Thursday, 26 September 2013

Our alcohol problem

A couple of weeks ago we were moved to reply to a letter from a Mr. T Broderick in the sports section of Ireland’s Sunday Independent. First of all, here’s the ‘offending’ letter:
Fr. Ted and Fr. Dougal take a stance...
What would Bishop Brennan make of all of this?

“I watched the All Ireland hurling final last weekend and three things have really bothered me since then.
1. Should pundits/commentators be discussing and commenting on gambling during such a game? Michael Duignan got very excited about Liam Sheedy having a great bet for the draw at 14/1.
2. Should Michael Lyster be posing questions regarding players drinking after matches? Was he implying that they could not survive without a drink for another three weeks? Why would he pose such a question?
3. Cyril Farrell's comment about the Clare team "jumping in the Shannon" if they had lost that game. Is hurling that important? Did the Galway minors consider jumping in the Corrib when they got back to Galway after their loss? These words although said in jest are very powerful and could be heard differently by people in difficult situations.
What subliminal messages are said comments sending out to people dealing with gambling or alcohol problems or contemplating suicide? This banter also normalises these behaviours for our teenagers. What are they thinking listening to these comments?
These are serious problems and I know that the above-mentioned commentators did not mean to cause offence but they have a greater responsibility than maybe they realise.
With 1.3 million watching this programme at some stage, surely we should expect a higher standard of broadcasting?
Keep the pub banter for off air in the future.”*


This got our blood up at the time of reading it, so we decided to respond. Our riposte, below, was published the following week:
A pint of 'the black stuff' -- 'sorry, we're out'
Ireland's own

“What a brittle, brainless bunch us Irish ‘commoners’ must be, if the words of Mr. T Broderick are to be taken seriously.
A jovial brief chat by some ‘Sunday Game’
(a programme that covers the Irish sports of hurling and Gaelic football) analysts about a spot of betting and downing a few pints and this means that we’re all going to gamble away our house (those of us that have one that is) down at the bookies while making our way to the nearest hostelry to get inebriated.
Heck, perhaps we should ban the announcement of stock market news on the airwaves in case it encourages us ‘dumb masses’ to get involved in that dirty business too.
A typical Irish attitude, blame somebody else for any ‘problems’ we may have.
The phrase ‘grow a pair’ springs to mind.
In any case, you need to have a long, hard look at yourself if you heed the word of those working with the state broadcaster.”*


No prizes then for guessing where we’re coming from on all this.

For now, we're just going to focus on the alcohol issue. Irish people’s relationship with it has been quite topical in recent days – to be honest it’s something that’s never too far off the national debating agenda here. The reason though why it’s back on the front pages is to do with ‘Arthur’s Day’. To the uninitiated this now annual event (for the time being anyway) was first introduced in 2009 to celebrate 250 years of the alcoholic beverage Guinness, the brainchild of Arthur Guinness, being brewed in Dublin.

Many see it – and we tend to agree – as purely a marketing ploy by Diageo, the owners of Guinness, to promote the consumption of its leading brand. More stringent critics say it gives an easy excuse for people to ‘go on the lash’ where otherwise they may not have bothered; the fact it is always fixed for a Thursday, traditionally a big student night out in Ireland’s big towns and cities, underscores this ‘excuse’ point for many.

However alongside encouraging people to raise a pint glass ‘to Arthur’, the day (or indeed days as it now is) incorporates a number of music events sponsored by the drinks company. So with the once well-celebrated Irish pub in apparent terminal decline, if these free or cost-price music shows entice a few extra people out isn’t that a good thing?

Out for one or two beers...
Our coffee is blocked out by all the bottles in the front
As we wrote about before in more detail in An Irish lament (see http://bit.ly/MmS5bm), it’s not like Irish people are drinking less with the decline of the pubs; if anything as a nation we’re drinking more than ever. The difference now is that most of it is done at home, away from prying, perhaps judgemental, eyes. Yes, it might be cheaper but it doesn't mean it's any better.

The question the whole Arthur’s Day ‘should we shouldn’t we’ debate brings up is as a country are we not responsible enough and mature enough to have such events, whether you support them or not, without us getting ‘ossified’ (drunk that is)? If you do drink to excess, that’s your issue – don’t be looking for others to blame. Are we meant to ban every occasion we like to celebrate, public or private, just because some people might over-indulge in alcohol?

While the Arthur’s Day experiment may die a quick death (and we won’t shed a tear for it), many other more internationally recognised and celebrated festivals such as St. Patrick’s Day and Christmas won’t be going anywhere soon. Many Irish and a host of other nationalities will drink perhaps a little bit too much in marking these and other such events.

