A Happy, Jazzy New Year to all........

As we prepare to shut the door on 2009 and cautiously, hopefully open the new door to 2010, I am in the fortunate position to look back favourably on this past year.

The Jazzys have had a good year.

We started off the year with a successful Panto run..... "Sinbad" and we were very proud of WiiBoy's performance!

We had lots of trips in 2009!

We started off with a trip to Legoland (thanks Mam for treating us!) in May and we had a fantastic time.

We then had our cheapo family holiday in Spain a few weeks later....which also went very well. Apart from a tantrum or two!

 And WiiBoy made this fab video on hols !!

Unfortunately the school holidays got off to a bad start when we lost our dog Scamp. There's been no sign of him for months now so I can only hope that a nice family have him now. Be happy Scampy!!

We enjoyed the Summer holidays with regular trips to our local beach ...... in between the regular, rather substantial rain showers that is! We also got to meet with my lovely Abu Dhabi friend and her lovely family after many years!

We ended the summer with a trip to our favourite hotel Clonea Strand for some nice wind-down time.

Our final trip was the Liverpool one which cost mad money and will never be repeated! But it was a one-off trip for Mr Jazzy's 50th. Sadly our trips will be non existent in 2010. We couldn't even make our annual Christmas dash to Clonea, which is sad because I always looked forward to that energy-booster trip to set me up for the months ahead!

September to Christmas has been very busy schoolwise with WiiBoy. We have struggled, particularly in the first term, with homework etc but over-all it's all going really well.

Christmas in the Jazzy house went very well and I even managed not to poison anyone! I am happy to report that Santa came with everything on the list so WiiBoy is very happy. XBox 360 has now  replaced Wii as toy of choice! I wonder now if another name change is in order for WiiBoy?? XBoy maybe???!!We won't rush to it though.....probably just a novelty at the moment!! Oh..... I'm also happy to report that my mam made it to Christmas Dinner! It was a close call but she made it.....she made that choice to be better ;))

I consider us to be very lucky to look back over such a great year as I know that not everyone has been that lucky.

I think of all the people in Ireland who got flooded this year. It is the worst flooding in our little nation's history and will cost millions and millions of Euro to sort out. But those poor families have lost their homes. Some of these houses can, of course be fixed. However it will take a very long time, as we know only too well. As we've been through a similar experience we really empathise with them.

And now a big freeze has descended upon Ireland the last few weeks and some of the families flooded probably now find themselves snowbound!! Has to be said though.....this little nation of ours does not cope well with extreme weather conditions. Our councils are simply not prepared for it. Somehow, we seem to have avoided the snow here in Shankill-by-the-sea!

I think also of the people I know who have very ill relatives. My thoughts are with two friends in particular and I hope that 2010 brings them some hope.

I think of my facebook friends , some of whom have had a particularly rough year with their very special little children. May 2010 also bring you hope for your children's future. Personally, I feel very hopeful for you all ;)

To all my friends in real life........

To my friends and followers in Blogland ....in particular Nan P, Kathleen, and V as I don't have you on facebook!........

To all my friends on facebook (you are all truly amazing and awe-inspiring and I love reading your blogs!)......

May I thank you for your friendship in 2009 and wish you all a HAPPY and HEALTHY New Year.

May 2010 be a good year for you all......

From the Jazzys in the New Year's Eve Snow!!

                          YES!!!! It FINALLY snowed here in Shankill!!

Have a great New Year's Eve!

xx Jazzygal.

Happy Birthday WiiBoy....10 years old today!!

Ten years ago today on the 22nd December 2009, after an interminable 9 months and a very long labour, my baby was born. He was ten days overdue and as he had no intention of ever showing himself to this world he had to be "encouraged" to make his appearance! In fact, I reckon he was holding on to be the first "aluminium" baby as the millenium was only 8 days away!!

I had spent the previous few months simply wondering what he/she would look like. I was fascinated by this so I couldn't wait to see him when he was born. I remember his little face as he was handed to me that very first time.....mouth in the shape of an "o"  as he wondrously took in his new surroundings. He was gorgeous and initially I thought he looked like my dad.

Myself and baby Snuggles/WiiBoy came home from hospital on Christmas morning. It snowed a little that morning I remember . I also remember that we new mothers got a lovely special Christmas morning fry-up in Holles Street Hospital. After 9 months of being so ill that I couldn't eat you can just imagine how good it tasted!

We came home to our own house that day, just the three of us and my wonderful Mother-in-law had  sent up our Christmas dinner the previous day. There was, turkey, ham, homemade croquette and roast potatoes. There was even a starter of melon balls....all laid out in 2 glasses with sugar on the rim....and homemade Christmas Pudding for desert. With cream of course! All we had to do was plate and reheat. I can honestly say, hand on heart  that that was the nicest Christmas dinner that I have ever had in my entire life! I will always be grateful to, and remember my wonderful mother-in-law for that very kind act. Thank you Nancy...... you were an absolute lady, a wonderful person and I hope that you are now resting in the peace that you deserve.

Mr Jazzy and I were the doting parents struggling to get a handle on this very active bundle of joy that was our WiiBoy!! Well, we were in our late 30's and this was truly a life-changing experience for us! He was great though and we were mad about him. It was difficult. Wiiboy cried a lot, like most babies and didn't sleep through the night until he was 4 and a half! Of course the "crying-a-lot" turned into tantrums, which got worse over the years.

While he said "mama", "dada" and "baba" at the expected time we noticed that he spoke his first real words at about 13 months when he said "there they are", as we played the "where are your socks" game we usually played getting dressed in the morning. He was to never repeat those words again, or to try to repeat anything else we said for a very long time.

Over time of course we began to realize that we had a problem Other family members didn't agree....you know the score. As we had no other children to compare with, I think we did lose some valuable time but eventually on 17th December 2003 (another December date indelibly stamped on my brain!) we were given a name to our "problem". Autistic Spectrum Disorder. Oh, how we struggled with that. And in telling others. It took us quite a while to share that info. We had to get used to it ourselves first, you see. It didn't help when having found the courage to share this diagnosis, that others didn't agree with it.

However, we battled on and then struggled to find the right placement(s) for our child whilst dealing with others balking at the thoughts of an Autism specific school. I honestly did not know what to do for the best. We were in turmoil. The decision was made for me one night though. Well, 4 o'clock in the morning to be precise. My turning point.

I remember being downstairs with a very distressed Wiiboy, you know I cannot to this day, accept that it is normal for a child to regularly wake up in full tantrum mode?? I was in the door-well of the dining room/kitchen, curled in a ball with WiiBoy beating me up with his fists .... at the tender age of 4. I was totally drained at this stage and at absolute breaking point. I started to sob silently to myself, as I didn't want to upset him. Just as I was about to completely break down, something wonderful happened. When WiiBoy wasn't getting whatever it was he needed from me, he turned his intense anger and frustration in on himself. He started to bite his arms. He had never self-harmed before. This was serious (I had just 2 days earlier seen a Prime Time programme on TV  with a teenage Autistic boy banging his head off the wall) Well....you have never seen a woman on the edge crawl back from that edge with such clarity! Tears were banished as if someone had flicked a light switch. I took WiiBoy in my arms as I quietly, calmly and tearlessly held him and said "mammy fix ..... mammy make better".

Now, I had no idea how on earth "mammy" was gonna "fix", but I made a promise to WiiBoy, there in my door-well at 4 am that morning. He would not, EVER become that head banging teenager AND he WAS most definitely going to the Autism specific school. "Mammy" was sure as hell going to do her damnedest to "fix"....and to hell with the nay-sayers!!

