Preparing the Phoenix

My daily trip to the Phoenix Park has become very complicated. A huge central area has been cordoned off to enable the construction of a venue big enough to hold the expected 500,000 people who will attend a Mass to be celebrated by the Pope. This is taking place on Sunday 26 August.

The result of all this activity is that I have had to move my dog-walking start point from the Papal Cross car park to the one on Glen Road. This happens to be the area where most of the females and this year’s fawns from the park’s fallow deer herd hang out. This part of the Fifteen Acres is where the deers would normally be at this time of the year, but they are confined to the eastern part of the space by the temporary fence.

My enforced move has meant that I am much closer to the dozens of people who turn up every day to feed the deer, something that is actually prohibited by the park authorities. Every day there are several bunches of deer, each surrounded by tourists proffering food – mainly carrots and apples. This activity is bad enough (according to the Wild Deer Association of Ireland, even carrots and apples are not good food for deer) but then some of the feeders then leave their litter behind.

The other day, I saw one hind with something shiny in its mouth. It was too far away for me to get a photograph, and it dropped the object as I got closer. But this is what I found when I got to the point at which it had been grazing:

There was a major outcry about what we are doing to our habitat when the Blue Planet TV programme recently broadcast the effect of plastic pollution on the species with whom we share our earth. And yet people still leave their rubbish behind in a field where wild animals graze.

Looking around the interwebnet for material on deer feeding in the Phoenix Park I came across some incredible examples of general idiocy. Here is a man feeding a buck with some sort of biscuit:

Here is ‘Dublin-based model’ Brittany Mason delighting her 77,000 Instagram followers with her cute picture. She apparently ‘made friends with Bambi today’, carefully remembering to add her sponsor’s hashtag to the post.

I took these examples from a very good piece posted in 2016 on the Dublin Inquirer site, and there are many more horrifying pictures there.

One of the reasons why the trend has grown is because tourist guides and social media are encourgaing the practice. Here are a couple of examples I turned up:

Some proper research needs to be done on the effects of this rapid increase in feeding. According to a recent Mooney Goes Wild radio programme, where one Spanish student was found to be giving the deer popcorn, Laura Griffin from UCD is looking at the subject. I hope that this will be published soon, and perhaps then the OPW will take a much more active stance on prevention.

In the meantime, maybe people will realise that the deer are wild and really shouldn’t be approached. Particularly during the annual rut, which will start in a few weeks time. Here is a piece which appeared in the Irish Sun, written in the usual sniggery language we have grown to expect.

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Smart timing for Rolex ad

While following the Open golf online on Sunday afternoon, I noticed this clever ad from Rolex, where the displayed watch is actually telling the correct time.

I usually find online ads a bit of a nuisance  — on my older computer, a page will often freeze as a result of a “slow script”, and it’s nearly always caused by an over-complicated code-heavy ad — but sometimes you have to applaud the concept and execution. Very simple, very well put together.

Someone has to do it

A big shout out to the person who compiles the DM Reporter Twitter feed. Every day they wade through the gross pit of slime which makes up the comments section under nearly all the posts on the Mail Online website, and pull out the choicest examples. Above are just a few of the comments made by the good people of Britain (or at least those who read the Mail) about the anti-Brexit march which took place in London yesterday.

It is quite clear that the whole Brexit process is shaping up to be the most rancorous, divisive and awful event which has befallen the UK since the second world war. How on earth the nation heals itself afterwards is anyone’s guess.

Cricket lovely cricket

Pic: BreakingNews.ie

Circumstances meant that, unfortunately, the day that Test cricket came to Ireland I was on a ferry from Dublin to Holyhead. Otherwise, I would certainly have made an effort to get a ticket. Although it’s a minor sport over here, those who play it are really dedicated to the game.

In an article in the Irish Times, Niall O’Brien describes how the players of his generation ‘fell in love with Test cricket while watching it on the BBC in those long summers of our childhoods.’ How great it was that during the match his brother Kevin should become the first Irishman to score a Test century.

In fact, the first day was washed out and not a ball was bowled. Typical cricket, you might say. So the match actually started on the Saturday, and it was a time for much emotion. In a lovely piece in the Observer published on the Sunday, Andy Bull wrote:

Soon after 10am, the Irish players gathered together on the outfield while the chair of selectors, Andrew White, set down a scruffy cardboard box full of handsome new caps. He handed them out one by one, the first to captain William Porterfield, then the rest in alphabetical order, Andy Balbirnie, Ed Joyce, Tyrone Kane, Tim Murtagh, Kevin and Niall O’Brien, Boyd Rankin, Paul Stirling, Stuart Thompson and Gary Wilson. The first Irish Test XI. At least a couple of them started to cry from pride.

Being away means that I wasn’t even able to see the highlights, which were broadcast each night on RTE. It looks as though Ireland acquitted themselves well, having a chance when they reduced Pakistan to 14 for three in their second innings. Class prevailed, however, and the visitors eventually won by five wickets.

But how wonderful it was that the ‘greatest game’ has a new Test-playing nation, and that real cricket – the kind where a whole narrative builds over several days – now has a chance to thrive on a new field. If only it was shown live on TV, when there would be a chance of more young Niall O’Briens falling in love with the game. But I fear the cash register prevails and therefore we have little chance of broadening its appeal.

Windrush: preserving the past

The plight of the children of the Windrush generation – Commonwealth immigrants who have lived and worked in the UK for decades has dominated the political agenda for several weeks. Yesterday, the Home Secretary Amber Rudd bowed to the inevitable and resigned from her post.

Some of the families of these Windrush migrants have been threatened with deportation, denied access to NHS treatment, benefits and pensions and stripped of their jobs. The UK government has now apologised and offered compensation. The reason why these individuals have not been able to prove that they have lived in the UK for so long is largely because records have been lost. And it appears that one of the primary sources, the old ‘landing card’ system which was in use at the time, have now been destroyed.

These cards had been kept in the basement of an office block in Croydon but in about 2009 they were shredded. According to this Guardian report, an employee suggested digitising the records but was told that there were no resources. ‘He remembered protesting: “Even if half the people are dead, they are historical records.” His manager responded that the cards were “redundant”.’

One of the most useful resources in my research into the lives of all the men who took part on the Dams Raid (now published as The Complete Dambusters, plug, plug) have been genealogical records. Firms like Ancestry have done us all a great service in digitising resources such as US landing cards, and I simply don’t believe that they would not have offered to take the UK landing cards off the Home Office’s hands. And according to this BBC article, the National Archives already holds the passenger list from the Empire Windrush itself so it too should have been consulted.

Swashing down Hill Street

Near the top of my personal list of typefaces never to be used is Bookman. (Also present: Souvenir, University Roman, Eurostile.) So it was with some pain that most weeks throughout  the 1980s I sat through the opening credits in order to watch one of the best TV cop shows of all time. I refer, of course, to Hill Street Blues, whose creator Steven Bochco has recently died.

Great TV it might have been (as indeed was its successor, NYPD Blue) but I only just forgave the producers the use of (ugh) Bookman Bold Italic, with extra swashes, for the title sequences. Most episodes started with the day’s briefing, given by the desk sergeant, which always ended: ‘Let’s be careful out there.’ A good motto for life.