Archive for the ‘Other Shuff’ Category

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SO the latest Bond film Skyfall was released yesterday and by all accounts it’s meant to be quite good; OK scrap that, it looks brilliant. And considering he was in charge of the whole carry on, a lot of this credit would have to go to director Sam Mendes.

Mendes hit the Hollywood big time back in 1999 when Kevin Spacey went all midlife crisis in his directorial debut American Beauty. Since then he has directed a number of box office hits, married and divorced one of Hollywood’s biggest stars and now he’s taking on one of cinema’s most famous franchises.

So when the missus starts drooling over Daniel Craig and his barely adequate physique, set her straight with some facts about the main man Mendes.

Early Life – Born in Reading in 1965 to child author Valerie and University Professor James Mendes.

Best of Times – American Beauty is one of the iconic films of the 90s and won 5 Oscars including one for Mendes for Best Director. Revolutionary Road was both a critical and box office success while Jarhead was another highlight in a sudden departure from the Americana setting of his first two films.

Worst of Times – None really. To date none of his movies have flopped or been slated by the critics and that record looks set to continue with Skyfall.

Relationships – Mendes married British actress Kate Winslet in 2003 who he cast in the lead of his film Revolutionary Road five years later. As the old saying goes never work with animals, children or wives (don’t quote me on that), and although the movie was a success, their marriage wasn’t and they split in 2010. They have one son together called Joe. Mendes is currently dating actress Rebecca Hall, who as you can see is not too shabby at all.

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The Sportsman – Sammy is also quite a talented cricketer having played for Cambridge University. In the most quintessentially British story of all time, it was cricket that got him his big directing break. The director of the Chichester Theatre heard of his prowess and invited him to join his company because he was tired of being hammered by the Royal Shakespeare Company in their annual match. Tally ho.

What He Says – “I like throwing snowballs at small children.” Not sure about this one but maybe that’s why he’s divorced.

What They Say – Daniel Craig in a recent interview with The Guardian said: “Sam is so bloody-minded about getting what he wants, and he understands how to get it. On the set of Road to Perdition I remember him coming up to Paul Newman and just saying quietly ‘Do it better,’ into his ear. Newman just shrugged and said ‘OK’.” Brave man.

Factoid – Ex – wife Kate Winslet was born in the same hospital as him, 10 years later. Spoooky.


BY the end of the year it’s expected that 50 per cent of us Irish will own a Smartphone. It’s no wonder then that app technology is one of the fastest growing industries in the world with half a million apps available for download.

Our phones are now tools that organise, entertain, inform and help us with nearly every part of our lives.So whether you are a technology buff or were forced  kicking and screaming to part with your beloved Nokia 3310, here are 10 apps that are designed to make your life around the house and farm so much easier.


Top 5 Farming Apps



iFarm App – Irish Farmers Association

Android – Free

The iFarm app has to be the starting point for all Irish farmers. It’s easy to use with a clean, clear interface containing all the latest news, weather and everything in between. Some of its clever features include a Farm Assist Calculator and a handy Converter that older farmers will really appreciate. The converter transfers live weight, weight, area and liquid into their different forms of measurement, for example Cents per Kilo into Pence per Pound, Litres into Gallons, etc. The app also has an up to date factory and mart prices feature that will you keep you one step ahead of those crafty cattle jobbers roaming around the country side.



Android and iPhone – €1.97

Farmers will absolutely love this very practical app. Planimeter is a GPS area calculator and measure that calculates distance and area using GPS and Google Maps (Free Download). An invaluable tool for farmers, either for measuring acreage or to calculate the distance between two points before fencing. Very accurate and gives measurements in both metric and imperial units. This app is well worth the €1.97 download price.

Bubble Level

Android – Free

Imagine the scene, you’re hanging a gate down the back field and you reach for your spirit level only to find you left it back in the shed. Fear no more forgettful people. Introducing the Bubble Level app. From now on all you have to do is reach into your pocket and you have a perfectly functioning spirit level on your phone. If you’re sceptical, don’t be. Once calibrated correctly this great little app works perfectly.  Great for farmers, DIY enthusiasts and anyone who just likes their objects level. Even better, it’s free.