That has turned out to be the single most important moment and decision made in the past 10 years. We began the second stage of our incredible journey that night. Although, soon after starting the said Autism specific school we were dealt another blow. Poor WiiBoy got another Kidney infection and was sent for a routine scan. This scan revealed that he had severe scarring on his left kidney, had hi-grade (Grade 4) reflux and kidney was only functioning at 18% capacity. This was despite having been sent for a similar scan at approx 2 years old and being told that everything was fine.We were now told that the condition was present from birth. His condition was monitored for 4 years and he now only has 15% function in that kidney. However last year, having changed consultants to the fabulous Professor Puri, WiiBoy finally had the hugely successful Sting procedure done last year .... he was my brave little soldier!. His right kidney is working fine....thank God!

Apart from all the above, it is important to note that WiiBoy has lots of other attributes....despite tantrumming etc! He is a very funny child. He says and does the funniest things, he likes to make people laugh you see! He tends to do a lot of laughing so along the way we've had some giggles and funny moments......

                                                 He still loves his cuddly toys!!

                              Loved playing with Scamp and still misses him :((

                                                     He LOVES to laugh!!

So, fast forward to 6 years later (not, of course forgetting our long meandering tour through Mainstream Integration!) and we find ourselves celebrating his 10th Birthday today, in wonderful style!

Oh my, it is with great pleasure that I share my observations on today's Bowling and Q-Zar Birthday. Yup...... you heard me right.....BOWLING AND Q-ZAR! I have previously mentioned our issues with Bowling (and ANY game with rules, turn-taking and winners/losers) so suffice it to say it's taken a long time to get here!

The party was a HUGE success. He has such fantastic classmates.

It was wonderful to see him pick his team for Q-Zar.

To see him playing great bowling and getting a strike!

To see his friends cheer him on.

To see him struggling with not getting the score he wanted and practise his self-regulation skills by removing himself slightly from the gang. (see....4 years of constantly repeating his mantra to help him cope.... "walk away" or "tell an adult" when it's hard, really does work!!).

Then to see his best friend, or one of the others follow him (after every turn) to see if he was ok. was just amazing.

                                     Of course, a cuddle from dad at the end helps too!

What truly made my day though, was seeing him sitting at his birthday meal, holding court and chatting with his friends. That was truly amazing.

I couldn't help but think that he just fitted in. There are a number of kids in his peer group with undiagnosed issues and WiiBoy now just looks like one of the gang.

I'm inclined to agree with his annual IEP held this morning...WiiBoy is a success story..... a success story that the Principal quotes every chance he gets!! With my permission of course. We are, it must be said, mindful to not become victims of that success so our battle for services does continue!

   So, WiiBoy.... a very, very happy 10th Birthday Sweetheart,  from your very proud parents!

Let me remind you now what I say to you every day............

We are the luckiest mum and dad in the whole world to have a little boy, just like you.

xx Jazzy-mum!

PS. Apologies for long post....I had no idea I was going to write so much....once I started I simply could not stop.

The Ghosts (nice ones!) of Christmas Past .......... and Christmas Future.

As a child and young adult, I've always loved Christmas. I loved the excitement as a child. The magic. The waiting for Santa to come! I remember the last year that I believed. Well, the last year that I pretended to believe that is! I reckoned if I curled my legs up as I lay sleeping, Santa might think I was younger and leave me more pressies! You see I wasn't fully convinced either way of Santa's existence, so I was taking no chances!

As I grew older and became a working adult I still loved all things Christmassy. I loved Christmas shopping    ( that was then...NOT now!!) going out for Christmas drinks and parties with friends. What I really loved on Christmas morning was when my dad, brother and I would set off on foot (we didn't always have a car in our house) to visit our nearby relatives. We'd call to both our Grannies and maybe 1 or 2 aunt's houses as they all lived fairly close by. I really loved meeting up with all our cousins, we've a large extended family, and this was usually the only time we'd get to meet up.

We'd then trot off home, where my mam (if she hadn't joined us on our visiting trek) would have our lovely Christmas dinner ready for us. Of course, what I didn't fully appreciate at the time was that my dad had an ulterior motive on these Christmas Day visits. Alcohol. He'd have at least two drinks at every house.

As I grew older still, I loved the new traditions added to the mix. In particular I LOVED going to my local pub on Christmas Eve. The place would be  packed to the rafters and I'd get to catch up with friends I hadn't seen all year ....... particularly those who had emigrated to find work. A few of my friends would stop by our house on the way home and my wonderful mother would sacrifice some of the Christmas Day ham which she had just cooked. There is nothing like hot "real" ham sandwiches after a couple of drinkies!! Mmmmm...... I can taste them right now....seriously yummy!

It's only now, when I'm all "growed up", married and have a child of my own that I realise the stress my mam was under! I now realise why both my mam and my Granny always said they hated Christmas!

I now find myself saying the same thing every year! But that's a shame. And it isn't really technically true. I mean, I DO love Christmas. Honest, I do! I love the tree and the Christmas decorations. I love the presents wrapped under the tree..... I just don't like the shopping for and wrapping of them!! I love the Christmas dinner and I don't even mind cooking it, even though I'm not the best cook in the world!

I just hate all the stress involved .... and the running around, doing everyones Christmas shopping etc ..... all the madness for just one day!

But, I can cope with all that really. What I think I find most stressful is the "where are you spending Christmas Day?" question. Over the last few years that's been a major problem and at this stage I just say "Dunno". Or ignore it completely. Or, better still get Mr Jazzy to deal with it!

Of course most families experience this and I know most of you definitely have, as it's not easy spending Christmas Day in someone else's house when you have an Autistic child (that's if your child can tolerate the Christmas celebrations in the first place.) We had the visiting problem when WiiBoy was younger. The main problem was that he wouldn't eat which would make the tantrums even worse.

However, the main problem  now is actually my mam! That sounds truly awful, I know. She's given us wonderful Christmas memories and I want to do the same for WiiBoy.

Let me explain though, before you think that I am truly the most awful person ever!

My mother has Bi Polar Disorder and Dementia. This condition hits her ( and us ) regularly and hits like the Roller coaster ride I talked about here. In that post I described how she can (on occasion)  chose to be unwell, I also referred to previous horrendous situations and dealing with the HSE. One of these situations occurred about 5 years ago.

We decided to have Christmas Day with my mam, my brother and his then girlfriend in my mam's house. My mam had been  temporarily released from St Ita's Psychiatric Hospital for Christmas. Unfortunately it soon became apparent that this was a very ill-advised decision. Christmas Day was spent running up the stairs trying to get her to come down and eat and to stop tearing things into little pieces (a lot of old family photos were ruined that day.) I would then come back down ( while my brother took over upstairs) and deal with WiiBoy who was having his own Autistic moments. The funny thing was I was actually saying similar things to both of them!! To cut a long story short we tried to get her back to hospital that evening, but as she wouldn't get into the car we called an ambulance. She refused to go so the Ambulance guy said "sorry missus...nuthin' we can do as she's refusing to come with us" and they left!!. Seriously... that's what happened!! If you break your leg .... or are lying unconscious in the gutter they'll get you to hospital. But, mental illness?? Pfft .... you are on your own. My brother eventually got her back 3/4 days later (seriously dehydrated) by slipping a Valium into her tea.

Anyway, as you can see that was a very difficult Christmas and I swore I'd never put her, or us through that again. My mam is in a nursing home since then and I only take her home on the day if she's well enough. For all our sakes. That decision can only be made on the day though so we have to stick around. That's why I hate other family members putting us under pressure to decide where we're spending Christmas!

But here's the thing ......... why is it wrong to want to spend Christmas Day in your own house??? 

Why the pressure to go somewhere else???

I mean, once you have a child (or children) have you not got your own family? Do you not then begin to create your own family traditions and memories for when your children are older??

None of my childhood memories are of eating in any house other than my own so I want WiiBoys to be the same. I don't want his memories to be of being dragged from pillar to post on Christmas Day. Let's face it, like most children he prefers to be home with his Santa toys and like most Autistic children, he eats and behaves better when he's at home.We can visit Christmas Eve or St Stephens' Day . Why does everyone have to be visited on Christmas Day??

