Sticks for the Stars

The ash and the oakleaf: Micheal Scullion with Gráinne McGoldrick.

One of my favourite clients is Scullion Hurls. I love the craft part of the business. Micheal Scullion is a young hurley maker and like myself is making his way working for himself.

We hooked up almost by accident a few years back when I was over buying some hurls off him for our club Eoghan Rua.

Since then I have been helping him out with bits of marketing and advertising. I write copy for ads and articles for him and he bounces a few ideas of me from time to time.

In turn I have done a coupld of marketing plans that we have tried to work through.

Micheal works out of a workshop over at the family place at Loughgiel in Antrim, the business is located directly across the road from the Loughgiel Shamrocks Hurling Pitch.

It’s as if you could break your stick, run over to Micheal and lift a spare and be back on the hurling field before play resumes.

When you gonna take the photo Joe?

We had a nice wee bit of profile in the Irish News, Micheal supplies hurls to Derry Camogie All Star Gráinne McGoldrick who’s a niece of mine through marriage.

Gráinne and I had a very pleasant morning over picking up sticks and generally shooting the breeze with Micheal.

It was all the more gratifying when the piece we prepared appeared complete with pic in the Irish News the day before the Ulster Camogie Final.

Unfortunately Derry didn’t win the match but Micheal was a winner. Since then he has had further success with a number of Antrim team using Scullion Hurls in their defeat of Dublin to make the All Ireland Hurling Quarter final. At the time of writing who knows what might happen next for Antrim and Scullion Hurls.

Tender is the Night

This week I spent a considerable amount of my time working on a tender submission. I will mention neither the tenderer nor what we were tendering for lest I breach some sort of small print. That would be as heinous a crime as is possible in tenderland.

Suffice it to say, anyone who is involved in trying to get work, to make a living for themselves, especially if you’re self employed like me; to pay the bills; to pay for a holiday; or a forthcoming child’s birthday party or simple things like Jordan’s fruit muesli and yoghurt for breakfast. . . tenders are a necessary evil. I found out recently I lost one on price – I dunno how the successful bid can do it for what that suggested but that isn’t my call. . .

So why is it that the people that write the tenders appear to have no concept of what goes on out in the real world? They are the refuge of large public sector organisations, drawn up and drafted by committee, by wonks, tallymen, beancounters and geeks that have nothing better to do with their lives.

And do you know how I know this? Because I was one of these wonks and I worked with the geeks, tallymen and beancounters. I sat through interminable meetings over the years thinking up ingenious ways to baffle potential suppliers at the behest of my superiors and the Buying Wallahs in the Department of Box Ticking, Procedure and Ridiculous Shite.

Did we get the best suppliers? Dunno. Did we have the best procedures? Probably.  Is this keeping a load of people in jobs? Definitely.

If there is reincarnation, then this is probably bad karma and I’ll probably come back as an accounting type person. And see if I do? Woe betides the first person I meet with a creative bone in their body. I will suffocate them with the twin pillows of procedure and petty bureaucracy. Hell Yeah!

Derry – Opening the Gates of the UK’s City of Culture

Be advised his passport's green. . .

So. This week Derry was selected as the UK’s first City of Culture. Setting aside my natural state as a Tyrone man and considering the fact my wife is from the City, I think this is great news for the citizens of Derry.

There are all sorts of predictions of the benefits that it will bring to Derry. Jobs. International profile. A programme of cultural events that will be the envy of the rest of the North. It is to be hoped that the marketing people in the City make the best of this, extending the City’s reach beyond being the top place to go for your Halloween Night.

I was involved in a rebranding project a few years back, and in a workshop in the Everglades hotel I used the phrase ‘latent hint of violence’ to describe the atmosphere one can encounter in Shipquay Street during the wee hours of a weekend. My nephew is one person who got a good kicking for their troubles. Some of the people there were intrigued at the spectre I had raised, this set a discordant tone alongside some of the claims being staked for the City.

I made the point that the City’s assets far outweighed these negatives, but also that they need to maximise their assets. And you should be able to stroll through a city late at night or leave a bar after a night out without someone mistaking your ear for a kebab.

Other things like the signage within the City are atrocious. You could dander through the entire place without ever knowing that one of its schools is the alma mater of two Nobel Laureates, the only school in the world that can make this claim. Think of the public tourism trails in Boston or the richness of Edinburgh in celebrating its past tastefully.

That the likes of Brian Friel, Seamus Deane, Paul Brady and co also were educated there. (That the Undertones originated there; yep I think that is noteworthy!) All of these things are to be celebrated, but currently are ignored. In my opinion.

