The Road To Finland

Svenska: Volvo Ocean Race 2008/2009, Stopover ...
Svenska: Volvo Ocean Race 2008/2009, Stopover Stockholm, SWE 3 + SWE 4 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I sit in the lovely Japanese Wa Café, passing time before my bus leaves, having my hearing loss enhanced by what might best be described as zombie Thin Lizzy. Bizarre to see a band effectively become a tribute act to itself. This is all part of the carnival for the Volvo Ocean Race. It’s not why I’m leaving town, but it is one reason I’m glad to be.

This isn’t resentment over the Occupy affair. It’s true that there is something uncomfortable about holding the final of a mega-expensive luxury yacht race in a country that has been plunged into almost unimaginable levels of debt. But I hope it does all sorts of good for local business. It could use all the boost it can get.

But the crowds! Lord Jesus and his pals, the crowds. It is like an extra Race Week in July. This may be the time of year when Galway’s business makes its money, but can they really not find a less cram-the-streets-with-loud-drunken-unpredictable-crowds way? It’s a topic I often reverted to in Microcosmopolitan; as a place with little elbow-room and even less good weather, what the hell are we doing trying to be an event tourism mecca? How about specialising in something more calm and relaxing – there’s real money to be made if you can establish yourself as the place that’s best at one certain combination of things. I suggest we make ourselves the global capital for librarians. Who practise yoga.

In flotation tanks.

Westport – Best Place In Ireland?

On Saturday I drove to Westport, a pretty little town in the north-west corner of the country dating mostly from the 19th and late 18th Centuries. I was here last year to walk up a mountain, but this time was a lot more leisured.

Westport recently won a competition for the best place to live in Ireland. That means we have to hate it now. But you can see why.

In the 18th Century redesign the town was constructed around the river, with pleasant tree-lined walks along either side, humpback stone bridges, and weirs.

Matt Molly is one of the most respected flautists in Irish traditional music, and the pub he owns in Westport is an absolute classic example of the Irish pub genre.

If boots are your thing, they have boots in Westport. Moran’s shop in fact has boots literally hanging off it.

Westport’s layout is surprisingly complex. It has two junctions that you might take for the centre, both attractive enough to grace a town of twice its size or more. One is octagonal. This one has a peculiar clock.

You don’t see phone boxes like this anymore. And even if you did (which you don’t), you certainly don’t see them in green. Contrary to the mental images of some, phone boxes in Ireland where not painted green for many decades, certainly not in my memory. I expected an Irish Doctor Who to step out of this thing.

OK, letter boxes are green.

A sweet little back alley.

A handy graphical overlay guides tourists around the town and its environs. Shown here, the route to the scenic coastal resort of Loading Bay.

He's Seen The Future And It Hurts

If you wonder why our EU partners want our taxpayers to pay off the loans of a failed private bank, just look who it owed money to – some of the biggest names in Europe. If we don’t prop them up, how many will have to be bailed out by their governments? (Cut-out-and-keep guide to Anglo bondholders by politico.ie)

Listening to Michael Noonan yesterday worried me for a number of reasons. Firstly, because he’s Minister for Finance. That never strikes me as an ideal arrangement. Worse though, he sounded worried and downcast. This on the day when, at long last, it looks like we’re going to get some deal on the bank debt burden. That’s supposed to be about the best news you could possibly hope for.

If you’re a Noonan, that is. In a world where there is no choice but to force the taxpayer to reward the speculator, the best it seems we can hope for is to get the immediate liability for those bond repayments converted into a long term loan from the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), so taking away the looming danger of default. This will improve our credit rating, meaning we’ll be able to borrow the money to repay the bank debts all by ourselves. Whoopee!

Yeah. No wonder he sounds depressed.

The even less joysome part is that there is clearly going to be no write-down. Arguably in fact, the new mechanism will mean that we’ll be closing off any future possibility of burning the bondholders because now the debt will be to the ESM rather than the reckless lenders themselves. So less of a deal, more a sort of… trap.

And now I’m depressed too.