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You never know who youÕll meet at HarrodÕs checkout

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Date Published: {J}

The prices are generally so ridiculous in Harrod’s that you have to settle for something small – and then hope that you’re as good as the rest of the tens of thousands walking in the Knightsbridge area of London, all of them carrying that distinctive green Harrod’s bag.

For anyone who makes a trip to London, the visit to Harrod’s is as much a part of the ‘must do’ tourist trail as the Tower of London, The London Eye, The London Transport Museum, Buckingham Palace, The Victoria and Albert Museum, Westminster Abbey, and Petticoat Lane.

Harrod’s is one that everyone eventually hits . . . and the fact that it has changed ownership to the Qatar Royal Family won’t make the slightest difference.

In the case of Harrod’s, you know yo

u’re in the right part of town when you hear the hum of the Daimlers parked at the kerbside keeping the air conditioning at perfect temperature. Meantime, the chaffeurs are out giving the desultory swish of a cloth to the gleaming windscreens.

Nearby, in the estate agent’s windows, the apartments overlooking Hyde Park, or Kensington Park, will still set you back £3million-plus . . . and that’s the middling ones at a time of recession.

When it comes to Harrod’s, unless you’ve got the dosh in plenty, and are prepared to spend silly money on some fashion stuff, then you are in there basically to buy something like one of those presentation tins of biscuits, while gawking at people who have serious money to spend.

My usual routine is to walk about the place looking dead casual by not turning pale when I eventually get to the price tag on the sleeve. Of course, I’m kidding no one! My disguise drops when I glance at the tag, forget myself, and exclaim under my breath . . . “Jaysus, who’d pay £1,500 for a jacket?”

I also like to use the visit as an occasion to watch closely ‘how the other half lives’ and to build little dramas around purchases such as a £1,000 ski jacket and £500 on the trousers.

Whatever the nationality, they are the same people who can afford to queue for the designer handbags which are a snip at a few thousand . . . like those three Japanese girls I saw last year who just loved the Gucci bags and had the credit cards with which to buy them.

In Harrods, you never know who you might meet – for instance, I once ran into the owner, Muhamad Al Fayed, on that incredible Egyptian staircase which he had built as a centrepiece of Harrod’s. Finding that escalator is always my last hope of finally finding my way out of the place.

It was some months after Princess Di and Dodi Al Fayed had died in that car crash in Paris. As Muhamad Al Fayed approached on the escalator, I looked him in the eye and half-prepared to say a word of sympathy. But his four security heavies closed in around him, and the delusion a Joe Soap might offer a word of condolence to a billionaire, was quickly dissipated.

Nearby, was something akin to an ‘altar’ dedicated to the lost lovers, Diana and Dodi.

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

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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Archive News

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr

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Date Published: 23-Jan-2013

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Athenry fail to take chances as they bow out of Junior Cup

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Date Published: 29-Jan-2013

Athenry FC 1

Kilbarrack United 2

(After extra time)

For the second year in succession Athenry were done in extra time in the FAI Junior Cup as last season’s beaten finalist’s came from behind to snatch an excellent game in Moanbawn on Sunday afternoon.

On a heavy pitch that was only playable following extensive groundwork by club officials all morning, the home side were by far the better side in the opening half, but failed to take advantage of a number of opportunities that came their way.

An Alan O’Donovan penalty gave them a merited advantage just after the restart, but thereafter were on the back foot as Kilbarrack took over, but for all their pressing, the home rearguard were dealing comfortably with their forays.

However they were struck a body blow just six minutes from time, as big striker Keith Kirwan was left all alone at the far post to head the equaliser and from that point on the Dubliners were the better side.

They started off the extra time in the ascendancy and enjoying all the momentum before striking for a good winning goal on 104 minutes. A strong bench allowed them to make some necessary changes and it was not a facility that was available to Athenry manager Gabriel Glavin.

With Gary Forde and Gary Delaney out through suspension following their sending off against OLBC in the previous round, and Seamie Crowe injured, it left their bench rather threadbare with just a number of young squad players available.

Playing with the aid of the slight incline and any wind advantage going, the home side had a Connor Cannon effort on target in the opening minute, while John Meleady was just over with a flick at the other end.

Meleady then tested Andrew Walsh who saved comfortably, before the goalkeeper pulled off a brilliant double save on 14 minutes.

Firstly he went full length to push away a Meleady shot and was then back on his feet to parry David Jackson’s close-range rebound.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.

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