Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Ireland, Visitors and Closing the Schools

October 21, 2020

Schools - lockdown

Another severe lockdown in the depths of winter, full of confusion, anger, worry and concern for all cohorts of society that are being severely damaged by a cruel disease that doesn’t really care how we feel about it – it’s just quite happy to have new homes to visit, while we can’t !

This leaves us facing into six weeks of varying degrees of misery, depending on your circumstances, so it better be damn worth it and deliver a result that will allow people to recover both their lives and livelihoods when it is over.

I feel metaphorically speaking we have all had the Covid virus (In saying that I am not belittling anyone who has suffered directly as a result of having the disease). 

To make sure these six weeks are as effective as they can possibly be (does anyone want 12 weeks??) it’s vital that everything that can be done, is done right now and for me besides Irish people adhering to the rules and the spirit of the rules, there are three stand out measures that are an absolute must:

  1. The island of Ireland must work together
  2. People coming into Ireland cannot add to the spread that is already here
  3. The right decision needs to be made about schools

Getting these things wrong will totally diminish the benefits from the six weeks of hardship.  

But that’s not possible” is what I hear people say when we talk about the island of Ireland. This is bullshit and we need to call it out – we have a common problem that deserves a common solution, and the cooperation that happened with foot and mouth disease needs to happen again.

People coming into the country should be tested before they get on any plane or boat and shouldn’t be allowed to wander freely in Ireland until we know they are not carrying a virus. Quick tests that are in other jurisdictions would make a big difference.

The final measure is possibly the very contentious one, as it really effects us because we have a lot of young and old students and their families, all with a vested interest in their education and their health.

Hey teacher leave those kids at home!

I would love to believe that our precious children, young and old, are largely immune from this horrible disease and play no part in it’s spread to others in the general community.

On that basis they could safely go to school, continue with their development and in truth allow their parents to get on uninterrupted with their work and lives – That would be a fantastic scenario, one that is great for society but is it the case?       

I for one, don’t believe it..

I know from my own Twitter account and from texts and messages that I have received from people including a national journalist, I am getting lots of vitriol for daring to suggest that the reopening of schools followed by colleges could be a contributing factor to the sudden spike in cases that happened in Ireland in August and has continued and has been replicated across Europe.

My hunch was based purely on the story of the pandemic timeline (very few cases, schools open and then cases spiked – this was before wet pubs opened) in Ireland. I’m sure people returning from overseas holidays (Green or non-Green list countries – flights continued to and from both) was also a contributing factor but that would have been a gradual thing on the timeline.

With the schools you can pinpoint the actual date they reopened and the timeline of the cases at that time.

I hear the arguments against my position:

But…young kids are not likely to get Covid and spread it?

But..older kids are more likely to get Covid and spread it but they are most unlikely to be sick from it?

But …colleges. They are adults who will hang out and party like we all did back in the day, so that’s a fairly straightforward argument.

But…the data from our test, track and trace system and the resulting published stats hasn’t been identifying schools as being a problem?

Maybe my hunch is totally wrong and the decision or choice by the government to keep schools open unlike in Northern Ireland is a justified one – lets think about it and see what the experts are saying and figure out what we know and don’t know?

So…

Do we know that young kids cannot get Covid? – we don’t

Do we know that young kids if they do contract Covid are most likely to be asymptomatic (just like many adults are)? –  likely

Do we know that asymptomatic kids cannot pass Covid onto others? – definitely not 

Older kids, teenagers will be more likely to contract Covid than younger kids, but will be more likely to be asymptomatic? – likely

At this point we need to ask ourselves a simple question..

Will asymptomatic kids (of all ages) who contract Covid pass it to others who then get sick, test positive and we NEVER know who the source was

In my simple mind, that’s quite plausible and it stacks up my hunch about schools opening and the spike, but lets see what the professionals are saying about schools, children and young adults

In the U.S. this is what is being said:

Yes, children can get COVID-19..

Dr. Lisa Gwynn, an associate professor of clinical pediatrics and public health sciences at the Miller School of Medicine at the University of Miami, said that yes, children can get COVID-19.

However, according to Brian Labus, PhD, MPH, an assistant professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, the infection rates in children are low.

When children do get infected,” explained Labus, “they tend to have a very mild disease compared to adults.

Gwynn said that children can transmit COVID-19 to adults.

She noted that children ages 10 and older are especially able to transmit the illness to the adults around them.

While there’s limited information regarding children younger than 10, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report Trusted Source on September 18 indicating that younger children can transmit the virus to adults as well.

The report cited one case in which an 8-month-old child transmitted the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, to both parents. Another child at the same day care facility who contracted the virus was 8 years old.

