Category Archives: That’s Life

The Taming of the Shrew (or how to catch a really really small rodent)

English: Pigmy shrew (Sorex minutus) Français ...

English: Pigmy shrew (Sorex minutus) Français : Musaraigne pygmée (Sorex minutus) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One day in autumn last year my daughter let out a ferocious scream from the end of the hallway in our house. A huge spider had just run underneath the door to her bedroom. Being the resident chief (i.e. only) spider catcher, it would be up to me to rectify the situation. That is, put it out. This was “the biggest spider I ever saw” according to the witness. But just how big could it be? I dismissed her reaction. Maybe in another part of the world but this is Ireland. No really big spiders live here, after all.

Now I should say that I am no fan of spiders. In fact I grew up in a house where my mother was routinely brought to hysterics at the sight of anything larger than a “money spider” (where did that name come from?) But I felt bad about killing something just because it invoked deep rooted and illogical fears. So, throughout most of my adult life, I had taken to catching them and putting them out. The catching part was usually done with the aid of an old glass cylinder that I had previously used for measuring chemicals for use in the development process of my slide photography many years ago. It also kept the contact with the spider a good 30 cms (12 inches) away from me.

I went to assess the size of the spider and as I walked down the corridor the “spider” darted from under her bedroom door, past my daughter then ran down towards me at high speed before disappearing underneath the door to the bathroom. My heart was in my mouth as I realised that this was no ordinary spider. In fact it was not a spider at all. It was bigger and yet small enough to run underneath doors. A tiny gap of no more than 6mm. (1/4 inch). My initial thoughts were that it was a mouse. Now this was a whole different problem.

Had there been a chair nearby, I am sure that I would have been first on board. But there wasn’t. Anyway, I was already successfully clinging to the ceiling with my fingernails. Keeping my feet up too was proving quite the challenge.

Some hours later, I returned from the local hardware store armed with 3 mousetraps. (To be sure to be sure to be sure! as Father Ted might have said). I loaded them with cheese and laid them out.

Fast forward several months and the “mouse” had not yet been caught. It was very clean. There were never any signs of droppings. At times I wondered if he had gone out again. Probably using his own set of keys. It used to disappear for several days with no sightings before eventually returning to haunt us again. However, we did have one breakthrough. We had gotten a better view of it and now had reclassified it as a pygmy shrew. A tiny rodent measuring just about 2.5 cm’s or 1 inch. We even named him Martin. Despite this, that didn’t change his “welcome” status. We wanted him gone.

Now, a pygmy shrew is a protected species in Ireland but before we had identified him, he had successfully eaten the cheese and meat “bait” from the jaws of the mousetraps without setting them off. So I procured a “live trap“. This is a clever device that tempts the critter in to dine heartily then closes behind him. Catching him alive and unharmed and facilitating his release to the wild. Great.

A Better Mousetrap

Only that didn’t catch him either. But he does like cheese. Perhaps I should have left some wine for him too.

Some further research on PS’s identified the problem. The little critter weighs no more than a 10 cent coin. And that’s in Summer when they are almost twice their winter weight. So I had to “build a better mousetrap“. OK. Pygmy Shrew trap. Whatever.

As you can see from the picture, I worked on changing the weighting balance to make the trap spring closed with a tiny change in weight. With a AAA battery stuck on one end with Blu Tack and the other end kept open with two coins (both were needed) I placed the trap back in his usual haunts and waited.

Within two hours there was success!

Martin was relocated some 2000 or so “mouse miles”/kilometres away in open countryside, having enjoyed his first, albeit restricted, trip in a car. He was obviously still enjoying the cheese as he was somewhat reluctant to leave the trap when opened and had to be coaxed out before scurrying away to follow his own adventures elsewhere.

I do hope that he is enjoying his new found freedom. I can’t quite say that I’ll miss him though.

I hope that this proves useful information to anyone else trying to catch a pygmy shrew. It was quite a challenge.

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Something’s Gotta Give (FFS)

Chancelor of the Federal Republic of Germany D...

