22nd December, 1999
WATCH THIS SPACE
Millennium my arse.
All this hype about the millennium is really only in the western world and in fact we have not got the date right at all. The calendar that we use is called the Gregorian Calendar, which is just an updated version of the Julian Calendar, which in turn is an update of the Roman Calendar. The Roman calendar was very confusing and was totally out of sync with the solar year.
In 46BC Julius Caesar on the advice of Egyptian astronomer Sosigenes lengthened that year to 445 days to realign it with the solar year. This is when we began to have a leap year every 4 years. On the theory that a year was 365.25 days, this was fairly accurate but it was actually slightly too long only by 11 min 14 sec. This discrepancy became more and more obvious as the centuries rolled on. In 1582AD the calendar was 10 days ahead. Then Pope Gregory XIII stepped in and solved the problem by making October 5th the 15th. This new system became known as the Gregorian Calendar and most Roman Catholic countries adopted it immediately. Other nations did not comply until 1700. Britain aligned in 1752 and Russia not until 1918. To ensure that the slight error in the Julian Calendar would not be repeated it was decided that century years would be leap years only if they were divisible by 400. Thus 1600 was a leap year and 2000 will be a leap year, but 1700, 1800 and 1900 were not. The Gregorian system has an error of 0.0005 days per year and will not need to be revised for many hundreds of years. The next calendar will probably not need to be made until 4000 AD, which may loose it's leap year status, although minute variations in the earth- sun relationship have not made this a certainty. In early medieval times the Christian countries of Europe regarded March 25th as New Years Day. Anglo Saxons used December 25th until William 1st used January 1st as New Years Day. However England later joined Europe and used March 25th. Around this time more European states adopted the Gregorian Calendar and used January 1st as New Years Day. Britain fell fully into line in 1751. But from the point of view of the earth's orbit around the sun one of the Solstice dates should have been chosen as they mark the longest and shortest days of the year or one of the dates when both day and night are the same length. Now this is one way of recording time but just to confuse things a bit more here is a quick synopsis of just two of other calendars that are used worldwide. The Islamic calendar is based on the Lunar years, beginning with the year of the Hejirah (AD 622 in the Julian calendar) when Mohammed travelled from Mecca to Medina.The calendar runs in cycles of 30 years. There are leap years on the 2nd 5th 7th 10th 13th 16th 18th 21st 24th 26th and 29th years of the 30-year cycle. The Hejirah system is used mainly in the following countries, Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Malaysia, and even parts of India.The Jewish calendar is in popular use since the century 9BC. It is biased on Biblical calculations and places the creation at 3761 BC .The complicated rules of festivals and feasts has resulted in a calendar scheme, which can be one of six types. Minimal common 353 days, Regular common 354 days, Full common 355 days, Minimal leap 383 days, Regular leap 384 days, and Full leap with 385 days. The calendar is split into 12 months with a 13th month added in every 3rd 6th 8th 11th 14th 17th and 19th in an 19 year cycle. There are a lot more compilations with both of these calendars that would take up too much room to explain and then if you looked at the Chinese calendar it is more complex than the other two put together. So now you can see that Jan 1st does not count for as much as we might like to think it does. Whenever the others will celebrate a new millennium I am not too sure we will celebrate ours on Dec 31st and on Jan 1st we will be wishing we were using a different calendar (sore and sick heads). I would just like to wish all our readers a happy and safe season.
NEVER ENDING STORY
ONE MANS STRUGGLE WITH THE DEMON WEED
A few issues ago, we ran a feature on smoking;
specifically, the quitting of same. My heart-rending account of
the trials and tribulations of being a smoker in this cold,
uncaring world touched the souls of many, as well as being
critically lauded on both sides of the Atlantic. In the interests
of good journalism, the right of the public to know the full
facts, and the responsibility to cash in on a good thing when the
opportunity is there, I have deigned to write a follow-up piece,
basically carrying on where I left off to save time and effort. I
call this chain-writing.
Well, things went okay for the first few days. I chucked every ashtray, lighter and matchbox into a big hole in the garden, then went inside to savour the beginning of my new life. Aah - it felt good! Sipping a glass of Chardonnay, watching the beautiful sunset, and hacking up litres of phlegm. Hey - if it dont kill you, it can only make you stronger.
