Noonan In The Cesspit

With the horrifying details of past cruelties and crimes in the Mother and Baby homes run by the Bon Secour nuns, among other orders, coming out in Ireland now, it’s only a matter of time before they may be shamed and forced to change the name of this new private hospital. But would the ethos behind it ever get changed? An excellent blog.

Cunning Hired Knaves

Today, Michael Noonan (more about him here) attended the opening of a private hospital facility in Limerick. Noonan is a former Minister for Health, and is the current Minister for Finance. The official Twitter account of the Department of Finance posted a photo of the Minister at the opening. Among other things, this shows how it is official government policy to promote the continued privatisation of health care.

Noonan is hardly the first minister from the Fine Gael government to endorse the opening of private health care facilities. The Taoiseach Enda Kenny, and Leo Varadkar when he was Minister for Health have both done so, and for all I know, the current Minister, Simon Harris, may well have done the same.

You are unlikely to hear any Fine Gael minister saying that they actually support the continued privatisation of health care. They are more likely to say that the…

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The Trip, Part Two, and the Surprise…..

DSCF4288, E
Eileen looking wonderful in the pink light at sundown!


The call to prayer is really evocative, and here the men gather at mid-day for prayers…the road is completely filled with men who couldn’t get into the mosque.
I’ve never been a fan of a solid 8 hour working day, and love that with breaks to meditate or just BE for a while, one can work on in the evening…and get the same amount of work done. The outdoor evening life in Marocco is vibrant and wonderful.



In the Artisanal area, this young man was incredibly helpful….I had seen an English translation of an Arabic inscription, “Enter with blessings, serene people”, which I wanted in Arabic for my house, and for my Somali friends, and so we spent a fun time with my broken French, his broken English and a few mimes to show the feeling behind the words……it was also wonderful to watch him writing the two pieces…I learnt a lot from that!



The remains of the El Badi Palace, with four sunken gardens, with orange trees, separated by pools…..apparently they are a majestic sight when filled, during the Festival des Artes Populaires in June.


At the El Badi Palace there are lots of storks,with huge nests…seeing them flying with big sticks in their beaks is awesome!


(I don’t know enough about storks to know what the two

on the left are doing!)


Looking upwards brings wonders of painted woodwork…



Photo: Eileen O’Toole

and the marble work, like delicate lace, is exquisite!



We watched a young builder, working in the street on

renovations, and using an electric jigsaw to cut fretwork

like those above…so skilled!


Photo credit: Eileen O’Toole

Centuries of artisan craftsmanship resonate in the totally

modern airport…

The following pictures show little shops with spices, scents, dyes and food stalls…we bought Myrrh, Jasmine, cedar wood, creams, pigments and spices…evocative scents for my house.

Not all the food we had in Marrakech was good…elements of Fast Food in the evenings at Jmaa el Fna, but the food we had in this restaurant garden was really good, and the atmosphere was excellent.

Another group of photo’s, click to enlarge individual ones.



And now, for all those who’ve trawled through the photos to read of my Splendid Surprise! Nothing to do with Marocco, but one of the joys of WordPress, and a lovely Welcome Home! I came back to a comment on my WP blog, from a lad who’d seen my name and thought it must be me. He and two of his brothers had been fostered by me, when he was 5 years old, in Scotland. He remembered my house and things that had happened, and remembered me reading a book called Little Black Sambo to him…perhaps not so remarkable as he had never seen a black person back then! What was remarkable is that they were only with me for 3 weeks, 24 years ago…after which they’d gone to different foster parents, and to a children’s home. I was so touched that he’d remembered so much, and that he contacted me. And, thanks to my hoarding nature, I was incredibly happy to be able to dig out 3 photo’s of them…he had never seen, let alone owned, a photograph of himself as a child. Now we’re emailing our life stories to each other, and I have every hope of meeting him later this year…What a wonderful start to 2016!



Home Sweet Home….and a splendid surprise!

