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At last Ð I can join the ranks of the 10 G begrudgers

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Date Published: {J}

Phew! I’m thanking my lucky stars that 2009 has finally come to an end . . . and that’s not because of the absolutely awful Summer, the floods and frost of the past few weeks, the business of picking your way along the frozen footpaths, and now the apparent threat of the return of the floods.

No, it’s because my 09G registration is finally ‘an old car’ and, hopefully, those resentful stares will end at the traffic lights.

So, while the Summer was awful, and the Christmas period conspired to keep us indoors for fear of falling and breaking our collective backsides, I have that even more persuasive reason to be cheerful at the end of the year and the dawning of a new one.

You see, last January I had the idea of buying a car with a 09 G registration, little thinking that it would turn me into something akin to a hate figure. I found myself ‘standing out’ at junctions and if I could lip read, I have no doubt there would have been a few expletives in there in the passing conversation between drivers and passengers as they looked sideways at the 09 plate.

Honestly, in 09 I got more dirty looks at traffic lights, snarls at roundabouts, and ‘go on . . . I dare you’ stares at junctions!

There were times when I looked in my passengers’ seats to see if, by any chance, Michael Fingleton, Seanie Fitzpatrick, the former boss of FAS, or any of the directors of the Bank of Ireland or Allied Irish Banks, had slipped in beside me unbeknownst.

Honestly, I don’t have a house in Spain, I don’t disappear to Mustique on holidays . . . and no, I won’t be in the High Court trying to explain how I was once a handy blocklayer who eventually stuck AIB for a billion-plus.

No such luck. Anytime I was a few days late with paying the minimum on my credit card, I always got that snotty letter telling me how sorry they were, but my next purchase might cause embarrassment.

The 09 resentment and anger was reserved for this old codger driving a 1.4 engined car that Jeremy Clarkeson and The Stig would regarded as a bit of a joke for their speed needs, and The Stig would have been lucky to take around their track in two minutes.

However, in the angry and resentful times in which we live, anyone in the past year in any of the maybe four thousand 09 G cars which were eventually registered, was in danger of being ostracised from decent society.

By which I mean the ordinary run-of-the-mill people who simply use their cars to drive to work, or for ‘tootling about the town’, who have no need of 2-litres, who wouldn’t know a twin overhead camshaft from a Morris Minor, and whose dream would be to actually have a car paid off before it packs up!

From the stares at the lights, and the glares at the 09 plate, you would imagine mine was a Bugatti Veyron. Listen, this thing is a 1.4 Civic Hybrid. In other words, an electric motor kicks-in when you stop at lights, to make sure that it is as parsimonious with petrol as the unreformed Scrooge was with his Christmas greetings.

Thomas The Tank Engine, or a butterfly on speed, would give off more CO2 than this creature. Its carbon footprint is that of a newborn infant. It would be the kind of car John Gormley would take to bed with him instead of a security blanket.

The road tax is €104 per annum. If the Green Party had their way, we would all be driving this sort of car. From my point of view – and 90% of my driving is done in and around Galway – it is perfect. I ain’t going to be ‘crashing any lights’ with it. My joy at the lights is that the clever little thing knocks off the engine and simply runs on electric batteries for maybe the 30 seconds.

The upshot of all this is that I put petrol in it once every 15 days – about €40 worth. Given that it’s such a ‘green machine’ why all the dirty looks . . . but now I can join the rest, given that a few 10G cars have begun to put in an appearance on the roads. It was a positive joy to see the first one in recent days and realise that ‘the heat was off’ and I now had ‘an old car’.

Now, I will be able to sit in my 09 at the junction at the courthouse and glare at the 10G cars that pass. Last week it appeared that maybe three or four hundred of these machines were already on the Galway roads . . . from now on at the junction, I will be as sanctimonious as the crowd going home from the Annual Novena.

You know the crowd. They have been an hour singing hymns, craw-thumping, praying, listening to sermons on the Christian virtues – which surely must include yielding the odd time at a busy junction! – and minutes later they wouldn’t let you filter into a lane of traffic if you promised to get them a double plenary indulgence in Medugorje.

The others are the ones who are concentrating so hard on the road ahead that you know they simply don’t see you! Not half! The most delicious moments of such a confrontation is when they realise that they recognise you. Then they have the awful dilemma of still pretending not to see you . . . or else that sheepish moment when they wave you out into the traffic.

Now that 2010 has arrived, I will sit in ‘my old car,’ glare at the 10Gs and protest aloud as to where they got the money . . . it’s payback time as I join the swollen ranks of the begrudgers.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past

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A photo of Galway city centre from the county council's archives

People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.

Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.

She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.

Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.

Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.

When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.

Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.

And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.

All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.

“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”

That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.

 

For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here

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Tatoo artists Stephen and Nancy make their point

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Date Published: 24-Jan-2013

The Galway Bay Tattoo studio is far from the dingy and dirty dens often associated with bikers and heavy metal fans.

