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.


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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?



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If the Shoe Fits…

So, it’s that time of year again. When retailers lash ‘Back to School’ stickers on everything from food to underwear ( because we don’t buy them any other time of year).

I have most things got (she sez, weeping into the gaping hole in her bank balance) . Including my 9 yr old daughter’s school shoes.

New Shoes?

New Shoes?

Nice aren’t they? Leather upper and lining, sturdy, shiny. Except for one thing…

They are her last year’s shoes. From Sept to June. Near perfect condition ( I didn’t even polish them for the photo, just a rub of a cloth) . And sadly don’t fit any more. Where did I buy such magnificently hardwearing items? And did they cost a bomb?

I bought them in LIDL.

And they cost €7.

I think that merits repeating.

They cost €7.

Of course cheap shoes are not a new concept. Cheap shoes that don’t last six weeks? – ten a penny. Cheap shoes that last 3 months are a bonus. So these, they would have to be top of the class.

A couple of caveats. She wouldn’t really be a climber or play as much yard football as others. And didn’t take a massive growth spurt. ( Buy a slightly bigger size, add insoles for a full year’s wear. You’re welcome). The school doesn’t have a shoe policy  (so eminently sensible!) so she wore runners/winter boots maybe once a week. But mainly she hopped, skipped, jumped and ran (yes, permitted) in them for the full school year.

It’s certainly one in the eye for some ‘school costs a fortune’ list compilers. And for the purveyors of  ‘three width fittings/hand stitched/breathable/with free toy/ expensive ‘school shoes’.



Also a massive thank you and hats off to LIDL. Your brilliant shoes are now off to the charity shop for another whirl this September. I have of course bought my child another pair for this year. She is now up to the biggest size you stock. Maybe you will consider extending the range. Y’know, if the shoe fits?


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‘Change or Die’ – Must Older People do Both?


So, how was the Budget for you? Regardless of how one is or isn’t affected, you won’t have to look too far in your family to find someone  who is.

My parents will be 50 years married next year. In this time they have;

  • Lived in the same house
  •  Banked with the same branch of the same bank
  • Had the same phone company, same electricity provider, same insurance company etc.
  • Shopped in the same branch of the same supermarket, on the same day of the week, at just about the same time
  • Gone on the same holiday, to the same place, at the same time of year, for as many years as they were physically able

The same. Just how they like it. Routine, familiar, comforting. I’m sure there are plenty of other elderly couples, singles, siblings etc who are just like them. And where’s the harm in that?

But of course that’s not good enough for our government and other authorities.

Amidst the raft of horrible cuts to older people in this year’s budget, the severance of the landline phone allowance generated much talk.

‘Change to another provider,’ they said.

‘Change to a mobile phone instead!’ they said.

Yes, that could be done. But why should it be done – why should they have to? Older people who like things just so, don’t want change.

My father would be a different case in point. He has dementia. His ability to use a landline is ingrained. He would forget where he left a mobile phone. Forget the unlocking code. Forget how to turn it on/off.

Change is not as wanted – or easy – as people can sometimes glibly think.

For years my mother like to travel directly to pay her own bills. Up to the ESB office, over to eircom, into the Insurance company. ‘ I know that they’re paid and it’s a job done’ she’d say. Then they gradually shut down these customer facing facilities. Streamlining, they said. Costcutting, we muttered. So, her bills were then all paid by cheque. Now, her bank informs her, cheques will cost €1.10 each (in advance of their getting rid of them) . Oh and while we’re at it, Mrs Customer, don’t be coming in queuing up with your lodgements, go over there and use our fancy machine. And don’t bring coins. Unless they’re bagged. And unless it’s a Tuesday…. Have you ever heard the like? Longstanding, loyal customers, being ordered what to do, or not do, with their own money. That the banks wouldn’t exist without.

My parents won’t be hit by the medical card changes – this time around. Between them both they have nearly a dozen different prescriptions. Mam asked her chemist once how much all of them would actually cost for a months supply. ‘I’d be afraid to tell you’ was the reply. Would YOU like a €125 per month pay cut? Because that’s the change possibly facing many older (and not so old) people who could end up paying for all medications without their long used and accustomed to medical cards.

‘Change or die’ the saying goes. Older people do not welcome the former. What is the other option again?

Their dignity, their routines, their creature comforts – why can’t they just leave our older people be.

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On the (mis)use of the Exclamation Mark


Consider, if you will, the following sentence;

‘Oh no. The house is on fire.’

or perhaps;

‘Wow. I’ve won the Lotto.’

Are they perhaps lacking a little something? Let’s try again…

‘Oh no! The house is on fire!’

‘Wow! I’ve won the Lotto!’

Yes, it’s our friend the exclamation mark. Really adds punch and definition, don’t you think? Much loved and much used. But sadly much abused also.