Go ahead we say, just don’t shirk from the personal responsibility you have for your own actions. It’s something we’re slowly trying to learn. Without, that is, blaming the media or some marketing event for any drunken escapades we might get up to.
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* Both letters can be found in digital form on independent.ie. The first is here http://www.independent.ie/sport/other-sports/have-your-say-29580333.html, while our reply is midway down this: http://www.independent.ie/sport/other-sports/have-your-say-29596689.html.

For a previous article on a similar theme of being responsible for our own actions, see Survival of the dumbest http://bit.ly/NNg2E8.

Friday, 13 September 2013

And now for something completely different (well kind of)

We’re stepping out of our comfort zone somewhat this time around – a good thing to do every so often that, right? And with it we’re looking for your help and support (don’t worry, it doesn’t take much effort and won’t financially cost you!).

It’s all to do with the travel website jauntaroo.com’s search for a ‘Chief World Explorer’, or ‘The Best Job Around the World’ as it’s being dubbed. Basically the company is looking for somebody to travel the world for them for one year, where he/she will participate in voluntary projects and write and produce short videos of the places visited for the website and potential customers. And it all comes with a salary of $100,000. Not bad, eh?

Considering we’re ‘between projects’ right now (that’s how we’re putting it anyway) we thought we’d give the application a lash; that being a minute-long video explaining why the job is for us.

So, basic (very basic) equipment in tow, we put something together – perhaps not enough to make Quintin Tarantino feel like he should call it quits, but you’ve got to start somewhere. We are ‘cheese’ masters after all.

Where your help comes in is to give our video as many ‘likes’ as you can. To do that, click on this link http://www.bestjobaroundtheworld.com/submissions/view/12962 and hit the like button. We’re not sure if you actually have to become a member of jauntaroo.com firstly in order to like it (all that requires is an email and password if that is the case), but by clicking on the link you’ll find out!

You can like it every 24 hours up until the October 1st; so set a reminder each day up until then, won't you?!

The video itself is below (you can also watch it on YouTube at http://bit.ly/19OqqII) but remember in order to like it you must do so on the jauntaroo website from this link http://www.bestjobaroundtheworld.com/submissions/view/12962.

Thanks for your help guys!

Saturday, 7 September 2013

No country for young men

As regular readers may have noticed (yes all two of you), our inspiration to write has been a little low since our return home.

Making hay while the sun shines -- well cutting the lawn in any case
Hard at it...
One explanation for this could be due to the very fact that we are back home and with it the associated ‘comforts’. Now we must qualify that these comforts, such as free board and food, are purely because the 'powers-that-be' understand we’re only meant to be here for a short stop; they’re not indefinite nor would we expect them to be. The fact also that it’s our first trip back after our longest stint away – specifically for a family wedding – has meant that it has been hard, in a nice way, to find as much ‘thinking time’ as we tend to do in Colombia. People to catch up with, events to attend, and such like – you know how it is.

It must also be said that we’ve been enjoying the longer daylight hours that you get in Ireland at this time of the year – something we do miss when in Colombia (see previous post http://bit.ly/Xgz0J6). Plus – and we’re not just marketing the homeland here – the weather has actually been relatively good with little rain for the month or so we’ve been about thus far.

Throw in the odd radio interview (we have to market ourselves – listen at http://bit.ly/18CuOco), letters to newspapers* and trying to sort out the ridiculous paper work in a bid to secure a more ‘stable’ return to Colombia while at the same time not really knowing if it’s the ‘right’ move, and it’s pretty understandable that the ‘Wrong Way’ creative juices have dried up somewhat, temporarily as it may be (or maybe not?).

Yet, another factor, perhaps, in all of this is ‘familiarity breeding contempt’. The land we know – and love in many ways – so well rarely changes. From a physical point-of-view this is a good thing; but when it comes to the mindset of some of the people, it can become tiring. This is something that is especially common to rural areas as they have a more elderly population compared to the cities and commuter belts.

However it’s not exclusively rural or elderly – Ireland as a country has often been slow, averse even, to change. We may travel the globe and populate its four corners but back on the island we tend to maintain the status quo, with just some minor, superficial tweaks every now and again.
Back with a vengeance -- the grey skies and rain
Back to normality; the rain has arrived

There’s a bit of an uproar when another scandal is revealed about our politicians or bankers or whoever, but it generally goes away again as quickly as it came on us. And at election time we tend to have the same sorry bunch looking up at us from the ballot paper – in a similar mould to previous candidates if not the same people – and we take pity on them, buying into them once again.

You can only read, listen and write about all this for so long until it just beats you with frustration and bleeds you dry.

So Ireland now (at least the rural areas), as it was before, is no country for young men it would appear.

Maybe, just maybe, we’ll find something to inspire us in that.

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* Surprise, surprise but we like a newspaper rant every now and again, slightly edited from the original as this may be: http://bit.ly/1cRPm3N

For an earlier piece on Ireland and emigration, see On the road again, naturally http://bit.ly/14z2F3e.