Weather and the Irish

A couple of nights ago on CNN I saw a woman interviewed who was caught in that horrific Atlanta traffic jam for more than ten hours. She kept turning her engine on for five minutes and then, for fear of carbon monoxide, turning it off. I wonder what the experts advise about this method? I marvel at the way people coped – I wonder what other methods people have found to cope with the cold.

At the same time, I hear California is suffering from a water shortage, with difficulty getting in the hay crop (a basic need). Recently I read a fascinating book Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond by Brad Lancaster, a world expert on grey water. He has some solutions that are of wide international interest [see website:]. Brad’s father was Stewart Lancaster, one of the co-founders of PACE magazine in Los Angeles. I marvel at the ripple effect that each person can have.

The other night I was vividly reminded of the 60s when PACE was founded as I listened to the Beatles and the Rolling Stones perform in a program called the British Invasion on CNN. I think one of my favourite Beatle’s songs is ‘Hey Jude’. In 1970 I owned that tune on one of those old 78 records – at the time I was writing speeches at the Ontario Ministry of Citizenship and Community Development in Toronto. It seemed to me the office where I worked was a little too quiet, with everyone working away in their separate cubicles. I bought a record player to my office and put on ‘Hey Jude’ over lunchtime. The place came to life with everyone talking to their neighbour. Then I started throwing donut parties in my office near day’s end so the senior people could meet some of the younger temporary staff. One of these parties led to a new  job for one of those young people.

The power of music came home again to me the day the War Measures Act came into force in Canada after the FLQ kidnapping and murder of Pierre Laporte. We were all in shock. Each of us had our civil liberties suspended. People like Nick Auf der Maur, a popular journalist in Montreal, were thrown into prison without trial on suspicion of whatever. Profoundly upset, I walked out into the sunshine on Toronto’s Bloor street. There was an Indian woman in her sari walking towards me with her baby in her arms. A vendor was selling popcorn and near him an Italian organ grinder was playing his music. I stopped to listen to the song, soaring throught the city air amidst the honks of passing cars. The music and the normalcy of it all calmed down my upset. I might add that the War Measures Act was the only law on the books at the time to deal with a  crisis that could have destroyed the country (I hope that has been rectified).

Later I heard the same theme of normal living from a woman in northern Ireland who had lived through the worst time of violence and destruction – through the Troubles. I met her at the home of a Free Methodist pastor. A car bomb was set off near her church. She and other families decided to park their cars in the same places as always the next Sundays. At a time when it was most dangerous, she told me, people on both sides, Catholic and Protestant, reached to comfort the families of those who were wounded and killed.

Then two woman that led the massive peace marches,that eventually led to the cessation of hostilities. Interestingly, it took extremists on both sides to bring about the peace accord, including Ian Paisley, whose rhetoric seemed so far from the gospel he professed that I could only shake my head. I continue to believe Ireland is a hope for the whole world.

As is the way the US came out of the civil war without breaking apart, a story we need to know now more than ever.

For anyone of Irish background, or anyone curious about why this tiny country has had influence out of all proportion to its size, I recommend googling ‘The Essence of being Irish’ – a piece by Professor Kenneally of Trinity College, Dublin. As he describes it, you discover you’re a much more interesting person that you thought yourself to be. Yay!

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