Personal

A Thousand Germans

I learnt something tonight.
After WWII, there was fierce hardship all across Europe – including in Germany. People were starving.
Ireland, under Dev, made the humanitarian gesture to home 1,000 German children. They were welcome to stay indefinitely.
Many went home to their families when things in Germany improved.
Many more stayed here – because their families were dead, or couldn’t take them back, or couldn’t be found. This is right and proper. These children were not monsters. They had done nothing wrong. They were children.
Anyway, the Irish gov REFUSED to take Jewish children from Germany or anywhere else..
Eventually, under pressure (from the UK, I believe), they ‘gave in’ and said they would take 100 Jewish children. No, that’s not a typographical error. One thousand ‘Christian’ Germans. One hundred Jewish children.

But these children were only welcome for one year.
After that, they had to go back to Germany or wherever they had come from – never mind that their families might well have been exterminated by the families of the one thousand German children who were given succour. Never mind if they had nowhere to go.
I am so ashamed. I am so ashamed that this was how my country treated a people who had been tortured and belittled and shamed and stripped of everything they possessed and even their dignity. People who had been beaten and starved and abused in ways I can’t even begin to imagine.

Do you know who told me?

A Holocaust survivor.

He wasn’t bitter. Just hurt. It came up in conversation after dinner as we sat and chatted about what he and his beloved had been up to since the last time we’d seen each other. He didn’t go out of his way to tell me in order to make a point.
‘Ireland took 1,000 German children. That was good….humanitarian….the right thing to do.’
Then his voice dropped.
‘But they could have taken 1,000 Jewish children too.’

He is right, of course.

I am ashamed. We are not a decent people. We try to tell ourselves we are, but we’re not. This is how Ireland treats those who come to her desperate, frightened, weary, starving. Our attitude to vulnerable people has not changed. If you don’t believe me, take a trip out to Mosney some day.

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Reviews

She Stoops to Conquer – Two Reviews

Last night, we went to The Abbey Theatre and treated ourselves to yet another exceptional performance. This time, we saw ‘She Stoops to Conquer’. It was magnificent with all the hallmarks we’ve come to expect of an Abbey production; sumptuous costumes, magnificent sets and clever direction as well as hard-working actors plying their craft.

But never mind what I thought of it. My girls have written reviews and I’ve published them here (with their permission):

Review of “She Stoops To Conquer” 3/1/2015 by Kashmira Larkin

Yesterday, in the Abbey Theatre (the national theatre of Ireland), I saw “She Stoops To Conquer” by Oliver Goldsmith.

It was basically a comedy about a woman named Kate in rural Ireland, whose father wanted her to be married to a man called Mr. Marlow from Dublin. She is excited at this idea, but he is shy of upper class women, so she pretends that she is a maid when her half brother Tony fools him into thinking that their home is an inn.

In the end he does find out that she is the women he was supposed to go and marry and they become engaged. There was also something else going on, because Mr. Hastings, a friend of Mr. Marlow, planned on marrying Kate’s friend, Constance. They wanted to run away to France and get married. But, Tony’s mother has other ideas and wants Constance and Tony to be married to keep Constance’s inheritance (jewels) in the family.

I really enjoyed this play and it is the funniest one I have ever seen in the Abbey. All the actors were brilliant, but I think the best actor was Caroline Morahan (who played Kate), and all her facial expressions made me laugh (especially at the end when he found out who she was). There were a couple of unnecessary scenes, and I think the jewel saga dragged on for a bit too long. The stage was set up very well, the whole time it fet like I was sitting in the mansion watching things play out. I loved the music in it as well, it was like a panto for aduts!! It was, overall, a great play, and I would happily go again.

On the 2/1/15 we went to see She Stoops To Conquer (a play written by Oliver Goldsmith) in The Abbey Theatre.

The stage was set up extremely well, it was like we were actually in a mansion in the middle of the countryside. I can’t begin to imagine how much time and work goes into dressing the stage up.

The actors gave an outstanding performance, each character really showed how passionate they are about playing their character. It seemed as if the actors were actually the characters they played their whole lives and they weren’t acting. They definitely put a lot of work into practising everything and making sure they had everything spot on, and they did an amazing job.

Kate gave an especially outstanding performance, she definitely showed that she loved being on stage and that she spent such a long time practising her part. She’s such an amazing actor, she didn’t bluff once, I couldn’t have asked for a better actor to play her part!

This play was absolutely hilarious, I’m pretty sure everyone in the auditorium roared out laughing! I think that the actors made the play funnier by the way they acted their parts. I don’t have anything bad to say about the performance.

I definitely recommend that you go to see the play because it’s just brilliant for all ages and my family and I had a great night. She Stoops to Conquer is definitely a play I’d love to see again.

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Media, Parenting

On Selfies

My daughter, who will be 13 in March, has been taking photographs of her own face and using them as her profile pictures on her Gmail account, her Viber account and her Skype account – changing them on a nearly daily basis. Some days, they might change several times a day. I am treated to many of these pictures via email and they always make me smile. Well, apart from the duck face ones. (Who told teenagers and young women that making their lips appear as much like a duck’s bill as possible is attractive?).

