Out of step(s)
You go for a longish walk around town on a lovely (if chilly) Thursday morning. You nod to people you know, enjoy time with your own thoughts, and observe life.
The fact that your mobile phone is tracking your steps is psychologically comforting. This tracking-of-steps, and your phone’s slightly judgemental habit of comparing your walking distance to the previous week, is a motivating factor in your decision to take the walk (yes, I’ve heard of fitbits).
So, you’re enjoying your walk, looking forward to the data which your phone will reveal. Plot twist: If you then return to the office and, on checking to see the steps’ total, discover that your phone battery was dead (at least for some of your walk), just how frustrating is this? (Asking for a friend). Do I have to repeat the walk, or at least half of it (and possibly nod again to the same people)?
A happy and proud occasion for us in Dublin today, with Fiona graduating from College with an Honours Degree after four very dedicated years!
I have a couple of hours to kill before we check into our hotel. Coffee in a bourgeois-type café in Leeson Park passes some time. Then, a series of walks. Passing ‘Christ Church’ – described as a ‘Romanian Orthodox Church in Ireland’ – I notice a one-person tent in its grounds. Is there really someone sleeping rough in the church grounds? I soon discover that this is the case (the norm?), as a few feet on, there’s a person wrapped tightly against the elements in a sleeping bag.
While I know it’s not exactly breaking news, there is much evidence of growing social problems in the city. The homelessness has been well documented. Taxi drivers we spoke to say anti-social behaviour is rampant, not least in O’Connell Street area. Many taxi drivers, sadly, are living in fear of being attacked.
Later, after a lovely graduation ceremony and a celebration meal, we enjoyed some nightlife in Dublin with friends, in one of the many atmospheric bars.
I could write a book on Dublin taxi drivers…a mixture of nationalities, most of whom have a wonderful combination of wit, paranoia, cynicism, barely concealed anger, world weariness – and an absolute conviction that They Know Where The Politicians Are Going Wrong.
I will reserve special mention for one veteran, ‘salt of the earth’ Dub who laced his conversation with expletives as he decried all that’s wrong with life today.
Picking us up near O’Connell Bridge for the short trip to Heuston Station, our (new) friend announced himself thus: “People miss the bus, then they want me to get them to Heuston as they’ve a train to catch in five minutes – I tell them to eff off!”
Fortunately, we had more time. After a few minutes of banter with us, he relished his first chance to ‘rise’ a young cyclist. When we stopped at traffic lights, our taxi man helpfully lowered my (passenger seat) window to further chide the young lad, who had now caught up with us. It was all fairly good-humoured. Ecstatic at having got some afternoon venting in, taxi man then told us about another recent exchange with one of those pesky cyclists.
“The fella got off his bike and starting kicking my car! Can you believe it? He’s kicking my car! So…I got out and I f**ked his bike into the Liffey!”
A Garda in a patrol car witnessed the incident, but took a benign view as the unrepentant taxi driver shrugged his shoulders and the stunned cyclist stared at the space where his bike had been.
“That’s what’s wrong with society” our no-nonsense driver said as he dropped us at the station. “Everyone’s too angry!”
All kicking off
I share the widespread view that the 2022 World Cup should not have been granted to Qatar. It was an extraordinary decision, one that is shrouded in shame.
That said, I will certainly be watching the tournament. I love football, and the World Cup is always an exciting prospect for fans. Qatar’s human rights’ record is shocking and indefensible, but I still think football fans – and footballers – should be able to enjoy their showpiece event, that politics and sport should ideally not be mixed.
I share worldwide disgust over Qatar’s suppression of LGBTQ+ rights, its treatment of women, and the migrant workers’ scandal, but I’m not convinced there is much merit in isolated, largely symbolic boycotts. The boycott that should have happened – i.e. of Qatar’s bid to host the tournament – wasn’t enforced by FIFA, a body with a lot to answer for.
Campaigning against Qatar’s record on human rights should continue; indeed there is an opportunity now to cast a brighter spotlight than ever on these injustices. But the tournament’s here now; the show must go on. And it’s perfectly okay to watch it.
The games begin
It’s bad news for Ellen, for Dr Phil too, but there are people in our midst watching World Cup matches from 10 am in the morning (I haven’t had that luxury yet).
England were impressive against Iran on Monday, Gareth Southgate’s team showing all its attacking flair in a 6-2 win. Wales are in a solid position after a 1-1 draw with USA. Most impressive team so far is arguably France, who coasted to a 4-1 win over Australia. Kylian Mbappé showed why he might (Ronaldo fans, look away) be about to succeed Lionel Messi as the best player in the world. I still expect Argentina to qualify from the group after their shock 2-1 loss to Saudi Arabia. (As we go to press on Wednesday, Japan have beaten Germany 2-1, and Spain have trounced Costa Rica 7-0).
As for those Dr Phil shows you may be missing, I expect they’ll be repeated!
Just a few days to go in the jungle. Boy George was funny, slightly moody, a touch eccentric indeed. But he was voted out last night. Is there no end to the bad news? (Owen or Jill to win, obviously).