Both children had mild signs and symptoms, including runny nose, fatigue, and fever. The report included information about 12 children who had developed COVID-19 at three different child care facilities.

Transmission, either confirmed or probable, was shown to have occurred to 46 people outside of the facilities, including one parent who had to be hospitalized. Also, two children who had confirmed COVID-19 but were asymptomatic were shown to have transmitted the disease to adults.

There was even a more concerning article that says

Asymptomatic children can spread coronavirus for weeks, study finds

New US studies show viral loads of the coronavirus are especially high among children and youths, who can unknowingly spread it for weeks.

The article went on to say:

A new, unsettling study on children and the coronavirus pandemic has just been published as countries around the world reopen kindergartens and school classrooms. The study’s findings are sure to further fuel already heated debates over the risk of infection in institutions of learning.

Doctors at the Children’s National Hospital in Washington, DC have found that infected children can spread the SARS-CoV-2 virus for weeks even though they themselves show no COVID-19 symptoms. That means that children with only mild symptoms, or none at all, can unknowingly infect people around them.

In an earlier study, researchers in Boston showed that children and youths they observed had surprisingly high viral loads.

This led to an inevitable question:

Are asymptomatic children spreading the virus?

It went on:

The new study, which was published on August 28 on the website of the medical journal JAMA Pediatrics, was conducted by Roberta L. DeBiasi and Meghan Delaney, who analyzed data from 91 children in 22 hospitals across South Korea. “Unlike in the US health system, those who test positive for COVID-19 in South Korea remain in the hospital until they have completely recovered from their infection,” says DeBiasi.

According to the study, roughly 22% of the children developed no symptoms throughout their infection, 20% began asymptomatic but later developed symptoms, and 58% tested symptomatic. The study also showed great differences in the length of time children remained symptomatic, ranging from three days to three weeks. One-fifth of the asymptomatic patients and roughly half of the symptomatic patients were still passing on the SARS-CoV-2 virus three weeks after initial infection — though this did not directly reflect their contagiousness.

The authors readily admit that there is still much to be learned about the role of children and youths in the spread of the coronavirus, and that their findings will further fuel that debate.

With our testing and tracing system would we even discover that an asymptomatic child (no temperature, cough etc) was the possible source for the spread of Covid in an outbreak – it’s impossible unless there was mass testing.

Moving away from the Korean data:

Researchers in Boston, meanwhile, found surprisingly high viral loads among the youngest patients they observed. For their study, they took nose and throat swabs from 49 children and youths under the age of 21. The study found far more SARS-CoV-2 virus presence among them than among adults being treated in intensive care units for COVID-19.

According to the Boston study, which was published on August 1 in the periodical The Journal of Pediatrics , scientists found far fewer ACE-2 receptors among smaller children than in youths and adults. Those receptors are thought to be SARS-CoV-2’s gateway into the body’s cells.

Read on:

They talk about tiny “superspreaders”:

The role of children and youths in the spread of the coronavirus has been hotly debated since the first infections were registered. One thing is clear, children and youths can infect others. It is also clear that infected children and youths often show few or no signs of being ill. And it is also just as clear — though most people prefer not to talk about this — that children and youths can also die or suffer lasting damage as the result of a COVID-19 infection.

That doesn’t automatically mean that all children and youths are potential “superspreaders,” driving infection rates around them. Still, children and youths — through kindergarten, school, friends and sports — often have far more social interaction than adults. The past few months have also shown that young people are just as likely as adults to ignore social distancing and hygiene rules if they are not compelled to do otherwise.

Amid a flood of returning vacationers, along with parties and crowded events, German infection rates are now the highest they have been since April. A great number of those testing positive for COVID-19 now are young, driving down the average age of infection to the lowest figure registered since the pandemic began.

Still, despite high viral loads and the ability to pass on the virus for weeks — even if a child is asymptomatic — young people can still act decisively to stop the spread of infection.

Centre of Disease Control

In a report by the CDC in Sept based on research, they arrived at the following conclusion:

To be sure, the best available evidence from countries that have reopened schools indicates that COVID-19 poses low risks to school-aged children – at least in areas with low community transmission. That said, the body of evidence is growing that children of all ages are susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection (3-7) and, contrary to early reports (1112), might play a role in transmission (71314).

World Health Organisation

In a report by the WHO in September they also addressed the role of schools:

The role of children in transmission is not yet fully understood. To date, few outbreaks involving children or schools have been reported. However, the small number of outbreaks reported among teaching or associated staff to date suggests that spread of COVID-19 within educational settings may be limited.

