During the Covid-19 pandemic the 3 relevant statistics agencies in the UK state (ONS, NRS and NISRA) publish provisional data on weekly death registrations in each jurisdiction.
Presenting this unprecedented spike in mortality as a percentage excess compared to 5 years previously strikes me as the most accessible measure to grasp the serious nature of what we are experiencing. It also facilitates a reasonable comparison between the different parts of the UK.
I'd like to have compared the UK data with the equivalent data from the Republic of Ireland, but unfortunately they don't publish their death registration data until the following year.
Scotland's data (NRS) is published just 5 days after the week ends, i.e. every Wednesday, then comes Northern Ireland's data (NISRA) each Friday and finally the data for England & Wales (ONS) coming out the following Tuesday.
In Northern Ireland, NISRA interprets "Week 1" as the week ending 10 Jan 2020, whereas the other agencies list "Week 1" as the week ending 3 Jan 2020. For the purposes of the charts above, I am using Week 1 as the week ending 3 Jan 2020 across all agencies.
The european mortality monitoring (EuroMOMO) project uses a more statistically robust methodology for comparing excess deaths across different Europe: the z-score. This is a more standardised measurement, for sure, but it isn't as immediately relateable, in my opinion, as knowing how many more people are dying each week in percentage terms.
The comparison charts on EuroMOMO for excess mortality in different European countries are often referenced to show that the UK stands out with much larger z-scores than other countries, particularly the Republic of Ireland. However I can't find a way to examine the data behind the EuroMOMO charts and they have themselves explicitly highlighted that the data from the Irish state is problematic as death registration procedures have been curtailed in the Republic of Ireland during the pandemic.
On 15 July 2018 it was a great honour and pleasure to be invited by my friend Fani Fortet to play a concert in her home town of Olost in Catalonia. Fani invited the fabulous violinist Simone Lambregts to join us and we had an hour or so to rehearse in the afternoon. As a special challenge for our set of songs, I suggested we adapt the Dick Gaughan song “Both Sides the Tweed” with a Catalan chorus as I felt that the sentiment in the song of friendship across borders was relevant to the Catalan situation.
With most of the “heavy wordsmith lifting” done by Simone, the three of us managed to create a Catalan chorus that worked with the melody and carried the sentiment. As a singer with very little knowledge of Catalan, it was quite daunting to attempt to sing this newborn chorus, but Simone did her best to write it out in a simplified form for me to give it my best shot. I think the result was quite a beautiful achievement.
A la vora de l’Ebre / Both Sides the Tweed
What’s the Spring, breathing jasmine and rose?
What’s the Summer, with all its gay train?
Or the splendour of Autumn to those,
Who’ve bartered their freedom for gain?
Abraceu l’amor de la terra
i també l’amor de la gent.
Que dignitat i amistat s’uneixin
i a la vora de l’Ebre floreixin.
No sweetness the senses can cheer
That corruption and bribery bind
No brightness that gloom can e’er clear
For honour’s the sum of the mind
Abraceu l’amor de la terra
i també l’amor de la gent.
Que dignitat i amistat s’uneixin
i a la vora de l’Ebre floreixin.
Let virtue distinguish the brave
Place riches in lowest degree
Call him poorest, who can be a slave
Him richest, who dares to be free
Abraceu l’amor de la terra
i també l’amor de la gent.
Que dignitat i amistat s’uneixin
i a la vora de l’Ebre floreixin.
Let the love of our land’s sacred rights
To the love of our people succeed.
Let friendship and honour unite
And flourish on both sides the Tweed.
Abraceu l’amor de la terra
i també l’amor de la gent.
Que dignitat i amistat s’uneixin
i a la vora de l’Ebre floreixin.
Original lyrics by Dick Gaughan
Catalan chorus by Simone Lambregts, Fani Fortet and Gerry Mulvenna
I’ve always been an anorak around elections – it’s probably more about the numbers than the politics and Single Transferable Vote (STV) elections are as entertaining as they come. I’m enthusiastic about STV from a democratic perspective also, because it encourages a less tribal form of voting mentality. Political choices are complex and it makes sense that you can find policies to support across a spectrum of parties or prospective politicians. To be honest, I’m not a party political type of person, I prefer to stay untethered to party interests, so the notion of a party list vote (as in part of the Scottish parliament elections and the entirety of the European parliament vote in Scotland), where you are voting for a single party and not even a person, is an uncomfortable form of democratic process for me.