It is an editor’s job to snuff out inappropriate exclaiming, so in the printed word this is not really an issue. But in the communication world of social media – is there any other kind these days – ie text, Twitter, Facebook, the poor exclamation mark gets thrown around senselessly and willy-nilly, losing its power and hard earned, lofty position along the way. Yes, it can be hard to emote in the written form, especially in only 140/160 characters, but that’s still no excuse for the following punctuation sins. I have divided them into three categories;


You know the type of text – we’ve all received them…

‘Hiya! Went to the cinema earlier! The film was fantastic. Really funny! Will we see you later on?!’

Now, unless this person is permanently hyper-excited/is on drugs/leads a life of continuous ecstasy, then this is just not on. Not to mention irritating to the reader on whom this exclamation fest is being foisted upon. Over on Twitter, people in your timeline who appear permanently giddy and delighted, are on their way to a big, fat unfollow. A certain Irish food blogger/tv chef I used to follow had exclamations in every sentence, of every single tweet. Are recipes constantly that exciting? He does comes across as positively effervescent on TV, so maybe it is appropriate for him. But not for my timeline. A quick flick through his cookbook at least confirmed editorial control, as mentioned earlier. Good.

Repeat use

Why use one exclamation mark when two or more are there for the taking. So, what are you trying to convey?

1 – I’m excited!

2 – I’m very excited!!

3 – I’m super excited!!!

4 – I’m unbelievably excited!!!!

5 – I can’t even explain how excited I am!!!!!

6 or more !!!!!!!!!! – I’m delirious/the keyboard is stuck/ I’m trying to use up my 140 characters.

Inappropriate use

Consider the following:

‘I can’t believe he’s dead.’


‘I can’t believe he’s dead!’

For me, the former sentence is the more appropriate, with a sense of gravitas. Does the latter almost indicate a sense of excitement? I’ve seen this type of exclamation being used with more frequency.

Comments on Twitter, calling some sad news item ‘a tragedy!’

Or regarding a death,

‘It’s so terrible that he’s gone!’

I’m not even on Facebook. I will drag myself kicking and screaming there when my now small children cross that inevitable Rubicon. But there is a very disturbing phenomenon that apparently abounds there. It regards posts young people put up when a friend dies tragically or by suicide…

U R a legend!

See you on the other side!!

Gone too soon, man. Miss you forever!!

It reads like a hero status is being conveyed, as well as a sense of excitement and enthusiasm about what has happened. It’s a whole world more disturbing than the mere use or misuse of an exclamation point. And is a subject for another day. But to illustrate, I think

‘Miss you forever.’

reads as altogether more appropriate.

And so that’s me. I was just so excited to make these points. She exclaimed.

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One More Thing to Love about the GAA

I read a really heartwarming piece in today’s Irish Times, by Damien Cullen, about the little things that make the GAA so special. **

It reminded me of one extra GAA thing that (as a parent of under 12s) I also love. Namely the massive feat of organisation, co-ordination and enjoyment that is……Cúl Camps.

A week of training, fun and games, at your local club, with full kit and fine school bag (hey thanks!) – sorry, gear bag –  thrown in. For half the price of most summer camps. Open to members and non, locals or not, age 6 to 12.

As the advertisement says ‘ Over 1, 000 camps in 32 counties’ this summer. Think about that number….

‘Ah sure they have the club structure and a sponsor’,  would be an easy, throwaway comment to make.  Now I am guesstimating here, but it also means;

An average 100 children per camp equals 100, 000 kids. And 100,000 kits. And 100,000 medals. Ordered, supplied and distributed around the 4 corners of Ireland.  Our local club, Newport, wouldn’t turn a child away last year and even ran out of kits.  They ended up with over 200 under 12s, all raring to go. My young lad actually didn’t get his kit shorts ’til the Tuesday, and shorts on the Thursday (not that he cared, flying about in his previous year’s gear).  But get them he did. I heard of trips made to clubs in Carlow and Kilkenny to fetch up extra kit. And not one child went short.  (A tale of dedication no doubt replicated in clubs everywhere).

What a magnificent sight – 2012 Cúl Camp, Newport, Co Tipperary.

At an average of  5 to 10 mentors/trainers per camp also, that’s 10,000 volunteers.  Who have their own jobs/families/summer holidays to attend to. But they’ll all be there. And just like last year, if extra children turn up, then extra mentors will be sourced also.

Then there’s  inter-county player visits to organise, a myriad of mini matches to play, and probably and a bottle of orange  and crisps for everyone when it’s all over.

It’s all such a joy to observe. The smallies dragging their hurleys behind them like ball n’chains, all swarming round the moving football like bees, or stopping for little chats in the middle of a match. And they’re all having fun and getting exercise and fresh air.

But make no mistake about it. These Cúl Camps, for the GAA’s youngest – and largest – membership are about so much more. They are learning about being on a team, about respect and commitment. They are forging friendships that, through the GAA, may well last a lifetime.  It is the invaluable groundwork for a future that can hopefully involve sport. I see it as investment in their teenage years, and beyond.

