All the Fun in Just One

Quite near to the end of August, my Wife and I went on a holiday together. The boys are old enough now to easily fend for themselves so we waved goodbye and off we went. 

It was a great holiday. There was long walks on deserted beaches, leisurely food in posh surroundings, a quite pint in a venerable old pub. There was a lovely room that was only a stone’s throw from the Atlantic Ocean. There was a wild drive through some unbelievable scenery. There was a  quiet time too, just reading and listening to the waves. 

Then we went home again, all refreshed and revitalised. 




Our holiday provided a break from the routine, an opportunity for a little down time, and some great, potentially lasting, memories. 

Our holiday lasted one day.

It’s a little lesson that I’m constantly trying to remind myself of and one which I constantly fail to remember. Perhaps if I write it down like this, it might anchor a little more steadily in my mind.

All of the pleasure, all of the fun, can exist in just a tiny part of something.

Earlier in the summer, I went to London. I met old friends, saw great stuff in a museum, had some nice food, perused  some shops, got rained on,  rode trains, flew planes... again the trip was just twenty four hours all in. 

This sounds like the opposite to a  'humble-brag'. A sort of a 'humble moan'. As if life is not as good as it could be but I'm not going to acknowledge it. That's not it though. That's not it at all. Life is great. The tiny bits are particularly great. You've just got to appreciate them a bit more.

It also sounds like I'm really good at all this. The extracting of pleasure from small things. I'm really not.

Supposing I bought a bag of sweets, Jelly babies, for instance. Supposing I kept them in that side compartment in the door of the car. Something to have a treat from on the long drive. (This might not be complete supposition.) I would eat all of those sweets. Invariably. Every last one of them. I would even be considering the eating of the next one while eating the current one. 

But, here’s the obvious thing. The thing I’m always forgetting. All of the sweetness, all of the taste, all of the joy, if you will, is there in that very first jelly baby. All the other jelly babies are simply more of the same. A series of repetitions leading invariably to excess. 

If one can extract it, one can get all of the great jelly baby experience that one could possibly need from that  first single sweet. The rest are largely redundant.

So can it be with pretty much everything. Our holiday was a single day and yet it was this perfect, leisurely, exciting thing. Like that first jelly baby, we really ‘tasted’ it. We weren’t thinking of the next day because there wasn’t a next day to think of.

It sounds like bullshit, I know, but it isn’t really. I think it’s a useful mindset that can help me to appreciate the tinier joys that are thrown at me. It isn’t about buzzwords like ‘mindfulness’ or anything like that. It’s just about enjoying whatever tiny part of something the fates allow you to have.

The next time I encounter a bag of jelly babies, I’ll probably dispatch the whole sodding bag. But I’ll try not to. With the very first one, I’ll really try to get what I want from it and then settle for that. 

I’ll probably fail.

I nearly always do.

But, man, that jelly baby is gonna be sweet…

There is a Tide

I was thinking about what I would say to The Mayo Team, if I had to say something to them, before they set foot on the hallowed turf of Croke Park for the 2017 GAA Football Final. 

What could I say to a team who have fought so hard and so well for months and for years to achieve their goal and who now, once more, stand on the threshold.


I would take a little Shakespeare, Julius Caesar in fact, and I would shamelessly iron it out a little to take the tang of ancient language from it. 

And I would say this:

Like that great ocean by which we choose to live our lives, 
There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Take it at its flood and it will carry us on to great fortune.
Miss it and the voyage of our lives will be confined forever to shallow waters.
On such a full tide we are now afloat.
We will seize this current.
And on it, we shall win.

And what of the hoards of travelling fans? So many years they have trooped to Croke Park, hoping against hope, supporting with faith ,respect and boundless enthusiasm. Each time met with cruel failure at the final hurdle. What could I say to them?

Again, I would mangle up some lovely Shakespeare to suit my purpose. This time, it would be a famous speech by Prince Hal from Henry V. For the good Mayo Folk who will once more go to Croke to stand with their team, I would say this.

We come with high hopes.
We could not wish for more.
And anyone who has no stomach for this fight,
Let them leave now. We won’t stand in their way.
For we would not wish to fail in the company of anyone who fears to fail with us.

This day will be called ‘Mayo’s Day’.
He that survives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand up tall whenever that day is named,
And will rouse himself at the name of Mayo.

He that shall live through this day, and see old age,
will come to his neighbours every year on this Eve,
and say 'To-morrow is Mayo’s Day'
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars.
And say 'These wounds I got on Mayo’s Day.'

Old men forget much but they will well remember
The things they did on this day.
Then shall those names.
Familiar in their mouth as household words
O’Shea, Keegan and Moran,
Higgins and Dylan, O’Connor and Clarke,
Be in their flowing glass freshly remembered.