However, every 5 years, Scotland gets a shot at a Single Transferable Vote election in the council elections here. Turnout is generally low, so I’m keen to do what I can to encourage voters to engage with this election in the hope that it will promote the suitability of STV for other elections in Scotland. Having seen the wonderful visualisations made available for the snap Assembly election in the north of Ireland in March 2017, I was keen to implement something similar for the Scottish local elections in May 2017. It would be a challenge, not just because it would be like #AE17 times 32 since each council election is effectively a mini-assembly with wards for constituencies with multiple seats in each ward, but I also soon discovered that there is no detailed aggregated election data for the two previous STV elections in Scotland (2007 & 2012). Each council has a statutory responsibility to publish results in PDF form on their websites, so that means the data for Scotland is spread across 32 councils in a whole variety of different layouts to a varying degree of detail.
This same scatter-gun approach to presentation of data affects the candidate data also, with the formal statutory documents called “Statement of Persons Notified” (SOPNs) being the main source of information about who is standing where. Again each council publishes these independently in slightly varying formats. Fortunately some grassroots democracy enthusiasts rally round the Democracy Club website to painstakingly go through each SOPN (across the UK) to create a single source of candidate data for elections. Not long after the 32 SOPNs were published in Scotland, the Democracy Club had collated the information on each SOPN into a complete set of candidate data. I saw there was still a gap to fill in presenting this data in an accessible form, so I took the framework used by @electionsNI and adapted it to the Scottish candidate data.
Where the lack of joined-up resources for election data was frustrating, the tools and resources available to work with boundary mapping is a different story altogether. This was my first venture into programming with map data and I was pleasantly surprised to find out how easy it is to work with, given all the freely available and well-designed resources you can use. Here are some of the resources I used to put together the mapping website.
There is an open source application QGIS which you can use to load and manipulate these shapefile packages. It’s really easy to use – the ZIP files containing the shapefile data can be loaded directly.
Most web-based mapping applications will need to read boundary data in latitude/longitude form stored in a GEOJSON datafile. THe Lat/Long coordinates standard used is technically referred to in GIS applications as EPSG:4326 (European Petroleum Survey Group). To extract this from QGIS, you load the shapefile ZIP package and then right-click its layer description and select Save As…. Choose GEOJSON as the output format and EPSG:4326 as the CRS (Coordinate Reference System), then browse for your output filename and click OK to create the GEOJSON file.
The data from these boundary shapefiles can be very very large, particularly the coastal council areas, where every twist and turn along the coast and every little island must be mapped as polygons made of little straight lines from one point to the next. The likes of Orkney, Shetland or the Western Isleas were over 10Mbytes in size once the GEOJSON was extract from QGIS. Fortunately there is a fabulous online application called Map Shaper to effortlessly simplify this map data as we only need approximate boundaries for this application. Map Shaper can take several different data formats as input including GEOJSON with EPSG:4326 coordinates, so once the data is loaded, you can just select Simplify and use a slider to take the data accuracy from 100% down to the lowest level that preserves the general gist of the boundaries. Typically with could be anywhere from 8% to 2%, which yield great reductions in filesizes. Achieving this trade-off between mapping precision and file size is vital to building a website that is quick to present the maps and respond to user input.
The website http://council17.mulvenna.org went live at about 1am on Sun 16 April 2017 and was an instant hit with users, grateful at last to get a clear picture of who was standing where in the council election. The site was accessed by 10,000 unique IP addresses in the first 24 hours. I’m continuing to add features to the site in the run-up to the election on 4 May 2017.
“Rutherglen South is in the north-west of South Lanarkshire, which is to the east of East Ayrshire…”
It struck me, the other day, that the Independence Referendum debate in Scotland feels like the internal dialogue in the head of a life-long smoker. Plenty of information detailing the benefits of kicking the habit is calling out to you, but you blot it all out by convincing yourself “I like smoking”, “it helps me relax”, “I can’t really see me stopping”, “I’ve always done it”, “I like to hang with all the cool people in the smoking zone” and countless other delusions you use to avoid making that leap of faith in your own will power and taking responsibility for your future. Once upon a time you reckoned you were a smoker and you were going to stay a smoker, but now you’re not too sure. You’re swithering – your kids are nipping your head about it almost daily now and for the first time, you can actually see yourself in a smoke-free future.
