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The Last Cabaret

            Final Fiesta

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Dancing giants and their marching musicians, with the public in train, a caravan of prams…

Marching bands and ballerinas

Parade the street, pulling public,

Producing impromptu dances

Around pushchairs and infants

Held aloft; cheering and chants

And stampings, stampeding

Children screaming gleefully

Gobbling up potato chips, fried

Calamari, scampi and such snacks

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Washed with beer and wine,

Vermouth and gin and an ever-

Growing list of sin, resisted

Until the wee hours under stars,

Revelling unrelenting. Renewed

As sunlight reveals debris and

Blinkered vision revolves to 

Another village, a different festival,

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Of a reencountered countryside

Ready for recreation after a year

Of restraint and restriction. See

A need for sun burning, but

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Another urge underneath fuels 

This seeming endless summer:

A sense of a September looming

Despite peaceful scenes.

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Heat will resist yet, bringing

Only waves of pain. Winter comes

Indeed, but carries no snow,

Nor silent ice-glazed stasis,

Only storms. The wars await,

Worse than after a former August

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And this is our last cabaret, 

Held under a hammer cocked,

A trigger primed, and all

Staggering at the tipping-point.

This guy is having a beer, using his other, smaller mouth in the throat, taking a break from bonking children on the head with that sponge.

We were finishing up the festival of San Fermin Txikito, or little San Fermin, last weekend, which was kind of the last festival of the summer – one which had the youths going to as many festivals in as many villages round Pamplona as they could get to, after the two years they missed out on because of the Covid restrictions. And I just said to myself – good luck to them. They’ll have shit shovelled out in front of them soon enough. We have had a terrible summer in terms of exacerbated “natural” disasters, but as the weather gets cooler, we can only look forward to a winter, if not of discontent, then of a realisation of how bad things are going to get (in the privileged west where it hasn’t actually started yet unlike many other places) on our current global trajectory. We just have to turn down the thermostat here, and shorten the shower times, while in other places they’re kinda sorta fucked, as it were.

After I’d written this poem, someone on twitter, commenting on the current fiasco in the UK compared it to Weimar economics, and look how that ended up – suggesting we have a final cabaret.

So it’s not just me, of course…

I have few photos to illustrate this poem for obvious reasons…. who wants their photo on the internet with a pile of beer bottles etc. round them? I wouldn’t! But no judgement if you’re enjoying yourself – a drink before the war, as Sinéad sang…

September Still acts like Autumn after all

We have finally got some decent days of rain – and who’d have thought we’d be saying such words even a couple of decades ago?

September has returned, and the swimming pools have closed – an important part of the end of summer even in this cooler part of Spain.

So here’s a short poem inspired by the last dip a couple of weeks ago…

These clouds didn’t produce any wanted rain, but a few days later we got some good wet days to soak the soil, and the heat has gone from afternoon.

            September Again

Chill seeps through skin and up 

Legs creating a repelling shiver

Shaken off at last, reluctant leap,

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Sweeping sweat away in one

Stroking refreshing lengths of

The clear water, vibrant, energized,

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Once out, heat resting upon

The village becomes welcome again.

Soaking afternoon sun

Seems summer holds yet

Tight to the terrain. Still

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Leaves left lying upon pool tiles

Tell a different tale:

September has returned;

Trees not dry of drought turn,

Blackberries shrivelled on brambles

Sloes fallen from thorns, walnuts

Weakly cling to limp twigs;

Chestnut spikes lie scattered

On forest floor, surprisingly, as if

We’d somehow forgotten 

Autumn would come, and

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Somewhat disconcerting,

At first, as evening chill envelops – 

Our inertia preferring to ignore it.

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Yet, when jumpers dug out of drawers,

We’ll embrace the breeze:

As bracing as this latest bathe.

Here the trees yet green, flowers yet in bloom, though bracken has been harvested in some of those fields for winter and chestnuts (small this year) are on the forest floor.

