Sep 242009

Me rescuing Guster the woodpigeon from a watery fate Guster the wood pigeon was dead. There were no two ways about it… this was an ex-pigeon, a pigeon that had ceased to be.

The girls were sad… especially the little one. In the twenty minutes or so since they’d met (and named) Guster they’d grown quite attached to him.

When we found him Guster was in pretty bad shape. He was flapping about in the shallows of an inlet just off the path at Rineen Woods near Unionhall. He’d been attacked by a predator, probably a fox, and had feathers missing from his back and shoulders to reveal bare skin and some nasty looking puncture wounds. Floundering helplessly in the water, struggling to keep his head above the surface, he was a forlorn sight.

I sized up the situation as the girls pleaded with me to save him.

Continue reading »

Aug 062009
MEXICO CITY - APRIL 29:  People sit in the wai...

Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Some things in life are too dreary for words… but I’m going to give it my best shot, so prepare to be completely overwhelmed by mindless tedium.

First my own particular pet hate on the "boring things to do" front: painting. Not the artistic rendition of a scene in watercolour or oil, more the "slap it on the walls" kind of painting. Painting in the interior-decorating sense of the word is one of those agonising jobs that demands just the right level of concentration to prevent you thinking about other things, but not quite enough to keep you actively engaged in what your doing. I find the combination is agonizing.

Another one that’s bound to be high on anyone’s list of tedious pastimes has to be sitting in traffic. Yes, you have the radio to keep you company, but that can be as much a curse as it is a blessing… particularly when a cheery "eye-in-the-sky" presenter informs you, rather helpfully, to avoid the tailback you’re already sitting in. Of course, depending on the particular backlog of traffic you’re stuck in, you may have time to turn your mind to other, more productive things. But when I’m behind the wheel I can never really disengage; driving demands concentration… even if you’re crawling along at six-inches per hour. You never know when you might need to react to the unexpected.

Never, is the rather obvious answer… but the point is you have to be ready. I’ll drive for hours on the open road… but fifteen minutes in stop-start traffic has me tearing what little hair I have left out.

What, you may be asking, has inspired me to share this mind-numbing tirade with you? Possibly the biggest waste of our limited time and resources that exists on this or any other planet, that’s what.

Continue reading »

Jun 172009

A while back I agreed to write four weeks worth of content for a new Evening Echo section on careers and recruitment. Dubbed “Career Moves” this new section would run on a Monday, and would focus on jobs, employment, education, training and career development.

Two-and-a-half years later and Career Moves is still going strong, and I’m still penning the content.

A while back I figured that it would probably be a good idea to take all of the careers related content I’ve amassed for Career Moves and publish it online, making it accessible and searchable for a much wider audience. But I’ve been busy with other things (haven’t we all?), so it’s taken me a while to get around to it.

Finally I’ve started to populate the all new Career Moves blog with content. I’ll be augmenting the stuff I’ve written for the paper with other bits and pieces too – so be sure to subscribe to the Career Moves RSS feed or visit the site and sign up for e-mail updates in the sidebar.

The Career Moves blog is very much in its infancy and is a “work in progress” that I’ll be developing and evolving as time allows – so by all means let me have your feedback via the comments system on the site.

Apr 202009

"Empire" -- a fantasy novel by Calvin Jones -- Map of Bantara

Earlier today I dug into the bowels of my hard drive and unearthed something that hasn’t seen the light of day for around eight years. My 155,000 word fantasy novel manuscript “Empire”.

Most of those words were eked out on the tiny keyboard of a Psion Series 3c palmtop computer while travelling through Southeast Asia, Australia, New Zealand and North and South America, in dodgy backpacker hostels, budget hotels and cheap cafés. There was no such thing as WiFi and netbooks!

I finished the book soon after moving to Ireland in 2000, and then life took over.

The twins — our first children — arrived around about the same time as our first mortgage, and mundane things like paying the bills took precedence. I’ve hardly peeked at “Empire” since… until now.

With a published non-fiction title on internet marketing under my belt now, I figure that this is a good time to resurrect my fiction-writing ambitions.

With that in mind I’m going to be writing to publishers and literary agents in Ireland and the UK over the coming weeks, and figured that I’d make a synopsis and the first two chapters of Empire available here for perusal / feedback / (constructive) comment.