Clearly this analogy is a product of my own pro-Independence position and the fact that I decided to stop smoking earlier this month. It certainly paints the No campaign in a tongue-in-cheek unhealthy light, but I think it resonates with the current state of the referendum campaign. I believe we’re approaching a 50-50 tilting point in voting intentions and the momentum is only going in one direction: towards YES. The lifelong smoker is actually swithering – he or she can do this. It’s only really the fear of change and the path of least resistance that is stopping you. Smoking isn’t offering any life-enhancing vision for the future. There are so many reasons to ring the changes. It won’t be easy and there might be the odd slip-up in the transition, but a confidence is growing that a change of lifestyle is within your grasp.
Should Scotland be a non-smoker? On 18th September 2014, I’m voting YES.
Initially i had just used variables for my character information but i decided ti would actually be a lot better if i used records so i created a character information record but after i had changed all the names within the program things like selecting the weapon no longer worked. after some time though i manged to change about the way in which the weapons were selected so that it now worked again and while i was at it deiced to add further code that would display an image of the weapon you have chosen, also the change to a record data format seemed to make the gender validation stop working but not the race validation which worked in virtually the same way and this problem is still as of yet unsolved. also recently i decided to add an inventory array and a poison item to be added to this inventory with more items that could be added later and this lead to me crating a system for which to apply this poison to your weapon which involved a button that could be pressed that appears when you gain the poison and the click of that button changes a Boolean variable to true and changes the image of your weapon to look as though it has poison on it and this will be important at the end of the game.
I keep forgetting to blog after working on the program so I’m goign to sum up the main obstacles I have faced so far. Initially i couldn’t get the combo box i was using i my program to work and since i am doing a text adventure the input of your choice is quite an important bit so it was vital i got it working but for some reason it just would not work so i switched to a text box which did work but as you can imagine that meant that you could enter anything and if you did not enter the correct option the program would crash so i decided to try and make the combo box work again and it soddenly came to me how to get it working and then it started working. the next big problem was that i could not get the moving on from each stage based on the option you choose working since for some reason it wouldn’t use the variables correctly so i created3 universal variables that each option would be set two in each stage and that worked since that would mean after each section the variables would be correct and move on in the game and not just keep doing the same stage over and over again, i then used a case statement that would take you to the next stage depending on what choice you made. so i then had a working selection system and a working method of moving through the game. i will talk about the other obstacles I’ve come across so far and what other developments i have made so far tomorrow as this post would be very long other wise, so i’m splitting it into two
For my Advanced Higher Project I intend to create a Text adventure game in which descriptive text will appear on the screen offering you choices and you can enter your choice and the output box on the screen will tell you what happened because of your choices and what you can do now. There is to be a basic interface with an output screen and a combo box so as to input your choice. There will also be a box detail your character details and further necessary buttons for interaction like save game and load game.
I’m an Irishman from Belfast currently living in Scotland. I have to admit that I’ve never really understood what exactly being British means, but there are probably half a million people in Ireland, for whom that is the national identity they feel most comfortable with.
On this day 100 years ago, half a million people lined up across the north of Ireland and beyond to sign the Ulster Covenant. A little dig around my family history reveals a mixture of catholic and presbyterian ancestry, so some of those covenanters were family of mine. I had a look at the PRONI archive to see how many I could spot. Continue reading “The Ulster Covenant: part of my heritage?”
On Thursday 26 July 1973, loyalists exploded a car bomb outside my uncle’s pub in the small village of Drumsurn, Co. Derry. Although I was only six, I remember it quite well as we were visiting at the time. I was staying the night upstairs above the pub with 3 of my siblings and half a dozen or more cousins. Luckily there were no serious casualties.
Recently I was curious to find out the exact timing and circumstances of the bomb attack and had a look through the newspapers of the time at Belfast Central Library. I could find no coverage of the blast in any of the Belfast or Derry City newspapers – a car bomb in a rural village inflicting relatively minor injury and damage obviously struggled to compete for column inches with all the other stuff going on in the summer of 1973. Continue reading “A Blast From The Past”
Golf returns to the Olympics in 2016, last appearing in 1904 where only two countries were represented (Canada and the USA). The International Golf Federation have proposed the following eligibility scheme to determine which of the world’s top golfers will challenge for Olympic medals in Rio:
The IGF is recommending an Olympic field of 60 players for each of the men’s and women’s competition, utilizing the official world golf rankings as a method of determining eligibility. The top 15 world-ranked players would be eligible for the Olympics, regardless of the number of players from a given country. Beyond the top 15, players would be eligible based on world ranking, with a maximum of two available players from each country that does not already have two or more players among the top 15.