I woke up that night to find myself chewing on the Persian rug. Wonder why that happened?
The next day I still felt alright, but noticed I was getting a little snappy, especially with the dog. The fool dug up all my ashtrays and lighters and deposited them on the back step. I tied his tail to the ceiling fan in my annoyance. Maybe that was a little over the top.
Still no major cravings, but Id noticed that I was developing a twitch; and I was sucking on so many lollipops, my mouth had glued shut.
By day three, I had stood all I could and could stands it no more. Sweet Jesus, I needed a fag. I tried locking myself in the wardrobe but became afraid that the amount of varnished door I was eating could lead to toxic poisoning. I tried going for a walk but all I passed were tobacconists, Marlboro billboards and mitching schoolkids enjoying a surreptitious drag. I even tried meditation, but found myself chanting, Hare hare silky cutty silky silky hare cutty. Now, that didnt sound remotely like what the dudes in the orange robes used say.
Finally I cracked, bolted for the shops and spent all my money on eight thousand cigarettes. The next day my head felt like it had a functional chemical works inside it. I decided to try more drastic measures: acupuncture or, failing that, having all my fingers cut off.
I called to an old man in an older building in Chinatown (just past Blackpool). He had seven-inch fingernails and looked sort of like Ming the Merciless from Flash Gordon. Ming looked deep into my eyes and said, The path to true enlightenment is paved with suffering. I said, Yeah, yeah, tell me something I dont know, and told him to get busy with the pins.
I walked home doing a pretty good impression of Hellraiser, and went straight to bed. The next morning I awoke and discovered, much to my chagrin, that three of the pins had lodged themselves inside my ear. Oh well - at least my temporary deafness meant that I couldnt hear the dog howling from his perch on the ceiling fan. I walked to the bathroom, dripping blood all over my swanky new carpet, stared at my reflection in the mirror and decided to stake everything on one last throw of the dice: hypnosis (I was too chicken to go ahead with the finger-cutting plan).
Mr. Vortex had an office overlooking the river. It was draped with deep red curtains, the only light came from candles, and a tiny mummified head served as an unusual bonbon holder. He claimed to be an escaped nobleman from Bulgaria, but I got a little suspicious when he said, You are feeling sleeeepy, cove.
Anyway, the cat told me to stare at his gold watch as he swung it back and forth, back and forth ...The next thing I remember is waking up at home, hanging upside-down in the broom cupboard and making bat noises. It was less than a success.
I felt that Fate was trying to tell me something here, and I came to a realisation: its hopeless. Im never gonna be able to quit. Im stuck in this unending spiral of fags and ashtrays and squandering money and my mouth feeling like a crematorium and my lungs having the capacity of a foetus and being antisocial and having no sense of smell and it aint never gonna end!
Although ... I have heard of this new wonder patch thats just come on the market that my friend swears by - Nikkoterminate: if this doesnt cure you, youre already dead.
CHRISTMAS FROM THE ARCHIVES
The most striking feature of Christmas as I knew
it in the 1940s / 50s was the stark contradiction in the joy and
good will which abounded during the Holy Season and the sheer
hardship so much in evidence in the homes of large families such
as ours where the meagre, single wage which already groaned under
the struggle for survival throughout the year could not possibly
handle the extra burden of our expectations at this time. Lest I
appear to dishonour the memory of my parents let me say that we
were never without sufficient, wholesome food and warm clothing;
it was toys and other festive novelties that were be in short
However, we always looked forward to Christmas as a very special time when the city centre, which was just a short walk from Quaker Road where we lived, would be awash with multicoloured lights and the streets overstrung with decorations. A special effort was also made by the occupants of dwelling houses where the Nativity Crib commanded a central position. On Christmas Eve it was customary for all the family to gather in one room where the Christmas candle was lit by the head of the house, or alternatively by the youngest member of the household. A decade of the Rosary was then recited to invoke world peace. We prayed also for absent and deceased family members, and for those whose needs were greater than our own.
A special treat was our visit to Santa Clause in the run-up to Christmas, and by far the most popular choice was the red-robed gentleman in residence at the Cork Cycle Company on Merchants Quay. Apart from the excitement of receiving what by to-day's standards would be a very humble offering, the thrill of careering from the first floor of the shop down the slide to Santa's cave was the highlight of our trip. In the later years of our innocence we made this outing with a group of seven or eight of our peers and of course having the freedom of the town without parental constraint made the event so much more enjoyable.
