A Link to a Covid Poem

I had never heard of Tomos Roberts before April 2020. Then I happened to hear his poem “The Great Realisation,” on YouTube and thought it was the most wonderful commentary on the pandemic I had heard. Little did I realize that millions of others thought the same or that, in a few short weeks, it had been translated into multiple languages, including Arabic, Hebrew, German, Spanish, French, Italian and Russian. Since the poem was released, Roberts has been flooded with requests, all urging Roberts to turn his virtual tale into a bound book that parents can read to their own children.

I transcribed it into My Covid Diary describing it as a simple rhyming bedtime story I hoped my grandchild would read to his children, a future commentary on our 2020 crisis. And I hope these little ones of the future will react as Roberts’ little brother, Cai, does on the YouTube presentation. “Tell me the one about the virus again”. “Why did it take a virus to bring people back together?” Cai asks toward the end. “Sometimes,” Roberts replies, “you have to get sick, my boy, before you get better.”

Although the poem deals with the heavy themes of corporate greed, familial alienation, the pandemic, it has a happy ending as a “great realisation” sparked by the scourge.

The stories I listened to as a child, and that later I read to my children were about kings and queens and witches. They told about a variety of miseries and misfortunes that befell children; however, they ended up ‘happy ever after’ and taught lessons of friendship and trust and bravery and resilience. So here is the modern day equivalent where we hear about corporate greed, familial alienation, the pandemic. And  why shouldn’t this pandemic bring good as well as disruption. Instead of going back to ‘normal’ why can’t go somewhere even better than before?

There have been some incredibly dark times in human history, followed by times of light and hope: wars followed by peace, pandemics followed wellness. We go through difficult and dark times but they don’t last forever. The human spirit is so resilient and we rise again. Listen to this amazing poem and be lulled by the soft sleepy music in the background to high hopes and pleasant dreams.

1969 Theft of Leaving Cert Papers

Leaving Certificate students may rightfully be feeling hard done. I’m sure they’re fatigued with the isolation, the new ways of distance teaching and learning and the exam timetable uncertainty. I feel so sorry for them, especially the more disadvantaged ones who without either home or school support might just give up now. Four months is a LONG WAY OFF.

1969

With the news of the extension of restriction because of COVID-19 and the rescheduling of the LC to late July or August, I tried to remember my Leaving Cert. I was part of the cohort of Leaving Cert students in 1969, the last year exam events were taken into state control when an almost complete set of Leaving Certificate papers was stolen from De La Salle School, Churchtown, on June 12th, 1969. (Naturally, the principal at De La Salle said he was “absolutely certain” that none of the boys from his school had anything to do with it.)

DO IT AGAIN!

Because of the theft and to guarantee the authenticity of exam results, I was one if those unfortunate students who had to take their English and Maths exams twice. Amazing that with no such thing as twittering at the time, the papers made their way into other students’ hands at a rapid pace. About 250 students purchased the papers for between £1 and £20 at monied schools all over Dublin before the matter came to the attention of authorities. Goldenbridge did not have a privileged school population and the first we heard was when Sr Anne Philomena announced that the English and Maths exams would be retaken and, to allow supplemental papers to be written for all examinations, there would also be a delay in the middle of the timetable. I remember the tone of “how lucky you are to get extra studying time!!!!”

WHERE WAS NIETZSCHE?

And so when we all expected to be finished and starting summer jobs we were hauled back in to examination halls on Friday, June 27th, and Saturday, June 28th to sit 2 papers each day. I’m not sure how much sympathy was either given or expected. It was a time when you put your head down and ‘got on with it’. For those of us doing the University matriculation exams, there was a further delay as they had to be postponed because of the late completion of the exams.
In an era when very few asked WHY? we had little need for Nietzsche and the context of why. Maybe we were as well off!!!!