I often tell her that, were I as gorgeous as she is, I’d never stop taking pictures of myself. The selfie is much criticised at the moment. It is seen as the epitome of all that is wrong with ‘young people’; self-centred, self-absorbed, self-obsessed. But I disagree. For a start, we as parents and carers encourage our babies and toddlers to fasten their gaze upon every mirror they pass: We hand them books with mirrored pages in them, safety mirrors to play with and delight when they realise that the person in the mirror is them.

I think that looking at themselves in the mirror is a healthy thing for children to do – and have always had mirrors in the house at child-height. I think it fosters self-acceptance and bolsters self-confidence: Children get used to appreciating what they see, I think.

As parents and carers, we are constantly taking pictures of our babies and children. We love them so much and want to capture every mood, every expression, every change and many, many moments on camera. Why should we be aghast when they learn to do that for themselves? We clap with delight when they learn to put on their own shoes, dress themselves, wash their hands and a thousand other things (up to and including using the washing machine and cleaning the bathroom) that mean we have one less job to do.  So why are we not equally delighted when they learn to take photographs of themselves?

Selfie

After all, it’s not as if this generation has invented the ‘selfie’. There are pictures taken by their subjects from decades ago. In fact, if you think about it, artists have been creating self-portraits for centuries. Possibly even millennia. Who is to say that some of the cave drawings that incite such wonder and awe in us aren’t, in fact, selfies?

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Media, Parenting

Shure the Famine Was Great Craic, Begob!

I woke up this morning to news that Channel 4 is planning a situation comedy about the Irish Potato Famine or An Gorta Mór (The Great Hunger), as it is known in Irish.

 

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Briefly, potato blight got to the spuds which were the main source of food for the Irish peasants at the time. There were mass evictions, with people rendered homeless or in workhouses – many believe this is why the Irish have an attachment to owning their own homes –  and our population was halved through death and emigration. Please note that it was just the potato crop that failed. Plenty of other crops grew in abundance, but they were grown for export, not the dinner tables of grubby locals, so the Irish didn’t get to taste them.

 

I’m not sure where the humour in this is, to be honest. I’m also quick to say that I’m not in the camp that blames the famine and colonialism for every Irish ill going. I know plenty of people who firmly believe that our attitudes to many things – like food, and property ownership and emigration – stem from the famine. I tell these people to get over it. Enough decades and generations have passed for the Irish of today to have realised that we’re not being starved by the British any more (we’ve elected governments instead who are well capable of starving our children and making them homeless….but I digress).

 

Still, though, I can’t deny my discomfort with the notion of an Gorta Mór being turned into something to laugh at.

 

This evening, I had a brief conversation with my children about it. Ishthara is 12 and Kashmira is 10 and I think they – being the next generation – are even further removed again from the famine than I am.  They are well-travelled and certainly more aware of the world around them than I was when I was their age. All of which led me to think that they might be a bit more blasé about it.

 

I asked the girls what they thought about the idea of Channel 4 making a sitcom about the Famine. They were both shocked, although Ishthara was more moderate. She said that they should make a pilot first and have a focus group look at it and gauge their reactions. She didn’t reject the idea out of hand as a bad one.

‘It might be funny,’ she said. ‘If they do it properly.’

Kashmira was unequivocal:

‘A British channel can’t make a programme like that. If anyone is going to make a comedy about the famine then it has to be us.’

She was adamant that a sitcom about something so huge and horrendous in our history was not in good taste.

‘But if anyone was to make it, then it has to be an Irish company – an Irish station. Like, if you make a joke against yourself, then that’s fine. But if someone else makes a joke against you, then it’s wrong.’

Ishthara was sticking to her view that things could be funny if they were done properly and that she wouldn’t judge the idea until she’d seen a pilot. If the pilot was done well, then there would be no reason (in her view) not to make the rest of the series.

Kashmira had been thinking while Ishthara had been talking:

‘If a country makes a joke against another country, then it’s racism,’ she told us.

Really? Maybe a joke is just a joke and we should take a chill pill, I suggested. Kashmira wasn’t buying it.

‘Maybe,’ I continued. ‘An Gorta Mór was long ago enough that we have enough distance to poke fun at it?’

‘No,’ was her response. ‘There’s just nothing funny about it. And it’s even less funny that a British station is doing it.’

‘What if I told you that the writer is an Irishman? Because he is.’

‘No. That’s still not right. He’s doing it for a British station. They were responsible for all the people who died and they don’t have the right to decide it’s funny.’

I asked the girls if they thought that maybe it was time to make jokes about the famine to help us get over it once and for all. I reminded them that sometimes people laugh at horrible events because black humour helps us to process things.

Is there, I asked, anything that happened that was horrible, but that it would be okay to make a comedy about.

‘Actually, I don’t think so,’ Ishthara said. ‘You wouldn’t make a joke of the Holocaust, or 9/11 or the famine in Ethiopia…’

‘But people do write comedies about things that aren’t funny – like drug addiction or dysfunctional families.’

‘Ah!’ Kashmira piped up. ‘But they are just about one person, or one family – not a whole country. And they’re not being made fun of by the people who harmed them in the first place.’

 

With that, they took their hot chocolates and their hot water bottles and headed up the wooden hill – leaving me to type the conversation before I forgot it.

 

I have to admit, I was struck by their opinions on the matter. I honestly didn’t think they would care – and I really didn’t think that someone who was born in 2004 would be so firm in her opinion about how things that happened in the 1840s should be represented in popular culture.

 

 

 

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