30 October 2008

Updates on a “Wonderful Job”

2 updates indeed!

Both regarding my previous post.

The first (smaller) one:

Apart from the email I ranted about (at length) on Sunday, I received a few “semi-automatically” generated emails, acknowledging my correspondence and assuring me that the matter would be brought to the various Ministers' attention…

But I did get another email, from another TD for Meath-East, but one sitting on the opposition benches of the Oireachtas – in this case, the Dáil – or “parliament” in “English” English, instead of Irish… ;-) The tone was so different, almost concerned, and in no way condescending, nor patronising.

So two answers out of 20, not bad for a first time. Never know, I could turn into a professional lobbyist to supplement my Old Age Pension when I eventually reach that stage of life…

The second (bigger) update:

I heard on the way home this evening that Ms Hanafin confirmed today the Government’s decision to row back (it has been qualified as a “U-Turn” by some, and a “Flip-Flop” by others), saying that “the existing arrangements would continue, pending the completion of a full review of the scheme”.

And my reaction to this: Does Democracy actually work?

Quoting from my Oxford dictionary, Democracy is “ 1. a system of government by the whole population, usually through elected representatives”.

So if the elected representatives “get it wrong”, the “whole population” can remind them so. We tend to forget this, don’t we? We give out, we complain, but we do not act. And sometimes, when we do, it works! It’s exactly what has happened over the last two weeks: with the over 70’s, with the Disability Allowance.

In a democratic system, the few are supposed to be working for the welfare of the many: Saving only €4.3 million per annum to the detriment of vulnerable 16 and 17 years olds was not “WELFARE”.

The second part of the definition of Democracy caught my attention: “ 2. a classless and tolerant form of society” Mr. TD Meath-East of last Sunday did not show much tolerance in my view.

Oh Yes, an email was waiting for me when I got home today: from “guess who?” Yes, Mr. TD Meath-East of last Sunday. Again a little “beauty”, see for yourself:

“Hi P.
I assume you will have heard the Minister's announcement. I said in my previous email that I would be confident of a positive conclusion.
I hope this assures you.

- No, you didn’t say that.
- And yes, you are a chancer!

26 October 2008

“Probably Doing a Wonderful Job”

Warning: This is a letting-off-steam-because-I-am-incensed-at-the-stupidity-of-some-people kind of a post. Remember, I am French born and raised, and not known for my submissive nature! Blowing off steam is my way of controlling the “Frenchie Temper” side of me ;-)

I received an email today that quite blew me by its cheer audacity and its condescending tone. Let’s just say that I am quite enraged about it.

Ok, wind back a few steps to explain:

First, I have never in my voting life (since the age of 18) written to any politician or elected representative. I just never have had the need nor the inclination for it. There was a time, in a different life, when I did write to quite a number of Heads of State, Ministers for Justice and Chiefs of Police in various countries around the world – snail-mail at the time – on behalf of prisoners of conscience who had been adopted by Amnesty International, to which I belonged for a good number of years. But in Ireland, I have never done it, until today.

Second, I am quite cynical about politicians in general. Though I always exercise what I consider not only a fundamental right - the right to vote - but a public and civic duty, I often end up voting “against” rather than for, e.g. voting for a candidate to keep another, or a party, out. Not the best way, I know, but I feel it’s better than not voting at all.

Third, Cathal’s birth has brought me into contact with a world I knew virtually nothing about, the world of Special Needs. And there, to my very naïve dismay, I find that all is not well (I know, I know, I should have realised, I am enough of a news-addict to have copped on, but I had not really got the full picture). So little Cathal is the source of my new found education.

A few months ago, I joined the Louth/Meath branch of Down Syndrome Ireland (I live in Meath) and I regularly get emails from the branch Secretary. I also joined DSI Forum. Between the two, I became aware of the proposed changes in the Budget for 2009 for payments of Disability Allowance for 16 to 18 year olds. A call for action came by email on Friday, and I decided to email various ministers, my 3 TD’s, all the Greens elected to the oireachtas (after all, they hold the balance of power) and a few independent TD’s (they too might hold that balance!) – and yes, Hammie, I did contact your newly independent Joe Sixpack! – as well as leaders of the opposition parties. After all, it’s as good a way as any to spend a bank holiday Sunday morning!

