Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Hundertwasser's sanity

The buildings envisaged by the Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser (1928-2000) and realised in, among other places the Kunsthaus and Hundertwasserhaus (shown in my photo) in Vienna are magnets for tourists and others. They are exuberant in their colour, irregularity, and sheer quirkiness. Hundertwassser loudly repudiated the stark functionality of 20th-century architecture in favour of decoration and, whenever possible, closeness to nature. It's a shame that his lesson is still lost in the never-ending din of modern architecture's obsession with straight lines, grey and white, and exclusion of decoration. I'm still buzzing from encountering Hundertwasser's buildings for the first time and wish more note were taken of his immensely engaging philosophies.

Monday, July 28, 2014

several years later

I last wrote about my life in 2009, when our house was up for sale. I didn't even realise I'd kept going for so long. I notice I express my frustration with the Bible and organised religion in no uncertain terms, yet recent events have made prayer a very powerful relief for me.

I won't even attempt to summarise what's happened in the last five years or so. It's been an often unbearable time for me, and yet I am still here, still active, still healthy, and still as prickly as ever. I just wish Debbie were here to share it with me, even though we were selling the house so that we could go our separate ways (while remaining married and I'm sure regularly in in contact).

Very suddenly, before the harsh winter of 2009-2010 had entirely released its icy grip, she died. In just a few hours the woman I lived with for all those years and who seemed to be at her peak in so many ways was gone. I can't at the moment bring myself to dwell on that appalling time and its aftermath.

Suffice to say that the house remains in my possession and many of Debbie's things are just where they were. I can't bear to let her leave the house, even though she is gone. At the very young age of 48 with no warning, no chance for her to make her peace with the world -- nothing. Her computer was mid-task, pages open, emails about to be sent. She certainly didn't deserve this. She was a carer, a vital, loving person with so so much to give. But death is arbitrary. There's no rhyme or reason why she had to go, she just did, and I miss her for myself and grieve constantly for all that she missed. Somehow I need her to be alive and experiencing life so that I can experience it too.

It's hard to say and I have had many blessings in the intervening years, but coming to terms with death is one of the hardest tests of all. I haven't passed.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

bad timing on the house front

I can now see that my original instinct not to view houses before selling our own one was sound. It's just frustrating. I've seen a place that is seemingly ideally situated, in beautiful condition, detached (huge benefit), and I'm pretty sure I could stretch my finances to buy it. Sadly, I suspect I'm wasting my time, because such a prize is surely going to be snapped up before I'm mobile. Our house has been on the market since May and not one offer have we received. On the other hand, we've had a large number of viewings. For a while it was close to two a week, and even with a recent slowing down, we're still getting expressions of interest. I'm not giving up yet, but it is a slow, tortuous process, and although I still think our house is fantastic, looking at others just makes me see aspects of it that people don't like. For example, most of the places we have looked at have at least one en suite bathroom, one guest bathroom, and downstairs toilet. They have off-street parking, plenty of storage, and decent windows. They lack the character and position of our house, but these are minor compensations in a materialistic society that takes more account of function than spirit. I know our sale will come, and only has to occur once, but will it be in time to bag me my first dream house?

Saturday, July 11, 2009

blasphemy in Ireland

Because it's in the Constitution of the Irish State, so, its' argued, it has to be in the new Defamation bill, which has just passed into law. There is now a fine of €25,000 for blasphemy. My reaction is, of course, anger. They should ignore the Constitution, since a legal case under it is well nigh impossible, and get a referendum amending the Constitution. Now there is a much greater chance that somebody will offend some religious nut case and end up €25,000 worse off (they are incredibly easy to offend). Ireland will, even more than it is now, look pathetic and stupid, and civil liberties will be at an all time low.

Here is my modest contribution: if God exists and was responsible for all the things attributed to him in the Bible, including genocide, ethnic cleansing, the merciless persecution of women, and programming humanity with a built-in flaw that dooms many to an afterlife of continual torture, He is an evil bastard.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

the Celtic Tiger in 2009

I have to confess that my experience of the so-called Celtic Tiger was chiefly vicarious. I saw people getting wealthy, I saw massive building projects (none of architectural merit, so far as I could tell), and I loved the vibrancy of the country as it experienced many luxuries other European countries take for granted. I also lamented the loss of civility and compassion in Dublin as the city lost its tender centre in favour of a hard-headed commercial demon nobody seems to have fully understood.

