Friday, December 30, 2011


Wow – what a year it has been! The best thing I did was – the first thing I did – I wrote (with my family and a friend) a bucket list for the year. I am so pleased that almost every single item on that list was accomplished, sadly the one I really should have achieved, as it was the simplest did not manifest itself – but hey – there is always 2012!
So personally I got to play the role of my life in March with the fantastic Ranting Rebels Theatre Group here in Waterford – the blind and alcoholic Richard Harkins in Conor McPherson’s superb play – “The Seafarer” – The first thing on my bucket list ticked! Just prior to this I had the privilege to take part in the premier of Paul Barry’s first play based in the iconic Waterford Crystal factory – “The Glass”, sell-out crowds and critical acclaim on both of these – happy days!
In April and May I got to the second item on the list – record and release and album. “What Quay are We In?” by Compass Point was the culmination of eighteen months of hard work. Although things didn’t work out for us together, the experience of the group, the gigs and the recording will endure. I am particularly proud that two of my own songs made the cut, “A New Found Land” and “Tall Ships Came Sailing”. We got to play many places from the Langesund International Sea Shanty Festival in Norway to the Tall Ships Festival in Waterford, via Rosses Point in Sligo! Even got to sail on a Schooner in Norway for a day.
Job done – number three – take part in Oxfam’s Trailtrekker  Event in September! Well I did it – but had to change to the 50k from the 100k – as I did not wish to die just then! Great team and wonderful support crew got me through it. Two more plays rounded off the year – a new piece of short writing from Fergus Cooper (premier) called "The Wicket Gate" and a re-run of “The Glass”. 
Other than that I fell in love with Twitter (@thisisgerry) and now have only a passing acquaintance with my old pal Facebook!
A huge thank you to everyone who made this year a success for me!

Friday, December 16, 2011


Over the past two weekend, RTE, the Irish state broadcaster, ran a piece on their “Would you Believe” program on the decline of Catholic practice here in Ireland. Very well put together with some very good differing contributions. What struck me though, quite strongly, was a question posed to a young couple about to present their child for christening. It was a simple question but one they both found very difficult to answer…”as a Catholic – what do you believe?” – the answer – “God?... I don’t know” and then “to believe in God, and to worship him – in your own way”. Not judging them – but even on a very basic level – why would you indoctrinate a baby into ANY faith, if your understand of it was this? There are things that I disagree with in the Roman Catholic tradition (I’ve been called an a-la-carte Catholic before!) but I believe that change can be made, from within, without throwing out the baby with the font water as it were. We can be very immature about our faith and our spiritual life. I admire those who have a strong sense of belief, and those who have none, such as Richard Dawkins. We are required to think. Having a faith trust upon you from childhood does not mean you never have to think about it again. Far from it – it is (dare I say) unholy to do so.

Thursday, December 15, 2011


When I was 10 years old I played the part of Scrooge in a school production. Although it was not my first time on stage, it was my first “staring role” and I’d have wait nearly thirty five years to have another one of those – but that’s for another day. One of the major benefits for me playing this part was the love it gave me for this story, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. To me it is an almost perfect piece of writing, and it is a book that I have read each year for the past five years or so.
What struck me most when I re-read it as an adult was a paragraph that I would have ignored as a child, but now is the pivotal moment in the story. Here it is:

Stave 3: The Second of the Three Spirits
…From the foldings of its robe, it brought two children; wretched, abject, frightful, hideous, miserable. They knelt down at its feet, and clung upon the outside of its garment. "Oh, Man, look here! Look, look, down here!" exclaimed the Ghost. They were a boy and a girl. Yellow, meagre, ragged, scowling, wolfish; but prostrate, too, in their humility. Where graceful youth should have filled their features out, and touched them with its freshest tints, a stale and shrivelled hand, like that of age, had pinched, and twisted them, and pulled them into shreds. Where angels might have sat enthroned, devils lurked, and glared out menacing. No change, no degradation, no perversion of humanity, in any grade, through all the mysteries of wonderful creation, has monsters half so horrible and dread. Scrooge started back, appalled. Having them shown to him in this way, he tried to say they were fine children, but the words choked themselves, rather than be parties to a lie of such enormous magnitude. "Spirit, are they yours?" Scrooge could say no more. "They are Man's," said the Spirit, looking down upon them. "And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it!" cried the Spirit, stretching out its hand towards the city. "Slander those who tell it ye. Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse. And abide the end." "Have they no refuge or resource?" cried Scrooge. "Are there no prisons?" said the Spirit, turning on him for the last time with his own words. "Are there no workhouses?"

