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A Different View

Sharm has charm and sun – and camels for all shapes

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Sun and tranquility....Sharm El Sheikh overlooking the Red Sea.

A Different View with Dave O’Connell

As pursuits for generously proportioned Irishmen with something bordering on a phobia about the sun go, riding a bony camel in 45 degree heat across the Sinai desert probably takes some beating.

But when in Rome and all that – or in this case Egypt – and thankfully in the absence of the local Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, I found myself astride this unfortunate beast like a larger version of Laurence of Arabia about to conquer the Gulf of Aqaba.

There must be dozens of reasons why Egypt would be the wrong holiday destination for me – I’m not mad about heat and I never sunbathe for a start – but most of all, why would you holiday in one of the world’s hotspots, both climatically and politically?

And yet I enjoyed it more than words can say; we felt supremely safe from the moment we arrived – to the point that you never even thought about it – and we’re finally reached an age where we have enough cop-on to realise that only mad dogs and sun worshipping English men go out in the midday sun.

Egypt makes headlines for many reasons just now – and some of them are the wrong ones – but the coastal resort of Sharm El Sheikh is, in every sense, an oasis.

The country itself is vast but 90 million Egyptians live on just six per cent of the land; there are three million Bedouins and 27 tribes in a country steeped in culture and history – although it must be said that Sharm would not be top of your list for history…this is a sun holiday destination.

Clinging to the south east coast of the Sinai peninsula, a land mass that is otherwise a desert, it was developed entirely to cater for the tourist, and particularly those with an interest in diving – or at least in snorkelling to experience the multitude of multi-coloured fish that live in the coral beds which provide this region’s biggest attraction.

If you love guaranteed sunshine and you’re at your best in temperatures of around 40 degrees, this is the place for you.

But even if, like me, you don’t, then rest assured that Sharm could only be more air conditioned if they erected giant wind machines on the streets – and even in the absence of those cold windmills, the evenings still are balmingly comfortable with all of the shops, pubs and nightclubs you could ever need doing a roaring trade into the small hours of the morning.

We stayed at the Ghazala Gardens Hotel – a resort with enough to keep you fully occupied even if you never exited its grand front doors.

The food was varied with seven restaurants on site offering European dishes or specialist eateries with Italian pizza or Mexican fajitas, a variety of fish dishes and all of the fresh, crisp salad your little heart could desire.

The rooms were spacious, luxurious and fully air-conditioned; the staff were ultra-friendly and yet reserved – and with the all inclusive package that most tourists opted for, you could eat and drink as much as you wanted without worrying about the incurring cost.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

Exam points are not the only measure of education success

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Dave O'Connell

A Different View with Dave O’Connell

By now, the next batch of around 60,000 students set for third-level education are over a week into the Leaving Cert – the exam that will determine what course they attain a place in for the new academic year.

Their success – added to the performances of their class-mates – will determine their alma mater’s position in what are commonly known as the school league tables.

This is a calculation of how successful a secondary school is, based entirely on the number of its Leaving Certs it gets into third-level education.

In turn – based on this – parents will choose where to send their little bundles of joy when the time comes for them to make the transition from primary to second-level.

And it’s such an arbitrary method of determining the relative success or failure of a centre of education, because it leaves so much out of the equation.

Firstly, it means performance is entirely based on the numbers who go on to third-level, ignoring those who gain apprenticeships or go straight into the workplace.

Admittedly, that’s not a large cohort these days because Careers Guidance seems to begin and end with helping you to choose the right course, not the right career.

But more fundamentally, getting a good student to pass his or her exams and gain a place in college isn’t the ultimate test of a teacher; getting a student who is struggling with reading or writing to a level where they comfortably do both is a far better achievement for any teacher.

Bringing a student who is in danger of failing mathematics, for example, to a position where they pass their exams – but more importantly understand how it works – should be recognised in any measure of performance.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

How will we acclimatise as we ease out of Covid?

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Dave O'Connell

A Different View with Dave O’Connell

Back in the world before Covid, a mention of Corona either brought to mind a beer or a rock band – but, as we ease our way out of dire straits (another rock band, as luck would have it), we might require a different kind of acclimatisation.

Because what will the evening be like when no more deaths are flashed up as a statistic on the Six-One News?

Who will the world turn to if we have no more Fergal or George or Zara giving out the daily update in a funereal tone?

What will happen to all the people who used to go to the Department of Health press conference at tea-time in the same way the rest of us once headed for the pub?

Like Pavlov’s Dog, we’ve come to expect an evening illness update, taking consolation in it being two less than yesterday or taking fright if it’s two more.

Nobody told us who these poor people were, unless the local paper carried a tribute a week later – for the number crunchers and bean counters and prophets of doom, they were today’s statistics, to be flashed up for a few seconds every night.

And we took these figures as we got them, never questioning if a person died from Covid or with Covid; if they were described as having ‘underlying conditions’, we seemed to accept that as a very broad church.

We listened intently as Fergal or George or Zara told us what the mean age was, breathing a small sigh of relief if it remained a good distance into the future from our own age now.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

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Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

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The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

 

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Connacht Tribune

Home ownership should be a prerogative – not a pipedream

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Dave O'Connell

A Different View with Dave O’Connell

Half of our 18 to 34-year-olds fear they won’t be able to buy a home in next ten years, according to a new survey. That’s not the shock – it’s the fact that half of them think they actually will.

Because the truth is that owning your own home hasn’t been as much of a pipedream since the days of feudal landlords; indeed many of them will find it a job and a half to even come up with the rent.

And that’s a sign of just how critical our housing crisis has become in the space of a single generation.

We thought that things were bad in the eighties when unemployment levels were way ahead of our pre-Covid figures; when the boat and the plane were the best 0or maybe only – chance for many to secure a job far from home.

But for those who were working, owning a home wasn’t a farfetched concept at all, because there were plenty of starter homes being built and the cost of them still bore some relation to your income.

There was a time before that, when the bank had a simple equation to decide the size of the mortgage they’d give you. It was two and a half times the combined salary for those buying the house – in other words, yours alone if you were a sole purchaser, or double that if it was yourself and your partner.

On top of that, there was no point turning up in the first place unless you had a ten per cent deposit – so it was a straight-forward calculation to find out what you could afford. And house prices, for the most part, kept within that equation.

Of course there were always homes you coveted and couldn’t afford, but you could still buy a roof over your head for a price that only took 20 years to pay back.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

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