Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Liz in Ireland

Liz and Mary

Aer Lingus uniform
She arrived around noon yesterday, on a plain white plane, which didn't despite many speculations carry the Union Flag on the side. Would've made too easy a target, I suppose. Liz was wearing something that reminded me of the Aer Lingus cabin crew uniform. Very fitting. When greeted by president Mary McAleese wearing a lovely shade of fuschia, someone on Facebook commented that the two women looked like the last two chocolates on the bottom of a tin of Quality Street.

Not everyone was happy that the Queen finally followed her grandfather's footsteps onto Irish soil after a mere 100-year gap in between visits. Protesters lined the heavily barricaded streets in Dublin, along with as many gardai as I've seen in my 9 years in this country. Protesters chanting, shouting, swearing and throwing things. Shouting how you don't want Brits in Ireland while wearing British football jersey makes you a bit of an idiot, ok? The relationship between Ireland and the UK is fraught to say the least. So much history, so many wrong-doings and so much violence.

History is the key word here, though. It's in the past. And while the past should not be forgotten, nor should it be wallowed in whenever something doesn't go your way. There's a recession on; let's blame the Brits for dragging us down with them. The unemployment figures are up again; let's blame the Brits for luring Irish people away to work there. The war, the famine, the oppression, oh the size of the chip on the Irish shoulder!

I am in no way undermining the sacrifices made by people on both sides of this conflict. What has happened in the past is appalling, there's no other word for it. But isn't it time to move on and let go of the grudge? I, for one see the Queen's visit as a step towards a more amicable relationship between these two neighbouring islands. Her laying a wreath at the Garden of Remembrance was a clear message. Her visit to Croke Park, the site of Bloody Sunday sends a message that's even clearer. By acknowledging what has happened in the past and making amends, there's hope of a more peaceful co-existence here.

Laying a wreath at Garden of Remembrance

She is meeting Ireland half-way, she is, in effect, apologising on behalf of her country. The least Ireland can do is to accept the apology and move forward. I saw a photo of the crowd of protesters and was shocked and disappointed to see amongst the protesters a girl no older that 12 years of age. She was holding a sign "Britain out of Ireland" while sitting on the shoulders of a man I'm assuming to be her father. I can see how grudges can be held for generations, that being a perfect example. Handing the burden of hate to your children, teaching them to hate something or someone they really have no grasp of, other than the fact that their parent thinks it's important, therefore it must be important to them also. Irresponsible.

Empty streets in Dublin
I'm not asking for a crowd to line the streets waving the Union Flag or throwing street parties, it's hardly going to happen any time soon. The general atmosphere seems to be of subdued interest. "It's nice to have her here, but let's not make a big deal of it". It's about time she visited and it is nonetheless a historical event, no matter what is being said against it. I see it as a positive step forward and a historic point in the Anglo-Irish relations.

The Queen is visiting Croke Park today and making a speech later on at Dublin Castle. I, for one will be tuning in.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Literally Speaking

I think I did post this on Twitter if nowhere else in English; I was reading Katherine Webb's book The Legacy. I did do a quick post in Finnish, but thought I'd ought to say a few words in English as well. So here goes:

It's bitterly cold winter in the English countryside. Beth and Erica Calcott have recently lost their grandmother Meredith, whose old manor house they now stand to inherit. On one condition; both women must move in to Storton Manor to live. Permanently. Neither one of the sisters has been back since their childhood despite spending many happy summers there. It all changed on that summer when Beth was twelve and Erica was eight. Their cousin Henry disappeared without a trace.

Since they stopped visiting their grandmother's house, they lost touch with their best friend, Dinny. Dinny came from a family on travellers who camped on the edge of the manor's vast lands despite Meredith, and Meredith's mother's, Caroline's open resentment towards them.

Up in the attic, sorting through Meredith's things Erica comes across an old photograph of Caroline holding a baby boy with motherly pride. The photo was taken before she married the girl's grandfather, Lord Henry Calcott. Who was the boy? Why did Caroline leave behind her high-society life in America and moved to England to marry a Lord? Why did she hate the travellers who lived next door to them, at the invitation of her own husband?

As Erica delves deeper into her grandmother's past, she starts to remember bits and pieces of that summer Henry went missing. The reappearance of the girl's friend Dinny only stirs things up even more. Why cannot Erica remember what happened to Henry? She feels as if she should. She knows it's something that affected Beth profoundly, she believes it is at the root of Beth's depression.

Covering romance, thriller, mystery and themes ranging from motherhood and the legacy we leave to the generations to come, and how, should we choose to, we can leave all of that behind and find out own way through life.

I thoroughly enjoyed it, hope you do too.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Questionable Festivities

There's been some reason for celebrations lately, hasn't there? First there was Easter, with bunnies and chocolate and the breaking of Lent for those who observe such customs. I don't. I don't like to deny myself anything, if at all possible.

Here in Ireland, we followed the long Bank Holiday weekend of easter with another long Bank Holiday weekend because it was the beginning of May. Cause for celebrations, no doubt. Locally, in my corner of the world, the May Bank Holiday weekend always plays host to the local Mussel Festival. Local pub, marquee or two, bucketloads of mussels, great chefs, live music and plenty to drink. My friend Kenneth was playing at the opening of the festival on friday, I'd say the festivities and the food rivalled that of a certain high-profile wedding that was going on at the same time in London.

I tried not to get caught up in the wedding hype but still found myself trying to catch a glimpse of Kate's wedding dress on colleague's iPad which was conveniently streaming live footage via Sky News. I loved her dress and her sister's dress. That evening, when calling into my neighbour's we watched the highlights and laughed when her son came in with the comment "William is punching way above his weight there". Which is true, he does look very horse-y. Harry on the other hand...

Then, from across the Big Pond came news that everyone's Number One Enemy, Osama Bin Laden has been sent to meet his maker by the US Navy SEALs. Seeing the footage of people celebrating made a little bit sick. I am in no way condoning what he did but celebrating someone's death in such a way made me uneasy. Eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth will leave us all being fitted for dentures and learning Braille. I know this quote by Martin Luther King Jr. has been bandied about a lot recently, but it does seem to capture the mood of a lot of people:

I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.

I have been tempted to speculate whether or not this bit of news is actually an elaborate hoax cooked up by the White House/CIA/FBI/NSA/X-files/Aliens to boost Obama's popularity. Withholding any photographs while deliberating if it's appropriate to publish them (photos of dead bodies have been a permanent feature in any news cast for a while now, why so cautious about publishing these?), not that I have any interest in seeing them. The timing of his death, quite soon after the whole hoo-ha about his birth certificate. And loads more fuel to the conspiracy theory fire. 

Fighting fire with fire doesn't seem to be the best options, especially when you think of the explosive global political climate we are in now. Riots, revolutions, protests and such are happening globally. Taking such joy out of having killed a man (no matter how evil) seems to me a bit foolish. You're attracting the wrong kind of fans. The kinds who love to hate. 

I, on the other hand am wholeheartedly embracing the 4th of May as the important, international holiday that it is: Star Wars Day. I'm glad to see that the twitter hashtag #maythe4thbewithyou has overtaken the likes of #obl #binladen and anything else less celebratory. I think it may well be time to dig out the old DVDs and spend hours watching these sci-fi masterpieces. And just for clarification purposes, these masterpieces include episodes 4, 5 and 6. Episodes 1, 2 and 3 are not recognised in this household as Star Wars movies. The only good thing about them was Liam Neeson, and even he isn't brilliant enough to balance out the horror that is Jar Jar Binks.