OUR 1960’s SUPPORTS

And we had very particular supports: teachers telling us (gleefully) that our results would be in line with our efforts, early morning mass on the day if each exam (having also attended each Lenten morning as a kinda deposit or guarantee of being recognised by the Lord), mothers’ prayers and daily 10 o’clock mass and as the first grandchild to hit this crossroads in life, a grandmother’s prayers and masses. Who needed Nietzsche?

 

Shops that are gone but not forgotten

Last week Pricewatch in The Irish Times asked about the shops which have closed that people missed the most.

The response was reportedly “enormous” as people remembered book shops, supermarkets, corner-shop institutions, …. Reading the report I could not believe how many of them were my favourites and had featured very strongly in my life.

Xtra-Vision

The hours I spent in Xtra-Vision with the lads choosing “our weekend movie” always age appropriate, costing £3 for 24 hours, risking a massive fine if late – gone forever.

Quinnsworth

Pat Quinn opened his first supermarket in Stillorgan in December 1966 and very shortly after 3 more stores were opened – leading to the above ad. Our Quinsworth was in the Crumlin Shopping Centre. As the nearest bank to my workplace was also there, at least once a month it provided for some retail therapy.

Superquinn

We also had Superquinn on the Walkinsyown Road, a bit more expensive than Quinsworth but with far better quality. Jim’s friend worked there – in the fruit and veg department I think. They had an amazing bakery and when I started to do my own household shopping – it was a great place to stock up with for a party or entertainment!

Roches Stores

Roches Stores was the shop for buying Wedding Presents – as you could bring almost anything back there and exchange it for what you wanted. In an era when you might get 5 toasters and 6 kettles as presents, that was a great service. No wedding lists in those days.

Woolworths

Woolworth’s on Grafton Street – an array of sweets inside the door that was second to none! On a school tour to Limerick, Woolworth’s was the shop of choice – all sorts of souvenirs, goodies and impractical gifts could be purchased there!

Switzers

OMG – the memories of our Christmas visit to town to see the lights! Switzers elaborate Christmas windows full of fairytale winter/snow scenes.

Peats World of Electronics

When we first started to go “into town” alone, we usually hit for Henry Street. Parallel to Henry Street was Parnell Street and any sort of odd electrical device that might be needed “was only available” in Peats. Later it was the shop of choice for TVs, stereos, cameras.

Boyers & Co

Boyers was the Arnotts of the working classes. It was the “sensible/reasonable” shop of our parents and the shop I dreaded; it became a war between fashion and sense, style and bargain. It was the shop where you bought “a good coat”.

Clerys & Co

Although I cannot remember shopping in Clerys as a child, I remember the romantic stories my mother told of the ballroom at Clerys which hosted dances every night of the week with a full-time orchestra” and she could name the many couples who had met there. In my teens “under the clock at Clery’s” was almost an institutional part of Dublin culture, a meeting place for couples. I can still remember arriving there and waiting with hoards of others, hoping that “he” would arrive and “not stand you up”.

Guineys & Co

Guineys and Boyers were two of a kind as far as I was concerned, one at the top, the other at the end of Earl Street- bargain basement for parents when money was tight. It’s only when you have to do your own budgeting and refusing your own kids luxuries that you realise the importance of such shops.

Greene’s Bookshop

Greene’s book shop had to be my favourite book shop in Dublin. It was actually my yardstick for “good” bookshops and one that was almost impossible to better. Maybe I knew it had a special place in James Joyce’s heart because it was where Nora Barnacle worked, – but something made it old old school and wonderful.
There was the book-lined staircase, leading up to rooms crammed with old tomes. And the glass canopy and the tables of books left outside come rain or shine in summer and winter.
It started out as a book shop and lending library in 1843 and given its name by the then owner John Greene.