My father worked as a bread van driver whose daily round took him mainly to rural areas, among people who ensured that our Christmas dinner-table never lacked either a turkey or a goose, as well as a plentiful offering of potatoes and vegetables. On the odd occasion he would arrive home with a fine salmon which had fallen foul to a net strategically placed at a secret spot somewhere on the River Bride.
First person to rise on Christmas morning was my mother who would light the oven and start the turkey or goose cooking before the whole family set off to Mass at St. Finbarr's South Parish Church, which we always referred to as the South Chapel. Returning home to the irresistible aroma emerging from the oven, we ate breakfast and turned our attention to the items that Santa Clause had brought in the quietness of the night. Before long we were out on the street, the boys with their cap-guns shooting everyone in sight, and the girls, some in their nurses uniforms treating the casualties, and others wheeling rag dolls in tinplate prams.
I still wonder how our mother managed to have the whole family seated and beginning the Christmas dinner together, though not before our father had led the Grace Before Meals and prayed The Lord would grant that we would all be present around this same table this time next year.
One carved in stone rule was that no family member left the house on the afternoon of Christmas day: this time was to be spent at home together, and to play host to the legions of relatives and friends who would call, some to pay the customary annual visit and a group of 18 / 19 year old pals of my brother, who played cards, drank lemonade and smoked cigarettes until late evening. Some of our younger friends came and went during the day and brought along their Christmas toys. There were some wonderous things like clockwork Train sets with hand-operated signals and turntables, Chemistry and Mechano sets as well as all sorts of board games such as Draughts, Ludo, Snakes and Ladders, etc. There was no specific tea-time on Christmas Day. Tea was available at anytime with copious helpings of Fruit Cake, Mediera Cake and Plum Pudding.
Finally when the last visitor had left and the family Rosary had been recited together with all the trimmings it was well past our normal bed-time. In the little room at the top of the stairs my two brothers and I talked and laughed about the events of the day and made plans for tomorrow when our day would begin at 8.30am. as we toured the neighbourhood "singing the Wran". But Christmas was never complete without a visit to the Assembly Rooms on the afternoon of St. Stephen's day, where the exploits of Roy Rogers, Gene Autry or Johnny McBrown would keep us enthralled for a few hours at total cost of four pence.
That was Christmas in the slow lane. A world apart it would seem from the Christmas we know today. But was it any better? Did we celebrate the festive season in a more sincere more genuine way? I Wonder. Think about it, and consider that in the year 2020 you will talk of the good old days 'way back in 1999.
Happy Christmas and a Holy and Peaceful New Year.
CHRISTMAS TREE OH! CHRISTMAS TREE
An estimated 250,000 to 300,000 real
Christmas trees will have been sold in Ireland this year. While
the market has been saturated for some time, Irish consumers are
becoming more quality conscious and increasingly prefer
non-shredding trees. Up to one million trees are grown in Ireland
but the majority are exported to other European countries. A
third of trees grown are needle retentive fir and pines and two
thirds are spruce. Current trends show a consistent increase in
the proportion of fir trees. It takes around 7 years for a
Christmas tree to reach 2M.
Artificial trees are usually made from non-inflammable PVC and most are imported. A range of colours are available and you should find good value for money if you shop around. Although by now you tree is probably up and running, and all you have to worry about is how to care for it.
Caring for a Real Tree; All trees shed their needles to some degree but the amount they shed depends on the species and can be lessened if you look after them well while they are in the house. Lack of water is the primary cause of trees shedding their needles. Treat your tree like a cut flower.
Saw a few centimetres off the stem and shake off any loose needles before bringing it inside.
When you bring it in, fix the tree in a stand with the cut end in a bucket of water.
Stabilise the tree using bricks around the trunk.
Check the bucket daily and keep it topped up with water.
The tree will last better if it is kept in a cold room.
Caring for an Artificial Tree; unlike real Christmas trees, artificial ones need little or no maintenance. Either keep the box it came in or put it in another box for next Christmas so it will survive the year undamaged. A Swedish study on Christmas trees estimated that people keep artificial trees for an average of five years, but they should last much longer than that if they are stored properly.