As children generally have milder illness and fewer symptoms, cases may sometimes go unnoticed. Importantly, early data from studies suggest that infection rates among teenagers may be higher than in younger children.

Closer to home

Closer to home Dr. Tomás Ryan, Assistant Professor at the School of Biochemistry & Immunology, Trinity College Dublin chats with Eamon Dunphy on his podcast – he welcomes the six week lock down as he believes it is necessary to correct the course of the disease, but he does feel that schools should be part of this as we should be doing everything to make this period work.   

He also speaks about the need for cooperation with the North and controls with those visiting Ireland from abroad.

He is also a big advocate for a ZeroCovid approach just like in New Zealand, who are now enjoying international rugby matches in packed stadiums – that sounds nice!  

Click here to listen.

Conclusion?

While all of this information is confusing and inconclusive, none of it has eased my concern about schools and while we are  taking brutal action against other areas of society then we should be absolutely sure that schools are not part of the problem.

  • Coordinate with the North
  • Carefully control visitors to Ireland
  • Close the schools 

Lets’ get to zero and start living again,

What do you think?

Greg

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion Communications, a full service Marketing, PR, Graphic Design and Digital Marketing agency with offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zero Covid and the “Future Green List”

October 5, 2020

New Zealand lockdown

This is not working, this is not living and we shouldn’t accept any plan that doesn’t have us working towards a return to our normal lives – shopping without masks, having people to dinner from more than one household, having parties, going to gigs and the theatre… looking at others without judgement 24/7.

We need to go for Zero Covid just like they have managed it in New Zealand, but this can only happen if we do everything to starve the virus and ONLY do this if we have international cooperation with other countries that wish to be part of a “Future Green List“.

But it’s easy for them in New Zealand….they are different.” (Really?)

I hate when I hear people saying this is not possible “because of politics“.

When we think it’s not possible this is the first problem, because it is absolutely possible.

Which country in the world is sailing through this pandemic without people living in fear, getting sick, dying and their economies in free-fall?

We all have something in common, don’t we? – The prize for getting this right is big, it is GIGANTIC.

Background:

Please listen to some excellent podcasts hosted by Eamon Dunphy, The Stand with various guests who give some valuable perspectives to support this argument/approach: 

Dr. Niall Conroy, Consultant in Public Medicine in Queensland, talks to Eamon about how the combination of strong leadership and listening to the doctors suppressed Covid-19 across Australia.

Prof. Gerry Killeen, Chair of Applied Pathogen Ecology in UCC – Unless We Abandon Our Defeatist Strategy We’re Looking at 35,000 Deaths

Tomás Ryan, Associate Professor in the School of Biochemistry and Immunology and Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience – Get Real or Get Ready for a Terrible Winter

So…how do we do this?

  • We find out which countries want to be Covid free and want to restore normal life and their economies again – anyone interested?

Some strong common sense leadership is required for this part!

  • Then we agree a ‘Future Green List’ and put a target date for this to happen.
  • Let’s say 25th December, Christmas Day is the goal and at that point the objective is that countries in this ‘Future Green List’ are 100% back to normal: YEP – 100% BACK TO NORMAL!

Imagine living normally and being able to travel freely between these countries and doing all the things that we are dangerously close to forgetting?

For some stupid reason that idea seems preposterous right now, the most ridiculous, rubbish thinking by a mad man….right? It isn’t, listen to podcast with Dr. Niall Conroy, about a place with a population larger than Ireland. 

  • Once we agree who is in that ‘Future Green List’ each country closes their borders except for essential travel and a proper 14 day quarantine programme is put in place for other travellers.
  • Then each country goes about doing the hard yards to bring us to Zero Covid and try desperately to get everyone back to a “We are in this together” place, which has long since disappeared.

The 25th December, Christmas day, seeing friends and family normally might be a great motivator?

If we believe in the goal and witness the progress, people will hopefully stay the course.

I’ll gladly take that, if it is leading us towards a tangible worthwhile goal that we can all believe in, which certainly is nothing like where we are now, society is choking as we drift rudderless towards nowhere.

  • When Ireland hits Zero Covid we maintain our borders and start living again, fully living (not this current version)
  • When Spain hits Zero Covid we can open our borders to Spain and vice versa.
  • When the UK hits their Zero Covid we open to them and so on and so on

The countries outside the Green List will work hard to be on the list and will know how to get there from those who have got there – New Zealand have shown us what is possible.

If there are (inevitable) bumps along the way, just like in New Zealand you hunt them down and stamp them out just like they have done.

Are we in?

Greg

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion Communications, a full service Marketing, PR, Graphic Design and Digital Marketing agency with offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland

 

Just a Drop of a West Cork Story ..