(i-Handy Level is the equivalent for the iPhone) 


Tank Mix

iPhone – Free

This is one for crop farmers in particular. A great app that calculates all permutations when spraying your crops such as amount of product needed for the size of field, product per tank size, water per field and the amount of product needed for the correct volume to volume ratio. Unfortunately it’s only available for iPhone but it’s the perfect app for crop management.


Pro Farm Apps – Pro Cattle Breeding

Android and iPhone – €9.99

This app tracks and records the breeding season from first heat, through to A.I, due date and delivery, as well as tracking the breeding history of your herd. Unfortunately the price is not a typo on our behalf. It would be fair to say that that is quite a lot to pay for an app, but if you are willing to fork out nearly 10 big ones you are getting quite a useful farming aid. For farmers with big suckler herds, the ability to keep track of due dates and heats on your phone while on the move is extremely useful. There is also a dairy equivalent called Pro Dairy Event. This is definitely one for the farmer who already has a committed relationship with their phone.




Top 5 Household Apps



Easy Envelope Budget Aid

Android and iPhone – Free

Couples beware; this app could make sloping off undetected for a few sneaky pints after work all the more difficult. EEBA works by users allotting amounts of money in each virtual envelope for groceries, transportation, going out or whatever else you’re in to. You and your partner can log in separately on your phones, update the system every time you make a purchase and EEBA will inform you if you’re on budget for the month. How romantic. It’s also free, which makes sense for a budgeting app.



Android and iPhone – Free

The climote app is a remote control heating app that allows you to control your household’s heating on your phone. Very handy if you’re on the way home on a frosty night and would like to step into a warm home. This app is free but obviously there is a catch. For the app to work you have to install the climate hub in your house which has a retail price of €400. If you are building a new house or investing in a new heating system this could be the way to go. It’s a really clever use of technology that could become the norm in years to come.

Android and iPhone – Free

It’s happened to all of us. Your car has been running on fumes for a worryingly long amount of time so you reluctantly pull into first petrol station you see. You fill up, only to drive a mile up the road and come across somewhere cheaper. The app will ensure you avoid this minor mental trauma and never pay over the odds for your fuel. Your phone’s GPS locates the petrol stations nearest to you, sorts them by price and then gives you directions to your best value location using Google Maps.  It does require the users to update the prices but it’s not a whole lot to ask considering this app is completely free.

Heinz BBQ

Android and iPhone – Free

Nothing ruins a beautiful summer’s day quite like salmonella, so if you don’t trust the amateur Jamie Oliver behind the grill, this is the app for you. Beautifully designed, with a cooking timer, recipes, BBQ tips and safety guidelines, you have everything you need for the perfect barbecue. You also have to love the ultra positive, county specific weather forecast, which despite predicting rain in Mayo gave this advice, “Don’t be upset. Don’t be disillusioned. Put up an umbrella and BBQ like there’s no tomorrow.” That’s the attitude.



Android and iPhone – €0.99

If gardening is your thing, there are a wide range of apps out there. Unfortunately for us most of them are America specific. Gardenate gives you all the information you need to start your own vegetable garden. It gives detailed instructions on how to grow 90 varieties of garden vegetable along with local planting information and calendar. There are also great tips and hints from fellow users on Unfortunately there is no Irish setting, so you’ll just have to swallow your national pride and go with the UK version. At €0.99, it’s also good value.

Show Me The Money

Posted: May 9, 2012 in Other Shuff
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Published in The Connaught Telegraph, November 2011

YOU should have received the first of your single farm payments in the post this week.  After a bit of nagging, Minister Simon Coveney broke the resilience of the EU commissioner, the first payment was brought forward by two months.

The precious cheque from Europe is a rare and badly needed reward in an industry where the margins are small. These payments are the life blood of the farming sector in this country. 1.2 Billion, is the amount those nice people in the E.U will give the farmers of Ireland this year. A further 1.8 Billion will arrive in area aid.

Thank you Europe or should I say Germany. If we hadn’t been receiving these payments long before any banking crisis you’d almost feel guilty; then again how many property investors would have traded places with a farmer back in those heady days? Anyone? Didn’t think so.

Anyway that 1.2 billion sure is a lot of money. Wouldn’t it be great if they just divided it equally and harmoniously among the wider farming family? That would be great for us boys back west with a few acres on the side of a hill; unfortunately that’s not the way the real world works.