  Drought Triggers Fall like Frost

            Drought Triggers Fall like Frost

This river valley is not so dry, but up above the shallower scree slopes are dropping those leaves down.

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The forest climbs either side of the valley

Up from the river gulley, glinting pools and 

Protruding rocks, grey against green,

Except where steeply narrows, now

Auburn, gold and orange like autumn 

Came in August as trees let their leaves 

Fall on the shallow soil rather than farther 

Toil for little gain under the strain 

Of such a fiery glare all summer long.

Of Plastic and Plasticity

         

   Of Plastic and Plasticity

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Peering out over open water: green wash,

No spot of black to mark a seal, nor sight

Of white to indicate ice upon which to strike,

The bear turns about, towards dry land,

And trundles away from the shore,

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Following a novel scent, not so sure

To signify a meal, but more appealing 

Than sterile saline. The stench of humans

Almost overpowers hunger, pull of putrefaction,

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But cautiously the bear pads across scraped

Gravel and strands of soft stuff –not snow – and

Colourful lumps, shiny hard strips and bits.

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A sharp set of claws upturns tins and other

Things the bear has never seen, and finds skin,

Bones and shreds of flesh of prey never tasted:

Not even raw; changed in a way it can’t fathom.

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Other animals abound – gulls and foxes and

Neighbour bears. But she fights for her share

Of the spread-out spoils of some unknown

Carnage, scavenging scraps of flesh amid debris,

Some of which is stuck with string, some

Clinging to wrappers – has to be eaten also –

But are surely shed easily enough 

As would be ingested seal skin and bone.

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Some men with glasses from a far observe

The animal with consternation, as it with

Relish ingests the refuse: Earth’s greatest

Quadruped predator reduced to such. But 

Others shrug at suggestions of contamination,

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Considering the data and the sea state – 

Since even artic snow and summer rain contain

The same chemicals as the landfill, and

The seals are a dish equally intoxicating

From fish swimming in poisoned brine.

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What use, they wonder, a pristine scene

Without seals within reach of a beach,

Other than to produce a perfectly clean

Bear carcass: healthy except for hunger?

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The bear, on the other hand, now on land,

Is pulled by the wind past the dump, to 

More varied carrion. Carcasses lie in woods:

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Caribou, moose, deer and musk oxen;

Moving, the quarry could become new prey

Replacing seals, if bears become plastic enough.

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The pinipeds themselves, if they are to survive,

Shall someday have to haul up on a shore to pup;

Walrus, too, must beach for calves to breach.

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Eventually, perhaps, an adaptation to such crap

From our waste, awash in any water, solid or not,

They encounter, can give a chance for all species

To scarcely subsist somehow in a new balance.

But such hopes fast melt in plasticity’s absence.

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Not the most up-beat of poems, but in some way a tiny bit optimistic for the predator if not species of large mammal facing the most precarious future of us all….

Gold Dust.

            Holding Gold Dust

The kids are in the river, scooping up fry in the shallows, 

Squashing half as they let them go again as we leave.

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We try to release them alive, all the time remembering 

When once, we could, well, afford to kill them

In their hundreds: seeing thousands more teem between 

The rocks of even city rivers and streams.

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Like we did with insects: snatching ladybirds and bees,

Finding moths and crane flies in bathrooms, woodlice

By the dozen, catching starlings, titmice and sparrows,

In traps and jars and crabs in buckets on the beach.

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Such abundance we scattered shells like sand;

But soon, when the water is sterile if not dry 

We will shake our heads and cry, understand,

When we were young we held gold dust in our hands.

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I have no photos at all to illustrate this – I could post a photo of the gravel beach where the kids were scooping the minnows, but the city council have cleared away that beach now, to free up the stepping stone bridge before the winter floods, which had deposited the huge load of stones. The fish seem happy in the shallows now.

