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Billy King


Nonviolence News


Billy King

Number 279: May 2020

[Return to related issue of Nonviolence News]

Billy King shares his monthly thoughts

Well, I hope you are (well). And that you have a routine going which works for you, and are able to vary it according to need and how you feel. Me? [We weren’t asking – Ed] It’s going fine. Myself and partner in life have an early morning exercise routine before too many people are out, a cycle one day along a greenway, a walk the next which includes suburbia, forest and river – and in the last two of these we sometimes have encounters with a kingfisher and a Great Spotted Woodpecker which our Ornithological Advisor tells me only arrived in Ireland (Down and Wicklow) about fifteen years ago though are now more widespread. Obviously if you are in the Re.public and been limited to 2km from home that isn’t going to cover too many kingfishers and woodpeckers, but that restriction will be lifted soon.

The one thing I haven’t cracked yet is changing my sleeping pattern given that I am now getting up somewhat earlier than I am accustomed to do. I am working on it, mainly by going to bed earlier than I would have, and having a relaxing time of reading or listening to something not too taxing. But I have been a bit tired as my sleeping pattern hasn’t fully adjusted, or is disturbed by the disturbing current situation. We’ll see how it goes.

Oh, and I have taken some of my own advice (NN 278) including the odyssey of reading James Joyce’s “Ulysses”. I am certainly not finished yet and will talk about that another time [Is that your idea of reviewing or writing about contemporary fiction????? - Ed]. However I noted in its pages a mention of a particular establishment, by generic type (vegetarian) rather than name, which is likely to be the cafe or restaurant in central Dublin associated with an ancestor of mine, great-grandfather in fact, so that was a bit of a thrill.

The weather has been amazing and we had 5 weeks or so without rain from just after St Patrick’s Day. April is the driest month in Ireland anyway but late March onwards was phenomenal. Good weather to get outside when you could in the lockdown was one very small compensation. Now, we are back to the more mixed weather we know and love (to decry).

Laughing and crying
If you didn’t laugh in the current situation you would probably do a lot more crying. And there have been things to laugh about. Early on when there were runs on toilet paper, one visual joke showed a typical IKEA instruction visual of the pieces for putting some furniture together which included the illustration of a toilet roll and the description “x 100”. Clearly toilet paper manufacturers were on a roll. A common meme has been people getting dressed/dolled up to put out the rubbish and coming straight back inside again. There have been lots more. A letter in The Irish Times talking about the first cuckoo a correspondent had heard received the response asking were they sure the bird wasn’t calling “cocoon, cocoon”........

Of course there were plenty of real life examples. One TD quickly corrected himself when referring to PPE (personal protection equipment) equipment for nursing homes as “PE equipment” (physical education).....though actually that sounds like a good idea. And just when you thought Donald Trump couldn’t make himself look any more ignorant about the world than he has already so eminently succeeded in doing, he continued to put his big feet (and small hands?) in it, e.g. when he suggested people taking disinfectant by injection might be a way to cure Covid-19, and people who knew rather more about the subject than the current POTUS felt required to point out that injecting or swallowing disinfectant could kill you. It did lead to lots of jokes, not least about Donald Toilet Duck. That reminds me of the man who called his dog after a well known brand of toilet bleach. When asked why he had chosen that name he indicated that his dog was “clean round the bend”.

A ‘Filipino one clap’ for Tess
I would like to dedicate a Filipino one clap to the memory of Tess Ramiro who died recently in the Philippines where she was a nonviolent movement and IFOR activist. It was from her that I learnt the ‘Filipino one clap’ which I often use at the end of meetings and workshops where a collective appreciation is required. A bundle of nonviolent energy from the time of the opposition to Marcos, she had been in poor health for some time but kept on going. In her memory I will tell you how the ‘one clap’ works....and a peculiar Norn Iron link.

It needs explained briefly to a group before doing it, and you do need to say it is an appreciation of everyone’s contribution (whether you single out any people for particular mention is up to you). The group needs their hands free. You count to 1, 2, 3, and on a silent count of 4 everyone does a single clap together. It’s a lovely way to end a meeting or session, a speedy and united way of acknowledging everyone’s input.

The Norn Iron link? Facilitating a relatively open and diverse session in Co Armagh, I used the Filipino one clap to end. Someone who was present and both a member of the Orange Order and involved with cross-community activities informed me straight afterwards that they used this in their Orange Lodge. If you can explain to me how exactly the same method of ending meetings and appreciating people was used in an Orange Lodge in Northern Ireland and by a Catholic in the peace movement in the Philippines, I would be delighted to know. But thank you Tess for that and for your life and dedication.