At least one thing us little fish don’t have to worry about is public ridicule by single farm payment, or PRBSFP, to give it its catchy abbreviated title. In 2008 and 2009 the Department of Agriculture decided to publish the names and home towns of those who received payments under the common agricultural policy. A name and shame except the people involved had done nothing wrong except make loads of money.

The figures showed that over 500 farmers and food companies received over €100,000 each. The Department of Agriculture with the ready made excuse of “The EU made us do it”, were giggling away in Kildare Street as farming groups were suitably outraged at this invasion of privacy.

When put in context the figures showed that most farmers received less than €20,000 and a large proportion received a lot less than that again. However, it’s not Johnny from across the road that gets a few thousand who makes the headlines. They are reserved for the likes of Tom and Aoife Browne, from the evidently affluent surrounds of Killeagh in the county of Cork, who received the paltry sum of €432,564. Clearly we don’t know the meaning of big time farming in Mayo as we had no-one in the top ten.

No one likes their income splashed across the newspapers, particularly those who earn the most. The attitude is its alright being well off, as long as no one knows how well off.

It’s unclear if the department are going to publish these figures every year. If they do and you’re expecting a windfall this might be time to take a holiday and avoid the dreaded PRBSFP. Let’s face it, you can clearly afford it.

OMG a Culchie

Posted: May 9, 2012 in Other Shuff

Published in The Connaught Telegraph, November 2011

“If I had my way, all yeez culchies would need a passport to come up here, the place is full of yeez”.

It does seem Dublin is full of us country folk these days. Hence the desire for the oh so witty Dub that I encountered to place restrictions on internal travel in this country.

However, he might have slightly over estimated the desire of us non Dubs to take up residence in the capital and turn Bull Island into a modern-day Irish Ellis Island.

Speaking of Ellis Island, one could easily confuse parts of Dublin for New York or Los Angeles.  Anyone looking to experience this Little America in Ireland would be well advised to take a trip on the DART (DORSH).

Being on the DART is like sitting through a crazy demographic experiment. It’s like scientists planted thousands of young Americans in south Dublin to see how they would react in a new environment, and interact with their co-habitants.  Incidentally, not very well as it turns out.

There was I quietly drinking a pint of Smithwick’s in my local Dublin hostelry a few days ago when the young man beside me at the bar said to me with a look of either shock, disgust or amazement, “OMG you are actually the first person I have ever seen drink a pint of Smithwicks, loike what age are you? I’ve never even heard of anyone drinking that”. Before I had the chance to respond he was off to tell the goys about the culchie at the bar.

So you’ll be glad to hear that prejudices against country folk is still going strong. I have been subject to allegations of ungodly acts against farm animals (none of which were actually proven), on a regular basis. Another encounter of note was, “Do youz have the same films and all in Mayo that we have up hee-er?” .

On proudly informing the same learned gentleman who informed me of his new culchie immigration programme that I was from County Mayo, he proceeded to ask me one of the most insightful questions I’ve ever had the pleasure of being asked.


Is that where Mayo-naise comes from?”

As is my duty coming from the birthplace of one of the world’s most enjoyed condiments I responded with a categorical, “Yes, of course, sure where else would it come from, twas one of me neighbours who came up with it”.

I suggest that this man’s passport be confiscated before he’s allowed to further tarnish our already damaged International reputation.

There has always been the Cuchie – Jackine rivalry. (The word Culchie actually comes from Kiltimagh the home of such culchie celebrities as Louis Walsh and Deirdre Kelly).

It goes back to a deep-rooted suspicion of each other and plus the fact that we’re clearly more intelligent and superior in every way. So before you think of leaving the bread and butter of the land take note, farming street cred hasn’t quite reached Dublin just yet.

Published in The Connaught Telegraph October 2011

FARMERS have always been programmed to expect the worst. No better coping mechanism really. It makes it a lot easier to deal with summers like the one we’ve just endured. Farming is full of heartache; cattle die unexpectedly, crops fail, pop stars get naked in your field, and machinery breaks down, c’est la vie monsieur agriculteur.

