Thursday, November 11, 2010

Armistice Day

Today we celebrate the end of The Great War. And I feel I should say something about Ireland’s contribution.

Although it wasn’t Ireland’s fight, many Irishmen fought. They fought for many reasons, but the two main reasons were: training for the fight that was to come in Ireland; and the promise of Home Rule for Ireland. But many never returned to Irish soil to follow up on their plans. Up to 50,000 Irishmen are believed to have died during the War. Notable battles in which they died include The Battle of the Somme and the Gallipoli Campaign.

Before the war even began there were around 50,000 Irishmen serving in the British Army in some form or other. Why? For the wage, of course. And when the war broke out, thousands of Irishmen joined to fight by Redmond’s persuasion. [Redmond argued that if the Irish fought for Britain, Home Rule for Ireland would be a sure thing.] Inevitably, Redmond and his supporters learned the too-often-learned-too-often-forgotten fact that British promises amount to nothing. Since he had convinced thousands of Irishmen to join the British army, he assumed that he would have some respect and privilege in Westminster. No. No way. They ignored the Irish Party’s protests during discussions on introducing an act for conscription in Ireland. The act passed, but due to public protests in Ireland, conscription was never introduced in Ireland during the war. Sinn Féin, having argued that attending Westminster was futile, won public support over the Irish Parliamentary Party. And Sinn Féin still upholds this belief today.

Irishmen started enrolling in the army, and not just the British Army; the other Allied nations received Irishmen to fight for them as well. It is estimated that around 180,000 Irish nationalists, i.e. men who would normally prefer to fight against Britain, joined the British Army. They became the 10th, 16th, and 36th (Ulster/UVF) divisions.

They were distrusted, abused and sent to the slaughter by their bigoted commanders. All of the divisions lost more than half of their men, so as the war dragged on, these ‘Irish’ divisions were re-stocked with Scottish, Welsh and English soldiers and they were then Irish mostly in name. Casualties are debatable, but roughly 30-50,000 Irishmen died.

At that period of history, their deaths were overshadowed by the War of Independence and the Civil War that followed back home in Ireland. Thankfully, though, they have not been forgotten. Within the last ten years, officials from this country, like the President and the Minister for Foreign affairs, have paid tribute to these men and the sites that honour them, such as the Irish War Memorial Park in Dublin and the Island of Ireland Peace Park in Messines, near Ypres in Flanders, Belgium.

One of the nine stone tablets at the Island of Ireland Peace Park reads:

“So here, while the mad guns curse overhead, and tired men sigh, with mud for couch and floor, know that we fools, now with the foolish dead, died not for Flag, nor King, nor Emperor, but for a dream born in a herdsman’s shed, and for the sacred scripture of the poor.”
          —Tom Kettle, 9th Royal Dublin Fusiliers

Friday, October 29, 2010

Strange sounds on Dublin Bus

“...agus ...dúirt sé ...ach...agus ansin...”. I’m on the bus home on a Wednesday night. Tragically, when I first heard fragments of the slightly sharp cadences, I thought the two ladies were Scottish. Well, that’s what simply first came to mind.

No, it’s Irish. I think this is only the second time I’ve heard Gaeilge on Dublin Bus (having used it nearly every day for around 14 months now). And this second time, it’s the beautiful Donegal dialect.

“Hmmm, Garbhán, you say that as if you’re not from Donegal!” Aye, well, I am from Donegal, but since leaving I’ve adopted the ‘standard’ Irish – ya know, the one where the ‘fada’ is not ignored? It was only as a student at university when, defending Donegal Irish, I was meet with the slap-in-the-face realisation that Donegal Irish ignores fadas. ‘Tá’ in Donegal is, of course, spelled the same, but it’s pronounced ‘ta’ and not ‘taw’, as it should be. This becomes a big problem with words which are distinguished only by the addition of a fada, e.g. ‘ait’ and ‘áit’, meaning ‘odd, eccentric’ and ‘place, locality’ respectively. [I still call myself ‘Garvin’ and introduce myself as such most of the time, but I prefer ‘Garbhán’, pronounced ‘Gar-vaun’]

Moreover, during my ‘education’ in the Irish language, I had ‘teachers’ from all over the country, so not only did that lead to the subtle adoption of the nuances of the various dialects, but it sped up the wheels of confusion – and, with only one discernible competent Irish teacher to put on the brakes for a brief period, the wheels continued to roll.