Located in Lower Fairhill on a corner, it is in fact, one of the nicest shop fronts in the city and is clean, airy and bright inside.

Opened three years ago, it is also an art gallery which not only displays the artwork of owners, Nancy Klein and Stephen Kennedy but that of their friends, a circle they have come to know since they arrived in Galway.

Nancy and Stephen are a couple who were attracted to Galway because of its creative and artistic reputation. They had both worked as tattoo artists in their respective native countries – Canada for Nancy and Australia for Stephen – and now say they have the “best clients” in Galway.

Both had travelled well before they met through mutual friends in Scotland eight years ago and yes, Nancy admits, “it was love at first sight. . . we were a couple by the next day”.

They are both mildly spoken and in their three years here they admit they have become friends with most of their customers!

Nancy says that some days, they just don’t get anything done as people stroll in one after the other for a chat. But you know by the way she says it that she doesn’t mind. They are both dedicated artists who eat, sleep and drink tattoos such is their obsession with their work.

“Yeah, I dreamed last night about a tattoo,” she says quietly to Stephen. Most nights they sit in and talk tattoos though sometimes they might go and see a band in any of the city venues.

They both have workbooks which catalogue their work. Stephen is into portraits of famous people and animals. These tattoos are major works, intricate in detail and can take hours to complete. A large work, like a sleeve, can take hours spread over a number of sessions.

 

Nancy says she gets tired on her feet, in her lower back and her eyes if she works for more than two hours at a time. “I also get hungry and I just cannot continue,” she says. But Stephen can work continuously for five hours without a break – that’s if a client can take it.

They both love what they do – that is obvious – and when not working on a live canvas, they sit in their office in the back drawing, sketching or painting. Some of their work is on permanent display in their gallery.

Stephen’s canvases show Johnny Cash and Elvis in lifelike images while Nancy’s artwork is more architectural, and equally intricate.

And while Stephen prefers big statements in his tattoo works such as portraits, Nancy’s work is more ethereal involving butterflies, flowers and fairies, though she too has big work under her belt and proudly shows her portfolio.

She does a lot of work on women, particularly on those wanting to cover up old tattoos or scars. Requests to cover up Caesarean Section scars are common, although she stresses that a scar has to have healed for at least three or four years before she will go near it.

 

They are both very much into hygiene and regulation though Stephen is amazed at how little their trade is regulated. Nancy hates the idea of cross-contamination and is meticulous when it comes to wearing sterile gloves.

They have a sterile container which is disposed of by bio-hazard specialists. They also have an age policy – strictly over 18 – though they know that not everyone in the industry is as conscientious.

“It is unusual that the tattoo artists in Galway get on so well. When we first came to Galway we worked for a year with a couple in the knowledge that we were always going to set up our own business,” says Stephen.

Apparently, the ink supplier often expresses his amazement at the camaraderie between the local tattoo artists saying it is not the case in Dublin or anywhere else.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

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Capacity entry for weekend’s Galway International Rally

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Date Published: 30-Jan-2013

Galway Motor Club this week confirmed that there is a capacity entry of 115 teams for this year’s Safety Direct Galway International Rally, which takes place this weekend.

The event is the first in Galway to support The Gathering 2013 initiative bringing a welcome early season boost to visitor numbers to Galway City and County, with organisers saying the event is expected to generate more than 2,000 bed nights.

“Galway Motor Club is indebted to the staff of Galway County and City Councils, An Garda Siochána, Fáilte Ireland, the Road Safety Authority, the Directors and staff of Safety Direct, the 300 volunteer marshals from all over Ireland, and most of all the residents of the route in the east of the county for their assistance with temporary road closures to ensure the safe running of the event,” said Victor Farrell, Clerk of the Course.

The event will have a Ceremonial Start in Eyre Square on Saturday at 8pm, following afternoon scrutinising of cars at MotorPark, Terryland, from 2pm. These are ideal opportunities to see the rally cars and drivers prior to the start of the competition.

Top seeds are last year’s winners and 2012 Tarmac Rally Champions, Darren Gass from Armagh, and co –driver Enda Sherry. He will be followed off the start ramp by Derek McGarrity from Belfast, triple British Rally Champion Keith Cronin from Cork and Garry Jennings from Enniskillen.

The highest seeded local crews are JJ Fleming from Salthill in his Ford Focus World Rally Car, co-driven by Robbie Ward from Loughrea at number 8; Tom Flaherty from Circular Road at 12 in his Escort Mk2; and Eamon Dervan from Loughrea at 18 also in an Escort; and Neil Pierce from Loughrea in a Honda at number 22.

Galway Entries in the Historic Car section include Ray Cunningham from Carnmore in a Mini Cooper, James Power from Loughrea in an Escort Mk1 and Pat Neville from Taylors Hill in a Volvo 142. The Galway competitors will be competing for the prestigious Brian Thornton Memorial Cup.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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