Anyway, you’ll either be familiar with the former abundance, and thus perfectly able to picture what I’m talking about, or you won’t…. in which case, I’m really sorry, but no photo I can post would do justice to what’s gone. Well, at least at the beach, most of us are able to spot a few crabs, and perhaps catch one or two, for a while to show the kids before letting them go again…

The title comes from a song by Tori Amos, who I’ve listened to since I was of an age where there was yet abundance! I heard of her from a friend just after Little Earthquakes came out. This is one of my favourite songs of hers, and one I wish we could all be mindful of – the things we had, the things we yet have in our hands, and we should care for like fallen nestlings.

A Bird’s Eye View…

          A Bird’s Eye View of Dearth

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A kestrel watches from its perch aloft

Through the wheat stalks, sunset yellow,

A cat to the corner, treading soft,

Seeking game in shadowed hedgerow.

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It’s fur gleams golden in the sun,

Sleek lines lie wide by several ounces:

Fast as the raptor flies, it couldn’t run,

But furred predator prefers pounces.

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A lizard flickers in crinkling grass.

The hawk would swiftly clutch the prey

To feed last nestling, but alas:

The cat clenches its quarry today.

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Blinking as the fed feline bites,

The bird scans the straw for insects

Sooner left for lesser hawks and shrikes;

Still, scant life of any size it detects.

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Turning attention to the trees,

Tinged brown by fire fuelled by snow

Fall felling boughs, then heavy heat,

Finds as few pickings as down below.

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Frogs diminished by the dryness

Since even before spring arrived:

Only two eggs laid, to cry less

As sibling ensures one survived.

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Now, itself barely clinging to perch,

The raptor would wonder, as declines,

How only scorched earth left to search

Seems still to fill so litters of felines.

  I write a lot of poems, and a lot of my poems are inspired from what I see outside in Nature.

However, I rarely take a photograph of what inspires me – if I am thinking of the poem, it usually never occurs to me to take a snap. I don’t think of posting the poem at that stage, and then I realise I’ve no photos to illustrate it. Of course, going back to get a photo of a kestrel along the wire where I saw it is next to impossible, though I do see them when I’m driving in and out of the village.

So the two photos in this post are clearly not of a kestrel. One is a bird of prey, yes, but the other is a bee-eater, a species which I’ve been trying to get a decent snap of for years, because they really don’t hang around when human’s are near, despite the fact that they are to be heard over head delighting with voices as colourful as their plumage, which is to me, the best in any bird in Europe.

Both were taken while cycling near the village, where there’s still a huge abundance of birds of prey, such as hen harriers, booted eagles, red kites and golden eagles, to name just the ones I can identify!!

And there is an overabundance of feral cats, too…

Humanity’s Mark

Been reading this book,

It’s pretty informative.

And it inspired the following poem…

Along with this little guy…

            Humanity’s Mark

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My youngest child, holding his newest toy,

Up overhead, like a talisman: a soft doll

Sewn in the shape of a turbaned genie, 

Pronounced his wishes would the words

Only carry the power of the fable. 

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“I would have Geniousious – its given name –

Kill Putin, and make it not be able

To have any animal in danger of extinction.”

A sad assertion for a six-year-old.

Which sunk my soul deeper into my bowels.

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From reading an outline of human history

From the fall of the Roman Empire to 

The fall of the Third Reich, I could 

Summarise the centuries of papal succession

Crusaders and invaders swaying

To and fro, back and forth over the soil,

Staining with flesh and blood the Earth,

Sweeping millions to their massacres,

In thrusting, thirsting, for supremacy, 

In short sentences: shit happened 

That never should have, had we only

Stayed on the savannah with mere spears.

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The bastard causing my son such sadness

And the statement bringing me to tears

Is just the latest in a long list, I insist:

He is not alone. Regardless of their tone

The rest of the pantheon are playing

As if the planet is actually replaceable 

Or simply a stepping-stone to the next

Star system they can subjugate.