I’m just back from a wonderful,if all too short, New Year’s break in Marrakech, with a good friend, Eileen. She wrote about it so well: “We arrived in Marrakech on Dec 31st in the heat of the African sun. There was no Christian hoopla for the end of 2015. No fireworks, no party favorites. There was instead a piercing blue sky, red dust, the smell of unknown spices and mint tea. Plus the delicious weight of age that disregards the Gregorian calendar …….. “And there was colour…..Such beautiful colour. It felt like I was looking at something that was squeezed from the source.”


The fountains in the inner courtyard of our hotel were a soothing aural backdrop, which were switched off around 9 p.m. (This reminded me about how Sellafield nuclear plant doesn’t have the usual alarm system, instead they have a constant background sound, and when that stops it’s an emergency…it is remarkable how much more one responds to instant silence.)


The sounds of the fountains were often replaced by the sound of cats….there are cats everywhere in Marrakech, slim, but not scrawny or starving…great hoovers around the food stalls, not pestering people and very engaging.


Photo Credit:Eileen O’Toole

Enticing alleyways can get you wonderfully lost…Moroccan people are very friendly and helpful, but you may want to decline graciously when they want to take you  to a relative’s shop, unless you have time on your hands….


I was really looking forward to revisiting the Jardin Majorelle, a botanical garden created in the 20’s and 30’s by french painter Jacques Majorelle, and later owned by Yves Saint Laurent. We should have gone early in the day, as it was like an ant’s nest of tourists, snapping away on their i-pads, which did not enhance the extreme tranquility of the gardens.


Photo: Eileen O’Toole

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Photo credit, Eileen O’Toole

That blue was real! I bought Indigo and Majorelle Blue

pigments, and want to use them to decorate my wooden doors.



Two more photo’s from the Majorelle gardens…


Photo credit, Eileen O’Toole


Photo credit: Eileen O’Toole


I don’t seek out coolness in Ireland, but in Morocco it is bliss!


OOPS! I pressed Publish instead of Preview…but maybe this is quite enough to trawl through…Part Two will have the splendid surprise in it!

There Will Be Blood

A hilarious blog about the joys of parenting!

Punch Drunk Village

PsychoAllow me to set the stage for a recent Day in the Life story that occurred last week.

This took place during my “family vacation” – if by “family” you mean “lots of people crammed in one van,” if by “vacation” you mean “lots of people crammed in one van moving from one geographic location to another geographic location.” But call it what you like.

We were staying at a cabin on a lake near Minneapolis and decide to drive into the city to visit old and new friends. These old and new friends don’t know one another. But we typically like to make things more convenient for us them by awkwardly forcing everyone in a room together. One stop shop, if you will.

The Cast:

  • One family of four:  mom, dad, two young kids.
  • One family of five:  mom, dad, three young kids.
  • One male friend. Single by choice. Childless by choice. Works…

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Remembering Gaza, PalFest Ireland


The monumental canvas of Handprints for Palestine has continued its world tour, after Paris, Bruxels, Berlin, Barcelona, Beirut, Alger, Tunis, Casablanca, Geneva…..just imagine these hands tearing down the apartheid wall!


A year has passed since the fourth massive and devastating attack on Gaza since 2006, from the Israel forces… I’ve always been an activist, driven by injustices in the world, and never more so than by the genocide being perpetrated on the Palestinians, living under siege in their own land, the borders closed, kept on a starvation diet by Israelis blocking deliveries of food, medical supplies, water, electricity, rebuilding materials, educational supplies… schools and hospitals being deliberately bombed…. this was not a war between military adversaries but a systematic genocide where the vast majority of casualties were defenceless civilians; the casualty figures paint the stark picture…in the 51 days of bombing last July, one Israeli child was killed, and 551 Palestinian children….one child killed is one too many, but the disproportionality of this conflict is devastating.
How do we live with the knowledge of what happened, and what continues to happen before the eyes of the world? (never mind that the strictly controlled western media does not in any way carry the full story). What do we do with the feelings of powerlessness, when we feel helpless….all we can do is add our voices, show our solidarity, spread the word.

Last Friday I travelled down to Dublin with my good friend Jackie McKenna, to take a very small part in the PalFest Ireland’s event “NO MORE – Dublin Remembers the Children of Gaza”


The PalFest Ireland installation of 556 children’s vests, on Sandymount Strand, Dublin, in memory of the innocent Palestinian children killed in 51 days last July.