I couldn’t believe how shocking this was to me as an adult revisiting this story. I remember being in tears reading this. It’s very powerful and sadly prophetic to us over 150 years after it was written. Ignorance and want are still as alive and well as they were then. 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Not EVERYTHING is about the Economy

Ever since good old Bill Clinton sited “It’s the Economy stupid” in his election campaign it seems that the economy is the only game in town. I’m using the word “seems” here for a good reason by the way. I was blessed that my Economics teacher in school was Dominic McQuillan, and Dominic was a great man for the “tend”. He was always at pains to point out that Economist really cannot be certain of anything; this is not an exact science by a long way. In simplistic terms economics is very simple, generate X income, spend Y and you are left with either a flat balanced budget, you have some savings or you need to borrow to make up the shortfall. Looking at all the commentators over the last number of years you would think that this is the easiest thing in the world, why in Gods name are they not keeping it simple, tax people more, cut spending from the public purse and Bob’s you uncle, you’re balanced! If only it was that simple – but it really is not.  Case in point, today I saw a You Tube video making the following argument…
There are three stakeholders (an unemployed person, the government and an entrepreneur) in a situation described as follows. The unemployed person wants to work, the government pay them c€200 each week on the dole, but nobody is willing to employ them. The entrepreneur wants to employ them but cannot afford to. So (my god this is SO simple – why don’t we just do it!!) the government should pay the unemployed person nothing, the entrepreneur gets the €200 from the government and adds another €150 to it to pay the person €350 per week. Entrepreneur is able to grow their business, government get the live register to zero and the unemployed have gainful employment, additional cash and dignity restored, happy days.
There are clearly cases where this would work, and to have the state basically subsidise private enterprise. What I find a bit had to fathom is that a business believes (this person runs a restaurant) that they could get staff with a government discount, and their neighbour running a similar business is paying their staff full whack. I would think that a large number of people would be put out of work and then re-employed with the additional government monies.
But even still – it’s never THAT simple. What about those who can’t work, for whatever reason.   What about those who do not have the required skill sets to carry out these new jobs (a waiter who cannot read, or was blind for example).  As a society we are more than simply an economy.   We are people who share a space.  It would be great if we got classroom sizes down to 10 or if all medical care was funded centrally, or if we had full employment, zero crime etc. Increase taxes to 80% and you’re on the road to getting everything on your wish list. Not realistic? So what gives? You can’t get blood out of a stone, so there is no point in trying to take more from those who have nothing.
In a decent society we look after the vulnerable, not because of economics, but because we want to live in a decent society.  These are very tough choices that need to be made, but they cannot be ignored.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


Racism has reared its ugly head in Ireland in this past week. The Mayor of Naas (who’d have thought they’d even have a mayor) stated on a local radio station that he would no longer take representations from “Black Africans” as his experience with “them” in the past has been less than good.  Race, is a matter of chance, a lottery depending on your gene pool, much like faith. As such it can never be a determining factor in how we treat people. Many years ago I read an article (or heard on the radio – memory fails) on this subject that has always stuck with me. When someone is spouting racist nonsense we should challenge them.  If they say “blacks are lazy” we question and say – “is it laziness you dislike?” if the answer is yes, then retort “are there no lazy white people?” Inevitably there are. So it is “lazy people” you dislike, colour doesn’t come into it.
In the case of this “mayor” I could not deny that he has had difficulties dealing with certain people. But in lumping everyone into one category, he may as well suggest that he would not deal with Irish passport holders, because an Irish passport holder disagreed with him once.

Friday, November 18, 2011


“Raised on Songs and Stories” wrote Pete St John, well we were reared on Coddle as well!

Coddle is a very traditional comfort food, eaten mainly in Dublin. Growing up every single Saturday we had Coddle for dinner. It was the only meal of the week that my late Father cooked without fail (I never remember my late Mother cooking this). His recipe used barley and split peas and you could add these for extra texture. This is slightly simpler and is how I have always made this dish. It can be difficult for people to accept the fact that the bacon and the sausages are pale when served (as they are boiled and steamed, not browned), please don’t be tempted to ruin this dish by frying or grilling these!

Even though the cooking time is given here as 90 minutes, in reality you can leave this on a very low heat for hours and it will be perfect. Also it tastes great the following day reheated. Some recipes suggest you serve this with soda bread, but a real Dub will tell you that the only way to serve this is in a large bowl with a couple of thick slices of crusty white bread or batch loaf with real butter for dipping into the soup.

As an added flavour I use Goodall’s Yorkshire Relish© (liquid – not the thick sauce) before serving – gives a great dash of spice to the dish. My wife calls this "Poor Man’s Stew", but to me this is simple, quick to prepare and fit for a king.


1.5 Litres of Vegetable Stock or Packet Soup (Vegetable)
2-3 onions, thinly sliced
8 Rashers of Bacon or 500g of Bacon Bits
12 fat, traditional pork sausages
4 carrots, thinly sliced
500g white potatoes, peeled and thick sliced
Salt and pepper


Prepare the vegetables by peeling and chopping to a consistent size. Onions and Carrots should be thinly sliced and potatoes should be about 3-6cm thick. Wash the vegetables under cold running water.  In a large skillet or stove top pot (must have a tight fitting lid) add either the stock or add the soup mix to water.  Add ALL of the ingredients to the liquid in the pot apply the lid and bring to the boil. Once boiled, stir and reduce to a very low heat (1 or 2) with the lid on and leave for 90 minutes.


Stir before serving with salt and pepper.

Serve in deep bowls using a slotted spoon (to ensure everyone gets their share of sausage, bacon and potatoes), ladle the vegetables and some soup over each serving. Remember this is a stew – not a soup – so you do not need to serve all of the liquid.