Currently golf’s top 15 male players are drawn from the USA (9), England (3), Northern Ireland (2) and Australia (1). It may look different in four years’ time, but wherever they are ranked, Northern Ireland’s top golfers will face a unique and delicate choice between TeamGB and Ireland. We might see pragmatism or friendship put before personal feelings of national identity. Continue reading “2016 Olympics conundrum for Northern Ireland’s top golfers”
This note relates to Windows Live Mail version 2009 (Build 14.0.8117.0416) running in Windows XP.
I found it impossible to export or copy ‘n’ paste the Safe Senders the addresses from Tools->Safety Options in my Windows Live Mail. I wanted to do this to import the list to the server-based Junk Mail filter provided by my email host.
A bit of digging about in the registry exposed the location of the Safe Senders list as
[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows Live Mail\PerPassportSettings\0\Junk Mail\Safe Senders List]
Unfortunately each address is saved in a separate registry subkey, so a bit of text manipulation is required after exporting the above Registry key to a .REG file. I used Edit-Plus to sort the file, strip out the non-pertinent stuff and perform a find-and-replace on the lines containing the email addresses, which are of the format
My daughter loves to draw and doodle. She has the artistic gift, something that passed me by. She doodled this simple little portrait of me the other day and I was impressed how she had captured something about me, even though it’s a very simple sketch.
Here it is morphing out of the real thing. What do you think?
This has been a staple favourite of mine if I’m entertaining as it works well as a party buffet snack (chopped in quarters) or as part of a main meal served with rice and salad. These are dead easy (a food processor is required) to prepare and turn out extremely tasty.
I went along to my first meetup of the Edinburgh Cinema group and Elise the facilitator had generously baked a chocolate cake for everyone. This was my first knowing encounter with ganache as an icing alternative and I was pointed towards Beatty’s Chocolate Cake for the recipe of the deliciously moist cake.
Even if, like me, you’re not a Scot, you probably still feel a sense of a pre-ordained script for tonight’s Euro 2012 qualifier in Alicante. Scotland have that traditional glimmer of a chance at making it to the next stage. It is even in their hands – beat Spain and they are through to the play-offs.
But Scottish sport doesn’t usually work like that. The script generally goes like this:
The small glimmer of hope is consolidated by valiant and sometimes heroic efforts.
I always like a good real-world application of mathematics, in this case algebra.
If you’re organising a knockout tournament for something and the number of players or teams is not a neat power of two, how many players have to be drawn in round 1, so that round 2 is a neat power of two? I figured this out by solving this pair of equations:
a + b = n 0.5a + b = R
where a is the number of players to be drawn in round 1, b is the remainder of players to be drawn in round 2, n is the total no. of players and R is the largest power of two less than or equal to n.
Solving the equations
0.5a + (n-a) = R a + 2n - 2a = 2R 2n - a = 2R a = 2n - 2R a = 2(n - R)
91 players enter our tournament, how many must be drawn in round 1? n = 91, R = 64 a = 2 x (91 - 64) a = 54
So we draw 54 players in round 1, which produces 27 winners to meet the remaining 37 players in round 2.
On that uncomfortably stufyy night a strange sensation warmed to an unexpecting neighbourhood. The moon hung to the sky independantly as it threwits glistening light down at the earth. The stars brightly shone with dignity unaware of how beautiful they really were. On the kirb of a miserable street stood, alone, a dull lampost mildly producing a small amount of light. An avergae house caught the attention of most people in that neighbourhood because of its beautifully colourful garde. The flowers were almost as bright as the stars. A cocktail of colours filled the garden of that house.
In the neighbourhood the sound of the sound of people complaining filled the air because of that extremely humid night. The complaing got annoyingly continuous. The cars that drove through the town’s engines got suprisingly loud. Anyone could smell the smell of old bonfires burnt outby time. The foul reek of smoke ran quickly through the street. which rose more complaints. Though the smell of fresh grass was almost stronger than that horrid reek.