We have very few Santa years left, if any, with WiiBoy as he's already questioning his existence. Well, he questions it one minute and then the next minute he asks how Santa will find the Christmas tree as we have it in the new extension this year and the chimney is in the sitting room! However, he has solved the problem. He's going to make signs ..... "Tree this way Santa" and put them up!! Ahh.....bless!

 So, we're making our own family traditions starting with our first real Christmas tree in years!!

You have no idea how much I love this tree!

........This picture of last year in our unfinished house might give you some idea though!

Of course the best thing about this year's tree is that it was chosen and purchased by Mr Jazzy and WiiBoy! The only Christmas job I have not done. Now, that's a tradition I'm definitely going to retain!

We are having Christmas dinner at home and WiiBoy has even asked to try turkey this year!! My brother and his wife are coming  (they've no children) and my mam too. If she's well enough. The rollercoaster named The Bi Polar Express commenced it's ride yesterday so who knows whether or not she'll be well enough by next week. The trigger this time, unfortunately, was the  Nursing Home's annual Christmas party for patients and their families. It was held, as usual at 2pm! WiiBoy finishes school at 2.30pm so I can never go (no family nearby to help out). Have to say, even though I explained to her AND the staff, why I couldn't go I was put on a bit of a guilt trip by their comments. What can I do?? I can only make so many bits of myself.

Maybe it's not the stress of Christmas that I dislike. Maybe it's the guilt trips.

Or maybe it's both.

I have finally come to realise that the answer lies in acceptance.

Accept  the decision we make to have Christmas at home and advise others politely of our decision and leave it at that.

Accept that  mam will come if she's well enough.

Accept that I have no control over her mental well-being.

Whatever happens, I am creating a nice Christmas Day and nice family traditions for us .... come what may!! Then we will nice and calmly, visit Mr Jazzys' family in the Wicklow hills on St Stephens' Day where WiiBoy can get to meet with his cousins, aunts and uncles!

Whatever way you and your family  do (or do not) celebrate Christmas Day, I hope that December 25th  is all that YOU want it to be for YOUR family.

xx Jazzy.

P.S. Oh, by the way, WiiBoy wants to post the above Christmas tree photo and say a few words over on his blog. I've no idea what he wants to say, so ..... stay tuned!

Up Here For Dancing .... and All That Jazz(y)!

Well, the last few weeks have been a mad flurry of activity as we get Panto 2010 firmly on track. The choreographer's hat has been found, battered and worn in the bottom of the wardrobe ( or, was it the Green bin??!) It's been spruced up and plonked firmly, if slightly askew atop my head. It has now become part of my daily hat juggling routine as it exchanges places, with speedy regularity with all my other  millinery ware. Like the School Run Hat, The Shopping Hat, Housework Hat, Taxi mum Hat, Visiting Mam Hat, Good Little Wifey Hat etc; etc!!

It's very handy actually, 'cos when I get bored with jobs that I hate I just swap hats! And when driving from one place to another, or having done taxi-mum for WiiBoy I just put the Choreographer's Hat on while I'm waiting and get some (fun)  work done!! I'm sure I look quite a sight sitting in the car, or poolside at swimming lessons with notebook in hand, earphones in ears and feet tap-tapping away! It must look even funnier when a few hand movements are thrown in for good measure!

A lot of work goes into getting this production on stage, for the last two weekends in January, and an awful lot of people put in an awful lot of work into making it happen. And every one of us does it whilst trying to squeeze it in with our busy lives.This post just reflects my involvement, but I most definitely am not alone. There's also our very talented and supportive Director and Musical Director ........ among others.

And besides,  it's fun!

We've auditioned ALL the adults and children, we've cast the show, chosen the songs and we're up and running! Our wonderful Wardrobe Department are working away on the costumes and sets and props are being sourced/made. It is quite literally "all hands on deck"!!

I have about 100+ silly amount of children......... I refuse to add them up because if I do ....... if I actually see the total number, I might quite literally, throw my fabulous hat at it and run for the hills!

I've pretty much got a handle on all 8 children's numbers that I have (at least, I think it's 8...again, I refuse to count them!!) and they're coming together slowly (verrry slowly) but surely. I think! I LOVE the music I have and I'm really enjoying it. I'm hoping I interpret it properly. Of course, I also have adult Solo/Duet numbers to move but I'll get to them ....eventually. Yikes!!

But, it's not just your feet you need for dancing. Oh, no. That would be too easy! The mind boggling, head-doing-in-stuff that's also required would definitely ...... well........ do your head in! Seriously.

But it's FUN!!

When you audition 100+silly amount of children, refusing NONE of them, you then have to find enough dance routines to incorporate them all. Then you have decide which age group suits each song .... trying to to keep classes together. Which isn't always possible. Then you have to find rehearsal slots for them all, that hopefully doesn't clash with THEIR busy lives. And they really do have busy lives. That they tell you about. All the time. Like, last Saturday when one child couldn't attend because "he had something else to do"!! The inference being, of course, that I had nothing better to do!! The innocence of youth....ehh? Sure, what else could I do but laugh!! Or..do my Christmas shopping instead.....or my grocery shopping......erm...... paint my nails....pick my..., well... you get the picture!!

So a lot of my time is spent on dancing, of course. When WiiBoy's in school, I've been doing on average, one hour every day getting steps together and frantically swapping my fabulous Hats to get other necessary jobs done! At the moment I've worked myself up to about 9 hours a week teaching the children and am about to add some lunchtime sessions. Then of course I have to add the adults in to the mix. A lot of time also goes into the admin side.....meetings, note taking, getting rehearsal notes out, planning and organising. Then there's the unexpected change of plans and it's back to the drawing board!

All this planning has re-united me with a system I'd foolishly discarded in recent times, as I didn't have time for it. And that system is a very simplistic To-Do List! Oh boy, but it's magic! It is so empowering. I mean if it's written down, then it gets done...if not the first day then the 2nd day will do. And there's nothing like the feeling of "check" .... another job off the list!
I've sailed through the first two weeks. It was hard work and I was exhausted at the end of it, but exhilarated too. With the exhaustion came a strange kind of energy and a sense of being. Of being me. And that made me think ..........

No matter what our "job" is in life we can all benefit from doing something that makes us ... "us". If we can manage it at all. For some it's simply timeout, or working outside the home works for others. For me dancing was such an important part of my life, for most of my life. I danced in shows, back-to-back for at least 15 years before I even met Mr Jazzy. So, while Mr Jazzy may not "get" why I do the Panto every year, he did marry a dancer!  It is an integral part of me. Yes, it is hard to fit it all in but it's gotten easier over the years ( this is my 7th year as Choreographer) as WiiBoy has made his transition to Mainstream, he's now happy to be involved in the panto. He even shares his Dance ideas with me!!

And besides, I intend to keep dancing until my legs fall off. here's a picture of me
in 20 or so years time................................ The Dancing Granny!!

So, the first two weeks went well but then there was a major change of plans this week. WiiBoy, having had the Swine Flu jab and avoiding getting all the debilitating flu bugs going around his school, decides to come down with ...... Chicken Pox! Yup.... Chicken Pox. Like I've said before, they're dropping like flies in his class. Seven were out on Monday last....but none of them with Chicken Pox!! He's a trail blazer is WiiBoy!!

Luckily enough he's not too sick with them, it's just that with Mr Jazzy working late I've been housebound since last Tuesday. I've had to cancel and re-arrange rehearsals which involved sending inordinate amounts of texts and getting notes to the school. Another two days should do it with WiiBoy but it's knocked a dent in my schedule and made me panic a little! But all will be well. And I have to remind myself .... doing panto every year is NOT why I'm on a career Break ;))

So, the wheels of  Panto 2010 are definitely in motion. There is no going back and no saying " I don't wanna play anymore" when things get tough! But, we're a great team and we have each others' backs. I also have the help of some great people.... my good friend N, two mums and a first year student who are a fantastic help at rehearsals!

