Some Sort of an Introduction

So what is this thing called ‘Microcosmopolitan’? I’ll explain. Some years back I was challenged to describe Galway in one word. I cheated. I made the word up. It’s a hybrid of cosmopolitan and microcosm, because Galway is pretty damned interesting (Yes, this is your feel-good column), but at the same time small and self-contained. Almost a city-state, or as the Ancient Greeks called it, a polis. And at about fifty thousand in population it has now grown to the size which, if I remember correctly, Plato thought ideal: big enough for strength and diversity but still small enough to govern itself effectively.


Therefore the place would run like clockwork – if we had real self-government. The Greek idea was to do it by a sort of jury service, for the population to actually make decisions for themselves. The only decision we get to make is choosing councillors from the people political parties choose for us to choose from. Fix, or what? Not that the council has that much power anyway – I think they get to decide the colour of the parking wardens’ uniforms. Most decisions are made by the City Manager, appointed by Dublin.

Only one solution. Yep, our own flag and navy, why not? And some of those cruise missile things.


So before I get carried away, this is the idea: Just as some papers will have a reporter in Zaïre, say, who sends back idiosyncratic personal sketches meant to inform you about what’s going on there, we have a correspondent right here at home. Saves a fortune on phone bills. And even if it never tells you anything new about Galway, it’ll make you realise how little you really know about Zaïre.

And we want to get this old-fashioned Graham Greene overseas reporter feel just right; therefore, your correspondent has gone native, got himself mixed up in bizarre local rituals and practices, and appears from his dispatches to be rapidly losing his grip on civilised reality. No need to thank me, it’s all part of the service.


Okay, now back to getting carried away. Yeah, cruise missiles are great. Any weapon inspired by a Chuck Jones cartoon is okay by me. It’s true, don’t you remember? In Daffy Duck; those Acme rockets that screech to a halt behind the victim, tap him on the shoulder and wait for him to turn around before blowing him to hell? Some US general saw that one night while ‘studying the military applications of psychedelic drugs’ and went “Yeah! Let’s have some of those babies!”.

But weapons that hit what they’re supposed to have to be an advance on ones that annihilate a whole general area. When it’s improved to the point where war becomes a matter of picking off the other side’s Marshalls and Presidents personally, that should be about the end of it.


Of course, they sometimes go and put nuclear warheads on cruise missiles anyway, which makes about as much sense as sending a nuclear letter bomb. In fact when you consider that they cost a million dollars apiece, it’s more like sending one by Interflora, with a nice note. I think Galway can get by without a nuclear deterrent, though France has been kind enough to offer us theirs¹. No thanks, we’re trying to give them up.

Which reminds me, there’s one thing I’ve always wondered about the need to test new nuclear weapons: What was wrong with the old ones, did they not work? If anybody out there is thinking of invading France, now might be a good time.

  1. A French nuclear-armed warship had recently visited, and been met with protest.

The First Column – Summer ’95

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Well that’s enough of summer for another decade. You know it’s the kids I feel sorry for. Not only will it seem like the summers were warmer when they were young, it’ll be true.

On the other hand it might be a trend, in which case it’ll boost tourism no end – and bankrupt the country. That’s right, didn’t you hear? Tourists cost the Western Health Board two million in excess of what it normally forks out. Apparently one of the many things tourists appreciate about Galway is our falling over. They come from all over the world to trip up here. And of course, collide with other vehicles when they forget which side to drive on because we, the British and – bizarrely – the Japanese all persist in going down the other side of the road from everybody else. One Councillor has proposed putting signs up all over the airports and ferry terminals to remind foreign drivers, presumably in all three hundred or so written languages there are in the world apart from English, Irish and Japanese. But I can’t see it making a lot of difference frankly. I mean, if a stream of oncoming traffic isn’t going to make you think, what is?

And it isn’t that the visitor just arrives from Germany say and blithely heads off down the wrong side of the road. At this stage, ‘Links, Links, Links’ is running through the head like a mantra, they’re trembling and sweating at the disorientating new experience, the subconscious is screaming this is all wrong this is a mirror I am actually driving backwards help! But soon they get used to it and begin to relax. After a few days in Ireland, it’s almost  like home.

And a few days after that, they pull out into a road merrily forgetting it isn’t home.

Speaking of causality, a concept from physics and a very common typing error for casualty, I was in there last week and the service was wonderful. Came in an ambulance with my foot all cut up, and they had me hobbling out again in less than an hour. You see I was walking around in the river, just by the Spanish Arch. Because I dropped my keys in. Don’t try it, it’s full of broken glass there. Of course I should have known that – only I hadn’t slept the night before and at the time nothing seemed more natural than to walk in the water. The way I felt, I almost walked on it. Anyway, I sliced a toe open right to the bone. Didn’t hurt much; in fact I was highly amused by the whole thing. “Hey, look at all this blood! Doesn’t it clash with the grass?” A couple of friends were down from Dublin, and I reckon I went to commendable lengths to entertain them. How often do you get a ride in an ambulance? Anyway, in casualty they X-rated my foot – not a typing error, that was on account of the gore – did it up with paper and glue, (yeah, paper and glue) and sent me off in high spirits.

Very high. Thanks to my lower brain’s mistaken idea that lack of sleep in combination with a deep wound meant I was in a war or something and needed all the chemical help I could get, I was feeling no pain. But they gave me painkillers anyway. (Actually, the injection of painkillers in the backside was the only part that did hurt.) So seeing as there was already a party going on in my body I went out, got drunk and stayed up until three in the morning. Did I ever mention that nobody will sell me health insurance?

You go and do something totally stupid, they give you an injection of really nice stuff. It’s no lesson in life, but it’s a great service and an entertaining way to spend the afternoon. No wonder it’s so popular with tourists.