The extreme humidity latched onto the town like a bad disease . The completely sweaty night seemed to drag on for this one street. A thin shadow of innocence pathetically covered the neighbourhood. Maybe someone, somewhere would figure out what would be found out in that neighbourhood, and there was no turning back. Atleast an innocent ten-year-old girl suspects more than a normal night. She thinks she knows what is going to happen and she mightregret she ever did.
In celebration of the Antrim senior hurlers qualifying for the All-Ireland hurling quarter-finals this year, I’m going to post a couple of match reports from the Summer of 1949. At that time my Dad was seventeen going on eighteen and was selected to represent Antrim on the minor hurling panel. The scorelines from these two matches go a long way to illustrate the gulfs above and below Antrim in the inter-county hurling pecking order.
In Ulster hurling, Antrim are generally untouchable, albeit with Down and Derry making great strides in recent years to get near them. However it is nearly always a struggle for Antrim to challenge the traditionally strong hurling counties like Kilkenny, Cork, Tipperary, Waterford, Galway, Clare and Limerick. In 1949 Antrim met Donegal in the Ulster Minor Hurling Final and won with an excruciatingly one-sided scoreline of 13-6 to 1-1. Three weeks later in Croke Park, however, the triumphant Ulster champions would meet a similar fate in the semi-final against Tipperary losing 9-7 to 0-2. Continue reading “When my Dad was a minor (inter-county hurler, 1949)”
I am writing this on the morning of World Cup Final day 2010. I better get a move on as I have remembered just 4 World Cups so far: 1978, 1982, 1986 and 1990; there are another 4 to write about.
This will be a longer article than the rest, because USA ’94 remains the only World Cup I actually travelled to in person. The Republic of Ireland was the only country to qualify from “these islands” in this World Cup and I meticulously planned a 3-week itinerary that would place me, my girlfriend and her sister in New York / New Jersey, Boston, Dallas and San Francisco at times that might coincide with Ireland’s progress through the tournament.
To get us in the mood, though, we travelled to Dublin to watch Ireland’s first match against Italy in a Northside pub, which was our friend’s local. We were keen to enjoy the full cultural experience of this historic moment as opposed to watered-down, looking over your shoulder version available north of the border. Continue reading “World Cup memories: 1994”
This is the latest in my series of World Cup recollections. They’re turning out to be a snapshot of what I was up to at 4-yearly intervals. Italia ’90 strikes me as a feel good tournament for many nationalities; English, Irish, even the Scots, though apparently it is “widely regarded as one of the poorest World Cups ever” because of its low goal tally and negative tactics. But it’s not really the goals we cherish in our memories, it’s the emotions we went through, isn’t it?
Having finished my Edinburgh student days in 1989, I was now living back in Belfast and working at the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery in Musgrave Park Hospital of all places: a computer programmer researching the diagnostic potential of knee vibrations. Clickity, clickity. After the memory loss of the student days, my recall of events from 1990 is much clearer. Continue reading “World Cup memories: 1990”
Following on from my recollections of the World Cups (1978 and 1982), which live strongly in my childhood memory, I come to the first tournament I experienced as an adult: Mexico 1986. Northern Ireland had qualified once again and the tournament produced the infamous Hand of God goal and the Goal of the Century in one match. However as applicable to many major world events and the current affairs of this period, my memories are extremely hazy. Let’s face it – I was 19, just finished my first year as a student in Edinburgh, and had spent much of the Summer term recovering from a nasty bout of glandular fever.
I don’t even remember where I was when I was watching the football action. All I’m left with is the fact that the name Josimar still fills me with a sense of awe and wonder.
So a huge hazy slot in my memory for my early adult years. Do you suffer from a similar haziness for that period in your lives?
In the Summer of 1982, I was 15 years old and on the verge of spending time away from home for the first time. Three weeks on an exchange trip to Germany was in the offing and Northern Ireland had qualified for the World Cup in Spain.
In the first group stage, they battled out a couple of draws against Honduras and Yugoslavia before facing the hosts Spain. Nobody gave them a chance, but it was a match they had to win and clearly it was a match they believed they could win, even with 10 men for most of the second half. I still get goosebumps watching this heroic performance which won them the group and qualification for the second phase of group games with Austria and France.