Just one second, “back up the truck their Tom”. I’m no farming expert but since when did pop stars and farming ever get mentioned in the same sentence, naked or otherwise. Throw all your pre conceived notions out the window and set your face to shocked; farmers across the country have another nuisance to add to an infamous list that contains TB and black leg, the dreaded pop star!!

As farmers have only informed of their dangers lately you can imagine the shock felt by Alan Granham from Bangor in Co. Down, when he wandered up to his grain field to get his tractor to find…. I can barely bring myself to even write it, you might want to sit down and pour yourself a half of powers.


You take off your bra and I’ll make the tea

Well as the picture above proves it was actually more half nip but still enough for Alan to tell her to cover up or clear off. If you didn’t know the full details you could envisage a modern-day Bull McCabe roaring “It’s my field yank” at the exposed and confused Barbados native. In reality Mr. Granham had actually granted permission for the award-winning star to film her new music video on his land. Film what though is the question?

Having never met or heard of Rihanna, or any of her people, Mr. Granham was clearly expecting the American version of Ear to the Ground to arrive onto his land. Imagine his shock when instead of a Mairead McGuinness lookalike talking about the price of grain, he was faced with a completely different international sex symbol. One thing for sure Mairead McGuinness never had to strip to get ratings. More’s the pity.

The question is though, should the farmers of Mayo be concerned about rogue semi-naked international music stars? Should they set traps? Is there a poison on the market? Are their livestock at risk?

When contacted the IFA said there has been only one other reported case in the Belmullet area, where Margo was apparently seen dosing sheep while scantily dressed. The IFA are still unsure if the incidents are related but are warning farmers to remain vigilant at all times.

Finally we must pay tribute to Alan Granham who despite the shock and psychological trauma he had experienced, parted with Rihanna on good terms,

“I wish no ill will against Rihanna and her friends. Perhaps they could acquaint themselves with a greater God,”

Let’s hope she does, or at least acquaint herself with a good pair of overalls. Then again maybe not.

Published in The Connaught Telegraph October 2011.

Farmers rejoice, your day has arrived. The jobs still have to be done but if it’s any comfort, you can now do them while the rest of the country thinks you’re cool.

It’s ok, don’t expect an influx of young townies into Balla mart anytime soon (even with the revamp), but farming is experiencing a resurgence and a change in its public image that didn’t seem at all likely a few years ago.

The ploughing championships a number of weeks ago were proof, if needed, of this change in attitude. RTE pushed out the boat sending the lovely Sharon Ni Bheolain way out of her comfort zone in Montrose, to dip her paws into the damp surrounds of Athy. ‘

‘The ploughing’ has always been easy opportunity for the usually disinterested media to tap into the mood of farmers. In the past cue the IFA’s poor hand PR and apocalyptic predictions for Irish farming; probably fair enough complaints at the time but not great for the old, ‘farmers are always moaning stereotype’.

However, this time everyone got the positive sound bites they wanted, with farming now being pushed by political and business leaders as the driving force of the Irish economy.

The media is in love with farming these days. Reading the Irish Times you would think people were abandoning their offices by the hundreds heading west for a life on the land. You wouldn’t blame them if you’ve seen the new Bord Bia ads on TV. Farmers never looked or spoke like that in my day.

(Attention women of Mayo who share a preference for rugged farmer type. The aforementioned vision of farming vitality is actually Lochlainn O Mearain, who can be found on a street near you in the Westport area. No stalkers please.)

I’m a dreamer, but personally I look forward to the day where the producing of an IFA membership card in a nightclub will result in mass hysteria among urban and rural female alike. Mock at your peril ladies, he might be one of the few guys in the place who can afford to buy you a drink.

Of course public image has never been a farmer’s first or even second priority. It’s still a struggle and probably always will be for the smaller suckler and sheep herds, but the facts are that cattle and sheep prices are as high as they have been in years while 86 per-cent of young dairy farmers are planning to expand in preparation for the removal of the quota in 2015.

The important thing is young people are placing their futures in farming. Agricultural colleges that were serving only as an uncomfortable reminder of the poor state of farming a number of years ago, turned away over 200 people last year.

We know farming has experienced false dawns before but a measured approach will hopefully reap great rewards for a new positive and forward thinking generation of farmers. Anyway lets enjoy it while we can, the glamour days have arrived lads.