Paying to Recycle – the Weigh to go?

So – someone put a child into my wheelie bin – and I got charged for the weight!

(That would be quite the story – about which more shortly…)


The word is out today regarding new charges for all green/recycling bins, come July this year. People are cock a hoop – how much it might be, how they intend not to pay it etc. My bin providers were kind enough to write several weeks ago with this exciting news. Flat rate up to now, we’ll ‘weigh and pay’ separately for green, brown and general waste from July onwards. Considering I have never even been supplied with a brown bin service, I can’t wait to be charged for this new privilege.


I asked my provider could they outline the new ‘service charge and charges based on weight’. They couldn’t.


But what they could disclose was that they have kindly been weighing everyone’s bins for the last TWO years. (Technology well in place, but no idea at all of price? For sure.)
You can actually log in and view your ‘bin weight history’. I did. And what an education that was….


Amongst several anomalies, one bin weight stood out. A recycling lift – that’s paper, plastic and cardboard remember – that weighed in at 57kg.
FIFTY SEVEN KGs. That’s 9 stone in old money. Now, I will admit that my child sometimes stands in the bin to squash it down. But even if I forgot and dragged him off down the driveway (with extreme difficulty), the bin still wouldn’t weigh that much. Maybe someone secretly threw breeze blocks into my bin. That’s the only explanation I can offer. And more than the bin company could explain when I contacted them. Of course, not paying by weight heretofore, it doesn’t altogether matter.


But, going forward, it absolutely does.  ‘Weigh and Pay’ throws up all sorts of questions;


  • will avid recyclers really save, or will ‘minimum service charges’ take care of that?
  • will dumping/burning of rubbish increase?
  • will lockable bins be provided? (to keep breeze blocks/children/your non-paying neighbour’s rubbish out)
  • will people start bringing their rubbish into work?
  • will packaging waste be left behind in the shop/supermarket? (I’ve heard it mentioned)
  • will people weigh their own bin in advance (surely a Dragons Den opening for some inventor type)
  • will querying your (9st) bin weights be easy and transparent?


Plenty of food for thought (and into your brown bin afterwards, thanking you).

Irish Water and their ‘Cute’ Advertising

There are a myriad things that annoy people about Irish Water. In the interests of not being here all day, I’ll focus on just one – their advertising. Look at this, from Sunday’s papers.


Observe the cute, happy, little worker, cheerily repairing your leaky pipes. It’s like a preschool cartoon. Complete with soft, pastel colours and, in the various TV versions, plinky, nursery rhyme music. What is the subliminal message here?

  • We seriously overspent on consultants, bonuses and salaries – but deal with us – we’re cuddly.
  • We messed up installing meters that are ineffective/not up to the task required – but deal with us – we’re nice.
  • We gave out grants that you don’t have to spend on water or conservation – but deal with us – we’re lovely.
  • We are just so cute and adorable – how can you resist?

Of course Irish Water are not alone in this ‘cutesy’ advertising approach.

How about this, from VHI?


“Never mind that we have to charge you more and more every year, as people who can no longer afford us drop out – deal with us – we’re so cute!”

Or from our banking friends PTSB;


“Never mind that we were baled out, with your money, and we charge you for the privilege of minding your money – deal with us – we’re so cute!”

The advertising and marketing teams who came up with all the above were simply keeping to the brief. But whatever that brief was exactly – I find them quite insulting. And not at all cute.

1916 Commemorations, Kilmainham Gaol – and Tourists

So – how are your 1916 Centenary preparations going? Have you bought your Proclamation poster or sweatshirt yet? Or how about a ‘Rising Candle’, or maybe some 1916 Chocolate? Yes it’s certainly a race to the bottom in the Cashing-In Souvenir Department. And we haven’t seen the half of it yet.

'The Choclamation...'
‘The Choclamation…’

A much more worthy spend in the run up to next April, or anytime of course, would be a visit to Kilmainham Gaol; read last letters written by prisoners, visit the church where Grace Gifford married Joseph Plunkett before he met his ultimate fate, stand in that foreboding stonebreakers yard where the 1916 leaders stood to face their executioners. Kilmainham is wonderfully restored, powerfully evocative and highly educational. Whether you wish to learn some Irish history, brush up on what you know already or gain a renewed sense of the feats and sacrifices of our founding fathers, you should absolutely go.


I did, this Summer. Along with huge numbers of foreign tourists. They spilled out of the open-top tour buses in amazing droves. I was impressed with their obvious appetite for and interest in our history. Millions are after all being invested in encouraging tourists via the Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland’s Ancient East, Love Dublin initiatives etc.

