It’s six months now since I was obliged to leave the lovely old flat in central Dublin which I had rented for 21 years. It was on the second floor of an old Georgian building and I loved it. It was full of books and old things, nooks and crannies, memorabilia and memories and I was sad indeed when I got notice to quit.
The situation also sharpened my awareness of homelessness and the cost of accommodation in Dublin, and I realised I was fortunate when friends knew about a small bedsit in the Stillorgan area which I might be able to rent instead. And so it came about, and discarding almost all the books and much of the furniture that I had accumulated over the years, I moved into a single room, with kitchenette and bathroom ensuite.
And guess what? I have come to realise that there can be satisfaction in simplicity, and a kind of freedom in discarding possessions. I have also come to like my single-room bedsit very much, and I can pass my old Georgian flat on the bus, now, without the pangs of yearning and regret, (although I miss the lovely neighbours I had there). But I now remember all the problems associated with that dwelling, since it had not really been maintained properly for some years.
It’s sometimes hard to “move on” from a way of life, and to leave behind what it represented. I am inclined to cling to possessions that represent the past: I lugged a totally unsuitable carpet from my old abode simply because it had once belonged to my sister. But you have to let things go, and allow the past to take care of itself.
It would be false to claim that my one-room lifestyle is my whole way of life, since I’m only in Dublin part-time. But it’s been something of a revelation to me how rewarding it can be to simplify and embrace the change.
Ofsted has an odd sense of priority
An orthodox Jewish girls’ school in North London, the Yesodey Hatorah school in Stamford Hill, enjoys an excellent academic and disciplinary record.
It is among the top 2% of schools in Britain for maths – and all progressive educationalists surely want to encourage girls to achieve high grades in maths. It is among the top 10% in English language and literature grades.
There are no disciplinary problems – no drugs, gang violence, or teenage pregnancy.
And yet the Yesodey Hatorah school is now under investigation by the government’s educational inspectorate authority, Ofsted, because it does not teach the pupils sex education as British educational authorities now require. It does not teach girls about masturbation, homosexuality or abortion.
The school also discourages the use of internet communication where possible. Yesodey Hatorah has received indications that Ofsted may penalise this school for failing to meet with “equality” and “diversity” criteria essentially because of its rather traditional and reticent view of sexuality.
How very modern. Excellent academic grades and good behavioural standards apparently count for little next to the urgent need for an explicit sex education instruction which parents have not requested.
Virtue of gratitude is alive and well on Dublin’s buses
Here’s a fascinating sociological question. Many Dublin buses have a front (entrance) door to the vehicle, and a side (exit) door too: and yet the exit side doors are seldom used or opened. Passengers usually enter and exit by the same front doors, which means that boarding passengers have to wait until others have alighted.
By contrast, on London buses with a similar vehicle design, it’s a compulsory practice to enter by the front door and exit by the side, or back door – thus enhancing ‘flow’ of ingress and egress, and helping the bus to move off faster.
I have wondered whether this Dublin practice of only using the same door for entrance and exit might be related to the question of social trust. A Japanese-American academic, Francis Fukuyama, wrote a whole book studying social trust in different societies – and whether citizens trust one another (concluding that France was the European country in which citizens least trusted each another).
So, do Dublin bus drivers mistrust the citizenry, keeping the exit door closed in case fare-dodgers nip in without paying? Possibly.
But someone has come up with a more benign suggestion: people on Dublin buses like to say “thank you” to the driver as they alight. And so, by leaving the bus via the front door, they are able to deliver their words of gratitude. It’s not mistrust – it’s a social courtesy to the man (or woman) who has the stressful job of navigating a bus through traffic.
Gratitude is a great attribute – G.K. Chesterton thought it a most vital virtue – and so I now see it practiced daily upon the Dublin buses.