HEATING - THE COST OF KEEPING WARM
If an object or a building is heated, then heat
will be lost to its surroundings until equilibrium is restored.
You cannot prevent heat being lost from your home but, if you can
delay the rate of heat loss, by the use of insulation and other
techniques, then your home will be more comfortable and your fuel
bills will be smaller. Whoever invented the tea - cosy had the
Ventilation; As well as losing heat via the roof, windows, walls even the floor - a house also loses heat via ventilation. A certain minimal rate of air change is necessary for health. Most dwellings have a far greater air change rate than is necessary.
Temperature Control; Unnecessary heat loss is not the only way that fuel may be wasted. Overheating can be another cause. Keeping the home just 1oC warmer than is really needed will increase your fuel costs by 12% to 15%. The human body is unlikely to detect such a small increase; this is why every heating system needs to have some form of automatic space heating control. It is not good enough to rely on adjusting the boiler thermostat. A single room thermostat is not really good enough either. A room thermostat is best used in conjunction with thermostatic radiator valves which can turn off individual radiators if a room is receiving heat from another source, such as cooking, an open fire, or exposure to sunlight
Insulation; Most householders know about the choices and benefits of roof space insulation, cylinder jackets, the need to lag pipe work in unheated areas, etc. Sometimes the benefits are not translated into cash savings on fuel costs, but instead the dwelling will simply be warmer. This is fine if it was originally too cold. If not, then there should be enough temperature controls to prevent overheating, and thereby save more fuel and money.
Finally, you need to ensure that you are using the most economical fuel. If you are already an oil user, you need look no further.
GARDENING - LAST MINUTE PRESENTS
Last week we mentioned some Christmas presents
for the garden minded, now as the day is almost upon us we
mention some more. Hopefully they'll be of some help, if not to
you, maybe to somebody else, so take a look.
After Garden Care, acidic plant juices dry out the skin, so chaffed and rough hands are a common complaint among gardeners. Most gardeners find that a good moisturiser helps improve their skin. If you really want to spoil the recipient, you can include a relaxing bubble bath to help ease the aches and pains from a tiring day in the garden.
Garden Furniture; this kind of present won't fit under the Christmas tree but it's bound to be appreciated. For garden furniture try a specialised shop [, or a large DIY store. They may not have many items available this time of year, but you could be lucky.
Birds, bird feeders, tables, baths, and nest boxes are available in all shapes and sizes. A bird feeder or bath positioned so that it can be viewed from inside can bring hours of enjoyment, especially to someone who cannot get outdoors very often.
Bird Tables; A bird table needs to have a stand so that the birds are protected from cats. A stand about 1.5M should do the job. A roof over the table is very useful because it prevents rain making the food soggy or washing it away and also protects the smaller birds from rooks, crows and magpies.
Feeders; Bird feeders are good additions to a garden. Available in all shapes and sizes, hang some from a tree but clearly visible from the house, or from a bird table. Bird feeders made from clear acrylic are available, these stick to an outside window and this means that birds can be viewed up close from the comfort of a living room. Seeds, nuts and grated cheeses are good foodstuffs to use.
Books; there is a range of books that make ideal gifts for a gardening enthusiast. Books on just about any gardening topic are available in the shops. Try to deduce what aspect of gardening the person is interested in before you buy, for example, don't buy a book dedicated to water gardens unless the person you are buying for has shown a specific interest in that subject. Likewise don't blind a beginner gardener with complicated science and technical terms, instead buy a simple book, preferably with plenty of photos and drawings.
Finally moving away from Christmas presents, if you can try and feed the birds. We have destroyed their environment surely we owe them something, even if it's only a few crumbs on the window sill.
GARDENING - CHRISTMAS PRESENTS
to the students of the vocational and
the community Schools, Passage West 99,
from Diarmuid Considine.
Now that Im leaving
I hope that my sadness
Wont fall like rain from the skies.
I loved every minute
Of time I spent with you.
Thats love not tears in my eyes.
Im proud to have known you.
I listened and learned from the words
You had no need to say.
Words that will echo
Each rainy morning
And Ill think about you every day.