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Too late to save those of the second wish

From their fate: the genie would have to

Hold the secret of time, to travel back

To the time of tribes seeking new lands,

Stop seafaring, sledding, steel science…

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The systems we created to control

Have slipped from our own, and seem

Destined to deliver us back our destiny:

We shall stumble, back to our beginnings

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As just another species on a rock

Awash with water and organic molecules

Transforming from one shape to another

As all are eaten, even the ones with weapons,

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Until our form of life dies out, along with lots

Of other sorts, and some others evolve, I surmise, 

We shall suffer, I am grieved to say, son, for

We are already, sliding, and, Jesus wept,

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Seem inept at dodging, not just bullets aimed at us,

But oncoming steam engines of our own devising,

From far off with a blinding light beckoning at us.

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We sleepwalked into a new disease creation,

Let it clutch enough of us so it shall cling on

Like a long list of poxes yet to appear, but near.

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The heat waves and fires washing over white houses

Have had no effect on our behaviour any more

Than the waves of refugees fleeing from its results:

Even now the crisis erroneously seen as rideable 

Rather than a rising tide set to swamp. 

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The swimmers so far stamped upon by standers, yet, 

Littering the sand, shall pile up like plastic:

Become numbers on an ever longer set of statistics,

Of deaths, in the desert resulting from our

Immoral immigration legislation, letting

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Famine fell far more than the virus, multiples

Of anything we’ve seen over the millennia

Of Mongols and Huns and Hitler’s gas and guns.

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The lessons of History seem serving only to

Prepare some for the suffering to come:

Send us into the trees yet green to gather up

The tiny glories all around us while we can;

Create a wealth of memories with one another which

Might help us weather better our dour destiny,

Hoping we’re able to die a natural death

From mere bad health before it all dissolves.

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And if there’s a third wish left upon the table,

Let it be this: that my children stay off such lists,

And choose to spread ideas instead of seed:

Leave poems, not progeny, for words 

Do not suffer such as sentient beings shall.

July 2022.

I haven’t even finished reading the book…

This is the page I am on now – coincidentally in a chapter on the Spanish Civil War….

I read this headline today in my local newspaper. It translates to “the Navarra shop owners are against Sanchez’s measures to save energy. Some foresee insecurity if the shop windows have no lights after ten pm.”

The photo caption reads “Complaints about the heat in the market.”

This photo here is some storm clouds gathering over the dry dry (and, as you know, quite extensively burnt) landscape I stare out over every evening as I sit and write.

I’ve posted this photo because there is a fucking storm brewing. The actual storms come stronger than ever, and they do little to help the thirsty land compared to the rain we used to have in Spain.

But also, it’s very beautiful.

And soon enough we might only see beauty up above the landscape, because the landscape will cease to be beautiful by itself.

That newspaper headline tells us how quickly that might happen…

We can not even turn down the AC. We can’t even agree to turn off the lights, the ones that aren’t even being used… (I wrote a poem about that, actually, which I must post some time.)

And that’s to just lower energy use by 15% so we can help the rest of Europe, which will have a colder winter than we will in Spain.

In a war.

How can we hope to avoid the worst of Climate Change in light of this kind of stupidity?

I, as you can see from the poem, fail to have much hope at all.

Planting a Flag on the Shifting Baseline

There are realities and there are coping mechanisms.

My six-year-old is a big nature fan. And I am faced with the task of explaining the fate of nature in addition to its wonder. And sometimes it’s too hard. Thus the poem.

My son on a recent trip to the wilds of the Burren, looking for flowers and insects. He found an alpine gentian and a few orchids.

            Planting a Flag Upon the Shifting Baseline

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Passing an afternoon in the local park

Beyond the playground with youngest 

Child exploring our natural world around

Appears bare over and above weeded beds

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The park hosts ducks and if lucky a few 

Unseen moles given away their holes in

Tight mown lawns . The pond produces 

Not a dragon nor damselfly these days;

Frogs do not call nor drop from Lilly pads.

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Starlings must suffice for birdsong in

The absence of other sopranos. Sparrows 

Tweet where warblers once had trilled.

