“If We Should Weep When Clowns Put on Their Show…”


This article appears in Chicago’s ‘Irish American News’ for November 2015.

If I Could Tell You
Time will say nothing but I told you so
Time only knows the price we have to pay;
If I could tell you I would let you know.

If we should weep when clowns put on their show,
If we should stumble when musicians play,
Time will say nothing but I told you so.

There are no fortunes to be told, although,
Because I love you more than I can say,
If I could tell you I would let you know.

The winds must come from somewhere when they blow,
There must be reason why the leaves decay;
Time will say nothing but I told you so.

Perhaps the roses really want to grow,
The vision seriously intends to stay;
If I could tell you I would let you know.

Suppose the lions all get up and go,
And the brooks and soldiers run away;
Will Time say nothing but I told you so?
If I could tell you I would let you know.

WH Auden



I’m pleased to report that as of this morning I have renewed my love affair with Isabel Dalhousie, the Edinburgh editor of the ‘Review of Applied Ethics’.  We had a bit of a falling-out at our last meeting, but I’m delighted to tell you that she is back to her old self and I regained my admiration for her once more whilst she guided me through ‘The Novel Habits of Happiness’.

Isabel is the heroine of ten books by Alexander McCall Smith and I have devoured them all since first stumbling across them.

They’re a million miles from what I would normally read and it’s hard to pinpoint just what I find so addictive about them.  I suppose that in a way they are a bit like Life:  nothing much happens except that everything happens.  They are deceptively light and you could easily go through one in a sitting.  But make sure to have a pen and paper with you as you will be coming across endless snippets of lore that you will want to check on later.

Isabel is always so calm and measured in her responses that I (who suffer from a more volatile temperament, particularly when it comes to our inordinately large number of corrupt politicians) have come to depend on her to calm me down.  When crossed by self-serving political types I’m not very tolerant at all.  So I was pleased when she pointed out to me yesterday that Chesterton believed that tolerance went with having no convictions.

Having no convictions.  How that rang out this week as we were presented with a budget that was designed to try to make people forget the savagery that has been imposed on them over the past years by Fine Gael and their Labour lapdogs.   And they’re likely to be happy because we do have notoriously short memories when it comes to politics, tending to replace one corrupt set of gougers with another in a sort of never-ending ‘Groundhog Day’.  And since some people have with myopic willfulness, taken the €100 bribe from Irish Water (which they will be asked to give back tenfold in the years ahead) they will no doubt be impressed with the €3 here and the €5 there, completely forgetting in their craven, tongue-lolling gratitude all that was stripped from them in the first place.

Another thing that Isabel reminded me of yesterday was a dictum from one of her first philosophy teachers:

There are very few circumstances — very few – when paternalism is justified.  You should not keep the truth from people.

And she told me this at just the right time since our nanny-state national broadcaster, affectionately known as RTÉ Pravda, was embroiled in an instructive little row.

Finance Minister Micheal Noonan and his ghastly little sidekick Brendan Howlin were due to enthusiastically pat each other’s backs on ‘Today with Seán O’Rourke’ when — according to a report by The Times (Irish edition) journalist Ellen Coyne, who witnessed the altercation after being shown into the wrong room — one of Noonan’s advisors told the producer that both ministers would be doing the soft-shoe shuffle right out the door unless questions from those nuisances, the Irish Public, were made available to them for approval beforehand.

Sharing a backbone and independence of thought with that of your average jellyfish, RTÉ naturally enough gave in and made sure that the ministers were only given stuff that they could handle – and even then the pocket-sized sleeveen with the King Kong-sized ego, Howlin, apparently almost managed to mess it up.

Despite squeals of denial from the RTÉ Propaganda Damage Limitation Department, The Times’ editor Richard Oakley says that they are standing by their story.

I wasn’t there, I’m sad to say; but having witnessed over the last twelve months the deliberate disinformation that they have broadcast in relation to the Irish Water protestors I would be inclined to believe Satan himself before I would blithely accept a single word that RTÉ whispered into my shell-like.  In any case, they are saying (and I don’t doubt it is) that it’s standard practice to have questions prepared in advance and handed to the team (!) of advisors for the Department of Finance.

Of course, this makes sense in a country where we have a Merkel-approved leader like Dame Edna Kenny who literally cannot even give a television appearance – not even with a script in his hand, which he invariably holds upside down. (OK; I made that last bit up.  Now watch it actually happen one day!)

Needless to say, Fianna Fáil finance spokesman Michael McGrath was HORRIFIED to discover that there were such carryings-on, since his lot is notoriously clean and morally pure of heart when it comes to doing anything underhanded. In fact he was SO shocked that he thundered that it was ‘beyond belief’:

“Perhaps naively, I always believed that this annual phone in was a genuine, spontaneous engagement between the people and the Ministers in which anything about the Budget could be asked”.

That’s odd.  RTÉ say that it has been “standard practice for years”.  Either no one told Fianna Fail back when they were in power or those are winged monkeys flying out of McGrath’s ass.

My Isabel’s favourite poet, W. H. Auden once wrote:  “If we should weep when clowns put on their show…”  I’m pretty sure he wasn’t thinking of political chancers at the time, but that’s what this lot brought to mind for me this week.

I always reply to anyone who takes the time to email me, even if it is in disagreement.  So I just want to apologise today for losing some recently whilst I (and a lot of others) were getting some seriously dodgy-looking stuff.  One in particular which got inadvertently deleted was from a reader (I THINK in Chicago) who had taken Irish citizenship and was hoping to move here in 2016. If he reads this, I’m curious as to why he’s coming to a place that so many young people are emigrating from in search of work. I could do with a Good News story!

In the meantime, there are a couple of seriously iffy things going on here at the moment that I don’t have space to go into.  I’ll leave you with a link to one:


Counsellors, TDs and good old-fashioned cronyism.  How our masters must hate this new-fangled digital age where they can’t just confine and control stories as in the mainstream days of yore.