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).


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?



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?


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.