I'll get going now...... I have more steps to sort for tomorrow and To-Do-Lists to make! And a DVD to make.

"Jazzy's Guide to Fitness and (Brain) Training" will in all good music stores by Christmas!!

Says she with tongue firmly planted in cheek......... and Choreographers Hat even more askew!!

Good Luck!! xx Jazzy

The State of us .......... a Nation Dividing

Ireland Inc is in trouble ...... very, very big trouble. No-one doubts that very difficult and unpalatable decisions have to be made in the very near future but I believe some serious questions need asking. And answering.

Our present Government is hell bent on a particular route to get us back on track and I have serious doubts about the route that they've chosen. The decisions they are making and the information they are drip feeding us are pitting different sectors of our nation against each other in these very difficult times. An ulterior motive is definitely at play here and they are in danger of creating a multi-layered society.

They should be careful what they wish for.

We are a nation dividing ..... bit by bit every week.

Let us take a look at this.

There's the Public vs Private Sector divide, the biggest divide in my opinion. I've no doubt that what I'm going to say next will alienate me but say it I must. This divide was created by and is being nurtured by this Government. Today's strike by the nation's Public Servants will unfortunately serve to deepen the divide but as the Government won't even engage in discussion we have no choice. Earlier this year they railroaded in the Pension Levy with no discussion. A further decrease in wages is simply a step too far. Most people on the Picket Line this morning earn €30,000p.a. or less.

I first discussed this issue, among others in my post on the Mc Carthy Report. I find all my points raised still relevant and I completely stand over them.

We can talk until the cows come home about wages and conditions in both sectors and get nowhere because sometimes the situations aren't really that comparable. The recently released CSO figures detailing how well the Public Sector are paid and how we got a 3% pay increase in the 12 month period to June 2009 are grossly incorrect, as even our Taoiseach Mr Brian Cowen acknowledged here. We got no such increase. A pay increase of 2.5% was due to us but was reneged upon. The total reduction in our case was 15.4% ........ this includes Pension Levy of 8.3%, income levy increased PRSI contributions and pay agreements not honoured. The Pension Levy is a Pay Cut and NOT a pension contribution as it applies on all income (incl overtime etc). The Income Levy and increased PRSI contributions were, of course, inflicted upon all workers.

On the other hand a lot of Private Sector workers have lost their jobs and a lot of others have taken huge reductions in their wages ...25% or 30% in some cases and that is shocking. Irish workers are the hardest hit with 61% of employers laying off staff. But remember, like I've previously said, not everyone in the Private Sector has taken a cut, as of my last Post on this issue (see link above) only 9% have taken a reduction .......

As has been pointed out to me recently by two business friends ( both Directors of their companies) Ireland Inc has a budgeting problem and has to cut it's cloth to suit it's measure, just like they have to do.  That is very true and I know we have to consider the huge borrowing costs in order to pay our Public Servants. Now, I didn't engage in this discussion with these two friends. I didn't ask how borrowing to pay Public Servants was any different from the suggestion recently made that the Government should pay employers to keep people in their jobs. For example. There was no point really because in one breath they were discussing how my Husband's wages should be further reduced and in the next breath talking about an upcoming family holiday to Florida in  one case and a shopping trip in the other! We are on two different planets methinks!!

The borrowing costs of this nation of ours is, of course, a very big problem that needs addressing. We also have to consider the fact that 35% of the Governments spending is on Public Sector pay.

As unpopular as this will sound the biggest difference between Public and Private jobs , in my opinion, is supply and demand. In a Recession some services will no longer be sought after as people have less and less money in their pockets. We go out to restaurants less, we use public transport/drive as opposed to using taxis, more nights in, less mini- breaks etc etc.

But, we ALWAYS need Public Services. Health services, Emergency Services, Police Services and Teachers are necessary. Taxes have to and must be collected, Social Welfare payments need assessing and paying etc; etc. You see the "good secure job" is "secure" because it's always in demand. We must be careful about why people are demanding reduced Public Sector pay. If it's because we are deemed to be too highly paid then that's one thing, and that issue can be discussed and debated.

Also, Public Service Departments are not, by their very nature, profit-making enterprises. They're not even self-financing. Another reason you can't really make a proper comparison.

It's not all doom and gloom though. There are actually a few companies making a top-line profit this year: Ryanair, Aer Lingus (yes..Aer Lingus!) Tesco and  Vodafone for example. In fact Vodafone employees received an early Christmas bonus this year..... they each got a new phone! And fair play ..... I'm happy for them.

We must be very careful here, if we cap salaries and reduce wages too much in specific sectors how can we be competitive when things improve globally?? Pay peanuts..... you get monkeys.

We do, of course need to make reforms in  the Public Service as I also discussed in my Mc Carthy Report post. But if the reduction of employees is a factor in these reforms we need to consider what quality we want in how our Public Services are delivered. Less employees means backlogs and huge delays..... (remember, it's the employees that are being reduced and NOT the demand for the services.) Just like in the 1980's and 1990's when we, in Revenue, had hundreds and hundreds of unworked items for months on end. Overtime couldn't even put a dent in it, it was that bad. As we speak there are delays...in Education and HSE....that you will have noticed in receiving payments of Home Tuition etc, etc. Recently I experienced HUGE delays in getting a human to answer the phone in Child Benefit Section. There has to be a better way to do things. Reform is necessary but a blanket reduction of numbers will only make things worse. And so will the brain drain that's presently occurring in all Departments as early Retirement and Income Tax decisions kick in. For example, at present 40% of Gardai have less than 5 years service which just shows how much experienced staff have been encouraged to leave. There's also a huge Brain Drain in Revenue Commissioners Department. This will have a massive negative effect on the delivery of Public Services, probably for years to come.

Be careful what you wish for......

There is even a divide within the Public Service ........ between Frontline Staff and Administrative staff. As a result of Government rumblings and threats the emergency services have banded together and formed their own group to highlight their issues, which are specific to them. Now, I don't blame them for this but they are specifically separating themselves from their "colleagues in the administrative side". These Emergency staff are highly trained, they do an incredible and difficult job and work very unsociable hours. But, for every job anyone of them do there are administrative staff required to document and collate reports /files etc. This was very evident on our recent trip to Tallaght Hospital to get WiiBoy his Swine Flu vaccination. It was very well set up, I thought. There were 2 staff greeting and handing out the forms. Another Staff member ushering people to the correct seating areas. There were 4 or 5 nurses and at about 8/10 administrative staff set up on laptops to process the forms and issue patient numbers. This set up ensured a prompt and smooth delivery of this particular service although these staff members had to come from somewhere so no doubt a backlog of work has been created elsewhere in the hospital. However, this scenario does highlight how essential the administrative staff were to the Emergency nursing staff in assisting them in the smooth delivery of their service.

Those of us who are currently in employment, be it Private or Public Sector are considered lucky. And we are. But further reducing salaries reduces our spending power. Consumers are considered to be the engine of our economy. If we don't spend then more jobs will be lost.

Here's the science bit.........

As of June 2009 there are 370,000 Public Servants in employment which makes the State a very large employer. A very large proportion of these employees, 45%, earn less than €40,000 pa. If you reduce their spending power by a further 7%, as is being proposed, then spending habits will be restricted to basic requirements and more Private Sector jobs will be lost. Also, by further reducing salaries in both sectors this Government is in serious danger of creating a new phenomena....... The Working Poor. Although, maybe this is not so new ....... it will, however become more prominent. There is nothing to be gained by reducing salaries to the extent that people are on the breadline.