I carefully crafted my email, drawing from the statements posted on DSI website, and adapting my template to each recipient with regards to his / her position in or out of government. Nice, polite, stating facts, and using my democratic right to voice my opinion on what I see as a totally misguided and unjust proposal. I did mentioned I was writing as a concerned grand-mother of a child with DS, not mentioning his age, which is irrelevant here, a principal is at stake after all. In total, about 20 emails went out. Not bad for a first time! And nothing like the enthusiasm of the “newly converted” ;-)

To my surprise, I got an answer during the afternoon, from one of my own TD’s. The contents blew me. I will not name him, it would not be fair, though if you want to know more, my email address is in my profile.... Here is most of the email he sent me:

He started by thanking me for my email and went on to say:

“I take a strong view in welfare issues. My wife is a nurse specialising in disability.”

The cynic in me start saying; “So….? What has your wife got to do with anything?”

But let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and read on:

“This is a difficult one because I actually don't think it was designed as a revenue saving exercise. I know people who are inappropriately in my view (but legally) on disability when they could quite easily get a job or go into training of some kind. I know two people who left school because of this provision.”

What? . . . Double take here, read it again. Yes, he did write this!

Ok, what’s next?

“ But I take your point - a reform like this shouldn't be introduced without a corresponding increase in education or training. The National Federation of Voluntary Bodies - who initially recommended this course of action - are meeting Minister Hanafin on Tuesday and I would be confident of a positive outcome.”

True, they did, along with a whole range of other suggested measures what were totally ignored. That WAS my point, if you had read my email properly! Let’s continue:
"However, notwithstanding that we must do everything to ensure no extra family burden financially, surely age 16 is too young to write off all young disabled people as unfit for work or training? Accepting that some are of course, through no fault of their own.”

Double take again…What???? – By the way, the word “all” was highlighted in the email, I did not stress it.

Read on:

“I will be talking to the Minister during the week and will keep you informed.”

Sure you will!...

And the conclusion – priceless:

“My best regards to your family who are probably doing a wonderful job.”

What (again!)??? Do you think his parents have a choice? Would you not do a wonderful job for your own children, special needs or not? So condescending!

Let’s just say that I will not be voting for him at the next General Election – didn’t last time, but definitely not next time!

I did answer him, very nicely, very politely, stating facts as listed on the DSI website, and bringing into play the principals of protection of the most vulnerable members of our society – my professional negotiating skills were strongly called upon here!

In conclusion, am I being “thick” here? Over-reacting just a tad?
In any case, the Political Cynic in me had a field day today! Thank you Mr. TD for Meath-East! You just confirmed what I always thought!

PS - As I have been typing this, I have been listening to Paul McCartney’s Ecce Cor Meum (yes, the former Beatle, a brilliant piece of “new classical” choral music). I was hoping it would help me cool down a bit. Not sure it’s worked! Dam it, I am still mad!

18 October 2008

Text a SHOUT!

"The best spokespersons for people with Down syndrome are people with Down syndrome! The "Shout Programme" is designed to train and develop adults with Down syndrome to speak for themselves. If we don't 'Shout' how can we be heard?”

Though Cathal is a little young to speak on his own behalf, I think it is a very good idea that a programme like this will enable him to speak for himself in later years. So I am supporting, and promoting it, in my own little way.

The first step of this new programme is to train a group of adults to act as ambassadors at the Word Down Syndrome Congress in Dublin in August 2009. For full details of the programme, click here.

From the comfort of your own home, you can text-donate to “SHOUT”. Simply text SHOUT to 57502 - It will cost you a measly € 2 and 10 seconds of your time! (and you can even receive a Bizzy Bee screensaver as a thank you).

