Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The night the Pope bombed appropriate parts of Derry!

My mother grew up in Derry and was a young adult there during Word War II. She and her family were nationalists (and Catholic) and lived in a predominantly loyalist (and Protestant) part of Derry. A story she had told of one of her experiences still makes me smile....

One night a German bombing raid over Derry resulted in some devastation of houses. There was considerable talk about it the following day around Derry. The big subject for some of the loyalist people was that the houses destroyed were all in Protestant areas of the city. This caused a bitter debate and speculation that the bombing raid was a Popish plot. They always had a thing about the Pope. The theory spread like fire and imaginations flared. It culminated in one woman claiming that she actually saw the Pope himself in the German bomber and that he must have been pointing out to the pilot which areas of the city were Protestant so that they could just bomb those places. When challenged on her exceptional eyesight in the dark the women said she knew it was the Pope because she could just make out his tall distinctive hat at the window of the bomber! Coupled with popular talk of Pope Pious XII being at least Nazi neutral due to his non-condemnation of Nazi actions, there was a firm body of people who believed and spread the rumour of the Pope directing the bomber. The local nationalists where my mother lived kept publicly silent due to being badly outnumbered!

The image of the Pope with all his robes and tall hat in a German bomber pointing out Protestant parts of the city would make an excellent Monty Python or Father Ted type TV sketch! I feel awkward writing this blog in our modern all-inclusive Ireland, but it was funny at the time it was told.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Traveling through Northern Ireland...briskly!

My wife and I traveled up to Moville in Donegal on Thursday. We were bringing an aunt up to a funeral of a cousin's husband. It was a tough days driving up and down - ten and a half hours in the car - not helped by an hour each way on the M50 as we hit it at morning and evening rush hours.

Anyway, we went through Northern Ireland to get to Moville via Derry. I'm used to traveling in NI since I was very young as my Mum's family are from Derry. However in recent years I'm beginning to notice it's often easier to live with Continental Europe than these six counties on our island. Here are some niggles from Thursday's trip....

1. We decided to eat in Donegal before we returned via NI. I couldn't cope with having to deal with Sterling after spending the last four years using Euros at home and in trips to to much further places like Portugal, Spain, France and Italy.

2. The roads in NI are still marked in mph, which is weird having just got adjusted to kph both in the Republic and in the continent. Given that there is no noticeable border point to/from NI you have to start thinking what units the speed signs are in at border areas.

3. The Republic actually in general now has better roads than NI. I remember when it was the opposite.

4. As well as not eating in NI I wasn't tempted to buy petrol either - it seemed to work out at an average of around 1.50 Euro per litre!!

5. Our mobiles phones roamed into Orange and Vodafone respectively in NI - strange as we are both O2 and O2 claim to be one rate for the island. I suppose we could have stopped the car and forced the phones onto O2, but we were in a hurry and we couldn't be bothered.

So it was a case of - let's get through NI briskly - don't eat or spend sterling, don't buy petrol, don't use the phone, be careful on the narrow main roads and interpret where mph signs begin and end.

I'd feel a lot neater in NI if the UK would become more committed Europeans.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Near Death Experiences

I seem to be in a weird blogging mood lately, spooky. Maybe it's November being a dead month.

Stories of near death experiences are often interesting. I'm willing to accept that many of them may be some elaborate dream type experience. However many are difficult to explain due to the hard evidence they provide. An example of one experience I read of which always sticks in my mind is as follows...

An American middle aged woman had a heart attack in a US city which she was visiting and which she was not very familiar with. She was rushed to a local hospital and at one stage on the ground floor theatre her heart stopped and the medics took quite awhile to restart her heart. As she recovered later that day in a 3rd floor ward she related a near death experience to her nurse. She claimed she had floated up out of her body, out of the walls and upwards until she was even a bit above the roof of the hospital. She was able to describe the hospital well for someone who was unfamiliar with this city. In particular she described floating above the top floor of the hospital and remarked that she saw a tennis shoe sitting on a ledge outside a window. The nurse listened to her and consoled her but didn't take her story at all seriously. A dying person's mind plays tricks, she reckoned.

Later that day the nurse had occasion to be on the 7th floor and was doing something at the window. Over at the other wing of the L-shaped hospital she noticed an object sitting on a ledge. She then thought of what the women had said and decided she might chance a closer look. When she got over to the correct room she looked out the window and sure enough there was a tennis shoe on the ledge. At this stage the nurse was more than intrigued. She picked up the shoe and went right back down to the ward on the 3rd floor where the women was in bed. She wanted to test her further and walked up to her with the shoe hidden behind her back.

"When you were dying you said you floated up and you saw a tennis shoe on the top floor ledge?


"you never told me what colour it was."

"It was blue" the woman said without hesitation.

The nurse was stunned and showed the woman the blue tennis shoe she had hidden. The woman had only come into the hospital that day and had never been taken beyond the 3rd floor, nor had she been off her back in bed. The nurse hugged her and later became a serious student of near death experiences.

I've read other stories verified by doctors and surgeons of patients who almost died during an operation describing exact details of instruments and objects in operating theatres when they were clearly unconscious coming in and out of the room.

It's yet another strange area which requires study.