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Author Archive: Eamonn Fitzgerald

Ex-pat Irishman keeping an eye on the world from the Bavarian side of the Alps.

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Corvus cornix under anthriscus sylvestris

Saturday, 1 June, 2019

Cow parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris) is a short-lived perennial plant that’s native to Europe, northwestern Africa and western Asia. It’s ability to spread rapidly means it is defined as “an invasive species” in many parts of the USA and, in Iceland, cow parsley has been classified as an “alien invasive species”.

The hooded or grey crow (Corvus cornix) has a distinctive grey and black plumage. It’s an omnivore and will eat practically anything, including insects, other birds’ eggs, berries, fish and carrion. Widespread throughout Ireland, where it is known as the “scawl crow”, the bird has endured centuries of persecution, largely due to the belief that it kills young game birds and harms livestock — especially lambs.

Gray crow


Jackie Tyrell goes to war with figures of speech

Friday, 31 May, 2019

The Phoney War is the name given to the period in World War Two from September 1939 to April 1940 when, after Hitler’s Blitzkrieg attack on Poland, seemingly nothing happened. Jackie Tyrrell, the distinguished Kilkenny hurler, who now pundits about the game for the Irish Times, begins his think-piece on Sunday’s Waterford-Limerick match by declaring, “On this Sunday nine weeks ago, we had the ultimate Phoney War take place in Croke Park when Waterford and Limerick met in the league final.” The ultimate (“the most extreme example of its kind”) Phoney War?

And if that wasn’t enough, Jackie Tyrell, who appears to have read history, ploughs deeper into the furrow: “Go back and watch it and that’s what strikes you, how it rivals those early months of World War II for its lack of intensity, savagery and real purpose.” Hundreds of thousands of civilians were killed during the 1939 invasion of Poland and millions more were killed in the following years of German and Soviet occupation. During the Waterford-Limerick game Jackie Tyrell refers to, there were minor injuries but no fatalities on a mass scale.

As the hurling season warms up, we can expect mountains of metaphor, heaps of hyperbole, swathes of simile and clatters of cliché from Jackie Tyrell.

Eddie and Ali


Kerry Kefir

Thursday, 30 May, 2019

It is earthy, but not pungent. It is creamy, but not sweet. It is natural and it “encourages metabolism”. It is kefir made in Kerry using yeast, “many strains of beneficial bacteria” and, of course, pasteurized milk from cows in Kerry. Hat tip: Mary and Niamh.

Kerry Kefir


Chesterton said it

Wednesday, 29 May, 2019

The English writer, philosopher, journalist and literary critic G.K. Chesterton was born on this day in 1874. In his essay collection, Heretics, Chesterton wrote: “A good novel tells us the truth about its hero; but a bad novel tells us the truth about its author.”


It’s time to turn the lock, and poke the fire

Tuesday, 28 May, 2019

It was Dorothy Parker who said, “I hate writing, I love having written.” Among the many things we love that she wrote is Hearthside, which is very appropriate as we head to a place where, “Under deeper skies than mine / Quiet valleys dip and shine / Where their tender grasses heal / Ancient scars of trench and tomb.”

Hearthside

“If I seek a lovelier part,
Where I travel goes my heart;
Where I stray my thought must go;
With me wanders my desire.
Best to sit and watch the snow,
Turn the lock, and poke the fire.”

Dorothy Parker (1893 – 1967)

Hearthside


Enoch Powell on Sebastian Kurz

Monday, 27 May, 2019

At 32, Sebastian Kurz, the Austrian Chancellor, is the world’s youngest state leader. Or was. Kurz has just lost a confidence vote in parliament and must now wait until President Alexander Van der Bellen decides who is going to run the country until elections take place in September.

Enoch Powell, the classical scholar, author, linguist, soldier, philologist, poet and Conservative Member of Parliament, was right when he said that all political careers end in failure. Actually, what Powell said was: “All political lives, unless they are cut off in midstream at a happy juncture, end in failure, because that is the nature of politics and of human affairs.”

