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From competitive tiredness to Millennium Madness

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Date Published: 06-Jan-2011

I bumped into an old friend over the Christmas who was filled with equal measures of unbridled joy and sleep deprivation because his wife had given birth to their first baby four months earlier.

The joy was natural and understandable because your first born completely changes your world. And apart from the fact that you really do believe no one ever had a child before you, those parents of a slightly older vintage will allow the newcomers their first flush of fatherhood.

The sleep deprivation, however, is the one thing that those more experienced parents most certainly do not miss; the 4am feeds, the teething, the colic, the chest infections – although obviously not all at the one time – combine to bring a reality check to this new life.

In our house we used to call it competitive tiredness, because whatever few minutes of sleep one of us had snatched the previous night, the other could half that and then some.

So it was with my friend with the new arrival now, because he was bang in the throes of this phase when he seemed to think that his wife abandoned all mothering duties the minute he arrived home from work.

“She’d have me bathe the baby and eat my dinner at the same time if she could; in actual fact, I think she cannot see any reason why I don’t eat my dinner on the bike as I’m cycling home so that I have nothing other than minding the baby to do when I arrive home,” he told me.

And I smiled knowingly and remembered how it once was – and how it had all changed.

Last week, after the final day of school before the Christmas break, that same first born – now almost a teenager – was attending his second disco in Leisureland as I waited in the sub-zero temperatures looking out on Galway Bay.

For some reason that’s lost on me, they called these gatherings Millennium Madness. Maybe they began in 1999⁄2000 which might explain the millennium part. And ten minutes spent watching the teenage girls making their way in or out would explain the madness.

Togged out like they were heading for a beach party – and on the basis that they were at least eight years older – they wouldn’t be any less suitably attired for the winter weather if they were buck naked and wearing flip-flops.

The boys, about three years behind them on the developmental front, are casually dressed in jeans and tee-shirts – for them too coats are for wimps – but the girls are kitted out like something you’d meet on a street corner in Amsterdam. I’ve never been to Amsterdam.

Hot pants, tops that are barely there and more make-up than a Clarins plant, they look like they’ve come from one of those Miss Teen America contests and forgotten to bring a coat with them on their way.

In fairness, the organisers of these events leave nothing to chance and the level of supervision should set every parent’s mind at ease; until the event is over at midnight, your child is in their care – and then they burst out onto the prom like some horror movie version of Glee.

As I sat there waiting for the doors to open and the next generation of Ireland’s leaders to come bolting onto the streets, I thought of the sleepless nights of 1998 when the cause of my insomnia was lying and crying in a cot at the foot of the bed – and I knew now that my sleepless nights for the next ten years would be caused by something very different and entirely out of my control.

We have a second fella coming through the ranks who never got a fraction of the attention his brother received as a baby – and who will no doubt thrive in the Millennium Madness pit when his turn comes in two years time.

I know of parents who smile as knowingly at the disco experience as I do at the tales of new-born highs and lows – and they spend their weekends waiting for the inevitable call at three in the morning for a lift home in the free family taxi.

But it only seems like yesterday that Salthill’s disco scene was mine – Twiggs, Whispers, the Holiday, the Oasis – and now I’m waiting in the car, having passed on the baton.

So sleep deprivation comes in many guises it seems – it begins at childbirth and with a bit of luck ends the day you stand, eyes glistening, and applaud them down the aisle.

See also Amazon’s plan to end bad presents on page 13 of this week’s Tribunes.

 

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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Olive helps people deal with cancer diagnosis

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Date Published: 24-Jan-2013

None of us wants to get cancer and nor do we want to see anybody we love suffer from it either. However, the fact is that one in every three of us will be diagnosed with the illness at some time in our lives. About 30,000 people a year get cancer in Ireland, but according to Olive Gallagher from the Irish Cancer Society, mostly it’s not serious and can be treated.

For anyone who has to deal with cancer, it’d be a blessing to have Olive on your side. She is the Irish Cancer Society’s Daffodil Nurse at UHG, who supports and advises people who have been diagnosed with the illness and also supports their families.

It’s a role the former Oncology Sister sees as hugely important in patients’ lives.

The Daffodil Centre opened in 2009 at University Hospital Galway. The first in the Ireland, it is now one of seven countrywide. Olive has been at UHG Centre for the past 15 months. Before that she worked in oncology wards in St Luke’s in Dublin and in the Galway Clinic.