If you, the reader, are not from Ireland, you may be presuming that I can ‘speak’ Irish. Aheh, no. Forced to learn something through an inadequate system and inadequate teachers led me to perennial frustration with the issue. [And if you are from Ireland, you probably not only appreciate the last comment, but you feel exactly the same way.] Consider studying Wittgenstein. On language. From the age of five. For twelve years.

You’d be less frustrated.

Nevertheless, I refuse to accept that Irish is too slippery for me ever to grasp. I’m not giving up. For instance, when I’m on the bus, I replace the normal background noises with background noises in Irish. No, I don’t have a high-tec headphones set that translates Dublinese into Irish Dublinese on-the-fly; I simply tune into Radio na Gaeltachta (it’s one simple step towards re-learning Irish).

Of course, this time on the bus the background noises were in Irish. Well, two of the sources, anyway.

“Oh great!”, I thought, “they’re getting off at my stop. So, they’ll hear me say my usual [I am serious – I say it to every bus driver upon getting off], Donegal-dialected ‘go raibh maith agat!’ to the bus driver!” Then, they'll realise that they're not the only 'natives' in jackabeen Dublin. 

Of course, another passenger gets between me and them –“I’ll just have to say it louder than normal”.

“Ok, here I go”.... [The driver’s phone rings] “go.. *ring*... *ring*... ra...*ring*... *ring*.. ibh. *ring*... *ring*... ma *ring* ...ith *ring*... *ring* *ring* *ring*... *ring*

Well at least I know that I said it.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I wouldn't call them 'seasons'.

“When’s a good time to visit Dublin?”, a friend wrote to me recently. I laughed. Since that question nearly always inquires as to periods of good weather, you can understand my amusement.

Ireland has a temperate climate. Or, that should be ‘temperamental’? If one could claim that Irish seasons exist, Spring and Autumn would be the general, vague appellations. Other countries have seasons. The components that are traditionally believed to make a Summer or Winter don’t materialise to the requisite degree here in Ireland. Actually, the same could even be said of Spring or Autumn.

For in Spring, nature’s poor performance in Ireland has to be artistically enhanced by daffodils which have been planted by the institutions and those endeavouring to instil optimism. And for Autumn, well, you don’t really get the ‘Autumn Leaves’ that Sinatra, Piaf, Jones and others have been singing of – leaves ‘of red and gold’ -  instead, we get soggy, half-decomposed, mucky-brown leaves. You’ll ruin your shoes if you try to kick them. They’re not colourful, they’re not light, and they’re not bright. That is, of course, unless Ireland has one of her ‘periods’.

Irish weather is really punctuated by these ‘periods’ rather than by any ‘seasons’. You’d be wise to accept this now lest you suffer successive disappointing summer ‘seasons’. If Autumn has a ‘period’, the weather will be curiously dry, which means the Irish Autumn leaves will appear more like ‘Autumn leaves’. Dry, kickable, colourful, cheerful. What joy when that happens! Oh yes, we always love one of these ‘periods’, and not least in Summer!

“Question 4 (a). ‘An Irish Summer’, describe this paradox.  Explain the various connotations of this phrase that are conjured by the author.” 
More than any other ‘season’, Summer comes to Ireland in discernible periods. ‘Heat waves’, they’re called, funnily enough. They arrive when you need them least – exam or school time.

 The first summer ‘period’ occurs at the end of May and may last into the second week of June. This is when the kids are doing exams and have to study, inside.
The second summer ‘period’ arrives sometime in August, though sometimes in July.
And the third, and last, summer ‘period’ peeks out at the beginning of September. This is when the schools are back. A torment for the children.
Old folks tell of a time when summer came in season form... Failing memory, that’s what I put it to.

In ‘Winter’, it does get colder and darker, but only snows for seven days in total or less (or else you’re in the mountains). The snowfall on those days is merely an inch or two. And, because of the perennial wet climate, the coruscating, delicate snowflake is cruelly murdered the instant it touches any surface. With that, children’s hopes melt as well. Once or twice, the snow will be as plentiful (up to four inches or approx. 12cm), and it will be cold enough, for the snow to remain on the ground for at least two days. And then the kids are out: attacking cars with snowballs, building snowmen or giant snowballs as quick as they possibly can – these must stand and survive as long as they can - reminders that winter had arrived. And the size of these monuments reflects how glorious a winter was experienced in the realm.