On the Friday night we went to a presentation by Dr Mads Gilbert, a Norwegian doctor who has worked in al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza over the last 15 years…a truly remarkable man. Those two hours were a roller coaster of emotions…it was inspiring, harrowing, uplifting, horrifying, heart breaking…the theatre was full, and not a dry eye in the house. What shone through was the dignity, pride, resilience and indomitable, steadfast courage of the Palestinian people…and the humanity of volunteers like Dr Mads, who go to help, to witness and to show solidarity with them.The following clip was a short talk by Mads after one of the theatrical performances for PalFest Ireland. Sadly, I wasn’t able to go to those, but this 16 minute clip gives a picture of his work there.

 Dr Mads has now been permanently banned from entering Gaza, and as he wrote in his new book, ‘Night in Gaza’, “When a pen, a camera and a stethoscope are seen as security threats, we know we are dealing with a regime that is afraid of the truth, and that believes power confers rights”.
No one can forget the images of seven small boys playing football on the beach in Gaza, and the deliberate Israeli shelling that killed four of them, from the one extended family. I won’t post the harrowing photos, just this iconic image from Amir Schilby, of Jewish Voices for Peace.


The three friends who were playing with them,, and who were injured with broken bones and abdominal shrapnel wounds, are traumatised by their loss, and cannot go back to the beach…..In their words: “The beach was our favourite playground”…”We used to play on the beach and go fishing together. I don’t know what we’ll do now.” The traumas inflicted on innocent children will reverberate for generations.

On the Saturday, PalFest Ireland created a family Fun Football event to champion the right and freedom for all children to play freely on the beach…


There was some beautiful face painting done by Katie Burkenshaw, and a wonderful magician and balloon man, Simon Toal, who captivated the children there……and me too, he was excellent!




Jackie and I had worked with Manorhamilton children, making and decorating paper boats…boats to represent freedom, the right of Palestinian refugees worldwide to return to their homeland, and the international humanitarian aid boats that are still being prevented by Israel from reaching Gaza, and the boats of the fishermen prevented from making a livelihood by the Israeli gunships curtailing their rights to fishing fields.



Gabrielle McKenna and Stewart Dowie….our wonderful hosts in Dublin x



Stella by name, and a wee star by nature!



Out of the mouths of children…


A sweet wee lass who came to help make paper boats ….she reminded me of the wee Palestinian girls injured last year in Gaza, which we saw in Dr Mads Gilbert’s presentation …and their indomitable spirit. How can Israel ever justify the slaughter of innocents?

Black clouds were rolling in when we tried to launch the paper boats…the tide was so far out that we tried to float them on a pond, but the wind was blowing them over and capsizing them…




…so we later took many boats to the Garden of Remembrance in Dublin.When we got there, we were approached by a member of the Public Works Dept, and feared that he’d stop us launching the paper boats for Gaza, but we explained what we were intending, and luckily Jackie had had the foresight to bring a fishing net to take the boats out afterwards, and the P.W. man gave us his blessing…and a good chat!



Jackie with her fishing net!


Stewart Dowie, a great help!

Once again, the wind was separating the boats and sinking some, and so the remaining 100 or so undecorated boats were taken to be decorated in youth workshops run by Stewart…..the word spreads.
This is a short clip showing the Family Fun day….

And lastly, but far from least, a Huge Thank You to Eimer Murphy, who brought me a piping hot coffee when my feet were totally soaked with cold sea water….a life saver! So many people working away quietly behind the scenes…every one a vital part of the event. We will never forget. Together we speak out.


An Au Revoir, with reblog.

Back here, briefly…. Monday night’s storm was right overhead…I felt like the attached cartoon….Leunig, not the dog


and then, at 7.30 a.m., there was an almighty CRACK! and I thought the house was hit. Pantomime panic as I ran round in me jammys, (barefoot…. Ouch!), checking cats, chimneys, and cardiac arrest potential.