I read just last week that extensive upgrading works are taking place at Kilmainham; to the Courthouse part of the building. Also new ticketing prices and structures are planned for 2016.  For the enjoyment and benefit of all visitors, I sincerely hope the upgrading works includes all of the following;

Multi Lingual Signage;

A single, English sign at the entrance gate explained the ticket booking and entry process. This was embellished by a handwritten sellotaped note, showing which tour time was next available. Periodically, a Tour Guide would address the snaking queue, in English. Only to be repeatedly approached by tourists asking various questions in various degrees of broken English…

Handheld Audio Guides

Once again, only an English language tour was available. The tour guides were as passionate as they were knowledgeable. But sheepishly had to ask non English speaking visitors to wait to put any questions –  and only to anyone accompanying them.  To stand on that imposing landing, or in the centre of that daunting yard without the sense of all that took place there, just so diminishes the experience. What must be a bewildering visit for some would of course be transformed by a handheld audio guide in your choice of language. Imagine if the Louvre only offered French speaking tours? Or the Vatican only Italian? You get the picture…

East Wing Landing  - also captured in films 'The Italian Job' and 'In the Name of the Father'
East Wing Landing – also captured in films ‘The Italian Job’ and ‘In the Name of the Father’


Kilmainham does not have its own website. It surely merits one. A perfunctory amount of information is available on the Heritage Ireland site. Including a link to what it says is the website, which instead links to a blog about a Kilmainham research project.


Kilmainham is well served by public and tour buses, as well as the Luas. There is also a good parking option. But not that you’d know it, from web info or local signage. There is ample parking down at the Irish Museum of Modern Art. It seems a bit of a spin, but affords a wonderful walk through the IMMA grounds, leading you out via the Croppies Acre (cemetery and memorial park to the men of the 1798 rebellion) and out the back gates – right to the doors of Kilmainham.

Maybe all of the above and more are planned for Kilmainham. I intend to find out in 2016. So should you.

Tackling Obesity – all Talk?

So today’s News informs us that obesity will be worse than cholera or AIDs for our health service.

Yesterday we were told we’re heading towards being the fattest country in Europe.

And previously we heard that 85% of all Irish schoolchildren take a lift bus/car to school every day. And all about the 50 inch waistbands for school uniforms.

Statistics, surveys, reports. Seems we’re great at talking about the crisis of obesity surrounding our children in Ireland – but what is actually being done about it?

Of course personal responsibility has a huge role to play.

And there is a separate case to make between Primary and Secondary school children. Under 12s as a general rule do not shop for or feed themselves. Barring a medical cause, isn’t the obese primary age child surely creation of the adult hands that feed it? Something for another day’s discussion.

But it’s different when children hit teenage years and secondary school. They have their own money, free will and ability to make good or bad choices when it comes to food. It is also a time of huge growth spurts and boundless energy requirements. Not to mention the fuelling of body and brain to cope with the State exam regime and thereby open the gates to college, career and all life’s opportunities.

My first child is starting secondary this year. I did a random, non scientific survey of local schools, and amongst friends and colleagues with teenagers. For this most vital stage of our children’s lives, the options seem to range from;

  • Canteen facilities (subsidised or not) providing healthy, hot and cold food options
  • Canteen facilities with less healthy choices
  • No canteen facilities, but pupils stay on the premises at lunchtime
  • No canteen facilities and pupils must leave the building at lunchtime (to buy lunch locally). One option here is the trip to the local ‘hot counter’ to purchase deep fried, brown food. I have counted queues of up to SIXTY uniformed kids at these so called delis, with the salad bar invariably far quieter.

It is just not good enough. Why such variation between schools? Why is this acceptable to the Departments of Health and Education?

  • Why can’t we have subsidized canteens in ALL secondary schools, providing healthy lunches and facilities to bring/heat your own food.

And while I’m ranting;

  • Why not roll out a National Healthy Eating Policy amongst all Primary and Secondary Schools
  • We’ve had ‘Bike to Work’ – how about a ‘Bike to School’ scheme?
  • Why not ban the sale of Sports drinks (all fizzy drinks?) directly to under 18s. Radical…but 12 teaspoons of sugar anyone? A professional and exhausted sportsperson might need that in 500 mls of liquid. But 9yr old Johnny coming home from half an hour of football does not.
  • Make Physical Fitness a recognised and assessable school subject.
  • Set up ‘Green Mile Zones’ around or within schools, highlighted like cycle lanes. Buses and cars drop off at these designated mile points and pupils walk the remaining mile to/from school, with frequency of use all going towards your ‘physical fitness’ grade at the end of the year. Green Miles could be painted inside school grounds/gyms also, to be similarly used on arrival at school early or during lunch time.