September 3, 2020

Old Head KInsale

We were in the car all five of us on a Saturday morning, the last one of August, the last one of summer (I know it’s autumn, but I always consider August to be part of summer) taking a trip around West Cork.

The five of us was Dee and I, the two dogs Honey and Bert who have started to enjoy our summer excursions and Ayla, from New Zealand, my son’s girlfriend (he’s busy filming for Failte Ireland at the moment).

From a chat we had a few nights earlier we reckoned she hadn’t really experienced that wonderful part of Ireland, so this plan was hatched.

As usual, we totally underestimated the amount of time it would take to explore but we did manage to take in the Old Head of Kinsale and then a scenic coastal drive that included Harbour View beach, Timoleague, Courtmacsherry and Clonakilty via Ring.

The sun was shining and Clonakilty town was buzzing and we strolled through the town with our two four legged buddies, enviously looking at the patrons enjoying the selection of cafes and restaurants that were calling to us.

Eventually, the pangs of hunger and the gentle waft of a chipper called to us and we grabbed two bags of “proper” chips with some mouth watering, juicy, succulent chicken goujons from an immaculate place called the ‘Chunky Chip‘ and enjoyed those sitting on the grass on the green near Emmet Square.

Emmet Square, Clonakilty

Walking off those chips was a must so we headed on to Red Strand and then onto Long Strand at Owenahincha and went for a fabulous walk meandering through the sand dunes that go on forever and then onto the beach.

Owenincha

The dogs enjoyed the water, but did realise it wasn’t for drinking and we managed to sit for a few moments to enjoy a glass of white wine (Dee is always prepared!) looking out at the ocean, taking in all of it’s beauty and bidding farewell to this very strange summer.

Driving back home (there was a Liverpool match to get back for..) we were chatting about all sorts of everything including “wouldn’t it be great to live near the sea” which seemed to be the recurring topic of the day.

Throughout the journey we had the music playing with a mix of all our tastes along with the selection that the Spotify algorithm throws you and before we knew it we were listing to a fantastic song by one of my favourite bands, The 4 of Us, called “Just A Drop“.

I was able to tell Ayla and Dee (and the two dogs!) the story of the song, which not only brought it to life but it also gave them an insight into the character of the band and something that they could carry with them and tell others.

The reason I knew the story was because they told it to me via email.

Every week during “lockdown” the band have been sending an email featuring a different song, whereby they tell the story behind the song and they leave you with the gift of a free download.

This is the fantastic story behind the song in their own words:

Just A Drop. The story behind the song…

Dad was a big Johnny Cash fan and suggested, on more than one occasion, that our songs could benefit from a bit of the boom-chicka-boom rhythm that characterised Cash’s early recordings.

We eventually took up his suggestion, writing Just A Drop, for the Sugar Island album, as a tribute to him and his love for the Man in Black.

Before we recorded it, we headed home to Newry to play it for him.

“You are finally going to love a 4 Of Us song,” we told him.

To make sure he was in a suitably receptive mood, we bought some insurance – a bottle of his favourite whiskey.

He sipped a glass of it, relaxing in his favourite armchair as we played him the song.

Three minutes later, we waited to hear his opinion. He paused.

Then he looked up at us and said just two words:

“More whiskey.”

We insisted on playing it to him again, assuring him that sometimes it takes a while for a song to grow on you.

After three more performances – and three more whiskeys – he started getting into it.

So, if you don’t think our performance in the video below sounds anything like Johnny Cash, we understand.

But can we recommend that you combine it with a glass or two of Black Bush?

Brendan and Declan ❤

(you can watch the song on YouTube at the bottom of this post)

It’s such a very clever thing to do.

At a time when they can’t do gigs, they are still talking to us and what’s more, they are building a special bond and a connection that brings us closer to them and one that works when it comes to selling their music and their gigs.

It was nice to get an unexpected lesson in marketing from an unexpected source..

Are you taking the time to tell your interesting story?

Greg

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion Communications, a full service PR, Graphic Design and Digital Marketing agency with offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland

Will cities survive the coronavirus?

May 20, 2020

Will cities survive the coronavirus?” was the headline that I read in a section of the New York Times called ‘Debatable‘, written by Spencer Bokat-Lindell.

In the article it mentioned that: “nearly 40 percent of adults living in cities have begun to consider moving to less populated areas because of the outbreak”

It went on to specifically mention how in some of the main cities in the U.S. that populations had already decreased, mainly due to lack of affordable accommodation, pre-Covid (New York, LA and Chicago were mentioned).