This brings me to the next divide in our society ......... The Employed vs The Unemployed divide. Like I said in my Mc Carthy Report post, I am very uncomfortable discussing this. The points I raised are still very valid though. How long before there's not much difference between working or being on the dole?? Remember that report I mentioned where a man on full benefits had the equivalent of a €55,000 salary?? Link that to that salary of a large percentage of Public and Private Sector employees. Why bother going out to work??? (This comment must be considered in conjunction with all that I've written in that previous post)

Should Social Welfare be reduced? Probably, as wages have reduced. There needs to be an equilibrium between wages and Social Welfare and we do have to take into consideration that 36% of Government Spending is on Social Welfare. But we must be very careful not to make the most vulnerable in our society bear the brunt of this mess.Cuts are also being considered across the board in Social Welfare. I am seriously concerned with how the Government intend to impose these cuts. If they tier them, as they intend doing with Child Benefit, then they will only create further divisions in our society.

Nurturing this divide will not encourage people going back to the workforce when the economy turns around. It will only encourage employment in the Black Market. Did you know that, as reported in last weeks Sunday Tribune the Black Market currently costs the economy €461million per week??? This will get worse and must be addressed. I also refer to my point about Family Income Supplement raised in my previous post on this.

I addressed this whole area in that McCarthy post so I re-iterate ..... please consider that post in conjunction with what I'm saying here!!

Then there's the Rich vs the The Rest of us.......... what worries me the most here is the definition of "Rich" when it comes to the Government deciding how they implement an extra "Rich" tax or means test an allowance. Rich usually means middle Income, as that catches the majority of us and raises the most taxes etc. That, in turn can feed into Employed vs Unemployed divide.

Another divide that is now in danger of deepening is the Working Outside the Home vs Stay-at-Home- Mum. Of course it's not always the mum that's the Stay at Home parent but I'll generalise for the purpose of this post. In 1999 this Government introduced Individualisation into our Tax system in order to address the concerns of families where both parents were working, They didn't feel that it was worth their while working, which is understandable as one spouse (usually the husband) got most of the Tax Free Allowances. It also helped with the big problem facing the Government at the time ......... a glut of jobs on the market. And no-one to fill them. More CSO figures released recently states that 300,000 women entered the workforce between 1998 and 2007. The reason for this, in a word, is INDIVIDUALISATION! I've ALWAYS said that and now this report backs me up.

Individualisation may have appeased double income families but it was only cosmetic really....Tax Free Allowances can be divided equally you know! (Of course they've since been replaced with Tax Credits) However, it was the tinkering with the Taxation Bands that really penalised the Stay-at-Home-Mum/Parent. In the ten years since this system was introduced they only increased the Homemaker Tax Credit ONCE, whilst other Credits got regular makeovers.

The reason I say that this Government is widening this divide is because a large proportion of those extra 300,000 women in the workforce are probably losing, or in danger of losing their jobs. And, while their income is dramatically reduced, if they're on Social Welfare they can still avail of Individualisation. Having spoken to some, whilst naturally shocked and worried about the loss of their jobs they realised another benefit ....being at home with their children. Especially during the summer months.

We need to have a Tax system that's fair to all and considers the contribution made to the economy, to family life, to local communities and to the very fabric of our society by all parents whether they work inside or outside the home. And every parent deserves the right to choose whether or not they work (solely) inside or outside the home.... but that choice must be based on viable options.

Individualisation can also skew the definition of "Rich" as mentioned above ........... a salary of say, €100,000 to a Single Income family  is sooo not the same as it is to a Double Income family! It is NOT comparing like with like..... because of Individualisation, two salaries of €50,000 does NOT EQUAL one salary of €100,000.

The final divide I'll mention (I'm sure there are more!) is Bankers/Developers vs Homeowners. This is such a huge divide I'm not going to get caught up in it. Suffice it to say ; Where the Hell is the NAMA for the rest of us???

Where's the NAMA for those people soon to lose their homes because they can't pay their mortgages???
Where's the NAMA for those who have lost their jobs and are struggling???
Where's the NAMA for those who have suffered reductions in salaries???
Where's the NAMA to get the engine of our economy (i.e. the consumers) spending again??? They've another name for this in the USA and Australia....... I believe it's called a Stimulis Package!! Doubt if we'll ever see one here though!

The biggest concern of course is that they'll squander the Taxpayers money and that they'll release all properties for sale at once. Also, as it has now been legally signed up by President Mc Aleese, any incoming Government will have to adhere to it. There is now no going back. We're stuck with it.

There's no doubt that there are more tough times ahead. These decisions have to be carefully made and considerations given to how they affect everyone whilst trying to avoid causing, or deepening divisions in our society. We all need to contribute to help us get out of this mess but it must be done fairly and equitably across all sectors. And it needs to be done in a way that gives people spending power and protects and creates employment.

And, this Government needs to be ...............

careful what they wish for, 'cos they just might get ......... more than they bargained for.

Take care.............. Jazzy xx

Where Are You Scamp????? (Updated)

Poor ould Scamp is still missing. It's been six weeks now. Is it possible for a dog to survive that long in the open??

We have established that he was back on our road on Monday, the day after he went missing. Unfortunately I was in Bray looking for him at the time. I can't help wondering if I'd have seen him had I come straight home from collecting Snuggles from his July school that day.

He was seen on the Wednesday in Shanganagh Park . He was also seen in another part of the same park on the Thursday where he gained access to Woodbrook Golf Course.

Since then?? NOTHING. NADA.

Well, there was the crank call we got that Friday night of course. The one where the guy tried to muffle his voice and I kept saying "I can't hear you" , so he had to speak out. Sometimes I am just so trusting ... or naive ... or just plain dumb.

I believed the caller and off we went to the address the caller had given us. I should have copped when a man opened the door in his underwear ... I, apparently having got him out of bed! Nope. Went straight over my head. And Mr Jazzy's too, I might add as he suggested we ring the caller back! Which we did .... to the absolute delight of the caller. And his friends. Oh, the hilarity in his house that night. Not so in ours as I had to explain to a distraught and sleepy 9 year old why his dog wasn't coming home. Of course, I also had to explain why someone would make a call like that. I had to tell him that it was a joke. Yea, right ... a joke. Gawd ....it was hard enough getting him to understand "joke" in it's true sense in the first instance.

So thanks a bunch Mr Joker, you really messed up a little boy's head that night. For your own amusement. Such a big man, huh? I was going to send him a text but then I thought.... why bother. I'd probably only get more grief. I decided that letting it go was best.

As it's been so long since we heard anything I just presumed he'd been taken in by someone. Or, that he was dead in a ditch somewhere. We looked for a long time. We searched Shanganagh Park high and low. We're always on the lookout. Even when we were driving to our SugarLoaf climb last Monday. We'd stopped going out searching though as it's totally head wrecking and upsetting. It's also pointless when you've no reported sightings. He could be anywhere, we reckoned.

Snuggles has been coping well, or so it seems. He mentions him form time to time. He quite matter-of-factly told me he's probably dead. But that's just him. He does get it he just doesn't go on about it. It's like when it was his teacher's last day and she was crying her eyes out... she had us all in tears! Snuggles couldn't understand it, saying: "Why is she crying? She's still in the school, isn't she?" !!

Two weeks ago a child who visits her Grandad on our road told me she'd seen Scamp that day. She brought me around where she'd been. To be honest, I don't know if she was being entirely truthful. She told me a few untruths on the way. At the very least, she exaggerated things. So, I kinda ruled that sighting out.

I've been having dreams of Scamp returning. And they're increasing, in duration and credibility. I mean, I woke up a few days ago really believing he was coming home that day. I'd dreamt that I found him on the road. He was wet, thin and very bedraggled and I was trying to half carry him back to the house but I couldn't quite get there. I woke up just before I got there, of course!

Then, I heard the stories of dogs been found having travelled miles. One was found in a Roscommon farm having come from Northern Ireland. Then there was Muffy, the Australian dog found after 9 years!! Now, there's a story!