Now you can run a rule over some or all of the above and dismiss them as unrealistic/pie in the sky. So be it. But the obesity solution, we are always told, lies in physical activity. So, at least these are suggested physical actions and not just words.

And before you mention the Cost word – none of the above will cost as much as treating the tidal wave of obesity ill health that faces our population down the line.

So why not invest in Prevention instead of Cure.



One Month On


We can know the end is coming – and still not ever be ready.

That one, short breath, between being with us. And not.


Not eating. Not sleeping. Yet don’t feel hungry. Or tired.

An automation of arranging, choosing, deciding, meeting.

Hugs. Strong handshakes. Kind words. Funny stories.

They buoy us up. Help an inner strength to muster.

A life that was long and happy. Pain that is ended.

For that we must be happy.

But to not hear that soft voice, not see that gentle smile

Again, ever, weighs crushingly right now.

We will see them in our dreams of course.

It is not enough.

But we will remember, be thankful, and make do.


Coladh sámh, Dad, go dtí go mbuailfimíd le chéile arís.

Maurice Boyle,  14th August 1933 to 5th April 2015.


RTE’s Big Fat Autumn Schedule…


RTE revealed their new Autumn schedule today. One programme highlighted was called ‘Meet the McDonaghs’…

Source; RTE
Source; RTE


So our National Broadcaster is trotting down the ‘My Big Fat Gypsy….’ route. Only they’re dressing it up as a look at the ‘culture, morals, religion’ of travellers, via The McDonagh family. So why then, have they chosen the promotional photo above? I think we know why.

Cue the TV promo clips, with voluminous dresses, deportment lessons and model agent Celia Holman Lee dropping heavy hints about ‘make unders’.

Kelly McDonagh is a very talented singer and good looking girl who didn’t get the breaks she deserved after appearing on RTE’s ‘The Voice’. She has now, not unreasonably, opted to try increasing her profile/earnings. But I think she and her family are naïve in the extreme if they think this programme will be viewed as a cultural look at their lives.

RTE of course are not naïve. This show will be gawped at and derided from a height, as people tune in to stare and pass comment on the dresses, make up and fake tan on show.

It will probably be a ratings winner.

Maybe I’ll be wrong, and it will in fact be a broadly based insight into traveller lives. Well then, shame on RTE for their own ‘trash’ promotion.


A Public (In)Convenience


Question: If a Dad of little girls (3 to 6yrs approx) is out and about with them, as the sole adult, where does he take them to the toilet?

A woman brings little girls, or boys, into the Ladies with her. I came across a situation lately that really made me think – what does a Dad do?

We were on holidays, in Ireland, in a town where a festival was taking place. The streets, pubs etc were all packed. My 9yr old daughter and I went to a pub loo together.

I opened the Ladies door to be met by a man standing by the hand-basins. My initial thought was that one of us had taken a wrong turn, so much so that I starting backing out. Catching my reaction, the man quickly said that his wife was busy watching something at the festival so he had to bring his girls to the loo.  Two girls, age approx 4 and 6 then came out of a cublicle together and proceeded to wash their hands. We carried on using the facilities and that was that.

But thinking this over afterwards, a lot of things struck me;

  • If I was this man I would have insisted that his wife bring them to the toilet
  • I would also have waited outside the toilet for them to come out. They clearly did not need his assistance.
  • If another man in this situation ever asked me to ‘keep an eye’ on his girls while they went into the Ladies, that would be fine by me too.
  • If my daughter had gone to the loo on her own, as often happens, and had come back to say there was a man in the room, what would I have said/done?

But not to focus just on this one situation, there is a bigger picture here.

What does a Dad of little girls do? If they are young enough to need help, where do you bring them? And what about nappy changing of babies in general. I don’t remember my husband ever saying he saw a changing table in a men’s room. Some places have baby changing facilities as a standalone, but this is rare. 

Which is worse – Dad bringing his 3yr old girl into the Mens or the Ladies? He has to bring them somewhere.

One solution, which is more common abroad, is the unisex loo. ie a single cubicle just marked ‘toilet’ with handwashing etc outside in a communal area. I have seen them in petrol stations and shops, usually where space is at a premium. Modern public pay-per-loo, of the ‘Tardis-like’ variety, are also unisex. They both certainly solve the problem above.

Public toileting arrangements probably stem from the quainter days when Mammy did all the childcare, and kids would rarely if ever be out with just Dad. While Mens and Ladies are still a requirement, I think planners also need to drag themselves into the 21st century. Family friendly facilities please!

Thoughts anyone?