So please, Text a SHOUT, and ask others to do the same.

12 October 2008

Eleven day-to-day things

As Hammie so “kindly” tagged me to share eleven things I like, here is my list (I’ll try to keep it to the day-to-day stuff, otherwise I’d need several posts, and bore everyone to death!).

In alphabetical order (so no jealousy among the mentioned):

Breakfast in Bed:

At weekends, or during holidays, with the breakfast tray across my lap, pot of strong coffee (see “Hot Drink” below), my mega cup (no half measures here), warm French baguette or nice toasts and jam, and a good book. Pure simple pleasurable “me” time.

Clothes Shop: Armand Thierry

A French chain of really nice cloths, situated in some very good Shopping Centres. The cloths are classy, trendy, and what I would term “different”: a unique mix of materials, a play on the asymmetric, and beautiful yet discrete embroidery. When I need to power-dress, the suits in particular serve me right, being stylishly subtle, I look and feel like a pro! I could spend a fortune in these shops. In fact, I have!

Cold Drink: Champagne

What else?
And yes, I do have expensive taste. So…?

Dawn Skies:

I hate mornings. I hate getting up early. I don’t “get” the need for mornings. Mornings are depressing – in other words, I am more an evening / night person.
But I do need to get up in the morning, and very early at that, as for the last 2 years or so I have been commuting into Dublin city centre. And here is the redeeming features of these mornings: the incredible beauty of dawn-breaking skies I see on my way, especially at this time of the year, or in spring time. The streaks of colours, promises of a glorious sunny day, are breath-taking. This would almost reconcile me with “mornings”!


They don’t need to be on my weekly shopping list, they jump into the trolley by themselves. I have had a pink cyclamen on my bedroom window for the last 5 years (it followed me during my moves without any complaint); by some miracle it is in constant bloom, and it delicately greets me with its scent every time I close or open the curtains.

Food – in general:

I love finding out new flavours, textures. I’ll try almost any thing. And I absolutely love savouring food, taking hours if needed for a nice dinner, especially if with nice people and good conversation.

Hot drink: Coffee

Black, rich, but not bitter. My favourite for several year has been “Café Direct” Rich Roast, the red pack (and it’s Fair Trade, so I feel I am doing “my bit”), it’s perfect for my cafetière, though I have been told I do make it very strong… And I need to watch myself, this is so addictive!


I love rhythm. So I love music, virtually all types: Pop, Rock, Classical, Jazz, Hip-hop, R&B, Latino – the only type I generally don’t get: Country & Western. Apart from that, anything goes.
And with that, dancing. I’m not much good, but, if there is any possibility, nothing will stop me, I am the first to hit the floor, and last to leave.
Two examples will illustrate:
1. I have been known to get “funny” looks from pedestrians on the street as, while stopped in traffic, I have been caught hitting my car steering wheel, hopping on my seat, bass-volume full on.
2. When I got up the day after the Red Hot Chilli Peppers concert in Phoenix Park about 4 years ago (the excuse was to take my son there as a birthday present… Yey, right!): I found I could hardly walk, the soles of my feet were so raw from the previous day jumping around.
Hemmmm. How old am I supposed to be?

TV series:

They are a number of series I have enjoyed over the years: ER (since the very beginning), Lost, Twin Peaks, Desperate Housewives, The X Files, The Clinic.
But my overall favourite…. This could be so embarrassing, but here goes: Star Trek, and especially Star Trek Voyager… I could sit through re-runs for ever!

White Chocolate:

Oh God! This is my major downfall. Especially Butler’s White Chocolate bar, with the soft gooey centre. Or Leonidas white chocolates with the butter cream inside… Heaven!

Workout: In Curves

It’s only 30 minutes a session, it’s a complete exercise, they are constant new ways of motivating me to come back. I always feel great coming out, no matter how tired I am going in. I aim (and usually succeed) for 3 sessions a week.

