimes, of the importance of the smaller shops, the lower profile shops, the ones that cater to specific audiences. The market for pianos is growing smaller over time, especially for non-digital pianos, for example. Many things are being bought over the internet. The Pen Corner may be a landmark on Dame Street but it is still at heart, a specialist independent store and more people know the outside than the inside.

A city lives and dies on shops like this. If I love Paris, it is because shops like this abound. If I see Dublin, there are far fewer of the specialist independent stores, and those that exist are not really that well known and visited sometimes. This piece is just a little reminder that Saturday afternoon shopping trips are not just about Brown Thomas and the Grafton Street chains.