Then there's today's sighting. The little girl I told you about came to the door with her cousin, a boy J. Now I know the Grandad and I know J's mum. It seems to be a genuine sighting. He was coming from Shankill village onto Corbawn Lane (at the church roundabout) and spotted a very thin dog (he could see his ribs) walking down the middle of the road. The dog looked at him. Scamp always looked at little boys... on the lookout for Snuggles I always believed. J looked back at him twice and then he was gone. He's not sure what direction he went. He spotted him at around 2 0r 3 pm but it was only when he went to the park and saw one of the only remaining posters that he realised it was Scamp. Now, we quizzed him, gently, and it really does sound like a genuine sighting of a dog fitting Scamp's description.

Needless to say we searched the Village this evening but as there was a time delay of about 3 hours in getting the info we couldn't find him. Snuggles was VERY upset this evening. He said it was his fault Scamp went missing. I think I managed to re-assure him on that front. The poor thing.

I have rallied the troops by texting everyone I know in Shankill and I have spent tonight printing and laminating more posters. We will search again tomorrow.

We just need a little luck. Why, oh why is it never us driving or walking along when he appears?? I actually drove up that road TWICE today between 2 and 3 pm! So frustrating!

And why, oh why is no-one noticing a very thin bedraggled dog wandering around?? PLEASE, PLEASE PICK UP THE PHONE PEOPLE!! Our details are with the local Gardai and Vets and he's micro-chipped.

I ask anyone reading this to please, please say a prayer to whatever God you believe in that we find him soon. Before it's too late.

Come home soon Scampy. Your bed still awaits you .....

xx Jazzy

UPDATE: 11/08/2009

Unfortunately the sighting appears to be a false one :((

I spoke to the child's mum today and she was with him when he saw the dog. First off she doesn't think it was Scamp but she's not sure. Secondly the child was confused as to where he saw him! It wasn't in the Village, it was at one of the entrances to the park.

Methinks his little cousin with the, ahem.... imagination put ideas in his head! The thought did cross my mind at the time, which is why we quizzed him.

Ah, well. I'm still thinking of Muffy .... maybe Scamp will do a "Muffy" on it .... I just hope he doesn't take 9 years!! xx J

The Mc Carthy Report and Dispelling the Public Service Myths... UPDATED

The Mc Carthy Report on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure, AKA An Bord Snip Nua, was published last week causing major consternation and discussion.

This report SUGGESTING how cuts of €5.3bn can be made is just that... a suggestion. A menu, if you like. It is very likely that the Government will take up as many of the suggestions as it thinks it can get away with ..... after all they do need to raise €3.5bn.

It is however, important to note that the Mc Carthy Report is limited to the Public Service and it's cost to the State, in that it is only one area pertaining to our current economic crises. It is absolutely NOT a stimulus package. In fact it's hard to see how the economy will receive a boost with people's spending power reduced. It is however prudent and necessary to cut Government borrowing........ €55mil a day is simply unsustainable. The Government would also be wise to consider job creation and protection etc in tandem with this Report, as it shouldn't be considered in isolation. Unfortunately they very rarely do anything that connects the dots.

The report was also limited in that it could not touch the very sensitive area of Public Service pay levels. It did do so though, in mentioning simply that there should be cuts. I just wish, having made a little detour from the rules it could have gone one step further and mentioned Top Civil Servants, Judges, T.D's etc ..... and their expenses, in particular. No mention either of limitations with regards to the cost of producing Reports that never see the light of day or ones that they do implement by cherry-picking what they like...or what they think they can get away with politically. How much did this Report cost, I wonder? Nor did it mention the exorbitant Consultancy fees paid out by various Departments? I couldn't see any mention of that. A recent Sunday Tribune article pointed out that Department of Social & Family Affairs recently spent €20m on computer Consultancy.... and now they intend withdrawing the DCA from some Special Needs children??

This country is in a mess but it is not a mess of the majority of it's citizen's making.... especially it's Special Needs citizens. Nor is it a mess of it's average Public Sector employee's making.

The Public Sector has become a punch bag for everyone, or so it seems to me. In the bad times, like others, we are such an easy target.

Now, before you click the "next blog" button just hear me out! This is NOT a pity-the-poor--Public-Servant post! Honest! I know I'll not dispel the myths but I would at least like to try to give you a better understanding. Maybe even tell you something that you didn't know and that might influence how you see us and give you a little glimpse at our side of the fence.The Public Servant is not just the faceless individual who makes decisions on your claims that are unfair .... usually they are adhering to rules set down by Top Civil Servants. They are parents just like you whose children go to school and are effected by education cuts, they have mortgages, food and utility bills. The majority live in your average 3 bed semi-d, just like you. Some even live in social and affordable housing. Some are married and some are single parents struggling on one wage to raise their families whilst working full-time. Some are married to Private Sector employees who have lost their jobs. Some are even parents of Special Needs kids ........ just like you. Oh .... and here's one myth I can DEFINITELY dispel ........ just like you we PAY TAXES!! We live among you, we are your fb friend, your twitter mate and your blogland pal. You just didn't know we are also a Public Service employee. Does knowing that make you feel any different towards us now?

Here's a very quick History lesson. In the period preceding the last Recession there was huge unemployment in this country and the then Taoiseach , Charles Haughey, took huge amounts of school leavers into the Civil Service over the period of a couple of years to help alleviate the problem. We were lucky enough to be included and started within 18 months of each other. Just to give you a scale of the numbers involved: it took Mr Jazzy about 2 years to get promoted to the next grade while it took me almost 10 years to reach the same level. Promotion was on seniority basis, provided you passed a very rigorous 4 day Taxation Exam known as 'The Barrier Exam'. In 31 years of full-time, exemplary employment Mr Jazzy has been promoted just twice and in my 25 years ( currently on career break) I have been promoted once. Neither of us will EVER be promoted again. EVER. One reason for increments. Seniority basis of promotion has been phased out and replaced with a totally flawed Competitive Based model. I have no objection to the concept of the new model but I've been through the process twice and it is truly flawed.... I would NEVER put myself through it again!

A job in the Public Service is a job for life...... our "good Government Job" as we used to say jokingly! Our "secure and pensionable employment".

In the 1970's and 1980's there were people who sneered at us working in the Civil Service. Honestly. My Aunt chastised my parents for "letting me work" there, she looked down her nose at me as , like most of the country, she hated civil servants. She would never, she assured us, let her daughter work there! We were the "yellow pack" of our era! But it was a secure job. In time the reverse was true.... people from the Private Sector, with Higher Education in particular came over to "our side". Attracted not by the salaries on offer but the security and family friendly working hour choices. Before I go any further let me dispel another possible myth... when you job-share in the Public Service you work half the hours and get half the salary and annual leave entitlements! There are a few Public Service supervisors who need that pointed out to them also .... believe me!

Fast forward a couple of years and the last Recession hit.... circa 1987. A recruitment Embargo was imposed on the Public Service. No replacing staff....but no job cuts (career breaks on offer) or pay cuts. This also affected promotional opportunities. At that time the highest Income Tax rate was 65% ( even hit 70% for a year or 2) and applied on relatively low income across all sectors. Mortgage rates hit the 16% mark too, the highest it went was 18.75% . Unemployment and emigration were rife. The result of these penal taxes etc was the creation of a Black Market economy for the poor and a new Banking System (i.e. Off Shore Accounts etc!) for the rich to stash the cash they didn't want taxed. And then the Government of the day brought in the Self Assessment basis of Taxation and, in time, the terribly unfair 1988 Tax Amnesty. Everyone I worked with in Revenue were appalled at this. Another way for the rich to get away with it. We, in Revenue, had no choice but to process these voluntary assessments. See what I mean about adhering to the rules?

Fast forward again and the Celtic Tiger is born, and the country prospers. The Public Servant continues as before...no real change in working conditions, or pay levels or promotional outlets. We benefited, like others, from Social Partnership which freed this country from crippling strikes. We also received proper training to do our job, as Customer care was now in fashion. And rightly so. Whilst things in the Private Sector changed dramatically. People ( not all, it must be said) were getting well paid for their work. There were company cars, Christmas Bonuses and Parties, Weekends away.... morale boosting weekends etc, etc. But, you see, that's the price we pay for our "Good Government jobs."