That we now live in a different Ireland is manifested in the unemployment figures, which make truly horrific reading. They reinforce the point that the recession in Ireland is deeper and less likely to heal quickly than in other countries (they have to be read in conjunction with the unimaginable shortfall in government income and 'toxic' debt). In April 2008 unemployment stood at 5.4% of the population, seasonally adjusted. In April 2009 it is a truly shocking 11.4%.

Every day we hear of the greed and recklessness of business tycoons whose rapacious acquisitiveness lacked any moral dimension or social accountability. One tycoon borrowed €700,000,000 to develop sites that have now been denied planning permission or been blocked in other ways. Unable to pay back the debt his problem, and the banks', has become ours. We have to pay for his greed.

Which brings me back to my main point. I watched as the Celtic Tiger pranced around the world stage, preening itself and inspiring envy in other European countries. I partook of very little of that wealth. I saw little improvement in my environment, in healthcare, in the university in which I teach, or -- to consider purely selfish matters for a moment -- in my pay packet, which limped along a few points behind inflation most years. Now any extra income I did acquire has gone: so far public employees have lost around a month's salary across the year and are struggling, though self-evidently less so than the unfortunates who've lost their jobs.

I'd love to end on a positive note and talk about light at the end of the tunnel, but so far the only glimmer is the suggestion that the economy might be back in reasonable growth in five years time. Dutch comfort!

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Saturday, May 16, 2009

Ireland goes from bad to worse, but blasphemy?

I'm afraid I'm well past the stage of thinking that anything good could come out of Ireland, but I had expected a delicate equilibrium between the extremes of good and bad. Nothing prepared me for the news that Ireland is preparing to bring out a law on blasphemy to back up an unenforceable clause in the nation's constitution.

The clause Dermot Ahern wishes to add to the Defamation Bill states: "A person who publishes or utters blasphemous matter shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable upon conviction on indictment to a fine not exceeding €100,000."

Can anyone seriously support such a draconian and unnecessary curtailment of freedom of speech? Are we really regressing to the miserable state of Ireland in the 1930s with its total submission, in lieu of the Brits, to the Catholic Church?

These religious folks who assert they have to be protected from other people's verbal attacks really are pathetic. In spite of believing they will have eternal life and various other rewards for their beliefs, they have to be protected from ridicule and insult. We mustn't upset their cosy, sanctimonious smugness. Why the hell not? We (by which I mean free thinkers, agnostics, atheists, humanists, and others) are the ones who need protecting. We've been burnt, tortured, denied basic human rights, ridiculed, sidelined, and cast out, etc., etc. by religious monstrosities since time immemorial. We're constantly criticised by them. Let's have legislation protecting us from religious institutions that want to deny women equality with men and reproductive rights, exterminate homosexuals, etc.; the list is endless. Why shouldn't I say that I think that if the God of the Bible exists, for example, he is a sadist of the first order? He created mankind with a built-in flaw, so the holy writ runs, that predisposes us to sin, so He has his fun when we sin because then we burn forever in excruciating agony. If this is the Christian God, I want none of Him and I want the right to make fun of everything to do with the religions created in his name. (It's also worth remembering that the terrorists who destroyed the World Trade Center did so for their religious beliefs. Am I really to be prevented from ridiculing these beliefs, even if it offends more moderate brethren?)

If Ireland passes this bill with the blasphemy clause, it will not only be a laughing stock, it will also make Ireland a profoundly dangerous place for anyone with real independence of mind and spirit.

picture taken without permission from

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

selling our house

After several frantic and, it has to be said, largely unpleasant weeks, we finally have our house packaged and ready for the Dublin market. Every aspect is unreal and painful, with the possible exception of the space clearing. This part is achieved by the simple expedient of renting storage and moving as much unnecessary, space-consuming stuff as is humanly possible. We've also touched up the decor and made the place what it should have been while we were actively engaged in living there. It's a really wonderful home. No matter: a new age is dawning for both of us as we look forward to new directions, and we have every faith in the attraction of our beautiful house in its gorgeous location next to Phoenix Park and the Liffey.

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