So the World Cup 2010 is on. I’ve never been very good at playing football, but I’ve always enjoyed having a go and will continue to do so for as long as I can. I’m quite good at watching from the armchair, though. For this tournament, I’m running a wee Score Prediction Game online. When I conceived this labour of love, I envisioned a much bigger thing with prizes and everything, spreading virally around the Twitterverse. However when push came to shove and important things like work and family took priority, I only just about managed to get it implemented in time. I’m delighted to have the little group of 29 predictors battling it out throughout the tournament.
As the 2010 tournament begins to splutter into flame halfway through the group stages, I’ve decided to look back at my World Cup memories down through the years. My interest in football probably was just beginning to blossom in 1974 (aged 7) what with Cruyff, Beckenbauer and my “namesake”, Gerd Müller and Co., but the real strong World Cup memories begin in 1978. Continue reading “World Cup memories: 1978”
I’ve been a relatively happy user of Windows Live Mail since I started using it 18 months ago or so. But Microsoft gave me no option recently but to upgrade to the latest version of Windows Live Mail when I decided to install Windows Live Messenger and the current colour scheme is shockingly awful and what is worse there are no options within the application to set up a user-defined colour scheme.
The main problem is that on your list of messages, Windows Live Mail now displays the subject text of read messages in an insipid barely legible gray colour. I googled the issue and found that there is indeed a solution, though I suspect there never was a more appropriate case for using the term workaround as the fix is arguably much more annoying than the Windows Live Mail problem it addresses. Continue reading “Windows Live Mail text colours are awful…”
I saw a bumper sticker the other day for the “Ultravox Vienna for No.1” campaign. When you delve a bit deeper on that one, you discover it’s just a self promoting campaign originating from Ultravox themselves on their comeback tour. I suppose just getting to No. 2 still rankles with them, but it’s not something that fires my imagination, in other words It Means Nothing To Me! As pointed out in Comment #1, I didn’t delve deep enough into the Vienna campaign and got the wrong end of the stick. http://ultravox.org.ukis the band’s official website, but it is run by fans not the band and the fans’ Vienna campaign pre-dated the RATM phenomenon by six months.
However the campaign to catapult Half Man Half Biscuit into the charts for the first time in the band’s long and admirable career gets my support because…
It makes me laugh. In the spirit of band’s tongue-in-cheek lyrics, the campaign’s target chart position is No. 6.
Behind the humour, there is a genuine reason for supporting the campaign, namely to raise awareness about the axe looming over the BBC 6 Music radio station, possibly the only radio station that consistently plays the music I want to hear.
On 25 Jan 2010, Twitter Support Team confirmed that some Twitter users had experienced an approximately three-fold increase in their Tweet Count; i.e. the number of 140 character posts they have submitted to Twitter.
As it happens, I myself am an Inflated Tweet Count Syndrome sufferer. I think my tweet count went from 3600-ish to 9600-ish overnight. To be honest, I don’t give two (or six) hoots about the numbers, but there are many on Twitter who are much more numbers-obsessed than me, so it’s an issue that’s causing ripples of irritation across the Twitter user-base.
Many users do keep an eye on their tweet count and treat milestone tweets as special events. Honourable mention here is due to the example of @mcawilliams who raised money for Haiti in the run-up to his 50,000th tweet. He invited a representative from Irish charity GOAL to post tweet no. 50,000 on his behalf. I note that John’s tweet count has now also succumbed to the hyper-inflation that’s going round…either that or he has passed milestones 100,000 and 150,000 in superhuman time.
The thing that irks me about this whole thing isn’t the faulty counts themselves but the low-priority status Twitter are giving to the problem:
UPDATE: 02/02/10 – This bug is a low priority issue because it does not prevent users from fully using Twitter. We do not expect to have this issue fixed in the immediate future for this reason. Please leave a comment below if you are affected by this issue. Thank you!
In my spotlight this week is a song about weather and intimacy. It’s a song where my soul gets bared a wee bit, so if you’re squeamish or lacking the voyeuristic tendency most of us have, you’d best look away now. It’s complex in its simplicity or maybe it’s simple in it’s complexity, but we thought it would rain all day. Continue reading “Sunday Spotlight: We Thought It Would Rain All Day”
On Sundays I like to pick one of my songs and write a little bit of background about it. It feels like a month of Sundays since the last one – the Sunday Spotlight took a break over Christmas and New Year. It returns this week with a song I wrote in 2004: Everybody Has Their Part To Play.