Ill miss the beautiful smiles of welcome
I saw in your eyes, wishing well.
And the way that you laughed
When I stumbled and stammered
And how gently you showed me the way.
Theres nobody better.
Theres nobody better.
Theres nobody better than you.
Its hard to believe it
And those who deceive will
Tell you that its just not true.
Your father and mother
There should be no other
To tell you whats white and whats black.
So keep their words clear in your minds
And youll keep the knives from your back.
And when the day comes
And the few are being counted
You wont need no papers at all
Youll just know dutys done
And battles been won -
A small child smiling up at us all.
SKIN CARE - THE SECOND STEP
Doing your homecare program on
your skin isn't enough. Your skin will require in depth cleansing
every 2 - 6 weeks. This is where your beauty salon comes in,
where a deep cleansing and re-balancing or anti wrinkle facials
will take place.
Your facial will include all different serums, aromatherapy oils, peels and masks to achieve the desired effect you are looking for your skin.
Now your face is feeling and looking it's best. The application of make-up will be easier and your skin will look more radiant. You will look and feel better approaching the Millennium
Make-up can produce miracles with the right colours and proper application.
Firstly apply appropriate day-cream to act as a make up base.
Foundation is a make-up base used to enhance the acid balance and texture to the face. Test a foundation colour by blending a drop on the jaw-line. The foundation should match your neck colour - no line should be noticeable. There are three types of foundations;
Natural Finnish Foundation or Matt Finnish foundation.
Is best suited to an oily skin.
Benefits of a Matt / Natural Finnish Foundation;
Creates a matt finish
Combats the visible signs of ageing
Acts as a barrier against external factors, eg pollution, wind, rain etc.
A Silk or Satin Finish Make-Up
Is best suited to Sensitive/Dry Skin, benefits;
Promotes a silky radiance
Keeps the skin soft and moisturised.
"Hydra-Silk (Artdeco) is a particularly high quality fluid make-up made in Japan with silk proteins.
For sensitive / mature skins, it's precious ingredients care for the skin giving it an even, silky soft finish. Protects against environmental factors as well as UVA and UVB radiation.
Application of Silk and Natural Finnish Foundation,
Place a small quantity of foundation in the palm or the back of your hand, warm the product to skin
Temperature and gently apply to the face, blending well into the hairline and down towards the Neckline.
More on January 6th
Charlotte Lennon (Cleopatra's Beauty Salon).
Cold was the night and dark the sky,
And snow lay on the ground,
A little girl came down the street
Her footsteps made no sound
For on those feet there were no shoes
Upon her head no hat
The rags she wore, not much, but yet
She thanked her god for that.
And she was poor, alone and poor,
Her rags were all she had,
On, on she trod with feet unshod,
Alone and poor and sad.
And then her eyes drew suddenly
Towards a shinning light
And in the house 'twas coming from
The world was warm and bright
And there inside the window pane
She tip-toed, for to see,
Then smiled and in her heart she said,
"Why it's a Christmas Tree,
I should have known, but it's so long
Since my dear Mama died,
God rest her soul, for she was good,
And looked on me with pride.
Now she is gone, and I'm alone
Please God forgive my shame.
Our Father Who art in Heaven
Hallow'd be Thy name.."
The little girl fell in the snow
In cold and hunger, wept.
Then to her in her agony
A peaceful feeling crept,
And on her face so cold and pale
A light fell from the house
A gentle voice said, " come my Child
And make your home with us"
And then arose the lonely girl
And walked in through the door
Her lips grew red, her eyes shone bright
Life came to her once more.
And never had she had such food
And never was her heart so glad
Gone were those rags, her feet wore shoes
She was all richly clad.
And 'round the tree, the Christmas Tree
She danced the whole nightlong
Never before so great her joy
Never so sweet her song
And in the blaze of golden light
She sparkled like a pearl
And Angels were all singing with
That happy little girl.
And when the sun shone down the street
They found her lying there
Her heart had stopped, her eyes were closed
Her arms were crossed in prayer
With weary hands they lifted her
And she was cold as clay
"Our Father Who art in Heaven.
Had called His child away "
all our Readers a very Happy Christmas
and a Peaceful New Year. Well see you all in
the new Millennium, 2000, with a first copy next
century on Thursday 6th January.