Archive for Maynooth

The Birds

Posted in Maynooth with tags , on April 5, 2020 by telescoper

One of the far from unpleasant side-effects of the lockdown here in Maynooth is that you notice the birds much more.

For one thing the marked decrease in traffic means that birdsong a lot more audible, which is very pleasant; for another, some otherwise rather shy species are to be seen out and about. I saw (and heard) one of these critters fo on Maynooth Campus yesterday when I went for my daily constitutional:

It’s a song thrush. I’ve never seen one on the campus before. I’ve also seen various colourful finches from time to time.

The resident bird population of Maynooth University campus is dominated by various members of the crow family: Jackaws, Rooks, Hooded Crows, Magpies, etc. They’re still around but they live mainly by scavenging and there are far fewer people around leaving far less stuff to scavenge, they seem to be roaming farther afield. Yesterday, however, I noticed that a couple of Magpies swooped on the cat’s dish after he’d finished his lunch to see if there was anything left to eat. They must be hungry.

Outside my flat there’s a group of tall trees. Yesterday afternoon I watched from a window for a full twenty minutes as a rather large and clumsy Rook tried to balance precariously on a long slender twig right at the top. Why it didn’t perch on one of the thicker branches lower down instead, I don’t know.

It struck me as an excellent metaphor, but I’m not sure for what.

Maynooth University Library Cat Update

Posted in Maynooth with tags , , on April 3, 2020 by telescoper

Quite a few people have been asking me how the Maynooth University Library Cat is coping with the lockdown. I always visit him when I take the daily exercise (usually after lunch) allowed by the Covid-19 restrictions. I know that others are looking after him too so he’s doing well.

When I saw him yesterday he was asleep in his box. He emerged to climb onto his wall to eat the food I put out, paused for a photo-opportunity on his usual post, then descended to ground level for a quick wash, after which he went back into his box to resume his kip.

Incidentally, you will see in the middle picture that the metal gate near his spot is now locked so it’s not possible to get from the South Campus to the North Campus past the Library. Not for us hoomans, I mean. The cat can manage it!

The 2km Limit

Posted in Biographical, Maynooth with tags , , on April 2, 2020 by telescoper

Under the Covid-19 restrictions currently in force in Ireland we’re not supposed to journey further than 2km from home.

The other day I went to the shops near me and decided to try out a helpful app that draws the 2km limit on a map.

Here’s what I got:

So it seems I can go anywhere in Maynooth without breaking the rules. Alarmingly, however, I see that if I’m not careful I could end up crossing the border from County Kildare into County Meath!

Towards the South is the famous Junction 7 on the M4 which in normal times features on the traffic news on the radio with alarming frequency because of one snarl up or another. I don’t suppose there will be much more of that for a while.

One of the pleasant side effects of the lockdown is a drastic reduction in vehicle traffic. That in turn means that I wake up to the sound of birdsong rather than car engines. That’s one part of this I’ll enjoy while it lasts.

Shopping Mad

Posted in Biographical, Maynooth with tags , , , , on March 22, 2020 by telescoper

Empty shelves in Asda, Swansea

I don’t know how widespread scenes like that pictured above actually are, but there seems to be a lot of panic buying and/or stockpiling going on.

Worse still are scenes like this:

Social distancing doesn’t seem to be a priority among these people.

It all seems a bit ironic to see this demonstrable lack of public-spiritedness alongside the usual rhetoric about the “Dunkirk Spirit”. With the latter in mind I’ve updated Winston Churchill’s famous wartime peroration from 1940 in a manner more suitable for the 2020s:

We shall fight in Tesco, we shall fight in Aldi and Asda, we shall fight with growing panic and growing stupidity in the aisles, we shall defend our toilet rolls, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight for the pasta, we shall fight for the hand-wash…(continued, page 94)

Anyway for what it’s worth I still haven’t noticed any shortages of food or household goods where I’m living. It may be different elsewhere of course but Maynooth is doing fine in that regard.

This is not to say I haven’t changed my shopping habits at all. I’ve never been in the habit of doing big shopping trips. I live alone, don’t have a freezer and my fridge is quite small. I tend therefore to buy bits and pieces as I need them. I prefer fresh food and, usually eating lunch in the College when I’m at work, I don’t need a main meal in the evening.