So, you’ll find a brief synopsis of the book below, followed by a link to a PDF of the first two chapters. Let me know what you think in the comments, and if you’re an agent or publisher, and would like to see the full manuscript, just drop me a line. Continue reading »

Apr 202009
ssttt! little baby-mouse, sleeping on my hand
Image by e³°°° via Flickr

Do you ever have trouble getting to sleep at night?

Sometimes I do… if I have something preying on my mind: a pressing deadline, a heavy workload, or a particular problem I’m struggling with. Lying awake at night, unable to get to sleep, is a truly horrible experience. Most of the time, thankfully, I tend to fall asleep without too much trouble. Funnily enough, the more time I’ve spent with the girls that day, the faster the sleep arrives.

The girls are also pretty good at going to sleep… not going to bed, mind you… going to sleep. Bedtime can and does involve all sorts of shenanigans before they finally settle down. It’s amazing how seemingly exhausted children get a sudden rush of energy when a parent mentions bedtime. Yes, getting them settled can be a challenge but once they’re down — usually sometime between 8 and 8:30 on a school night — they go to sleep quickly and tend to stay in a deep sleep all night. That, according to researchers in Japan, is a great sign when it comes to establishing healthy sleep patterns for later life. Continue reading »

Mar 192009
The Welsh Dragon
Image via Wikipedia

Granddad is ready to disown his granddaughters.

He loves them dearly, of course, but some things are enough to push even the most doting of grandparents over the edge. And one of those things, is rugby!

Next weekend is crunch time for Ireland’s national rugby squad. With four wins under their belt, on Saturday Declan Kidney’s men face reigning champions Wales in Cardiff in the deciding match of the RBS Six Nations 2009, hoping to claim not just the title, but their first Grand Slam since 1948. All that stands in their way is fifteen Welshmen and the legendary Cardiff crowd. And therein lies the rub; Wales in Cardiff is the Irish team’s toughest fixture of this year’s Six Nations campaign, and you can guarantee the Dragons will come out fighting.

If they’re on form the Welsh have the potential to turn the Irish dream into a red, white and green nightmare!

This is being billed as one of Ireland’s biggest rugby matches in recent memory, but the expectation transcends even that. Set against the backdrop of the country’s economic woes many are billing the resurrection of the nation’s rugby team under Declan Kidney as a beacon of light amidst the gloom: a sentinel of hope that could buoy the flagging spirits not just of rugby fans, but of a nation desperately in need of some good news.

But what has all that got to do with Granddad disowning the girls? Continue reading »

Mar 192009
Board meeting room
Image via Wikipedia

It’s difficult to think of anything that wastes your precious time more than attending meetings.

Working parents around the country lament the fact that they don’t have enough time to spend with their children. But if you add up how much time those same working parents spend travelling to, waiting for and sitting around in pointless meetings you’d be shocked at the results. A huge chunk of the working population waste days – weeks even – every year sitting in meetings. And for what? To talk about things that could have been discussed on the telephone or online, or to listen to things that don’t really concern them at all. What a waste!

Sometimes in any business you need the face-to-face collaborative communication that only a meeting can provide. But the truth is those occasions are much rarer than you might think. These days days, thanks to the internet and the wonders of digital communications technology, there’s usually an alternative that would work just as well, if not better, would be quicker, and would prevent participants having to travel long distances to attend. Ireland just hasn’t been open to exploring the opportunities. Continue reading »

Feb 172009

Reduce, reuse, recycle.
The venerable three Rs of sustainable waste management. We’ve heard the mantra time and again: the powers-that-be urging all of us to be front runners in the race against waste. It’s a laudable goal, one that we’ve wholeheartedly embraced, and that we have tried to instil in the girls from day one. But while central and local government are pushing the green message, their record on the ground leaves a lot to be desired.

Human nature dictates that people only change their behaviour when there’s a compelling reason to do so. While a few conscientious souls will go to extraordinary lengths to reduce consumption, re-use materials and recycle as much as possible, the vast majority of the population are quite comfortable leaving things the way they are. Convenience and value are the order of the day. If local authorities are serious about the mass adoption of sustainable waste-management practices they need to make it easier and cheaper than the alternative.

So what do the “geniuses” at Cork County Council do? They implement a blanket €3 levy on people bringing their recycling to the local Civic Amenity site.