Chancelor of the Federal Republic of Germany Dr. Angela Merkel on the open door day at the Bundeskanzleramt in Berlin, Germany Français : Dr Angela Merkel, chancelière de la République Fédérale d’Allemagne, lors de la journée portes ouvertes de la Bundeskanzleramt à Berlin, en Allemagne. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When does a recession become a depression? Well, one answer to that is “when it is YOU that loses the job”.
So I am officially in a depression then.
But I am not one to give up without a fight.Oh no.
Not me.
Not now.
No way.

Settle down. make yourself a cup of coffee. This is a longish one.

I tried looking for a job and all but gave up after a couple of months due to the lack of replies. Of course I also took into account that not only am I at the wrong side of forty but I am also at the wrong side of fifty. And with so many of our graduates also unemployed, what hope is there for me? I can understand that.

So I decided to set up my own business. After all, there are bills to be paid. But hold on fella, this is a recession. Remember? So it is. But. ‘If you can make it in a recession, you will be truly successful when the inevitable upturn comes’. Isn’t that the sage advice?

So off I went. Playing to my strength’s, I set up an IT support and Web development company. Offering a good quality value-for-money service, I identified a sector that was in need of my talents. But then I discovered that they are broke in that sector. Almost all of them. A disastrous season has left them licking their wounds. And if they don’t absolutely positively HAVE to have it, they won’t pay for it. In fact many are closing down for the winter months. They might or might not reopen in March/April 2013. So back to the drawing board. Or should that be torture rack?  Now I am expanding the service offering again and spreading the net wider. Even internationally. (You would be forgiven for thinking that the state must be showering me with information on how to grow my business. But no. I did receive an offer of some mentoring and I took that up. But that’s it. The silence has been and remains deafening. Do I expect them to come to me? No but surely more could be done to foster business? Or maybe that’s just me grumbling. The fact is that the government/country is broke.)

Not only am I offering the above services to a wider, albeit destitute,  market place but I am now also promoting my photography skills. Having been a keen amateur photographer for the past thirty years, I learned the trade taking and developing slide film. Some of you may not even have ever heard of slide film before. However, if you can get it right with 35mm slides, you are more than half way there. I embraced digital photography when it was in its’ infancy and now I am the proud owner of some decent digital Canon kit, remote triggers, remote flash triggers, lighting stands, tripod, filters, lenses and my gadget bag is way too small to hold it all. I love it though. Through and through. You can see some of my work on http://www.flickr.com/photos/donkearns/ if you are really interested.

This morning, the immediate future for me looks like this:

a) Spend three days a week trying to generate business on the phone.(Must stop writing and get to it!)
b) Spend two days a week looking for jobs (it’s a time-consuming and desperately frustrating process).
c) Spend Two days a week writing. Who knows? Lee Child did it after being rendered redundant.My novel is taking a bit longer than anticipated as I struggle with trying to make a living. Sorry for the delay!

But I am not out of ideas yet either. I have reached out to people I know abroad. Specifically the USA and Canada. With some 80,000+ people leaving Ireland annually, perhaps now is just “our turn” to go. More on this anon as something could be stirring.

Whilst our politicians play softly softly with the EU (although it seems that the Angela Merkel IS the EU these days, however that happened) the reality of how hard life is here in Ireland now is constantly being downplayed/hidden.If you have a job, you are OK. But so many people turn up for work on any given day only to be told that that’s it. The game is up and the jobs are gone. It’s terribly sad but true. How far is anyone from poverty when their wages/salary is taken away? Work out your own position.Would you spend in this environment?

Some say that we need a war. Imagine that anyone could even contemplate that! War is NEVER the answer. Perhaps we should blow up all the bridges though. Now that would create employment. But seriously, something has to give. It is inevitable. What options does Ireland have if this burden of debt is not lifted? Normal trade is not taking place, retail is almost annihilated. You can’t be an entrepreneur if there is no market. No trade equals no tax equals no way out! As I see it, these are some options:

1) Leave the Euro and regain some control over our currency again. This will allow exports to boom as our prices become as cheap as china’s, creating jobs in the process.