It is obvious that Teachers, Nurses and Gardai are highly trained to do their job. I don't know if you realise this but Revenue staff also receive a lot of highly regarded training. In order to deal with the aforementioned Black Market and Tax Evasion, huge resources (staff  Training) were put into the Audit area . I was happy to be part of that. The training was hard and took a while to complete. I was out there auditing companies books and records for about 10 years so I really am aware of the Tax Evasion going on and the extent to which the aforementioned company perks existed.

As a result of this highly regarded Training Revenue staff were head hunted by Accountancy Offices and also I.T companies ( investment in computer systems took off too) and left in their droves. To higher salaries and bigger perks. Train and Drain was rife in Revenue as in other Departments.

The rest of us stayed behind. We didn't take the risk. We wanted to be assured of a job in the bad times and the good times. That was the price we were willing to pay .... for job security.

But it got too much for the public servant , to see the private sector move so far ahead of us. We helped create the Celtic Tiger too... right? We worked hard ( yes, most of us do work hard) and paid our taxes too. We, in Audit collected from the Tax Evaders on behalf of the State and all taxpayers, that was our contribution also. And so the Bench Marking process came into being. It was agreed that there was indeed a case to be answered and so we caught up. For once. There was a price though. More Productivity and flexibility in work practises. That definitely was delivered in Revenue but more needs to be done there all over. Staff numbers can definitely be reduced due to Retirement, Career Breaks on offer and tackling the issue of long-term under-performing staff. It is not nice to work in a section always "carrying" a person who's always out sick etc, etc but gets paid the same as you.

But beware, a serious reduction in staff also means serious reduction in ALL services in ALL areas. A serious inter-Department re-deployment of staff should be considered .... I'm sure Unemployment Offices need some help ( but don't send any to the section reviewing DCA!!). This should be done in consultation with staff and staff should not be expected to move to way out locations. Remember though, re-deploying staff costs too as re-training is necessary.

Staff cuts where people are simply let go is not as simple as you think. Those of us who were employed before circa 1995 cannot claim the Dole. We need to live too and put food on the table... Just like you. By the way, even though there's much-to-do about our "generous" pensions they're not as good as they're being made out to be. AND, unlike most Private Sector employees we can't bump up our pension with the Old Age Pension as we're not eligible.

Public Service pay cuts are on the agenda again. We have already taken a huge hit with the Pension Levy, increased Tax rates, income Levies and loss of an agreed pay increase .... a hit of almost 15%. I KNOW Private Sector workers have lost wages AND jobs. But... not all have. I've made that argument before and apparently , per a recent Mercer Report only 9% have taken a wage reduction. Any new Bench Marking, based on foreign pay rates should take into account all aspects of living in that country. Cost of living, mortgage V rents, Taxation Systems etc. No cherry picking! I wonder what they'll do with Individualisation now that a lot of the women they coerced back into the workforce are now probably on the dole?? That system was imported from the Nordic countries.... without the generous maternity benefits etc. Cherry picking again! And remember, low pay can mean low staff morale and another "Train and Drain" when things turn around again.

Social Welfare cuts across the board?? Should there be any?? Now this makes me uncomfortable! Across the board may mean that they won't target cutting others out completely. Cost of living has come down ... but not the cost of visiting your Dentist or Doctor. But you don't have to worry about that on Social welfare. All I'll say is that we should be careful here. I've been arguing since the Pension Levy about how low can you cut people's salaries before it becomes more beneficial to be on the dole? Doesn't affect us in the pre-1995 Public Service World as we can't claim it. We either have a job...or starve. But it affects others. Apparently a recent Independent article reckoned a man on SW with 3 kids and full entitlements earns the equivalent of €55,000 pre-tax (can't find it to link it). Just think back to the abundance of jobs as the Celtic Tiger in full swing. In order to coax those on the dole back to work they had to phase out their entitlements over a couple of years and introduce Family Income Supplement. I mean the last allowance says it all.... Supplement the fact they're earning less going out to work!! This area needs SERIOUS evaluation. Otherwise we're headed back to the '80's (sounds like a good name for a musical!). The era of nixers and Tax Evasion.

The above is NOT a rant either, rather a chance to see our side ... just a little! There are areas that need discussion and serious evaluation. We didn't all get us here but we are all here now. All of us. Public Sector, Private Sector and those who have lost their jobs. We shouldn't be pointing to where, currently, the grass seems greener. We ALL need to pull together and one sector should not be penalised more than the other ... it should be across the board.

Lets hope we can all see each others point of view and see each other through this.

Take Care.

XX Jazzy.


Just a couple of things to add. Things I've read in this weeks' news:

  • Hospital consultants receive a top-up of €25,000 on their €200,000 salaries this year! The absurdity of this was pointed out by a Dr John Barton. Ms Harney, when asked for a reaction, said she didn't think it was absurd and that he could refuse the increase if he wanted to??!! 
  • Fees for lawyers working for the Moriarty Tribunal have been reduced from €2,500 to €2,300 per day.... ah bless 'em. A paltry 8%. . 
  • In the same week they discuss reducing the minimal wage?? And also the Mc Carthy report suggests 10-15% salary reduction for EVERYONE. Why EVERYONE?? 
  • The Moriarty Tribunal has gone on for 8 years and per Denis O'Brien ( who, lets face it has an agenda anyway!) it's cost us €200mil so far. 
  • As we all know the electrician's were succesful in their claim for a salary increase and now lower paid Bank Officials looking for one. In the face of all of this there WILL be severe union reaction if there are cuts in Public Service pay. It will be hard for them not to react.
At least my concerns regarding Professionals Fees (Dentists, Consulatants etc) are legit! This area is to be discussed at the McGill camp this weekend!

Scampy Come Home

We went for a walk on the beach with Scamp last Sunday, June 28th, around lunchtime. There was a sea mist falling and you could see only so far in front you. So we kept a close eye on Scamp as he was off the lead. He was having a good run around and coming back when called, for treats. Snuggles and I were paddling in the calm shallow water as the tide was out a bit. Every so often Scamp would join us. That was really nice as he's not too fond of water... but you see he was thirsty and was trying his usual trick of drinking the seawater!! We were enjoying ourselves and I was thinking that this could be a much calmer Summer with Scamp as he's calmed down a bit. Best get him home soon though, I also thought, and get him a nice big drink of water.

So, we climbed the steps off the beach and up to the lane where one entrance to our local park is. He ran in to the park. I called him back while I was trying to fix Snugs helmet and sort out his bike . I didn't get to give him his treat so off he went again. But in which direction?? In to the park I thought, but Snugs thought he went the opposite way. Not wanting to hurt his feelings we went his way...but I still called out for Scamp. Unfortunately we went the wrong way and set off a train of events off that has clouded our whole week.

We got home without Scamp. Sure he'll find his way home, just like he's done lots of times, I thought. Or we'll get the usual phone call that he's been found. You see, what Scamp usually does is follow other dogs and play with them. Then he gets lost. People looking think he belongs to someone else so no-one's too worried. He'll then trot off or follow someone or some dog home. And there he'll stay. He won't leave and I get the usual phone call to pick him up. he's also prone to accepting "lifts" from strangers.... if you know what I mean! No matter how many times I warn him about this!

I went out to look for him when Mr Jazzy came back from golf. We then had to visit his brother in hospital (high blood pressure.. but he's O.K.) I really thought Scamp would have returned by the time we got home.

I can't believe he's heading for his 5th night away from us.

I also can't believe how much I miss him and want him back! Me, NOT Snuggles...he's not worried at all! Scamp is the bane of my life but I want him back!

This week has been a mad flurry of printing, laminating and putting up posters. Not an easy feat I have to tell you. We have the slowest computer, in the Universe and a pernickity printer to boot. And I mean to boot.... literally!! And then some people take down the posters just as quick. Why do they do that?? If it was in only one area I'd be very suspicious!