This story shall every good man teach his son;
And September shall never again go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered
We few, we happy few.
We Band of Brothers;

And gentlemen in Mayo now safe in their bed
Shall think their own selves cursed that they were not there.
And they will hold their manhoods cheap 
While any man speaks.
That stood with us.
Upon Mayo’s Day.



Maigh Eo AbĂș!

Handle With Care

I erected a small Social Media weather vane the other day, to see how the breeze might be blowing. It was nothing fancy. Just a tweet or two, in fact.

All I did was tweet a link to something then, straightaway, I sent a second tweet. The second tweet had a simple poll in it. It more-or-less said. “I just tweeted a link. It’s not interesting and I don’t want you to click on it or anything like that. I would be interested to know if you saw it though.” 

55% percent of the respondents chose the option “Link? What link?” Over half of the people who are linked to me on Twitter, who were online at the exact time I tweeted, did not see what I put up. 

Truth to tell, I don’t care too much about that. Not anymore. I have recognised the selective methods of Social Media sharing for some time now so I no longer see it as a personal affront and I certainly no longer get irate over it. What it does do is worry me. It worries me quite a bit. I’ll tell you why in a minute.

When I first started using Social Media, about ten years ago, it felt like something else. It felt like shouting to the entire world with the real potential that anyone at all might hear you. It felt like fishing in the deepest of oceans, where you never knew what bulbous and exotic fish you might haul out.

It feels quite different now.

The Social Media platforms we all use are now carefully controlled and balanced so that the user experiences the things that suit them best, the things they most want to see… according to the platform owners. Facebook is best known for it. When you post something on Facebook, I believe about 8% of the people you are connected with will be shown it on their screen. Some types of posts will be favoured over others. Photos seem to do well. Links to outside websites, less so. If someone ‘likes’ something you post, then some more people may see it but it’s hard to get ‘likes’ when nobody sees it initially. 

Historically, Twitter always seemed better at showing your stuff to people. It has always seemed to be the great leveling field where, ignoring filters and such, everybody sees everything their friends and contacts choose to show. 

But Twitter has its tricks too, as illustrated by my little poll. The most overt trick is that little box in the settings that is generally ticked by default. It says ‘Show Me the Best Tweets First’. It sounds like a nice idea but whose ‘best tweets’ do you get shown first? Is it the people with the most followers? Is it the most famous people? What about the poor sod with seventy followers who has actually got something meaningful to say? Who will see her?

This is starting to sound like a diatribe and that’s not what I started out to do. I didn’t start typing this to complain about how Social Media now discreetly corrals us into the little boxes it wants us in so that it can sell stuff to us more effectively. (Whoops, there I go again).

What I wanted to type was not a complaint, it was a warning.

People know that Social Media can be damaging but they tend to focus on how it can evoke envy and dissatisfaction with one’s own life. We see people smiling and apparently living it up when our own reality seems  far from smiles and the high life. It can be not much fun. That can be certainly a thing but I don’t think it’s the biggest thing. The biggest thing that I see on my Social Media, day on day, is isolation. 

It’s one thing to be put in a little box by Social Media. It is quite another thing to not have any idea that you have been put in there. I see this regularly. Ordinary good people in a state of isolated bewilderment.
  • The Mum who puts up a Facebook photo of her kid and his first day at school and only a handful of people liked it.
  • The terrible news shared on Twitter when nobody offers a word of support.
  • The message from an old and valued friend, very late one night, saying something like, "One little ‘Like’ now and again, that’s all I ask. It would mean so much to me," when you never see anything from them on your screen.

I fear that some people, who do not know the truth of algorithms and marketing strategies, view the changes in Social Media on a dangerously personal level. They simply see it in terms of old friends who don’t acknowledge them any more. They wonder what they could have possibly done wrong to warrant such a negative response. They see their friends only communicating with the great and the good, not realising that the great and the good are the only people that their friends are being shown. 

Sure there are buttons we can press, settings we can adjust to help us see more. But we don’t push buttons, do we? We come on and we see what we are shown and then we move on. Our friends of old become like the elderly neighbours in those adverts. People who need to be ‘looked in on’, from time to time, at Christmas or when it freezes. They become a chore rather than the vibrant interactive cohort member they used to be. They are in their own little box.

I’m not writing to try to change this. It will never change.

I am writing to try to let at least one person know. When your friend doesn’t reply to you or like your news or even randomly chat to you any more, 99% of the time it is not because the friend thinks any the less of you or has been wounded by you. It is just good old Social Media going about its business. 

Social Media... yeah. Use it, enjoy it, but stay painfully aware of its limitations and you’ll be fine.

Start to take it personally, and it can slice you like a blade.

Just so you know.

Handle with care.