That it was the scene of an outrageous human rights abuse. Think Tiananmen Square, think Bloody Sunday. That the siege of Derry is still a subject of closed minds and closed hearts across this part of the world.

My sister-in-law tells me some town planning genius in the Seventies wanted to demolish the City’s walls as they got in the way of the proposed development of tenements. Foresighted or what?

And so it is over to the City Marketing folks, and the likes of Ilex and the Visitor Centre people to maximise all of this. They have all of the opportunity and hopefully some of the rest of us may get a slice of the action in applying our own appreciation and understanding of the City’s culture.

The one slightly jarring note in all of this is the fact that it is the ‘UK City of Culture’, with the emphasis on the ‘UK”.

Remember Seamus Heaney’s riposte in ‘An Open Letter’ when included as a ‘British’ poet in the 1982 Penguin Book of Contemporary British Poetry:

“Be advised.

My passport’s green.

No glass of ours was ever raised.

To toast The Queen.”

I suppose it depends on how green your passport is; or perhaps whether it is a passport of convenience that determines whether this nomenclature bothers you. But then I’m from Tyrone.

Today’s List

Here’s some things I would do if I won the Lottery. Some bloody chance like!

I would buy a new acoustic guitar, maybe a Takamine. This summer I will play again I swear it and I will learn a pile of really cool songs that will make people say Jaysus do you hear that?

Go on a holiday abroad, even sitting on my rear end by a pool has some allure. But if I really hit the jackpot I would maybe go somewhere like Zanzibar, Mauritius, New Zealand, the Galapagos Island, Easter Island? Hey we may even go round the world, you never know.

Depending on how much I won, I would make a very generous donation to charity. I would give something to CHARIS the cancer charity I work with, they are inspiring people. I would give some to CRY because of my good friend John Lundy. I would give some to another charity or two, possibly Barnardos to fund work with disadvantaged children somewhere. I once knew someone who worked there and she was was passionate about her work and an inspirational soul. And I would find a happy charity and give them a few quid.

I would buy a house for my mother near where I live so we would be closer to one another. It would be a nice bungalow like her house at home. She could winter here and spend summer or part of it in Omagh.

I would give my children one wish each (within reason) and try and make it come true.

As for Angie, we could go back to Lake Taquile and then retake the train journey across the altiplano to Cusco. We would go again to see Juanita in Arequipa, stopping at Lucho’s place for Cafe Con Leche and maybe some Papas de frites as she called them. And we’d laugh and laugh.

I would give something to Eoghan Rua to build a stand or their new pitch. Or maybe to buy new sliotars.

I would buy new boots and an earring of gold and I would get tattoed upon my arm “In the midst of winter I finally learned that there was within me an invincible summer”. . . in swahili of course.

I would find a business idea that would work and I would set it up and work with three or four people that are close to me. Maybe my niece, my nephew, Angela and I would ensure work for my freelance friends.

I would buy a camera and learn how to take wonderful photographs and I would have exhibitions and publish books, and grow my hair and not shave that often and wear achingly cool cloths and a pair of leather boots.

I would contact Last Town Chorus to come to my house and play Modern Love and I would sit there awestruck at the sound Megan gets out of that slide guitar.

I would pay Grace McMullan to become my personal trainer and the craic we would have Grace, would be something else. I am indeed fortunate in my life to know the two graces – Gráinne & Grace.

I would go to people I have offended, insulted or left on bad terms and I would make up with them. Except for one person, my Irish teacher at school. Not only was he a bastard but he put me off the Irish language and I’m only catching up now. I could have had a life as a real gaelgoir you know?

I would buy a boat and pay some grizzled oul bastard with a Findus Cap and a grey beard to be my captain. I would call him skipper and get him to sail me and Leo and Peter round the North Coast catching Lobster and Crab and god knows what else and we would let them go again and laugh and laugh.

I would buy my three daughters beautiful clothes and wonderful toys and I would write a book and dedicate it to them. And they would laugh and laugh. And I would get Planxty together to play so they could dance to their hearts’ content in our kitchen or living room, just wherever they wanted.

I would get my sister a house nearby so she can keep an eye on me and I on her and we would make up for the time she spent in England.

I would pay some bollix to cut my lawn, trim the trees and fix my hedge. And I would put up some wire around the bloody hens. One keeps escaping down the street. I fear she will get flattened. Which came first, the chicken escalope or the omelette?

Sin é. That’ll do.