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2015 Gallipoli evacuation was one big mess

May 12th, 2015 Comments off

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AND so to Gallipoli, for the centenary of the disastrous first World War campaign, in the company of An Uachtarain Michael D Higgins of Ireland.

That’s slightly gilding the poppy, as your correspondent wasn’t in the President’s party, but on the same plane, in steerage rather than the glamour of first-class.

Turkish Airlines are a pleasant carrier, but even the president’s presence didn’t mean we got into the air on time at Dublin.

However that was a minor transport consideration compared to what lay ahead.

It was all right for the Prez, he was limousined into the site of the famous dawn service at Gallipoli, along with Prince Charles of England, Prince Harry, prime ministers Tony Abbott and John Key, from Australia and New Zealand respectively, very early on April 25. They would have arrived a short time before the 5.30 am commencement of a very beautiful and moving tribute to the thousands of Irishmen, Australians and New Zealanders – the Anzacs – who were slaughtered here between April and December 1915.

But for the rest of us, the common herd, it was an arduous journey of many hours, then standing room only on a cramped piece of lawn in the nippy cool of a Turkish April night.

It’s unbecoming to complain about minor physical discomfort when you’re all there to remember loss of promising young life on an appalling scale. Still, as my companion and I travelled around Turkey in the two weeks after April 25, we continually bumped into antipodeans who had also attended the dawn service, and, more arduous, the subsequent individual services to remember the Australian and New Zealand casualties. Read more…

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Aim of Human Endeavour in 2015 is to Avoid Other Humans.

April 15th, 2015 Comments off

 

Social media? You’ve got to be kidding. Are we all one big happy human family? (Setting aside ISIS and the Tea Party). The emptiness of the craze strikes me again.

I’ve just been to the local library to collect a book I ordered. Now this library is something – very fancy, modern, loads of space, big picture windows, students all along one wall, grandparents introducing their children’s children to picture books in the centre, and, if you are very lucky, a staff member here or there who may or may not answer your question.

It struck me how bloodless and person-avoiding was the whole procedure. I had ordered the book via the library’s website, that was fine. Previously you would walk up to the staff desk, mention the name of the book, and the librarian would find it, stamp it out and hand it over to you – maybe even with a smile.

At the glamorous new library, the staff desk featured a large paper sign: “This desk is not manned. Please go to the 4th floor.” At the fourth floor desk a tall young man had his head down, concentrating so hard on what he was doing that it hurt to look. You certainly wouldn’t disturb him. Wandering around, I noticed some lovely blond wood shelves with a clutter of books, all bearing a small handwritten name tag. The man at the desk was gazing fixedly at his screen, another staff member was looking furiously at her screen, and it seemed OK to take the book and proceed with it to the the electronic check-out terminal.

Ah well. All very simple and easy. Personal-interaction free. Just like online shopping, Massive Online Open Courses, LinkedIn. And I should have earned my lesson from this library’s staff in the past, when I innocently inquired if they kept a list of clients wishing to read all the titles on the Booker Prize short list (which some places do). “What?!” sneered the librarian, before turning to roll his eyes and exchange smirks with the colleague sitting beside him. “No, we’ve never done that!”

Imagine going to a library and showing an interest in literature. Read more…

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Women are disposable – still

April 10th, 2015 Comments off

IF you haven’t read recently about an Irish architect called Graham Dwyer, count yourself lucky. If you haven’t, you’re also probably living in another country, as the Dwyer trial was big news in Ireland for the first three months of 2015.

And if you haven’t perhaps you should – not only because it is a fascinating if repulsive story, but also because it, sadly, suggests at the underlying attitude to women in the human race.

And that is: disposable.

Read more…

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Tips for non-English speakers

January 9th, 2015 Comments off

 

Tip your hat. Give me a tip for the 5.20. I’m taking this load of rubbish to the tip.

It was the subject of cow-tipping (sneaking up on the unfortunate animals when they are asleep and pushing them over) that inspired a late night mental ramble through the many, many uses of this small word – and a reflection on how difficult such small steps can be for students learning English.

Here’s a list, without even consulting dictionaries:

Tip out – to throw something away, “I tipped out all that soup that’s  been in the fridge for three months”

or

Tip out – to eject: “Ma tipped me out of bed and it was only two in the afternoon”

Tip your hat, as above – “A gentleman tips his hat when meeting a lady.”

Or a synomym for “dump” as in a place to leave large amounts of refuse: “This old mattress has to go to the tip.”

You can give someone a tip, and depending on your intonation it can be sarcastic: “Let me give you a tip about the best way to wash dishes.” Read more…

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Best films of the year by A Long chalk

December 29th, 2014 Comments off

Everyone’s doing it, ’tis the season to be listing, cinephiles abounding – so here’s my pick of the flicks for the year that lies expiring.

The rider is that I haven’t seen either Mr Turner or The Imitation Game, which I suspect might have made the AL-List. The controversy is that I HATED Calvary, sorry to be disloyal to the Irish industry but it was a soggy pudding of cliches with the cherry of Brendan Gleeson’s ever-reliable performance skill on top. And you won’t see much-hailed Boyhood here, either. It was nice. But nice is not great, and the film’s main distinction seemed to be that it took 12 years to make.

So, taking it from first place…

  1. Jake Gyllenhaal brilliant, creepy, unsettling. Director Dan Gilroy.

  2. Under The Skin. Scarlett drives around Glasgow picking up men who end up in ooze (spoiler alert). Genuine art.
  3. Locke. Tom Hardy in a car. Yet you are riveted for 85 minutes. Respect for writer/director Stephen Knight.
  4. Two Days One Night. Belgian everyday excellence.
  5. Maps to the Stars. Julianne Moore sticks in the memory most from Cronenberg’s latest.
  6. What We Do In the Shadows. Silly, perhaps, but very funny. You expect that from Jemaine Clement, but the main vampire, Taika Waititi, was new to me and utterly enchanting.
  7. Frank. Not as mad about it as some, but it was different and well-done.
  8. Mystery Road. This Aussie movie starring Aaron Pedersen was perhaps not as widely seen as it deserved.
  9. Grand Budapest Hotel. Enjoyable whimsy from Wes Anderson with fine performance from Ralph Fiennes.
  10. My 10 was going to be Despues de Lucia, a Mexican film about bullying among teenagers – but although I saw it this year it came out in 2012. Highly recommended. Don’t be put off by what sounds like an unoriginal idea, for it’s masterly execution by Michel Franco.
  11. A substitute 10 would be Her, Spike Jonze’s movie about a man who falls in love with Scarlett Johansson’s voice. The Irish Times has it on its list, but does it qualify as a 2014 film?

Read more…

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