Nuttin’ obviously struck so back to bed, clutching Rasta the cat.
Came down at Dawn (Dawn being a state of mind, it was 8.30 a.m.), to no electricity, and an exploded inbox for broadband. The lid was a charred lump of plastic, 12 foot away from it’s wall. The landline was shot, too.
One of the lessons from 24 hours without broadband, was to always print out your ferry ticket for imminent journey as soon as ye get it….
There were other lessons, maybe for a future blog;  however, for now,  I am looking forward to quite a long spell off line, off on a roadtrip to visit dear auld women friends, and dearly beloved  second son, … and happy that on coming into ‘puter before I leave gave me this gem of a blog to repost…enjoy!

Cunning Hired Knaves

I took great satisfaction in watching Russell Brand wiping the floor with the egregious Evan Davis in the above video. One of the things I liked most was the way Brand supplemented his habitual mateyness with a certain edge: he refers to Davis as “mate” and pats him repeatedly on the knee, but at the same time, warns Davis not to patronise him. It is a moment of subtle sharpness. Davis doubtless lacks the self-awareness to know he is being patronising.

Brand isn’t to everyone’s taste. He has a chequered history, some questionable acquaintances, and has said and done some grossly sexist things. This, believe it or not, is not that uncommon in men. You wouldn’t put him in charge of anything. At times he can say dubious things, but here he was quite sound. He voiced solidarity with the Fire Brigades Union, the Focus E15 Mothers, and rebutted Davis’s…

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Ireland, Water Wars, Human Rights, and some Big Questions…

crowd, 1

A Press photo that I can’t credit.

On Saturday I took the train down to Dublin for a Right2Water Demonstration, without any particular thought of being a photographer…or else I’d have taken more batteries! There had been talk of maybe 15,000 people attending; the last demo that I went on in Dublin was on a day of worldwide protests about GMO crops, and all of 300 people turned up…… I seriously thought my demonstrating days might be over!

When I arrived, Dublin was at a standstill, and at the end of the day it was estimated that there was at least 100,000 people there….certainly, when I went to catch my train home, after three hours, with batteries dead and me exhausted too, the last of the march had only recently left the Start place, and the beginning of the march was yet to arrive back.


crowd at R2W

Not my photograph, and sadly can’t credit it.

There were professional banners made by a whole range of left wing political parties, Unions, and Campaign groups, campaigns against Fracking, and against mandatory fluoride in our water, (a crime! No other country in Europe adds fluoride, though I believe some American States do.), but what captivated me was the home-made signs folk had brought.
when God....


Some of the humour may be lost on non-Irish…a jax is a toilet!


Careful now


Sadly out of focus, but I did like "Keep calm and have a bubble bath!". Not so funny for mothers wondering how they will protect their children's health if they can't afford water.

Sadly out of focus, but I did like “Keep calm and take a bubble bath!”. Not so funny for mothers wondering how they will protect their children’s health if they can’t afford water for baths, or to flush the toilet.

Enda Kenny is the Prime minister of Ireland, (I can't spell the Irish title for him!)

Enda Kenny is the Prime minister of Ireland, (I can’t spell the Irish title for him!)


Note overhead helicopter. The PPS refers to people’s individual National Insurance numbers; now, Irish Water is NOT a Government body, it’s a semi-privatised, For Profit company, and has no statutory right to ask for PPS numbers….The Irish Government is a shambles when it comes to bringing in Household charges, Water charges, etc, as it appears to have no central records of who lives where, who’s on a private water scheme, who has only a rainwater system (me),etc, . In the event, they are trying to frighten people to sign up for a water tax, by threatening to cut people’s water down to a trickle…. learning from Detroit? Shameful!
Then there’s the matter of the water meters they are installing, with no consent sought from householders, and reports that they emit radiation, a real health hazard.


Money for water has been taken from Road Tax, (whilst the roads are in a parlous state); from Income tax, (which hits middle income folk the worst), from VAT, which is rated very high here, and from Property tax. Meanwhile, there is a vast amount of water lost in leaks, in an antiquated infrastructure which needs urgently to be overhauled.
The Irish people are picking up the tab for 47% (!) of the Banker’s Bailout in Europe…the gap between the Haves and Have-nots grows ever wider. Pensioners, Carers and Education are all facing cutbacks, and the way that the Water Tax has been brought in is the last straw for many folk. It was remarkable how people of all ages, and from all walks of life and all areas of Ireland, came together….Thank God there was no rain, and the atmosphere was wonderful.