"So, that's the weird thing about Irish weather, my friend - we never know when it's a good time to visit Ireland or just Dublin. Often, the Irish weather tends to be great when you've just left Ireland. The welcome weather arrives when she's least needed, ironically." 

If, however, my friend wasn’t talking about the weather, then the best time to visit Dublin would be during one of the many festivals, which seem to creep up on Dubliners – they’re only identified when they’re half-way finished.

Failing that, the best time to come and see Dublin at its most splendid and most authentic would be either....

The middle to the end  of the eighteenth century or the beginning of the twentieth century. 

Make a note in your calendar.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The French experience

Yep, I got it – French cliché music in a French café – something you wouldn’t get back home. Fair enough, French music is rare enough let alone French cafés in Ireland! But, ya know, when we do hear Irish cliché songs at home, it’s usually in Dublin or Killarney, i.e. just for the tourists. You’d never hear an of-sound-mind Irish person shout, enthusiastically and whole-heartedly, for the band to play Molly Malone! Ironically, the place where music like that could be played is the same place where people of-sound-mind are absent, or, if present, where they are turned into people of-unsound-mind.

In case you didn’t know, the French are clichéd – the things you think are stereo-typical of French people are just typical. It’s fitting and apt that the French have given us the word, and it would lose its meaning if its truly French character were to go.

I’m sure you can appreciate, as much as I do, that we still spell it ‘cliché’ and not something as truncated as ‘cleeshay’ or ‘clichay’ . Heavens no!

So I heard a typical French song in a real French café (outside the city centre of Paris, in Porte de Montreuille), except... the café was run by, and full of (save yours truly, of course), second generation immigrants. 

Friday, October 8, 2010

On this day.... and by 'this day' I mean yesterday, or 50 minutes ago

Edgar Allan Poe died on this day (Oct 7) in 1849. He’s one of my favourite writers, loves the macabre, the depressing, the puzzling and the accurate – yes he was quite the pedant and an obsessed perfectionist. Check out some of his poems if you want an example, or even some of his criticisms which were often pedantic to the extreme. He is regarded as the inventor of the detective novel. It’s quite poetic, actually, that his death also alluded to the mysterious – the circumstances of his demise have never been satisfactorily determined.

I don’t have a huge interest in reading novels – I’m more into the history books for leisurely reading (I realise how strange that may sound!) – so my writing skills leave a lot to be desired, especially since graduating from university and leaving academia for the time being. Nevertheless, when I eventually get round to reading a novel it will be one of the giants. I’m reading Joyce ‘at the moment’, but Poe’s short stories are fantastically well-written and accessible (just have a dictionary handy). Check out ‘The Purloined Letter’, ‘The Murders in the Rue Morgue’, and ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’ to get you started.

As for poems, well, you need to be prepared. For instance, you can’t read Poe on a sunny day. Make it a Sunday, a Sunday evening. Better still, a dark, stormy night, preferably with a full moon. Then begin reading. They’re not the kind of thing to engage in if you’re in a happy mood and want to remain thus. 

‘The Raven’ has fascinated me for years – until I finally learned the whole thing off! What a work! Tis a bit tricky remembering, however, when to recite ‘rapping’ instead of ‘tapping’, as well as some other similar parts. Here’s my favourite part:

 “Ah, distinctly I remember, it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.”

Tragedy and misery are in such high doses with Poe. Eh, yeah, that’s how I’m able to connect Poe to Ireland. So, there was a reason I was including Poe on this blog. It was revealed at the end – just like Poe’s detective tales.

Continuing with tragedy, but, paradoxically, in a lighter way, I want to mention one other event that happened on this day in history:
On this day [yeah, I know - I always do my blogs a day too late!], in 2003, Californians voted to recall Governor Gray Davis from office and elected Arnold Schwarzenegger from a list of 135 candidates. And with that we link back to Poe through Dylan Moran, who referred to Arnold in one of his shows, and who, it can’t be denied, has a Poe complex.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Sinn Féin, the IRA and fighting for....??