The Irish Yeast Company

My mother was a confectioner. She baked and decorated the most exquisite cakes for wedding, christenings, jubilees, Christmas. I can remember accompanying her to this shop for the many intricate decorations that were used to adorn the cakes. With a history stretching back to the 1750, this small building with a most memorable facade was one of the oldest shops in Dublin. It sold yeast – obviously – and all manner of cake-decorating paraphernalia and stepping through its doors was as close to time travel as anyone lucky enough to visit before the doors closed for the last time was likely to get.
I just have to write a bit of the history it was so special: The business first opened in 1894 in what had been the foyer of the George Hotel, which later became a bank and later still the Westin Hotel.
The Moreland family took over the business in the 1930s and John Moreland started work there when he left school at 16 in the early 1940s. He was still behind the counter, aged 91, in 2015. After he died, the shop closed and the building was eventually sold and is currently being redeveloped.

The Worm Moon

I missed the first supermoon of 2020 – busy having knee replacements! Amazing recovery allows me to consider celestial events again and report that the second supermoon of 2020 is set to light up the night sky and delight skygazers this evening (if the clouds clear).

It is dubbed the “worm moon” and will be visible from 5.30pm.

But how did it get its name?

Royal Observatory astronomer Emily Drabek-Maunder said: “The March full moon is known as the worm moon, named after earthworms that emerge towards the beginning of spring as the ground thaws.

This full moon will also be a supermoon, meaning it will appear about 14 per cent bigger and 30 per cent brighter in the sky as it reaches its closest point to Earth.

The moon will set in the west at sunrise on Tuesday morning around 7.13am.

GAA and the Gospel according to John


One of Ireland’s most famous GAA supporters, Frank Hogan, who spread the gospel from the terraces with his yellow sign “John 3:7”, has died at the age of 81.

Although a Limerick man, his popularity among the wider GAA family, transcended county lines.

People called him ‘John’ because of the sign. He went to All-Ireland Finals with no ticket and never failed to get in.

When Derry won the All-Ireland back in the 90s, he went up to Derry for the homecoming celebrations and he slept in his car.

He said he got the inspiration for the sign when watching the 1987 Wimbledon men’s final when Pat Cash beat Ivan Lendl. As the victorious Australian climbed through the crowds to get to his family and supporters, Hogan saw a man holding a car number plate with the message John 3:16 and he decided to do likewise for hurling and Gaelic football.

John 3:7 reads: “Do not marvel that I said to you, you must be born again”.
In early years the Christian evangelist had a sign that read John 3:16, the bible verse that states: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”

A committed Christian evangelist, Hogan’s John 3:7 sign was a fixture at GAA matches for over three decades, usually being held aloft on Hill 16 and other terraces around the country whenever a score was landed. 

All ireland 2004 Kerry v Mayo


Mr Hogan’s famous sign was once stolen as it travelled home by train from an outing in Croke Park in 2009. It was later recovered by gardaí after it was left in a public place, and returned to Mr Hogan.

Munich remembered

Harry Gregg died today

My teen years coincided with the rebuilding of one of the greatest teams seen in England, Man Utd. Manager, Matt Busby had a winning wonder team in the late 50s. However, the Munich Air Disaster robbed him of some of the era’s greatest players. Once he had recovered from his own injuries, he set about forging another side to take the world by storm.

I was hardly a fanatic Man Utd fan as my football knowledge was pretty scant but the story of the air disaster captured my interest.

The signing and debut of the superstar from Belfast, George Best with his film-star looks however made me an eventual life long fan of Man Utd. The lads bought me a match ticket and stadium tour apart of a weekend in Manchester for my 50th birthday.

The death of Harry Gregg, the Man Utd goalie of that era today caused me to reread articles of the time. This poem was written by Harry about the Busby Babes and is a particularly touching account if the disaster.