Now I’m having lunch at home every day I need to buy a bit more, which is one change. Mindful that a stricter lock down might be coming soon, I have also begun buying a few things I wouldn’t normally buy. To my usual shopping I’ve added the odd item of tinned food but never more than a can or two at a time. I also bought some powdered milk in case fresh milk becomes unavailable.

I haven’t eaten any of the tinned goods I’ve bought yet: I am still eating fresh things as they seem to be readily available. Who knows when or if that will change.

I realise my personal situation makes coping with this social distancing malarkey rather easier than most but I think certain individuals are making it even more difficult for the others with their selfish behaviour. I suppose there will always be some.

Anyway, do feel free to share your own experiences of shortages or lack thereof through the comments box.

The Vernal Equinox 2020

Posted in History, Maynooth with tags , , , , on March 20, 2020 by telescoper

With everything else going on I quite forgot that the Vernal Equinox or Spring Equinox (in the Northern hemisphere) took place today (Friday 20th March) at 3.49am (Irish Time). This is in fact the earliest Spring Equinox for 124 years, the fact that 2020 is a leap year moving it a day earlier in our calendar. It’s a lovely day in Maynooth too!

People sometimes ask me how one can define the `equinox’ so precisely when surely it just refers to a day on which day and night are of equal length, implying that it’s a day not a specific time?

The answer is that the equinox is defined by a specific event, the event in question being when the plane defined by Earth’s equator passes through the centre of the Sun’s disk (or, if you prefer, when the centre of the Sun passes through the plane defined by Earth’s equator). Day and night are not necessarily exactly equal on the equinox, but they’re the closest they get. From now until the Autumnal Equinox days in the Northern hemisphere will be longer than nights, and they’ll get longer until the Summer Solstice before beginning to shorten again.

Loughcrew (County Meath), near Newgrange, an ancient burial site and a traditional place to observe the sunrise at the Equinox

Here in Ireland we celebrated
Saint Patrick’s day on March 17th, the reputed date of his death in 461 AD. Nobody really knows where St Patrick was born, though, so it would be surprising if the when were any better known.

In any case, it wasn’t until the 17th Century that Saint Patrick’s feast day was placed on the universal liturgical calendar in the Catholic Church. In the thousand years that passed any memory of the actual date was probably lost, so the Equinox was perhaps rebranded for the purpose.

The early Christian church in Ireland incorporated many pre-Christian traditions that survived until roughly the 12th century, including the ancient festival of Ēostre (or Ostara), the goddess of spring associated with the spring equinox after whom Easter is named.

During this festival, eggs were used a symbol of rebirth and the beginning of new life and a hare or rabbit was the symbol of the goddess and fertility.

In turn the Celtic people of Ireland probably adapted their own beliefs to absorb much older influences dating back to the stone age.

St Patrick’s Day and Easter therefore probably both have their roots in prehistoric traditions around the Spring Equinox, although the direct connection has long been lost.

A Sign of Panic Buying?

Posted in Biographical, Maynooth with tags , , , on March 15, 2020 by telescoper

The media are full of stories of people panic buying and hoarding various items, chiefly toilet tolls and hand-wash, but also food. I hadn’t seen much evidence of that in Maynooth until I noticed this sign yesterday outside the Roost:

I had no idea food shortages were so bad. I tried following the advice on the notice, but found the door a bit too chewy for my taste.

A few minutes later I was in Supervalu doing my regular Saturday shop without problems.

But seriously folks everywhere, there is absolutely no need to stockpile groceries. It won’t do you any good and it may seriously inconvenience others. There’s plenty to go round if we all behave reasonably, so show a bit of civic responsibility and think of your fellow humans!

In other words, don’t be like this:

Anyway, one thing I have been stockpiling is crosswords and I’m going to spend most of today doing them!

Building Up Maynooth

Posted in Education, Maynooth with tags , , , on March 6, 2020 by telescoper

I thought I’d share the above picture as part of an occasional series of updates about the new building going up on the North Campus at Maynooth University.

This artist’s impression of what the new building will look like has appeared on the fence surrounding the construction site; you can see cranes and part of the skeleton of the new structure behind the board.

It looks like the Science Building in which I am currently based will be almost completely hidden from the road: it is the building immediately behind the grey rectangular block to the right of the larger brick-coloured edifice which is the main part of the new structure. The road across the middle of the image that divides the North Campus from the South is called Kilcock Road.

Apparently the new building will be opened early in 2021. I look forward to seeing the new development completed!