I've phoned Gardai stations, Vets and Dog pounds ..... in Dublin AND Wicklow. He has a collar with bone-shaped ID tag on... at least he had... and he's micro chipped. I've even phoned the micro chip company to flag him on their system. If he was stolen they'll dump him as soon as they realise he's chipped.

We've followed up the couple of sightings we've been advised off. He was spotted:

  • Coming into our estate on the Monday...I didn't hear about this til Tuesday evening.

  • IN Bray Sunday/Monday. I now think this was another dog but not sure. Most of the posters have since been removed. We searched this area lots of times.

  • In an outer field of Shanganagh Park on Wednesday morning. We do twice daily checks in this park. I've borrowed a bike as it's quicker to search the park this way. God, I haven't cycled in years! I must look a sight ...on my neighbours bike (she's 5ft 7 and I'm 5ft 2!) and wearing my sons Wrestling helmet!! I don't care though.... needs must!

Even Mr Jazzy's doing his bit. He searched the park in Bray at 6.30 am on Tuesday and took a half day yesterday as I was really sure that we were close to getting him.

So, where are you Scampy??

Were any of those sightings you?

Are you wandering the streets or park(s), with everyone thinking you're with someone else and no-one noticing you're all alone , tired and hungry??

Were you very scared all alone last night in the storm??

Did you get that drink of water you were so dying for??

Are you finding food somewhere?

Or maybe you're like Lassie... and you're having an adventure. Maybe you've gone to help some child in trouble and will get home, defying all the odds, when you're done.

I hope you didn't wander into the itinerant's camp like you did before.... that wasn't a very pleasant experience.

Maybe you followed someone home and they've taken you in and magicked away your ID tag? If so I hope they're treating you well. And Scampy.... Pssst.....listen up now, ya hear?..... if you're in someone else's house you have my absolute permission to do what you do best. YOU CAN:

  • Jump on any settee/chair you wish ANY time you wish!

  • Eat said furniture!

  • Climb on the kitchen Table and lick the plates "clean"!!

  • Poo EVERY where.. and eat some of it .... preferrably in front of them as they're eating their dinner!!

  • Scratch their back door to bits...and their front door. Hell, scratch ALL of their doors to bits!

If you do all of this Scampy..... They'll want to get rid of you and they'll hand you in somewhere pretending they've just found you.

If that doesn't work Scampy, they have to exercise you and I've told EVERYBODY to look out for you. When they walk you Scampy, escape the first chance you get and find your way home.... I know you can!

But...psssst, Scampy....when you come home, none of the above applies! Normal serice will resume!! But you will get lots and lots of hugs and treats. And I will never give out about you again.That's a promise.

The fact he's micro chipped is giving us hope. I've talked to so many people with stories of dogs turning up after some time. Petunia's friend's dog got into a bin and was found on the following week's bin day! My Abu-Dhabi childhood pal tells me her dog went missing for 6 weeks before being handed into a vet. A woman told me today about a husky stolen from a garden found wandering in Bray 4 months later....he'd been dumped when they realised he was chipped. There was even a dog re-united with it's owner after 2 years.

All reasons to be hopeful.

So, Scampy... we're looking for you sweetie.

And Scampy ....... Be like Lassie, ..... and come home.



xx Jazzy

Thoughts on Michael Jackson

I was sad to hear of the death of Michael Jackson yesterday. In my eyes he was a very talented performer.....it is simply not enough to describe him as a singer/dancer. He was an amazing performer. Crotch-clutching aside , that is!

But there was another side to Michael Jackson. The scandal and his odd behaviours. I feel like a fraud writing this post about him. I can't in all honesty go all out and do a tribute Post to him. Besides the strange, weirdo behaviours that earned him the nickname "Wacko Jacko" there's also the child molestation accusations. Hmmm.... worrying. I know he was cleared of all charges, but there never seems to be smoke without fire. He became the perennial Peter Pan, changed his skin colour ( or sufered from Vitiligo??) and had plastic surgery. He never had what could be termed a typical childhood due to his successful stage career. And then he revealed that he'd been sexually abused as a child by his father. Now that's the bit that gets me. It is a proven fact that a high proportion of people who have been sexually abused as children go on to sexually abuse children themselves when they become adults. We, in Ireland know that only too well, given the recent revellations of our own Ryan Report.

Michael Jackson had three children himself, brought into this world in what seems to me to be strange circumstances. These children are now being cared for by their mother Debbie Rowe until "arrangements" are made?? What the hell is that about?? Makes you wonder even more about the "arrangements" made when they were born. I believe the truth about Michael Jackson and his behaviours around children will be revealed through his own children, in time.

I was upset about our recent Ryan Report and my post Shameful Ireland... was a result of this. I do not understand the perpetrators in that report and I absolutely make no excuses for their behaviours, their own childhood experiences notwithstanding.

Yet, here I am writing about Michael Jackson. And that's why I feel like a fraud. So how can I write this?

The only way I can is to wear two hats.

Hey, THAT I can do .... in spades! Sure don't I ( and you too) wear at least ten hats every day! Piece of cake!

So, I'm now swapping my Michael the Personal Hat for Michael the Performer Hat. That's not a huge stretch of the imagination. His Producer said as much yesterday. The personal Michael who was shy and very polite and the performer Michael were two different people, according to him. This is the only way I can proceed.

You see Michael the Performer had a huge influence on us dancers in the 80's. Just so you understand a little about me, dancing was a huge part of my life. I'm not by any means claiming to be the best dancer but it was what I spent a large part of my life doing in the 80's and early 90's. For about 15 years we did show after show, after show. We did Tops of the Towns, musicals etc. We were always rehearsing for something or other, and going to dance classes. At one stage I remember rehearsing for 3 shows at the same time!

So, it's safe to say that any dance artist at that time had a big influence on us as dancers, and on the choreographers we worked with. And we had some brilliant choreographers. Two in particular stand out. Oh, boy did they work us hard! Not a beat of any song was left unaccounted for! We used Michael's songs a lot...and Janet Jackson's. They had such fabulous, beaty dance music.

As dancers we soaked up any dance shows and videos we could get access to. That was quite limiting then. MTV was the only music channel and VCR's were barely invented. We didn't even have one at home! I remember when the Thriller music video was released. It was a huge event. It was to be shown on MTV at midnight! We all made sure we were home by then and stayed glued to the TV, and we were absolutely mesmorised by it. It was truly history in the making. This was not just a singer... dancing. This was a music video. There was a singer... a story and a huge dance sequence. It was a mini-production. It influenced the way other artists released their videos.... right up to the present day.

I remember going to see his Bad concert in approx 1987. It was a truly memorable and amazing show. I went with my best friend. We had basic tickets but as we got their early and there was no-one policing the seated area, we got fabulous seats very close to the stage! Not that we used them we were dancing so much.... but we had a great view and it was an amazing show. Fabulous experience. Actually, I also remember that we hung around Jury's Hotel in Cork as that's where he was staying! When a member of his entourage passed by we tried, in vain, to get an autograph!! God love us! But we did see a relatively young pat Kenny there along with some other RTE heads! That made up for the lack of an autograph .... NOT!!

As for his music videos, my favourite has to be Smooth Criminal. Whilst Thriller was amazing, Smooth Criminal was so classy.... all the guys with hats.... dancing as one.... fabulous. Then, whilst surfing YouTube I came across Dangerous from a live show. From this you can see the influence he has to the present day. Just look at the Flawless performance in the finals of Britains Got Talent and you'll see what I mean. You can even see it in Diversity's performance....... though this performance brings it to a whole other dimension! I hope to test this theory of mine when I go to to see the Britains Got Talent roadshow next Tuesday in the O2 Arena, Dublin!!

So, whilst I lament the passing of Michael the Performer, the passing of Michael the Personal makes me feel..... sad. For all concerned.

xx Jazzy