So now you know what makes me tick day-to-day.

And I am not tagging or asking anybody to do the same. But if anyone is so inclined, it's fun!

It All Makes Sense

If you have ever wondered what being a Grandparent is all about, check this out here.

I could not have put it better myself.


05 October 2008

I Am Only… (Take no. 1)

I had been cogitating on this topic for a few days, when this morning Hammie very kindly torpedoed my train of thoughts on this very subject, by giving me this award:

So nice of her! Especially considering:
A. that I read a blog for the very first time only about 4 months ago, and that was Cathal’s Mammy’s. From there, I started clicking on a few others, and then went on to follow them, eventually daring to post the odd comment (it’s hard for me to stay silent, as you might have noticed!),
and B. That I started my own little rambling blog less than 2 months ago.

So to be given this “I ♥ Your Blog” award makes me feel so nice and warm....

I will come back to this topic at a later stage, but for now I want to explain just one thing: I entered Blogland hesitantly: though I started it because I felt I had a lot of things to say, ironically I felt a little “different” talking about DS / Disability et al., simply because I am not a Parent of a Special Needs Child, but a Grand-Parent.

In other words… I am Only the grand-mother.

I hoped I would not be seen as an intruder. Instead I found a welcoming that has been very heart warming. The comments on my post are the best, they make me smile, laugh, and think… Dam it! I am doing so much thinking!!!

The rules of this award are simple – Hammie, I am lifting directly from your own post here, hope you don’t mind!
1. The nominated is allowed to put the picture on their blogs.
2. Link to the person who awarded you.
3. Nominate seven other people and link to them.
4. Leave a message on those people's blog to make them aware that they're nominated.

I need a little time to award to seven people, and reserve the right to award again later… (I’ve been at this only a couple of months, so please give me a break!).

And today the winners are:

- Cathal’s Mammy, of Cathal’s Big Adventure shhhh at the back, I know she is my own daughter, but let me tell you why before you start complaining of favouritism: I thought I knew her, but I have discovered facets of her through her blog that have amazed me. She is a Super Mammy. She can write so well. She is funny. She is entertaining. She is thought-provoking. She has made me cry. All get a tick from me.

- Next, Hammie herself, of Hammiesblogand you over there, stop shouting “Unfair!” it won’t change my choice - Yes, girl, you never specified in the rules that a reciptient could not get this twice, nor from the person you gave it to. So there! Take it! No matter what she writes about, Hammie ticks all my boxes. But most of all, she has contributed so much to my “Special Needs” education, I consider her more a teacher than an adopted virtual grand-daughter ;-) By the way, I think we are closer in age to be of a mother/daughter generation, than of a grand-mother/grand-daughter generation, but I have gratefully accepted the title you gave me because I realise it is an honour to belong to the Granny-Club.

- My next two go to Dads who also tick many boxes for me: they make me laugh (always a winner in my books); they make me think, and often hard; they often bring up a lot of emotions in me; also, on some very different levels which I will not explore here, I fell I “get” these dads, even when the topic has nothing to do with the DS world. So step up and take a bow please Nick, of Our Jacob, and Elbog, of Bittersweet – and no sniggering Nick, this is DEAD serious! Your blog was the second one I started following after Cathal's Mammy's, I got hooked on the first click!

To all four of you: I Do Love Your Blogs.

And I thank you for accepting me into your world.

Now, get to work people, and award away.

03 October 2008

Pour les français ;-)

À six mois et demi, Cathal se tient assis presque sans soutien.

Il a les yeux bleus comme sa maman, et ses cheveux (hérissés) ont des reflets auburn… comme une certaine arrière – arrière - grand-mère bourguignonne ?

I apologise to my English-speaking readers, but the "Frenchies" need to be updated from time to time ;-)



Hi hi hi (translation: hee hee hee)


Viens ici que je te dise… (translation: Come here till I tell you...)

A boire! (translation: Drink!)

Encore, encore! (translation: More, more!)