I used to think that fighting for a united Ireland was a commendable effort. That is until I looked at what they were fighting for. Look at the Republic. Look at everything that’s wrong with it. Why would you want to join the North to it? Shouldn't you be fixing the problems of The Republic, or at least preserving it? Where the hell were Sinn Féin and the IRA when the Irish government was building a road through the sacred site of Tara? Where were they at Rossport? They attack innocent police officers in the North and they don’t attack the rich and corrupt men and women in Dublin for their betrayal of this country.
 They don’t protect this country from what can really hurt it – the government. Arguably, if a British government were installed at Leinster House, they couldn’t do more damage to the country than our Irish government. Firstly, they’d be more competent (it’s hard to imagine a less competent government), and secondly, the people of Ireland would recognise them as foreign rulers and therefore, due to suspicion, would not let them away with anything. People seem to think, be it sub-conscious or un-consciously, that an Irish government instinctively protects Ireland. No. Politicians are politicians no matter what their nationality. They only serve no.1.
 Who the hell is standing up for us? Who will protect us from the Irish government? The socialists? The EU? Hardly. No one will. Something needs to change, and change drastically!
I think we must keep the North away from the Irish government. Look at all that has been preserved there, and all that has been destroyed here.

Friday, September 24, 2010

A Chant for Leinster House

Next time you're passing the house or, indeed, as you see one of the those people who are supposed to be serving and leading this country and my people, a song should gain their attention over the cacophony of expectorated curses and infuriation-filled accusations hurled with a gnarled tongue:

Is this all that we've been left?
Broken oaths and betrayals
Empty words and dead rhetoric
Of my sold and broken culture
Of my sold and broken culture.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Going to London, as an Irishman

The brother’s in London. Like so many Irishmen before him, he’s gone over, but, thankfully he’s left post-Celtic Tiger – he’s left unpoor and educated. He won’t, like so many others, become an alien in a strange land – dishevelled, crooked-footed, forgotten.

Yet, in the past, these Irish who survived the voyage to the capital of the enemy were regarded as lucky by those in Ireland. They were the ones who could raise a family. A family, but without a community.

And for those who arrived as bachelors, brick-layers, labourers, and the unskilled, many were to become as shadows of weathered newspapers – wished by natives to meet their fate in rubbish that should have been rid of the city long ago. They still live today in England’s cities.

There once were Irish communities, refreshed by the boats every few months, which thrived in those cities. A home away from home. But, the boats stopped coming more than a decade ago. The communities are no more; replaced by the newer immigrants from the other ex-colonies.

The bachelors were made reliant on their community to provide the necessities. Yet it decayed and vanished, leaving the bachelors to age without guidance. They only women they knew were their mothers. Their mothers were gone from them before they were told to replace them, to find wives.With no path lit towards the main aim in life – family.

In their seventies and eighties, these once Irish men, had first been threatened with loss of identity, then loss of community, then, unaware, loss of social stability and natural progression. And they, like the communities, have decayed; like their homes; like their futures. And they die alone, not remembered by Ireland, England, distant family, city, community; forgotten completely.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Who's this Joyce fellow?

On Sunday, Aug 29th 2010, I went to buy Ulysses. Having lived in Dublin for nearly a year now, it seemed it was the next step in connecting to the city even more. I figured I get could get for 2 or 3 euro. I was in Hodges Figgis. Ulysses wasn’t as cheap as expected. ‘It would be great to get it second-hand’, I thought. Fate forced me to pick-up ‘A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man’. ‘A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man represents the transitional stage between the realism of Joyce’s Dubliners and the symbolism of Ulysses, and is essential to the understanding of the later work.’ – having read Dubliners three or so summers ago (and I began re-reading at the start of this year), it seemed as if the back cover was speaking to me personally. “Ah, now, ya couldn’t skip ‘A Portrait...’, ya have to go about Joyce the right way!” – that’d be the Joycean translation. And at €2.99, it was perfect. (Of course, ‘perfect’ would really have meant that a mysterious figure had approached me on the street, out of nowhere, and simply presented it in before me.)

I felt that the best place to begin it would be in a café in the centre, rather than in the oh-so-familiar, not-particularly-Dublin setting of my bedroom or living-room. So, I began it with a fresh, heavy, porridge-soda bread muffin thing (it was nice, ok!). Drinking cappuccino, reading Joyce, and occasionally glancing up and out upon the Nassau St. – Trinity campus is just behind the wall and railing – with the August sun blinding all of Dublin’s westbound traffic (pedestrian, motorised or otherwise). Really the only time you need sunglasses in Dublin is in August from roughly 4pm to 7pm.