Of course, the whole issue of water begs a LOT of questions…

Would people have come out in their thousands to protest for people the world over who have no access to clean water?  Probably not.

Should the Government have been educating people about how clean water is a precious commodity, and finding ways to encourage people about how to conserve water, and not to waste it?  Undoubtedly.

Should Government be more transparent about how all the various taxes people pay are utilised?  Of course.

Are water charges inherently wrong? I’ll stick my neck out and hesitantly say not necessarily, because although water IS a Human Right, purifying water is no doubt costly, and essential to a nation’s health. However, denial of water to people who cannot afford to pay is wrong, and could cause even more health problems which would tax the health service.
Irish people have always ‘paid’ for water via other taxes; perhaps charges would be more acceptable if presented in a transparent way, and designed to be a completely fair system. Perhaps.

We’re seeing wars over oil, and protecting oil pipelines, worldwide, but future wars will be about water.

About 4 years ago I objected to an American friend about American Big Business bribing tinpot dictators in Africa, to be allowed to privatise their water supplies…Why were they wanting to sell water to Africans? She said “don’t be naive, Charlie, it’s for when America is short of clean water, and they’ll ship it to America.” I had read that 40% of American fresh water was irrevocably polluted….you can’t wash water. In campaigning against Fracking I’d come across the quote “All the water there will ever be, already is.”


To end, here’s a photo of a dear friend, and the wonderful water pump he carved in wood.

Dave and pump
And the story behind the making of it, in his words.

“I was disappointed when I learned that all the trees on our street were to be cut down. Although many of these were old and nearing their life span, many were healthy and mature and gave a full leafy aspect in the summertime.
For the sake of enhancements to the footpaths, cyclepaths and the calming of traffic, the Council argued that more suitable new trees could replace the mature ones. The other reason given was, “the upgrade of utilities” which turned out to be a euphemism for water metering. So, in March of 2013 the tree cutters arrived and took out 40-50 years of mature growth, leaving dozens of stumps ready for removal as the roadworks got underway.

For years I have been photographing old cast iron pillar fonts all over Ireland, from which communities drew water as a shared public resource. Many around the country are still in working condition and others abandoned relics;
The question arises, are we to also to abandon the principal that water is a human right, owned by the citizens, only to be privatized and commodified for the benefit of some tax exile oligarch/overlord?

It struck me that the dimensions of the tree stumps which remained on the street resembled that of the pillar fonts and that a tree itself reaches down into the ground for water just as people did at communal wells in times past. I selected a stump, still putting out leaves in a last gasp at life, (which I had incidentally photographed the previous autumn) and determined to make a replica as an affirmation of shared social values in opposition to the kind of free-loader capitalism, monetizing everything for the benefit of the few.

And so I began carving on site with a vague notion that I would work there and allow people to see the piece take shape. The interest of pedestrians, cyclists and motorists was evident and many voiced their admiration and encouragement for the effort.
I decided not to seek any official or bureaucratic permission. The project had an exciting open endedness which I enjoyed. I was testing how far the conventions of the art system of selection, curation and approval could be circumvented and officialdom denied the policing of what is permitted as art. Inevitably and as expected it was not too long before a Council worker arrived and said the work could not continue.

A period of uncertainty followed. I asked the workers on the job if they could cut the stump out for me. Understandably, while always helpful and friendly, they were preoccupied with their work and vague about who might do it and and when, if ever, it might be done. I was always prepared that the work might come to nothing, except the satisfaction of having attempted it. The day came when the half-worked stump disappeared and I then reconciled that I had made a good try. Later, to my delight and surprise one of the workers called to me and infomed me that the stump was at the depot waiting for me to collect.
I set to work.

Now, after a year the sculpture is finished and ready for the ‘launch’. That is, the anti-water tax march, Dublin, Saturday, October 11th, 2014! Was this always my deadline?”

And from me again…one last photo. What a Grand Day Out!
m4w 19