This week the spotlight is one of the more introspective songs from my Edinburgh student days (like Don’t Fall Again). Back in 1986 I was living at 10 Brougham Place, Tollcross – I was a student of Computer Science & Electronics and shared a flat with two medical students and an arts student. This healthy cross-faculty mix was certainly a factor in the four of us getting on so well over those 2-3 years. But I was definitely the geek of the group and often struggled to keep up with some of the more philosophical discussions that took place.
Speak My Mind was my way of expressing the frustration I felt at not being able to adequately express myself. The theme of the Irish paradox, wounded land and magical paradise, comes from the discussions I had with “closest friend” Linda (the arts student). At the time she was adamant that she wouldn’t visit Ireland because of “the Troubles”. I was relieved when these views mellowed some years later and she was happy to come on holiday through Ulster and Connacht.
Thanks to a conversation on Twitter earlier today with @thegurrier, I now feel the urge to express (in more than 140 characters) why I think that Twitter’s “new retweet” feature is A Good Thing™ on the whole. As a Tweetdeck user I was pleased to see it implemented so quickly and it is interesting to see that the new feature is being adopted by many users from what I can see in my own timeline. Posting a Retweet has been integrated into Tweetdeck very tidily, but a huge amount of confusion remains about how the new-style retweets are appearing (or not) in our twitter feeds regardless of client. Continue reading “Twitter’s new retweet feature: more good than bad?”
This is a slight departure on my usual Sunday Spotlight as, this week, I feature another songwriter’s song. In The City is the work of my good friend Nigel Coleman, a singer-songwriter from Co. Tipperary. From the moment I first heard this song, I loved the atmosphere and images it conjured up in my head. I tagged it on at the end of my recording time during the day I spent at Shay’s Studio in 2005 – a quickie cover to see what it might sound like. You can listen to this interpretation below alongside Nigel’s own recording which appeared on his Highway to the Sky EP in 2004.
WMD are back in the news again, like a synthpop band (War-mongering Manoeuvres in the Dark?) from the Cold War days reforming for a comeback tour and a new album for the twenty-first century. Under the spotlight this week is a song that takes a lot of the language of the current Gulf War and reclaims it in the language of love. Like swords into ploughshares – killing words into loving words.
This week I point my spotlight on a rather private song I wrote in 1987. It was born out of the shock of hearing that my flatmate George had suffered quite a serious fall, smashing his elbow in the process.
In my second and third years as a student in Edinburgh, I shared a flat with the same 3 friends. Two years is like an eternity when you’re 19 and 20, so we became a really close-knit bunch. We shared our flats in Tollcross and Marchmont with a couple of canine flatmates: Acorn and Ember. So regular dog-walking trips to the Meadows, the Hermitage of Braid and Blackford Hill.
For my Sunday Spotlight this week, I’m going right back to my songwriting beginnings with a song that was born back in 1985 on a Friday night in Kelly’s Cellars, Belfast. It wouldn’t be accurate to claim it as one of my songs as it was a spontaneous collaboration – a blues number that sort of wrote itself between a bunch of 18-year olds out for a bit of a laugh with a few pints and a sing song. For me, it became a fun song to belt out when the mood was right and it has endured in my repertoire down through the years.
In the spotlight this week is a song I wrote just over a year ago when I travelled to Edinburgh for a weekend with a group from my East Clare football club, Mixed Bag United. The football was over and I was enjoying the last evening of the weekend, touring a few of my favourite pubs with one of the other Mixed Bag players.
In the spotlight this week is a song I wrote in my student days in 1987. Napoleon’s Nose was a deliberate attempt to add a “happy” song to my repertoire. Many people complained that I always seemed to be singing sad songs. Maybe learning Dick Gaughan’s A Different Kind of Love Song would have been a more appropriate response, as the sad songs are the best, aren’t they? But secretly I longed to sing the odd happy love song and I also thought it would be nice to have a happy song that was a celebration of my home town, Belfast, in some way. And so, Napoleon’s Nose was born.
This is the first in a series of articles taking a look at songs I have written down through the years. So have a listen to the song and I’ll write a bit about the background and the inspiration for writing it.