Olive describes the Daffodil Nurse’s role as bringing information to people at the point of diagnosis and treatment.

“It’s here and it’s free and you don’t need an appointment,” she says from her tiny office on the ground floor of the hospital.

“I don’t know what’s going to come in the door any day. It could be the patient, or it could be brothers, sisters, a parent or a child, looking for practical or emotional support.”

Her role is to help them, whatever is required.

“It’s very practical information sometimes, such as ‘what can I expect from chemo?’ because having knowledge takes a lot of the fear out of it. And it’s also saying to people ‘you are not alone’. When a person goes into a [cancer] clinic and gets information from a doctor or nurse there is only so much you can retain. For instance, a woman with a diagnosis is trying to protect her husband and her kids, so this is somewhere she can come to and acknowledge her fears and get psychological support.

“And if we don’t know the answer to something someone asks us, we’ll find out.”

People are sent to her by nurses or doctors and also hear about the service via word of mouth.

Olive doesn’t have access to patients’ case notes or have any information about them, except what a person chooses to tell her. She’s just there to help.

“When people need help to navigate their way through the system, it’s there. Sometimes it’s about helping them to verbalise questions for the doctor – to give them the language to discuss their illness, or to break down the language for them.”

She also helps with information on diet and complementary therapies, and says that “coming here is about people having a bit of control. Decisions are being made for them in the system and this is about giving them back a bit of power”.

Basically, it’s about patients having somebody there for them and also for family members who might want a coffee and a chat.

“Not to feel on your own is what a lot of it is about. If there is good news, great. But we are also there for the bad news and to support people. For me oncology nursing was always about the person and what you could do to make their journey easier. Sometimes it’s about holding a hand or sitting with somebody.

“We are there when people need us. And everybody’s needs are different. Some people want loads of information about what’s happening to their bodies and others want the bare minimum. Neither is right nor wrong.”

Some people can be angry and just want to vent, which is OK too.

“It’s about being where they are in their journey, giving them a safe place, where they can let stuff out in a confidential environment.”

 

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

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Jazz, folk and rock-inspired Syd Arthur set to hit the road

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Date Published: 30-Jan-2013

Combining jazz, folk and rock influences, Syd Arthur play Róisín Dubh on Thursday, February 14. The Canterbury-based band are Liam Magill (vocals/guitar), Raven Bush (violin), Fred Rother (drums) and Joel Magill (bass). As he prepares to hit the road with the band, Joel recalls how they met.

“Me and Liam are brothers, so obviously we’ve known each other for a while,” he laughs. “We met Fred, our drummer, at school and started jamming together. Then we met Raven a bit later on, when I was 19 or 20. It went from there, basically.”

Some parents may be wary about their children going the rock ‘n’ route, but Joel and his friends met no such obstacles.

“We were always interested in it, and encouraged at school and by family,” he says. “Later on, the discovery of the Canterbury sound had a big influence on us.”

The ‘Canterbury sound’ refers to a scene that emerged in the late Sixties and early Seventies, spearheaded by groups with a taste for avant-garde and progressive rock music.

 

“I would always think of The Soft Machine and Caravan, and Hatfield and the North,” says Joel. “They’d be the big ones for us.”

In a previous incarnation, Joel and his bandmates went under the moniker of Grumpy Jumper. Why did they change their name?

“That was a long time ago, before Raven was in the band,” Joel explains. We were just playing locally and we made a CD under that name. When Raven joined, we felt like it was a new thing, so time to move on.”

Their new name comes from Siddhartha, a Buddhism-inspired novel written by Hermann Hesse.

“We all discovered that book around the same time,” says Joel. “It went round the whole band at the time we were trying to come up with a new name. We took a little bit of a play on it, made it a bit English. We used to pronounce the name of the book ‘Syd Arthur’.”

Last year, Syd Arthur released their debut album On And On, which was recorded in their own studio in Canterbury. Having their own space allowed the quartet to become familiar with recording, producing and mixing their music.

“Three or four years ago we got access to this space from Raven’s family,” says Joel. “It was an old dilapidated building that was on their property. We were often underwhelmed by going into the studio, spending a lot of money and generally not coming out with anything as good as one would hope.”

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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