I’m use to learning about Dublin through history rather than story. I know that Nassau St. used to be called ‘St. Patrick’s Well Lane’ because there was (and still is, though it’s hidden inside the Trinity campus –under the Nassau entrance) a prolific well there, and that the street was laid by earth taken from the Viking Thingmote, which was situated where St. Andrew’s Church, i.e. the Tourist Office, is today. I know the facts. I don’t necessarily know the story, though.

So, what happened on Nassau St? What strange events unfolded there, real or fictitious, once upon a time? “On Nassau St., at bronzing dusk, in the week's retirement, Ulysses Bloom and Stephen Dedalus...” 
I hope to find out.

An unscheduled arrival.

Never oppress an idea due to its unscheduled arrival. If a worthy thought comes to you, though you wish it had chosen to manifest itself at a more suitable moment for, don’t neglect it. Neglect all else save it! Never sacrifice the mind for the body.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

I lost the entire post - damn you laptop!

Yep, I had a whole post written on Aug 28, 1963, the day when Martin Luther King Jr. gave his 'I have a dream speech'. In my post, I spoke about his goals, his legacy and those of Daniel O' Connell and Gandhi, as well as focusing on speeches themselves: how vital for society they used to be; and how infrequent and, unfortunately, veritably redundant the are nowadays in our information-saturated world.

Instead writing out the whole thing again, I've taking the erasing as a sign; a sign not to do so. You do it! Think about those hugely influential speakers, what speeches do, and assess the need and effectiveness that such speeches would have today.

Friday, August 27, 2010

'The Nameless One', by James Clarence Mangan (1803-1849)

ROLL forth, my song, like the rushing river, 
         That sweeps along to the mighty sea; 
God will inspire me while I deliver 
         My soul of thee! 

Tell thou the world, when my bones lie whitening 
         Amid the last homes of youth and eld, 
That once there was one whose veins ran lightning 
         No eye beheld. 

Tell how his boyhood was one drear night-hour, 
         How shone for him, through his griefs and gloom, 
No star of all heaven sends to light our 
         Path to the tomb. 

Roll on, my song, and to after ages 
         Tell how, disdaining all earth can give, 
He would have taught men, from wisdom's pages, 
         The way to live. 

And tell how trampled, derided, hated, 
         And worn by weakness, disease, and wrong, 
He fled for shelter to God, who mated 
         His soul with song. 

--With song which alway, sublime or vapid, 
         Flow'd like a rill in the morning beam, 
Perchance not deep, but intense and rapid-- 
         A mountain stream. 

Tell how this Nameless, condemn'd for years long 
         To herd with demons from hell beneath, 
Saw things that made him, with groans and tears, long 
         For even death. 

Go on to tell how, with genius wasted, 
         Betray'd in friendship, befool'd in love, 
With spirit shipwreck'd, and young hopes blasted, 
         He still, still strove; 

Till, spent with toil, dreeing death for others 
         (And some whose hands should have wrought for him, 
If children live not for sires and mothers), 
         His mind grew dim; 

And he fell far through that pit abysmal, 
         The gulf and grave of Maginn and Burns, 
And pawn'd his soul for the devil's dismal 
         Stock of returns. 

But yet redeem'd it in days of darkness, 
         And shapes and signs of the final wrath, 
When death, in hideous and ghastly starkness, 
         Stood on his path. 

And tell how now, amid wreck and sorrow, 
         And want, and sickness, and houseless nights, 
He bides in calmness the silent morrow, 
         That no ray lights. 

And lives he still, then? Yes! Old and hoary 
         At thirty-nine, from despair and woe, 
He lives, enduring what future story 
         Will never know. 

Him grant a grave to, ye pitying noble, 
         Deep in your bosoms: there let him dwell! 
He, too, had tears for all souls in trouble, 
         Here and in hell. 

For more info, as well as what you might find on your own, do not neglect this:

Monday, August 23, 2010

Queen Elizabeth's visit - she has got a return ticket, right??