First up is Smokey Stoor of Scariff, a song I wrote in 2002 shortly after I arrived in East Clare, about Scariff’s chipboard factory. Like many people coming to live in and around Scariff the Finsa factory came as a bit of shock. If the wind is blowing in your direction the sight and smell of the fumes is unmissable. Like most “blow-ins” to the area, my hippy tendencies were outraged by what seemed like obvious pollution and health concerns. However when you talk to the local population, the majority see the factory as the huge employer it is in the town and one that has helped their families through grim times, past and present. Continue reading “Sunday Spotlight: Smokey Stoor of Scariff”
Over the last couple of weeks I have been the victim of an attempted Overpayment cheque scam. In such a scam a person or business enters into an agreement to purchase an expensive item or product you are selling, usually on the internet. They will send a cheque to your bank that vastly exceeds the amount agreed. The cheque is a forgery, but before it clears the fraudster will engage you in some long-winded explanation about how an overpayment was made and how you can refund most of the balance, usually keeping a tidy amount for yourself. Continue reading “Overpayment Cheque Scam from Dubai”
The approach the authorities in England are taking with regard to Home Education has received some column inches in UK newspapers in the last week. Families who have opted out of the school system in England are now in for a pretty rough ride it seems and are looking enviously across the northern border, where Scottish education continues to plot a more sensible course.
Upgrade slows to grinding halt
However when I tried the automatic upgrade of this site (my personal blog), which is hosted with pair Networks, it took several hours to complete with no feedback on progress throughout that time, which didn’t look too promising. I decided to be patient and leave it to do its stuff. At the end of the process the updated Dashboard confirmed that it was now using version 2.8, but it was disappointing to see it flagging a suspicion that the upgrade had not fully completed. Continue reading “Optimise your pair-hosted WordPress site – use php-cgiwrap”
Following a pleasant exchange of Tweets last night, @kenarmstrong1 pointed me to some lyrics he had written. Not that accustomed to such collaborations, I printed out his lyrics and took up the challenge today. Fortunately the first idea I tried seemed to fit okay….I think. What do you reckon?
It was a pleasure to try out my new Samson USB microphone – worked a treat straight out of the box. The guitar I’m playing is my son’s 3/4 size classical.
One of the saddest stories I learnt about many years ago, when studying my family history, was the tragic death of my great-uncle Patrick MULVENNA. In 1913 he left the family farm in Gowkstown, Glenarm, Co. Antrim to emigrate to Canada. On Wednesday 25 June 1913 the train carrying Patrick and hundreds of other immigrants across Canada derailed near Ottawa. Two of the nine carriages plunged into the Ottawa River – unfortunately Patrick must have been on-board one of these coaches and didn’t survive the accident. Continue reading “Patrick MULVENNA dies in 1913 Canadian train disaster”
Ireland is now basking in a new post-Grand Slam glow. The enjoyment of seeing our hopes for Grand Slam victory become reality on Saturday got me thinking about where the moment ranks in our personal histories.
In years to come will we readily be able to answer the question:
Where were you when that final penalty attempt fell short and the Grand Slam was ours?
This morning I recalled that the National Archives in Dublin have made their census records for 1911 freely available online for counties Dublin, Kerry, Antrim and Down, so I thought I would seek out the returns made by my Co. Antrim ancestors. My entire paternal side all hail from Co. Antrim – but in terms of direct ancestors this translates into just two households as all my great-great-grandparents on that side are deceased by 1911. Continue reading “1911 Irish census records online”
I was just a fourteen-year-old boy when Bobby died
Afraid to go to school that day, I was shocked and dazed inside
Fearful of the future in a sad and wounded land
The meaning of the sacrifice, I could not understand
Is there a roadblock in my brain?
Secret harbour of some pain?
See the little soldier(s) standing in the way,
Red light circling just like the bad old days
Asking all the questions ’bout the things they need to know
Like: “where have you been?”, “where d’ya wanna go?”
Is there a roadblock in my brain?
Golf is a game I enjoyed playing from a pretty early age. I actually got reasonably good at it through my teens (12 handicap). In recent years I have returned to the game only to find I’m now pretty crap at it (20 handicap). Continue reading “Why do I bother playing golf?”
Well, it’s farewell to Ireland
I’m leaving again.
When this May morning dawns
Another parting will begin
With a sense of hope across the land
For our daughters and our sons.
For the first time in my life
I feel the healing has begun.