2) Default on the country’s debts. Iceland is still there isn’t it? And that’s what they did.

3) Or we could lobby to become part of another bloc. Perhaps another state attached to the USA. Or Britain (voluntarily this time). Or Russia, China or anywhere that could stand to gain from a strategic relationship.

One thing is clear though. We desperately need a plan B, because the guy’s and gal’s in EU-land couldn’t organise a p**s up in a brewery. At least not while the party is still on.

But the people of Ireland are not revolting, I hear you say. Yes indeed. That is a charge that has been levied. I suppose that we are a nation that is seething at the moment. And make no mistake. We are seething. And the time will come when it will spill out. I believe that that time is almost upon us. Our government politicians keep telling us that the EU will look after us. A deal is tantalizingly close, they add. We all know that we can’t continue like this. Our society is being held together by the thinnest of threads. Every time Frau Merkel pronounces that any aid will not be applied retrospectively to troubled countries, our rulers hastily contrive a follow up clarification statement with her which is usually of the ethereal kind,;lacking in substance, buying time, staving off the revolution.

But for how much longer.

Some say (OK, it was Merkel) that Ireland’s problems were created by ourselves. So much for not generalising. Our banks loaned lots of money to lots of people. But where did the Irish banks get the money? From the German/French/USA banks, amongst others. Where was the “due diligence” there? Applying the same logic then, those countries also created the problem. Yet the entire population of Ireland has been left alone to carry the burden. And what did the Irish people do with the money? They had the temerity to believe that they could enjoy a good lifestyle. Perhaps buy a place in the sun. (Someone should make a TV programme…oh wait.) In short, we thought that we were as good as anyone else in the developed world. And we were. We were.Until the crushing debt of the state being told that they MUST take on the debts of the failed banks, transforming private debt (for banks) into sovereign debt and thereby crushing both the state and the people. All to protect the Euro and the states who had loaned to Irish banks. To protect the pension funds of Europe.
This is not austerity. Call it what it is. This is madness! The Irish government has already raided the pension funds of the Irish people. Are they buying time or postponing the inevitable? So long as it affects someone else, it appears to be OK in certain parts of Europe.

And don’t mention the war. The Germans have paid for that already, haven’t they?  It’s a thing of the past and we must move on. Yet Germany was rebuilt and would not be the so-called “powerhouse” of Europe today but for that. And the whole concept of a European Economic Community was an attempt to avoid a recurrence of the wars that ravaged us all during the early 20th century by bringing us all together. I see a distinct lack of any sense of “community” at present. A lack of “we’re in this together”.Where is the vision of the future now? Utopia has become Dystopia.
And while factions in Greece and Spain have already turned to violent demonstration, I believe that when timid Ireland does likewise, the game is up.

A lot is at stake and not just for Ireland. I sincerely hope that we make it. Hope. The maddening thing is that this whole mess is man-made. The world is still spinning. The seasons come and go. It’s our perspective that has changed.

I am not done yet. Not by a long shot. I am not (listed as) unemployed as I am self-employed.
But I thought that I would play my part in letting the world know what life in Ireland is really like now. Please excuse the rant and my wordiness. I have forms to fill out.

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Killing Me Softly

One hand on the steering wheel, he channel hopped the radio. Unusually for a man, he was bored with sports news.
Nope, don’t like that either. He pressed another button.
Roberta Flack. He hadn’t heard her for quite some time. Years in fact. And she sounded as good as ever. Maybe even better. And thankfully, it wasn’t being ruined by the boys from the ‘hood who had “updated” it in recent times. No, this was the plain vanilla flavour and it was good. Very good. So good in fact that he vividly remembered returning home from school at lunchtime, turning on the radio and hearing it for the very first time. Back then, it had struck a chord instantly with him. When in his mind women were special. They were loving and caring. Faithful. Honest, decent. The best that humanity had to offer. And he was in no doubt that women were equal to men. They were people. And he knew that someday he would find one for himself. He was unaware back then that women got paid less than men for similar work. He never changed his view. He frequently wondered “What’s she doing now.”
Someday.