Cherry blossoms bloom only for humans it

Seems: no bees now humming about branches.

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But the sun still burns as the Earth turns,

And instead of telling tales of yore;

The beings which beautified our world before,

I plant my flag upon the shifting baseline

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And allow my boy appreciate the birds and

Insects that are left: ants on the rocks,

Grasshoppers blending into the too-late left

Unmown blades; daisies and dandelions yet

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Lovely even if aren’t orchids and goldfinches

No longer glorify the scene as they seek seeds.

The ducks are enough to look at despite there

Once being more dainty denizens in the reeds:

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For thus we seize upon the joy we need,

The only hope for wonder left clinging

After the stupid, searing, sundering of greed.

There are no insects evident here despite the huge amount of chestnut flowers begging for bees, but it’s good for the soul anyway to get here from the city.

Enjoying Spring?

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            The Enjoyment of Spring

February leaves light frost on the park grass,

But the birdsong cutting the chill silence belies

This skin of sparkling crystals; harkens from 

Recently breakfasted birds animated to action 

As the era of excitement approaches, already 

Cold soil broken by budding narcissus prepared to 

Perform their demure golden pouts and beside

The warming morning rays upon me shows

The strengthening sun will soon scatter the ice

And afternoon will even induce disrobing, thus

Dallying in sun-drenched dales. 

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Yet, still, I feel

Almost ill at enjoying these delightful days when 

We know elsewhere gale forced storm surges 

Swamp grasslands with salt, wind whip trunks

Down like twigs, just as most we need them 

Growing. The mountain slopes are bare of snow:

Instead several fires on-going, and a bushel

Of other evils await. 

Even here, these trees 

Are leaving too soon; petals, peeping weakly

Into shape shall feed few bees this spring,

And we fear for their fruits come summer.

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For the grass beneath the white seems damp,

But even the soil is dry, and blades soon scorched

As we wait for rains, disappeared more than delayed,

During a drought seeming set to last till March.

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The rain came, finally, to wash off the delicate petals from these early-flowering trees, in early March. And record rainfalls in some places, like Alicante, with highest ever 24hr precipitation on March 4th… not so good for the fields at all.

I wrote this poem after a pause in the park on the way to work, the same day I saw this video of the storm surge back in Ireland where they were hit by several named storms while our farmers in Spain were desperate for rain.

The Attraction to Sheep Fields

I wrote this poem after a recent weekend away – just a 30 min drive to a little village. It made me think of why sometimes we’re not aware of what we’re missing with our bare, biodiversity impoverished agricultural landscape, especially in Ireland.

Sheep pastures rolling up the hill. A delight to look at, despite having few thing worth looking at in them.

            

The Pull of Pastures

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This scenery spread out from the village, splashed

With sun, fills one with joy of a morning:

An unfiltered boon as we run to the pool

Through fields of wheat under the evergreen

Oak-clad steeper slopes and hearing the hidden

Mistle thrush and goldfinch from the thistles,

Tangled juniper thorns and brambles 

Enticing animals excitingly close

To our gardens along such scrubbed inclines

That goats would grub but tractors cannot grade.

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The grazing sheep and cattle have gone,

Without battle, deer and boar and other

Beasts browse, but when by driving north

An hour I arrive in another world, where

Fields unfold before one: green grass rolling

Up slopes to autumnal oaks or out flat past

Hedgerows – or even if there’s nothing else

To be seen but green dotted with cowpats

And sheep shit – that simple fact gives gravity,

Pulls me towards such pastures, like a string

Tied within, knotted well when life was spring.

the village of Oskotz not too far north of Pamplona, but a different climate to the village where I normally go, which grows wheat while this grows sheep.

It’s this kind of feeling that gives Ireland its “green” image… it sometimes may as well be painted green for all the life it has other than cattle and sheep. But we love what we know, and unfortunately we’ve been educated to love a barren ecosystem, and younger people are growing up even worse than us older folk.