The Long Haul

Dark clouds are gathering. Numbers are rising. Restriction levels are going back up.

Israel has returned to national lockdown, so who next?

Winter is around the corner, social discipline is creaking, confusion is everywhere.

And just to top it all off, The Great Institution of Chatham Street has closed its doors.

Apart from that, we’re all good.

I’m beginning to think that the ‘Swedish / no full lockdown’ approach may have been the best one. At least there is a consistency to it, things just seem to change a lot here.

It appears there’s a long way to go.

I’m off to restock the wine shelves.

September sun

Traditionally September is a good weather month for us Paddies.

Or so it seems to me.

And so it was a great pleasure to have had a few glorious days of late. Smelling the roses and the like almost seemed compulsory.

The Phoenix Park and the Clontarf coastline were even more agreeable than normal.

The Summit Inn at the top of Howth Head is in distinct danger of becoming a regular haunt.

Musically speaking ‘Greensleeves’ is loosely under the guitar belt. It was a relatively easy piece to learn. All that remains is to ingrain it into the memory banks and get it on to automatic pilot.

Next up is the Scottish tune ‘Wild Mountain Thyme’, link below. The first seven introductory bars were handy enough, I’m guessing the remainder will be a little trickier.

The most important fact of life, it goes without saying, is that The Great Institution of Chatham Street is alive and kicking.

Indeed I am here as I write.

No better place to be.

Reaching The Summit

Guitar practice was done and dusted, time for a wee stroll.

And so it was off down to Abbey Street for the old reliable 130 bus to the Clontarf seafront.

Alighting at the wooden bridge of Dollymount, it was out with the headlphones and on with the walking, direction Sutton.

First up on the sounds was an old edition of the BBC World Service programme ‘Outlook’, featuring an interview with Hana Ali, daughter of Muhammad.

Next up was another listen to the writer Ryan Holiday talk about stoicism on the podcast ‘Don’t tell me the score’.

As the chat with Ryan was drawing to a close, I had by that stage hung a sharp right at Sutton Cross and was wandering along Carrickbrack Road in the direction of Howth Summit, Deer Park golf course on the left, St. Fintan’s cemetery on the right.

A little while later my destination was before me.

The Summit Inn.

Last time up this way was a day out with My Clarinet and Harmonica Mate (MCAHM) along with The Italian Stallion.

MCAHM is no longer with us and I haven’t heard from The Stallion in quite a while.

Funny how things change.

Sometimes not so funny.

The Summit Inn is a place of memory. In times gone by, The Berkeley Court Dude used to bring The Belgian Boy, The Dunboyne Dynamo and My Good Self here.

Yesterday afternoon a most pleasing sirloin steak with chips, fried onions, mushrooms and pepper sauce was happily gobbled up and washed down by two pints of a brew that was new to me.

It’s tough going, I’m battling away as best I can.

In no time at all I was on the number 31 bus back into town.

It had been a lovely outing.

Building a repertoire

Jesu, Joy of Mans Desiring’ and ‘Over the rainbow’ are under the guitar belt.

The belt just needs a little tightening, I’ll get there.

There are many triplets in ‘Jesu’, three notes played to the timing of two beats, and so there are a lot of notes to be memorised for a relatively short piece (41 bars in total including a 16 bar repeat).

‘Rainbow’ has a lot of repetition in it however some of the finger combinations are a little tricky and it contains several harmonics (a guitar harmonic is played by lightly touching a string on the 5th, 7th or 12th frets and then pulling away the touching finger just as the string is plucked).

I seem to be building up a wee repertoire of classical guitar tunes.

Two pieces from a dude by the name of Ferdinando Carulli (Prelude no.1 and Andante in G) Cavatina, Jesu, Parisian Waltz, the Beatles ‘Blackbird’ and the intro’ to the Eva Cassidy version of ‘Autumn Leaves’.

