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Pessimism Greets Victory

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Ireland tops a – grammatically adventurous – survey to win ‘goodest’ country to live. Now that in itself isn’t something that I deem worthy of comment[1] . However, the outrage (within my homeland) over the victory needs to be unpacked. Irish people greeted the award with angry emails denouncing the country’s status.

On the surface, this seems like a ludicrous concept rooted in a deep-seeded, anti-nationalistic, pessimism. A society so lacking in patriotism that any celebration of the nation leads to cries of treason. However, such a reasoning lacks an understanding of the self-deprecating and cynical nature of the Irish.

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The Wasted Third

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I started thinking yesterday after work about our relationship with our working lives. I personally really enjoy my work – I’m a teacher – and gain great satisfaction and pleasure from my job. It really got me thinking. As I speculated, I sought the assistance of a thesaurus for language manipulation. If we consider the synonyms of work we find the words toil, labour, grind and drudgery. All of which paint a Dickensian portrait in charcoal and darkness on the innocent canvas of youth. We are almost trained to believe that work – like school to many youths – is the necessary evil for enjoyment. I’ve never been (nor do I ever care to be) a member of this rather bleak club. For many though it is, sadly, the norm that they exist within.

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Art as Communal Chaos

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I went to ‘Carnaval’ in Santa Cruise De Tenerife recently and decided to conduct an artistic social experiment. Art by its very nature, traditionally, – like writing – is a deeply personal, isolated and meticulous process. An individual, or group, sets out to plan, draft and perfect something that is then brought to the public for critique. My intention was to turn this concept on its head with a simple question: can art be created without a plan, talent or indeed any direction? It was with this question in mind that I set about preparing my ‘costume’ for the Carnaval.

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Istanbul: A City of Paradoxes

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I feel like a re-ignition of this blog has been long overdue and I’ve finally found the time and inspiration. I was in Istanbul for the New Year and found that the celebration in the main square there is devoid of a countdown. Instead the festivities consisted of one lone cheerer who caused a ripple effect across the crowd. This was followed approximately thirty seconds later by fireworks. It struck me as very usual how a festival which revolves around the celebration of time could be so badly, as it were, timed. However, I came to realise during my time in Istanbul that this was just one of many paradoxes that coloured the city’s streets.

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Life without Language

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I once again find myself in an unfamiliar place with a language that I do not understand. This is not something that is new to me, but it has gotten me thinking about how far one can get without using language. It is not – nor never was – my forte. Though I have improved on my ability to pick up languages I have not improved as much as I probably should have. However, what I have improved on over the years is my ability to read body language. This has proved a very useful skill to acquire.

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Tenerife: An Island Hammock

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I moved to Tenerife a few days ago for a new teaching job, and have been struck by something amazing. I can’t even really explain what it is, but I shall try to put words to feelings in this piece. Objectively speaking, there is nothing great about this arid Spanish- colonised island of the African coast. The landscape is desert with volcanic mountains. The coastline of volcanic black sand as dark as coal dust makes a temporary home to the Irish, British, Germans & Russians who wish to turn themselves dark crimson momentarily before returning to their natural milky complexions. So why is it that I feel so drawn to this arid rock filled with tourists?

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Wonga: Widening the Divide

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The corporate loan shark ‘Wonga’ has received a lot of media coverage in the UK recently. The website boasts easy short term loans with an APR of 5853%. The most disconcerting element of this relatively recent development isn’t that it exists – or that it is allowed to exist – but that society has reached such a point of utter desperation that it has come into existence. Surely in a ‘Developed First World’ country legalised extortion is not a necessary evil. To quote the almost comically ludicrous interest rates borrowing £1 for a week expects a return of £6.96[1]. We could argue that people have the freedom to choose and they need to take responsibility for their own actions. Therefore they have to suffer the consequences of them. Further, the question remains: are people really this desperate?

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Going Nowhere

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It never ceases to amaze me how people can stay in one place their entire lives and be perfectly content.  I was told about a man who passed away a few weeks ago. He went to school, trained and worked his entire life in essentially one building. The thing that amazes me is how happy – I was told – this man was with what he got from life.

The world is full of different types of people, which is the essence of humanity and the reason it’s possible for us all to occupy this increasingly small planet. That said it seems so strange to me that people could live perfectly happy lives without ever having lived in more than one town, village, even house for that matter. How can this be all they need to live perfectly content lives?

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The Unattainable Joy of Childhood

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Why is it impossible to reach the level of uncontrollable excitement and happiness that we took for granted as children? I had a class recently of children – who are younger than the teenagers I usually teach – and I was amazed and astonished with the level of joy that children can gain from the simplest of stimuli.

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Through the Window of a Coffeeshop…

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The hazy fog descends and the sinews slacken and ease. The mind relaxes and the world becomes your voyeuristic reality show. Through the haze you look at people in ways that you never looked before, or so it feels. A bike passes appearing to ride itself as a boy stands perched on its seat. Droves of camera-yielding cattle sport fanny-packs and chino shorts as they are herded from place to place by their leader. This cyborg-like creature – more fitting in a dystopic film noir – that is only capable of speech through the microphone on the right of her mouth. She waves a narrow, charcoal wand with a blue ribbon at its peak, like it was a leash.

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