Today, outside the GPO, I saw around four or five members from Fianna na hÉireann hold their flag and post ‘Oppose Queen Elizabeth’s Visit to Ireland’. At first, I thought “Hmm, there’s that group”, then I thought “hmmm, ah... I’m not sure about that.” Naturally, as a proud Irishman, I could never bow to her, but I do believe her visit will be a great benefit. My instinctual response to the news, a few weeks ago, was along the lines of “when we sent the British soldiers to the ships, we believed we had given them one-way tickets, and that no monarch of that tyrannical system shall ever again set foot on the land which was so brutally wasted, as were its people, in the name of its emblems for so long.” But then two arguments in favour of her visit came, first, from my Tourism-based acumen, and, today, from my sociological train of thought. I can perceive only one, though unlikely, disadvantage. No, wait, two, and the second is scarily possible. I’ll talk about those later, but let’s discuss the benefits.

Her visit will focus the British public’s eyes on Ireland, but not, as was the norm for the present generation, with a ‘Northern’ hue. This visit is not scheduled in order to quench a rebellion or to assess the deforestation of Irish oak for her navy, but merely a tour of leisure. Her experiences and those that are broadcasted by the media will impact upon the British for decades to come. This visit, and the memories that are carried from it, will create the image of Ireland for millions of British people. If she has a bad experience, or if the media present it as such, bad news for Ireland – but the British will not bat an eyelid at this as bad news is what they’re use to hearing associated with the word ‘Ireland’. However, if the visit is communicated with positivity, it will do wonders for Irish tourism and British-Irish relations. Enough essay-rhetoric. Here’s my subjective opinion:

Well, what angers me most about the British (or English) was not just the atrocities that were executed in Ireland over the centuries by tyrannical British rule, but that, shockingly, their education system fails to recognise them! For the majority, they have no idea why Irish people would have an aversion to the English people. Not even the IRA bombings in Britain would stimulate their interest in why such drastic actions had been taken by unofficial representatives of other nation against their own nation. [Prepare yourselves for the next bit. I make some strong statements, but they're there to make my point. They are based on my own empirical evidence.] If ignorance of their neighbours is bliss, then the British people are in Disneyland. On top of history, the English (judging by ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire?’ questions) are terrible at geography, despite the blatant fact that they had not quite a little empire for a period there. (I asked an English lady how many counties were in England and she said she did not know!) It seems that, if the Irish are cursed with poverty, the English are cursed with ignorance.

I believe that the English need to learn a substantial amount (I would be inclined to say ‘more’ here, but I don’t think it applies) about Irish history and that they recognise Irish identity in contrast to their own. The Queen’s visit will be the spark for this. They will begin wondering what that little island beside them has been doing there for so long and why haven’t they noticed it before now? This will incredibly boost tourist numbers coming from England to Ireland. With a hugely increased British-originated interest in Ireland, their education system should, in time, begin to explain the whole Anglo-Irish ‘affair’.

The first disadvantage of this visit may be, though highly unlikely, that so many of them will come over here that it’ll be more of an invasion than a holiday (think of English-dominated Spanish resorts!), and that before you know it, Ireland will once again have more English people than she would like. And if you thought, like I do, that Ireland is far too English at present, it could get unimaginably worse: Guy Fawkes Night; all people in Mayo with Liverpool accents; etc. Irelandshire. Oh God, no!

The second disadvantage, and as I described as ‘scarily possible’, could be that we welcome the Queen, her entourage and all the connotations of the whole Royal Visit a bit too readily and openly. I’m not talking about the whole ‘sheep under the arm, leprechaun in the vicinity’ shite. I’m referring to possibility that the Irish people may start, ever so gradually and slightly, most not even noticing, to regard The Queen of England as The Queen, or, disgracefully, as Our Queen. I can’t listen to the English national anthem without squirming for silence. Could it be that our present aversion for republicanism, patriotism, nationalism, etc., caused by the less than admirable actions of its most notable (which means ‘extreme’) endorsers, has become so acute that we’d rather lean away from national pride than towards it? Would we sooner accept the waving of the Union Flag that begin to wave our own flag? I think that’s a real prospect. And with that weighing up against the initially positive consequences of this visit, I’m feeling a bit sea sick. Should we risk it? Right now, I believe we should take that risk. I’m not happy the ways things are, and if there’s an opportunity for change, with a good chance of a change for the better, I’ll take that chance.

What we’ll all be relying on is not what happens during the visit, be it good or bad, but how the British media will relate the visit and all its events to the British public. All we can hope is that the media won’t let their prejudices severely limit the degree of attention that the visit deserves (and make redundant most of what I’ve just bothered writing). And hopefully, the attention will be focused mainly on the positives.