The old folk tune ‘Greensleeves’ is next on the hit list. It’s a 33 bar piece, I’m up to bar 14.

That’s where the guitar land is lying these days, chat soon.

Return to Rita

I had just finished listening to Marty Whelans interview on Lyric fm with Van Morrison to celebrate the great mans 75th year in the universe.

As is my norm the radio station gets changed come 10 bells when Marty bids adieu for the day.

Niall Carroll’s ‘Classical Daytime’ just doesn’t do it for me.

And so it was over to the World Service, only to find our own Nuala Mc Govern presenting ‘Coronavirus conversations’.

Time to change again.

And so I wandered over to BBC Radio 4 to find Julie Walters being interviewed on ‘Woman’s Hour’, to celebrate 40 years of the play ‘Educating Rita’.

Time to listen.

Famously the film version of ‘Educating Rita’ was shot in Dublin, primarily in Trinity College.

It’s just a fab, inspiring movie.

The link to the celebratory radio programme is below.

It’s well worth a listen.

The sporting skin thing

It’s been another rough period for racial harmony in America.

A black man shot by police, more protests and marches as a result.

It remains something of a human mystery why it is that people are treated differently on account of something they have absolutely no control over, namely the colour of their skin.

A bit like having a disability, for want of a better description.

However, these things happen.

The recent anti-racism sporting protests, the marches and the media coverage are all very heartening but these are things that have happened many times before without significant change, so why would it be any different now?

Sport is actually something that has the opportunity to lead the way here and facilitate lasting change, however it needs more than mere player protests and gestures.

Most things in life revolve around money and so it is the owners of sports teams and clubs who will ultimately decide whether real sporting change occurs.

Racial harmony in sport needs somehow to be a financially attractive proposition for those who hold the reins.

Given that most of the global sporting power brokers are not people of colour then doubt remains as to whether this opportunity will be taken.

Time will tell.

Unity and division

My good friend, The Downtown Dude, is of the opinion that China is on the cusp of taking over the world.

Although I do not entirely agree with him, he does have a point.

China and the United States are the two leading global economic superpowers of our day.

So which one will win the current Cold War that exists between them?

It seems like something of a ‘no-brainer’ to me.

As a race the Chinese are a very hard working people and an imposed unity exists in their country.

America also has a strong working culture however it is currently divided in so many ways.

As things stand the victor is obvious.

I’m off to pick up a king prawn with cashew nuts in fried rice.

The barre business

One of the many challenges in guitar playing is the not so small matter of barre chords.

A barre chord occurs when several strings are held down at once by the left index finger with the remaining one, two or three fingers deployed elsewhere.

A certain amount of left hand strength (for a right handed player) is thus required for a successful barre chord.

The first six bars of ‘Cavatina’ are all barre chords. It’s a bit like starting an Everest ascent with the summit as the first hurdle. Hitting the required notes to the exact time of the metronome clicks as the left hand moves from one barre chord to the next seems very much akin to what Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing must have had to deal with.

Cavatina is also quite a long piece to play, 87 bars in total (63 actual bars and a repeat section for the first 24).

Speedwise I am currently hovering between 50 and 55 beats per minute and my guess is that it will be some time before I make it to the promised land of 80, however I am quietly confident I will make it.


I will keep you posted.

The rush to judgement

For all it’s faults and middle class associations, I love the game of golf.

To play the game is to get a mirror image of who you are as a person. I do not stroll the fairways very much these days but I still appreciate and follow golf.

All of which leads me to the current national crisis.

Golfgate. The golf related dinner attended by many prominent figures last week which apparently breached current COVID-19 guidelines.

One minister has already resigned, other senior figures have stepped down and been censored, the demand for more heads to roll is strong.

This is understandable however it may well not be the correct course of action.

Calmness needs to be restored.Reason needs to prevail. Lessons need to be learned.

Having said all that, I won’t be shedding any tears if Phil Hogan bites the bullet.

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