Clonakilty Civic Amenity Site levying an entry charge

It’s completely bonkers! First they cut back on the recycling facilities at local village “bring sites” across the county, forcing tens of thousands of households (or at least those who are willing) to drive their recycling to a central Civic Amenity site, and now they introduce yet more inconvenience. You’d swear they were trying to put people off! Continue reading »

Feb 142009
I Accuse My Parents
Image via Wikipedia

A report released in Britain recently suggests that the headline grabbing woes of a plummeting economy could be the least of our worries. What we really need to concentrate on, suggests the “Good Child Report”, is getting this parenting thing right. And according to the report, which was commissioned by the Children’s society, the British seem to be getting it oh-so-wrong.

Statistically Ireland doesn’t fare quite so badly on the parenting front, but looking at some of the questions the report raises I can’t help thinking that we can’t afford to be smug. Have you ever argued with your partner in front of your children? Do you ever take the easy approach and let them sit in front of the television instead of going for a family walk? Have you ever shouted at them for no reason other than the cumulative frustrations of parenthood? Do you sometimes give in when you really should stand firm?

Any parent would answer yes to most, if not all of those things. That does not make them a bad parent, of course, but all of those traits, if they become a dominant factor in the parent-child relationship, can lead down the slippery slope to parenting oblivion. Continue reading »

Feb 012009
[ Swimming Pool ]
Image by -Meesho- via Flickr

I’m writing this sitting on the viewing balcony of Dunmanway public swimming pool. The girls are doing swimming lessons, and though Mum usually takes care of business, this week Dad’s on duty!

Now, swimming isn’t exactly what you’d call a spectator sport. Once every four years, when the Olympics roll around, maybe, but any other time forget it! Watching children learning is… well, let’s just say it wouldn’t be too near the top of my list of things to do before you die. Swimming with them is another matter, of course. Getting into the pool, or even better the sea, and playing with the children has to be one of the highlights of any holiday.

The lessons though, are important. We don’t live far from the coast, and are often on the shore, and sometimes even in the sea during the summer months. We also have a small boat that we’ve been threatening to do up and get into the water for the last three summers, but that might actually make it to sea again this year. So swimming lessons are crucial, and the girls are coming on a treat.

The twins are tall and thin, and glide through the water effortlessly – or at least they did until their current teacher started getting them to do an appalling straight-armed version of the front crawl. I’d defy anyone to move gracefully through the water while swinging their arms like demented windmills.

The little one, on the other hand, is possessed of a more robust build. Her natural swimming style? You can only describe it as brick-like!

It doesn’t matter what she tries, she pushes off the side with gusto, kicks her little legs valiantly, does absolutely everything right… and sinks like a stone.

It’s a twist of fate – she’s a natural sinker. The human body is more than 80% water, and is usually neutrally buoyant: with our breath exhaled most of us will float with our heads just below the water’s surface. But as with most things in nature this isn’t a hard and fast rule; some people float, others sink.

The little one sinks.

Luckily, sinking doesn’t seem to phase her too much… she just proceeds under the water, sticking her head up when she runs out of air. Every week she’s loving the water more, and every week the teacher does her level best to coax her to the surface. Meanwhile, down in the deep end the twins have stopped learning how to do the front crawl wrong, and are now treading water while clapping their hands – which of course is a vital skill to have if you’re on a cruise ship and fall overboard whilst applauding the cabaret act.

This is one of the reasons I don’t bring them to swimming lessons more often. My pedantic nature, and the fact that I’m a pretty good swimmer, means that I often spend the car journey home correcting what the swimming teacher has taught them. I shouldn’t, but sometimes I can’t help myself. It confuses the issue and does more harm than good.

Then again, I remember my Dad doing the same thing when I was their age. There was one swimming teacher in particular who’s methods clashed with Dad’s view of how swimming should be taught. Every week he’d tell me not to do it that way, do it this way instead. It was hard at the time, but as I improved and moved on to more advanced classes with other teachers, guess what I found out? Dad had been right all along.

I suspect something similar is happening here… but what to do? Do I let things run their course, or intervene and tell the twins that, actually, you don’t keep your arms straight when you’re doing the front crawl? Or perhaps I should focus on teaching the little one how to float first, and let the twins sort themselves out.

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