Tom and the joy of reading
Sir — As an avid reader, I thoroughly enjoyed Tom McCaughren’s beautiful article about books (Sunday Independent, November 26). I appreciate that social media is now all pervasive, but it’s hard to beat the satisfaction of reading a captivating book. Between the covers of a book, readers of all ages are exposed to adventure, excitement, anticipation, knowledge and information. Regular reading stirs the imagination, arouses curiosity and inspires creativity. With a book in your hand you’re in good company.
Of course, information technology must be embraced and online communication is hugely beneficial to writers and communicators. Digital media and literature can happily co-exist but young people should always be encouraged, as Tom McCaughren so eloquently puts it, to “open a book and find the same kind of magic that I found”.
Christmas is a time for exchanging gifts. Book shops throughout the country have an eclectic supply of books to suit all tastes. What more appropriate present can a parent give to a child than an introduction to the sheer joy of reading with the gift of an age appropriate book?
There is also an excellent public library service throughout the country where books to suit all tastes can be borrowed. One of my great pleasures in life is my regular visit to my local library in Tralee, where there is always a welcome from the courteous and friendly staff.
The sense of expectation from browsing through the bookshelves for the next “un-put-downable read” is something special. Membership to the local library will not only make an ideal stocking filler but will also introduce the recipient to a lifelong love of reading.
Potential for Irish rugby to be the best
Sir - The progression of Irish rugby in the past couple of decades has been nothing if not spectacular, and it is an inspiration to all of us. The national team and our provincial teams have had many a great and indeed emotional win during that time. These include a win over England in Croke Park and a first win over the All Blacks in Chicago, which anyone who was lucky enough to attend, I'm sure, will cherish always. There have also been many famous wins for our provinces, whereby all four provinces have either won the Heineken Cup or the Pro 12, or indeed both.
The recent November internationals have endorsed the Irish team's potential to be up there with the best in world. We have arguably the best scrum in world rugby, plus a world-class three-quarters in Conor Murray and Jonathan Sexton, all consolidated by a top-class back line. There is no shortage of talent coming through, as every match now seems to throw up another star, and, of course, we can't forget Joe Schmidt, who is an excellent coach.
Rugby was once viewed as an exclusive sport in this country, but now thankfully that view has largely been reduced to the dustbin. Nowadays our teams are supported by a large section of the populace, from every walk of life. The team itself is made up of players from every corner of this island.
It just goes to show what can be achieved when we work together as a people on this island. During the recent internationals, each man was indeed shoulder to shoulder and proud to wear the jersey.
I think this should work as a catalyst for togetherness and be inspirational to all. Long may it continue.
They didn't care for this customer
Sir - On reading both Katy Harrington's article (Living, Sunday Independent, November 26) and her 'aneurysm'-inducing experience with a mobile phone call centre which specialises in zero customer care, and Alan O'Neill's article (Business, Sunday Independent, November 26) on how to handle customers' complaints positively, I must tell my story - for therapy, if nothing else.
On October 5, I ordered a mobile phone online from Eir. On October 9, I received two phones and my account was debited twice. I immediately got on to their 'chat line' and was told to contact 'Customer Care' (the torture begins). After being put through to numerous sections, I was eventually told to put my problem in writing immediately to their email address. I did this and on October 13, I received a reply from Eir requesting me to contact 'Customer Care' (see where this is going?). I wrote back to Eir again and explained that 'Customer Care' told me to write to them. On November 1, Eir wrote back and told me to ring 'Customer Care' who would arrange a "jiffy bag team" (no jesting) to collect my phone.
OK, to try to keep this brief, hours were spent ringing Eir's so-called 'Customer Care', being sent from one section and person to another, giving my name and details till I was blue in the face. Incidentally, they have all my personal details, including credit card information, but will only give me their first name.
I didn't quite have an aneurysm, but after speaking with a lot of poor 'Customer Care' staff, I had to do some very serious deep breathing and meditation to prevent said aneurysm occurring.