Neither a borrower nor a hoarder be?
I am neither an expert in supply chains, nor in psychology, but I’ll risk some comments on the run on groceries and some other products at the start of the coronavirus lockdown. There is only so much toilet paper the average Joe or Joan can use, only so much pasta you can eat, and it does look like there was panic buying initially which led to some food going off and being thrown away. A run on toilet paper might seem comical but not so comical if you can’t get some.

​In general, supplies continued as before the lockdown even though people’s shopping habits may have changed. However consumption patterns certainly did change with obviously a much greater prevalence of eating all meals at home even if many people have continued to use takeaways. And people are cooking and baking more for themselves which explains ongoing shortages of flour, particularly wholemeal, some pastas, yeast, and rice.

So enter substitutes. We can’t get our brown basmati rice so we are using bulgur wheat which is partly processed cracked wheat – and nutritionally while it varies slightly from the nutritional breakdown of brown rice, it is at least comparable. We haven’t actually been using much pasta but if you can’t get it you can use your noodle or make your own – a mix of flour with the minimum amount of water to form a dough, rolled out flat and cut into strips and boiled. But that is if you can get your flour!

So there has never been as good an argument for having had (or having in the future) a well stocked store cupboard that you didn’t have to panic (or) buy. However that depends on a) having space to store stuff, and b) having the money to invest in food stocks to hold, and there are people who may not have one, the other, or both. Mormons are instructed to have stocks of food and household goods enough for 3 - 12 months, depending on what it is, and that might be considered extreme but is bordering on the sensible enough if the goods are rotated, i.e. you use the oldest products first. You can then share a bit when you can and if needed. I certainly wouldn’t go for stocking up for as much as a year however.

If you panic buy when everyone else is panic buying it just creates further panic, and the alternative is to go without. If you buy and stock up in normal times, or when products are available as normal, then you are not causing a problem and unlikely to be depriving others of products that they may need more than you. So that seems the most socially responsible thing to do. I won’t put it in floury language - be prepared.

Honesty is the best policy
If honesty is the best policy, in the conventional sense, then I am duty bound to tell you I have used this heading before and gone on to make the same or a similar point. But I am not talking about honesty and dishonesty, but about honesty and this honesty in the garden where I have both mauve and white plants in flower at the moment (the dried inner part of the fully developed seed pods are an attractive white or ivory addition to dried flower arrangements, you have to strip off the outer layer from each side, and dispose of the seeds themselves). So what is it about honesty of this kind that I think is ‘the best policy’? It’s because it seeds itself without any assistance required from humans – a biennial where the plants germinating this year will flower next spring. It is also a relatively unobtrusive plant until it goes into its flowering spurt, a point in its favour.

Yes, ‘you’ have some control because unwanted seedlings or plants are easy to pull out but they seed themselves where the wind blows. I have a similar approach to many other plants that appear in the garden, pull them out if they are in the way or are going to seed themselves (e.g. dandelions) in a way that I don’t want. But you never know what might appear. California poppies which also seed themselves prolifically are a bit more difficult to pull out so I tend to cut off seed heads and this also encourages flowering.

In the garden, so in life. Serendipity should be allowed to play its part. Happenstance should be allowed to happen. This is not to the extent that we lose control of where we are going but that we see what develops and respond appropriately without cutting off possibilities before they appear. And in that regard, I honestly think honesty actually pays off and is the best policy. May a thousand flowers bloom.....and the gardens of the country have not been so well looked after for manys a year with most people at home most of the time.


Well, that’s it for now. If there is a glimmer we see through the tunnel, what exactly is at the other end of the tunnel no one is yet quite sure but we will find out, it will be restrictive for quite some time but it will certainly be better than now. The Republic has at least indicated a possible timetable. So do take care of yourself and take care of others, until we meet again (remotely), and I hope you are able to zoom free and use your time productively - and that includes rest and relaxation, Billy.

Who is Billy King?
A long, long time ago, in a more innocent age (just talking about myself you understand), there were magazines called 'Dawn' and 'Dawn Train' and I had a back page column in these. Now the Headitor has asked me to come out from under the carpet to write a Cyberspace Column 'something people won't be able to put down' (I hope you're not carrying your monitor around with you).

Watch this. Cast a cold eye on life, on death, horseman pass by (because there'll almost certainly be very little about horses even if someone with a similar name is found astride them on gable ends around certain parts of Norn Iron).

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