The Busby Babes

How they laughed, they loved and played the game together
Played the game and gave it every ounce of life
And the crowds they thronged to see such free young spirits
My good God, there wasn’t many who came home
Roger Byrne, Mark Jones and Salford’s Eddie Colman
Tommy Taylor, Geoffrey Bent and David Pegg
Duncan Edwards, Dublin’s own boy Liam Whelan
My good God, there wasn’t any who came home
There are those gone down that long, long road before us
But each morn we try and keep them in our sight
In memories’ eyes, the Busby Babes are all immortal
The Red Devil spirit lives and never died. (Harry Gregg)

The Aran Sweater

As the GANS rep for Feltmakers Ireland, I am often fortunate to attend really interesting talks on craft. One such was Vawn Corrigan’s presentation on the history of the Aran. However, her story’s links to my mother and aunt were what fascinated me most.

Coincidentally, my son’s visit today wearing a jumper knit by MY mam for HIS dad prompted this post.

Aran knit by Marie O’Loughlin for her son-in-law

The Aran Sweater is named after the set of islands off Irelands West coast. However this is not where it was first created.

The origin of the Aran sweater can be traced back to Guernsey, an island 400 miles South-East of the Aran Islands. Guernsey trade relied on fishing, and the clothing requirements of fisherman were quite demanding – durability, repairable, stain resistant, easy to move about in,and probably most important, warm and water proof.

The population of the Aran Islands was increasing in the early 1900s and they decided to explore ideas of how to improve their standard of living on the island. One idea was to invite Scottish fisherman to share information on their skills. They brought some Scottish ladies (probably their wives!!!) who showed the womenfolk how to knit sweaters for a living.

So the Irish ladies took the idea and made it their own and by 1935, the Irish version of the jumpers was in such demand that they came onto the Dublin markets!

By the 1950s, the USA market had opened (thanks in no small part to popularity of the traditional music group,the Clancy Brothers). The 1960s saw Marie my mother, and Josie, her sister, among the growing workforce of knitters throughout the country who were employed to meet the growing demand for jumpers and cardigans. (My mother was thrilled on a visit to Clerys to spot one of her jumpers with a quaint little tag stating: “This garment was hand knit by Marie in her little cottage in the west of Ireland.”)

Shay benefitted from the home industry when he received a jumper for his 30th birthday.

Something about Aran Stitches

The patterns on Aran sweaters are based on Irish Tradition each stitch represents a different meaning and symbolizes something of importance. Here are some of the more popular stitches.

Recent Aran History…

Generations after its creation, the Aran sweater is still going strong. The aran sweater made the list of iconic fashion pieces featured in an exhibition in Manhattans Museum of Modern Art. Chosen because of its impact on the world during the last century, it has remained popular in the entertainment industry and fashion world alike.

The National Museum of Ireland loaned one of its oldest sweaters for the exhibition, where it was placed beside other fashion elites such as the Birkin Bag, Wonderbra, a pair of Levis 501 jeans dating back to the 1940s, and an assortment of little black dresses.

TWO NEW KNEES

Nine weeks ago I had one knee replaced. Now I’m counting down …. and nine more sleeps to having second one. Officially they’re called TKRs …. total knee replacement.

I heard so many horror stories. But I’ve only positive ones. I’m putting it down to an excellent surgeon and great nursing care.

And doing what I was told …. exercises, resting, icing, etc probably helped too.

And all the good wishes and support I received both as an in-patient and an out-patient.

Eulogy to a Knee by Sherwin Kaufman and Jim Smith

I think that I shall never see
A joint as complex as my knee
For years it helped me run and play
At many sports til I was gray

But then arthritis took its toll
I found it painful just to stroll
Before the day was halfway spent
My knee complained without relent

I had a surgeon look to see
What it would take to be pain-free
The x-ray told him of my trial
My knee had walked its final mile

So nervously, my knee a wreck
Into a hospital I checked
The surgeon said his saw and knife
Would give me back my pain-free life

It really gave my heart a twinge
To think my loyal little hinge
Would soon be severed from its home
So that my limp could be long gone

So fare thee well old faithful knee
For you I wrote this eulogy
No more painful bone on bone
My knee now glides on cobalt chrome!