On three separate occasions, I was told someone would call me back but I'm still waiting for that elusive call. Nearly two months on from receiving the two phones, I'm about to throw them both into the Irish Sea and revert to using my old friend the "landline".
Eir's new advertisement 'Let's Make Possible' is a joke and should read: "Let's do everything we possibly can to make any problem you may have with us totally impossible to solve".
Such wise words from author Tom
Sir - A lovely article by Tom McCaughren (Sunday Independent, November 26, 'My Narnia in a cupboard of books') on how as a child he discovered a treasure trove of adventure stories, Treasure Island, The Wind in the Willows and so on, which awakened in him a lifelong love of reading.
He also brought to reality his dream of being an author by writing his collection of lovely children's books. I am indeed jealous, as I did not read in my youth, full stop. Now in my 60s, I struggle to keep the concentration going. So some wise advice from Tom for this time of year as follows: "A gift of a carefully chosen book can have a far more lasting effect than the latest overpriced gadget."
What a saint your letter writer is
Sir - I am writing to you about a letter "Dear Mary" in The Letter I Wish I'd Sent series (Sunday Independent, November 19), written by Ann, address with Editor.
Of all the letters I have read, I think she should win a prize, with the life she had with a bitter mother-in-law. It would help her to do up her cottage and make it comfortable for the few years she has left.
To think she went to weed her grave, after what she did to her, and no bitterness. To me she is a saint. I love the paper.
My fond memories of 'Maxie' McCann
Sir - I read with fascination your obituary (Sunday Independent, November 19) about Jimmy 'Maxie' McCann. It really was great to read about the unknown events of football's great Maxie McCann.
I don't think anyone could have known the nuggets you came up with. I have another memory of Maxie that I often recall when talking about him. We were both in second class in St Canice's School on the North Circular Road under Brother O'Neill. We were aged eight at that time in 1941.
I next came across Maxie one year later, when we met up in North City Boxing Club. We boxed in club tournaments at the colossal weight of four stone. I always remember how fast and stylish Maxie was.
I next saw Maxie on the wing, outside right for Shamrock Rovers. With Code, Touhy, Peyton, Hamilton, Henderson and others just as famous.
At the time, I played football and copied Maxie on how to play as winger. I went out of soccer when I was at my peak when I developed TB and was hospitalised for six months. I never played again. I recovered, thank God. I'm 84 and so far I'm hale and hearty, thanks to the drugs at that time. However, I still remember our Maxie, so thanks a million for all the memories.
Tidings of gladness from Donald Tusk
Sir - Donald Tusk's visit to Dublin will be like manna from heaven for a beleaguered Taoiseach given the events of the last week that saw him being pitched as weak and wobbly in the eyes of many.
The EU President brought tidings of great gladness and joy pronouncing tangible support for the Irish Government over the Irish Border. This will allow Leo Varadkar to hold firm on the issue and appear to be strong and stable which given the last week will be most welcome.
Across the water you would nearly have to feel sorry for a beleaguered Theresa May. She cannot catch a break with Donald Trump misfiring on Twitter, her First Secretary of State being investigated over inappropriate behaviour and agreeing to cough up more than double of what she stated would cost the Brexit bill - approximately £50bn.
To top it off she now has Arlene Foster screeching from Northern Ireland that any deal over the Irish Border would jeopardise the supply and confidence deal that props up the Tory UK Government.
The need to celebrate Kavanagh
Sir — Mary O’Rourke’s tribute to Patrick Kavanagh (Sunday Independent, November 26) is to be commended. O’Rourke is one of the few voices to be heard celebrating one of Ireland’s greatest poets on the 50th anniversary of his passing.
It was enjoyable to read of her experience with Kavanagh and interesting that she raised the connection with Donogh O’Malley. While his native Monaghan is making an effort, the lack of celebration from official institutions is shameful.