The political life of Sebastian Kurz has just taken a knock at an unhappy juncture for Austria but he’s only 32 so he’s far from midstream yet.


Show of hands

Sunday, 26 May, 2019

Loves Me, Loves Me Not, Loves Me is a track from the album The Space Between by the pianist Chad Lawson. To get the sound he wanted, Lawson placed extra felt between the hammers and strings and then placed a microphone close to the hammers.


May was histrionic. June could be historic.

Saturday, 25 May, 2019

When Prime Minister Theresa May stepped up to the lectern outside No. 10 Downing Street yesterday to announce she was stepping down as Tory leader on 7 June, a weary press and public exhaled a sigh of relief. Yes, there were pious expressions of sympathy from pundits declaring to be moved by her emotional statement, but their tears, unlike those of the genuinely upset Mrs May, were of the crocodile kind. Theresa May will be judged as one of the UK’s worst leaders. That’s the harsh reality. She took office at a time of crisis, but also opportunity. The Brexit vote was a democratic demand for change, but she wasted that opportunity, and then drove Great Britain deeper into crisis.

Theresa May was a technocrat, and the kind of politics preferred by technocrats is best exemplified by the Brussels bureaucracy. Not everyone wants that kind of politics, though. So, what next? Brexit means Boris writes Stephen Robinson in The Spectator. This bit will strike a chord with all those members of the typing class who have struggled with deadlines:

“I can’t say I know Boris well, despite our once having been Telegraph colleagues, mostly on different continents. I cannot say I even like him that much. I resented him when I edited the paper’s comment pages for filing his column three hours late, which meant I couldn’t get home to see my infant children.”

In the end, May was histrionic. June could be historic.


Banksy in Venice

Friday, 24 May, 2019

“If you don’t own a train company then you go and paint on one instead,” said Banksy in the book Banksy: You Are an Acceptable Level of Threat. The street artist was referring to the British government’s decision to privatize rail networks “to make millions for a cabal of financiers, largely at the taxpayers expense.” Is Banksy a genius? Some have criticized the “obviousness” of his work and accused it of being “anarchy-lite” geared towards a middle-class hipster audience, while the satirist Charlie Brooker wrote in the Guardian that “…his work looks dazzlingly clever to idiots.”

Still, if you don’t own a cruise ship, you go and paint one in Venice instead. Hilarious.


Huawei’s sinister EU campaign

Thursday, 23 May, 2019

With friends like these…

“The European Union is a great success story. Since the historical Schuman Declaration of 9 May 1950, the integration process has brought Europeans unprecedented prosperity and stability.” So begins the sermon from Huawei, a front corporation for the Chinese Communist Party that also makes network equipment and phones. Two days ago, in its Orwellian-named Cybersecurity Transparency Centre in Brussels, this least transparent of companies, held a “debate” at which it “reaffirmed its commitment to roll out 5G” the ‘European Way’, whatever way that is.

Huawei’s Abraham Liu, who sports the title of “Chief Representative to the European Institutions”, declared that “Huawei has been respecting all applicable laws and regulations. Now Huawei is becoming the victim of the bullying by the US administration. This is not just an attack against Huawei. It is an attack on the liberal, rules-based order.” When a tool of a regime that bans freedom of expression and holds minorities in internment camps utters the word “liberal” and the phrase “rules-based order” you know it’s time to reach for a non-Huawei phone.

Huawei


Metamorphosis: The butterfly effect

Wednesday, 22 May, 2019

Our image today is by Dublin photographer Willie Poole, who captured this composite of nature in all its beauty. The butterfly is a well-known symbol for life after death because of its metamorphosis from an ambling caterpillar to an almost ethereal flying creature. This symbolism is of great personal meaning to Willie Poole in these days.

Butterfly by Willie Poole

“How does one become butterfly?’ Pooh asked pensively.
‘You must want to fly so much that you are willing to give up being a caterpillar,’ Piglet replied.
‘You mean to die?’ asked Pooh.
‘Yes and no,’ he answered. ‘What looks like you will die, but what’s really you will live on.” — A.A. Milne