As though it were only yesterday, that haunting melody, that smooth voice, he was touched again. The music effortlessly spanning the intervening decades.
“Killing me softly with his words,” she sang. He felt the emotion, experienced it, longed for it. Back then. And looking back he realised that he had found it. Minutes ago, when he bade farewell to his wife, he had noted how well she looked. She was still beautiful. And he was glad that he had told her so.

 

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Cold hard metal fusion

A funny thing happened to me on my way back to work. (see “Still. Here”) below.
I was involved in a car crash.
Two strong and what we in Ireland like to call “solid” cars were involved. Both cars performed admirably. No one was badly hurt.
Even as I travelled into the inevitable collision, I thought “isn’t this meant to be in slow motion?”
Well it wasn’t, I can assure you. It was all too sudden.
Airbag deployment is a noisy, pungent, startling and costly business. Just to reset / replace them is a pricey €3500 as the parts have to be transported via “surface” modes. They cannot be flown due to the explosive components.
Getting back into the driving seat of a replacement car was also, how can I put it without sounding wimpish? Let me try ‘challenging’. How does that sound?
But it had to be done.
And it was.
And I’m back to being very close to normal 🙂

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Still. Here.

The farm was going cheap today.
At approximately 13:55 I almost bought it.
Still reeling.

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Marching on

Sitting in the welcome wan warmth of a mid-morning march sun.
I took a turn in the road of life last Wednesday. And I am happy.
Breathe.
Inhale.
Pause.
.
.
Exhale.
Still happy.
More anon.

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Two Weeks

It has been a while since I updated this blog.

Too long.

I took some time out in Spain. Partly to research a location for a significant portion of ‘Schism’ and partly to rejuvinate. I’d have to say that a significant part of that time went on the latter. I didn’t realise the drain that the DJ was placing on me. Took a full two days there before I started to feel myself relax. Once it started, there was no stoppin’ it.

I soaked up the effects. Why not. And to be honest, I really needed it.

So now I am back and the words are flowing again.

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Early Morning Start

I had to get up this morning at 4:30am. My wife had promised to do it but I had unexpectedly obtained a good eight hours sleep by that time. Consequently, when the alarm went off, I volunteered to go. Not meeting much (any!) resistance to my suggestion, I got up, dressed and went out.

It was a beautiful morning (night) and the air was crystal clear. The sky was alive with stars. Being an amateur astronomer, I scanned the heavens for familiar sights. The “plough” was there and, being October, Orion is back in the Northern hemisphere. Looking up, I was transfixed by the sight of two high-level aircraft flying parallel and almost neck and neck. In their accidental formation, they both flew through Orion, their contrails subtly backlit by the full moon.

Following a hasty de-icing of the windscreen, I drove in good spirits to Limerick city. The roads were inhabited at that hour mainly by taxi’s and the odd police vehicle. I was rewarded on the journey by the very pleasing sight of some of Limericks finest buildings, lit up and reflected in the very still waters of the Shannon River. I made a mental note that I must retrace these steps soon with a camera and tripod.

With my daughter collected, the journey home obliged me with the sight of a lone fox criss-crossing through the countryside. Back and forth it went,  its’ bushy tail following behind like a tethered furry cylindrical balloon – kept level with the fox by virtue of its’ continuous forward motion.

As we alighted outside the house, looking skywards once again I noticed another two high-level aircraft race east towards continental Europe, their navigation lights flashing periodically in the darkness. Even my daughter was enthralled by the stillness, the vastness of space and the fabulous light show overhead. It was nothing short of breath-taking.

As we walked towards the back door still staring skywards, my wife’s voice broke the stillness of the air.
“Are you coming in or not?” she said.
Entering the house, she had a piping hot cup of tea ready.

If Carlsberg could do magical nights…they still wouldn’t be able to match this one.

Morning everyone 😉

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