A single round-table discussion on Kavanagh’s work along with a reading offered by Trinity College is a pathetic tribute to a man who contributed so much to poetry.
Not only should Kavanagh’s poetry be celebrated for its own sake, but his impact on poetry more broadly through his influence on so many subsequent great Irish poets, chiefly, Paul Durcan, Brendan Kennelly and Seamus Heaney, is a legacy worth acknowledging with more consideration.
Were it Yeats or Joyce or another over-celebrated literary figure, the celebrations would have been abundant. However, because of Kavanagh’s ordinary appeal, which O’Rourke rightly praised, he goes unacknowledged by the self-appointed Irish literary elite. Wouldn’t it be wise for them to take Kavanagh’s advice and move away from being a “breed of fakes” and rather aspire to achieve “what it takes in the living poetry stakes” or simply try to be more like Mary O’Rourke?
Keith O Riain,
Grandchild’s upset over article on family
Sir — I am writing to express my uttermost upset and anger in response to the article by Liam Collins (Sunday Independent, November 26).
As a grandchild, of both the late Werner Braun and Heide Roche, it was a difficult and distressing read. Personally, I was not aware that news was so slow as to resort back into archive history from the 1970s. I myself could conjure up a lot more interesting and relevant news stories for the present day, despite my lack of reporting background.
As a family man, I am appalled Collins had the audacity to write such an article in this time of grief my family is suffering. I believe he, too, unfortunately lost both his parents and so should be absolutely aware of the arduous times that follows any loss of a loved one. Clearly, all compassion and sympathy for my family was consigned to oblivion. For me to lose both grandparents in a year is heartbreaking and I cannot imagine how my father and his siblings are feeling. Needless to say, the article and its unkind reflection of my grandparents provoked a disgusted reaction within me. No grandchild should ever have to endure reading about their grandparents in such a negative light, especially in this raw period of mourning.
I understand, perhaps, why the story may have made the press in the 1970s — but almost 50 years later I find it unnecessary. I would also encourage you to obtain the correct information and facts before publishing — I did not realise you aspired to associate yourselves as a tabloid newspaper, popular for sensational news created to damage reputations.
If an article was to be written on either of my grandparents, there is no shortage of the kindness and generosity they showed to others. My grandmother, Heide, was involved in several charitable projects throughout the years and her generous nature touched many people. If you exerted your investigative energy into this approach, I believe a more appealing and genuine article would have resulted.
In conclusion, I honestly hope you will reflect on the negative effect your outdated article has produced and, in future, develop a trace of compassion towards a grieving family.
Milltown, Dublin 6
It all started in Garden of Eden
Sir — A glaring omission by Tommy Tiernan’s entertaining article (“is the Bible for women at all?’’ in LIFE, Sunday Independent, November 26) was the failure to highlight the very first instance of fake news — Adam and Eve. The inferiorisation of women started right there.
Although he lived in Eden, Adam was a tad bored. To alleviate his loneliness and isolation, it was decided he needed a little distraction, in fact so much so, he donated a rib for the creation of a little light entertainment. Cue Eve, obviously easy enough on the eye but a gullible creature, silly and weak and easily fooled and even worse, a temptress and a contaminator. Shall we say the rest is history? A negative message to a vast audience. Fake news is not a new phenomena. It originated in the Old Testament.
Dungannon, Co Tyrone
The independence of the IFPA
Sir — I am very concerned at the recent description of the Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) as “independent experts” by the Oireachtas committee on abortion. The IFPA website states that: ‘‘The IFPA supports the choices of women and girls with an unplanned or crisis pregnancy in all circumstances.”
How can this position be described as ‘independent’? It is interesting to note that Dr Martin Luther King’s niece, Dr Alveda King, compares the fight against abortion with the fight against racism. She describes abortion as discriminating against the unborn baby and refers to the pro-life movement as ‘the new civil rights movement’.