Because I see the teenagers as I drive up to our club of an evening. Sitting in groups on walls, hanging around outside the chipper, walking up and down the quiet village streets. Then I turn in the gates of the GAA club and see more teenagers – pucking a ball with any age kid that will puck one back, putting out water bottles and flags for the imminent match, or just hanging out with the girls from the camogie club.

I know, when the time comes, where I’ll want my teenage children to be.

So, whether it’s tearing yourself away from the fire to drive them to training, cheering them from the sidelines, drenched, or making more buns for the afters, it’s all an investment. And a very small one to make, compared to the massive investment of time, commitment and enthusiasm shown by the thousands of GAA volunteers in this little country, every week of the year.

So, GAA and Cúl Camps,  I salute you. (Via extreme bad planning we will very sadly miss this year’s local camp. Not a mistake we will be repeating).  See you next year.

** http://www.irishtimes.com/sport/some-random-things-that-make-the-gaa-special-1.1484364

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RTE and Women (not) at the Races

Picture the following scene…

Galway race week. A TV presenter is conducting interviews between races. Here is one excerpt, with an on-course bookmaker;

So, do you find it an advantage being a young pretty girl, or do the punters take you seriously?’

Followed by ‘do you even like racing?

So – a ‘Reeling in the Years’ type clip from the 50s? Wrong.

Carried out by, say, John McCririck? Wrong again.

The above interaction took place TODAY (1st August 2013). Between, Maeve O’ Neill, bookmaker, and MAURA DERRANE, an RTE presenter.

Incredulous? I certainly was. And so was Maura in fact, with her gasping, breathy tones. Blown away she was, to discover a member of her own sex working on a racecourse.

It would be easy to dismiss this as just a silly comment. But it’s indicative of a greater malaise. Once upon a time, horseracing was a male preserve. But women as trainers, jockeys, bookies, stable staff, racecourse managers – they are no longer in short supply. Can we never get past this?! Unlike soccer, tennis etc with separate gender versions, men and women owners, trainers, jockeys etc all compete together – can we ever just drop the tokenism? Do Katy Walsh and Nina Carberry – to name but two – long to be simply recognised as the excellent, top of their game, sportspeople that they are?

At least Channel 4 offloaded aforementioned charm-school John McCririck in their recent reincarnation. With his annual ‘token woman’ interview of bookie Ellen Martin at Cheltenham, and constant referring to co presenter Tanya Stephenson as ‘the female’, he is not missed. In fact, Ch4’s current stable of male/female presenters is as balanced as it is knowledgeable.

Missing you already...

Missing you already…

But over here, RTE trundle to keep up. Tracy Piggott appears to be the token female. She thoroughly knows her stuff and has a relaxed, easy manner. (Sidebar: in a Paul O’ Connell interview once, a giddy Tracy admired his physique and actually asked to feel his muscles. Perhaps being accustomed to whippet jockeys she just got carried away…)

I digress. Apart from Tracy, RTE Racing only seem to draft in women for what we’ll call ‘the fashions’. Gráinne and Sile Seoige, Kathryn Thomas and today, Maura and her star turn. Apart from flitting around seeking out women to doorstep about their ‘outfits’, they will also interview celebs they trip across and, as we saw today, ‘token’ women. (Maura later interviewed rugby player Sean O’ Brien and gamely asked him ‘on behalf of all Irish women’ where he’d be socialising later tonight. Sigh….)

I don’t even necessarily blame these women – entirely – for this. All highly capable and talented in their own right – why the dumbing down? What is the brief they are given to do the job?

‘Racing knowledge isn’t necessary. Just look pretty, dress up, do the ‘fluff’ pieces’.

And if not as dire as that – then what is it exactly? Because the execution of it is frankly embarrassing.

'So, tell us about your hat'

‘So, tell us about your hat’

People who sit down to watch horseracing (me) don’t want to watch fashion. And anyone tuning in for fashion isn’t much bothered with the racing. Why always mix the two to such a huge degree? RTE not the only guilty party here. Why not just show one after the other.

And if talking women and RTE racing, we must mention Jennifer Walsh. Daughter of Ted, sister of Ruby (and also his agent). But she is curiously drafted in by RTE to ‘shepherd’ jockeys from the winners enclosure over to their post race interview. Sometimes she takes them by the arm as she chaperones. Sometimes she holds their helmet and crop as they weigh in. Why? Why? Why? Every jockey, everywhere else, seems to manage an interview unescorted. But not in RTE land. I am always just embarrassed for the girl.

But getting back to blame. RTE Racing still has a lot of hurdles to get over. And Maura Derrane? You are a successful, professional woman. Can you not recognise that in others? Your line of questioning today was like something from the Dark Ages. Hang your head in shame, girl!

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