While the headline about the “demise of cities” might scare everyone and cast a dark cloud over city living, maybe it should be viewed in a positive light?

We should be living or commuting to our cities because we choose to or because it is absolutely necessary for our work or study – we shouldn’t be living or commuting to our cities to complete tasks that could just as easily be done anywhere else.

Is this the time for us to decompress our cities, allow them to breathe again, and allow us to really enjoy them, living and visiting, not because we have to, but because we choose to?

Greg

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion Communications, a full service Marketing, PR, Graphic Design and Digital Marketing agency with offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland

 

 

Taking away the fear and Positive PR the KLM way

March 12, 2020

KLM Airlines - Coronavirus

I just received a very clever piece of personalised email correspondence from the President and CEO of KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Pieter Elbers, which was designed to reassure anyone contemplating a flight with them that they are to be trusted during these worrying Coronavirus times.

It was really clever for a number of reasons..

It was Personalised

The email used my name…us customers love that!!

Really understanding the Customers Frame of Mind

The email understood my frame of mind perfectly and took me through a thought process step by step addressing my concerns and “What Ifs”.

The story in my head is that getting on a plane in a confined space with other people at the moment is one of very worst possible things that you could do. How can planes be cleaned between flights efficiently, what about all the places that a person will touch on the plane and what about the air circulation?

As a frequent traveler with KLM, you trust us to not only take you where you need to go, but to do so safely, comfortably and responsibly. Today, as the world comes to terms with an unprecedented health scare in COVID-19 (Corona virus), these values are more important to us than ever

His email addressed my fear and it reassured me step by step what they are doing at KLM to make sure that it is a safe environment.

He spoke about Safety and Hygiene procedures in very specific detail

  • Thorough cleaning and disinfecting before each departure itemising
    • Cleaning of galleys, carpets and toilets
    • Cleaning of tray tables, armrests, headrests and seatbelt buckles
  • Continuous cleaning by cabin crew in the air
  • Cabin air is continually refreshed with outside air
  • Using hospital-grade HEPA filters that are 99.99% effective in preventing airborne bacterial and viral organisms such as COVID-19
  • All flights have special Corona-kits and the team are trained in containment measures
  • Hygiene extends to catering, ingredients are fresh and locally sourced, strict guidelines to preparation

There was a link in the email to a video, which provided more information about hygiene at the airline.

While I was reading this impressive list of hygiene steps I was thinking of course that KLM would say this because they are protecting their interests and spinning the risks in their favour.

This was addressed:

“I fully understand the hesitation many people feel at the moment when deciding whether to book a flight or not. But you can feel secure in the knowledge that KLM has taken every precaution necessary to protect your health and the health of your loved ones.

In this emotional time, you can be assured that we are guided and consistently act by fact-based, circumstance-driven decision making. On a daily basis, we work closely with the top experts at the World Health Organization and Rijksinstituut voor Volksgezondheid en Milieu (RIVM) in the Netherlands”

Beyond the Airline

And what about the other things that can go wrong about a journey that might have you unable to take the flight?

I also understand that your concern may not be about your journey with KLM, but about the many unknowns about the situation on the ground at your destination. That’s why you can book your KLM flight with the confidence of being able to change your booking without a change fee

It’s not exactly a refund but ..

Practical Information

The email provided practical information and demonstrated the professionalism of the airline

“We are in constant touch with all the relevant authorities to adjust our network as required. This means that we can immediately respond when new travel restrictions are announced. For the latest information on flight status, please visit our travel advisory page or use the KLM app and let us keep you posted 24/7 with push messages

Proud History and Customer Service Ethos

The email went on to highlight the history of the airline, the number of employees and the customer care ethos

“In 100 years of operations, KLM has faced many challenges and always emerged stronger. We were able to do so because we put you, our customer, at the heart of our operation. With that commitment in mind, I am confident that we will overcome this challenging time as well. As you know 33.000 KLM staff will go further to recognize your concerns and take care of you.”

We always preach to our clients that in their communications that they should weave in their ‘Key Messages’ – this was done here in a very clever, natural way.

Trust, Care, History, Customer Focus, Scale …. many boxes ticked!

Tone and Language 

All of the language used was appropriate, non-corporate and very down to earth and the tone was caring and inclusive, which was sealed in the email sign off

“Thank you for choosing KLM, and safe travels”

A Great Excuse to Communicate with Potential Customers!!

The most clever aspect of all with this email correspondence is that the Coronavirus, despite the horrible scenario, gave KLM a reason to reach out to all of their customers and remind them about their brand and prompt them to possibly think about them when booking flights in the future when things are hopefully back to normal.

It was a really long time since I flew KLM (I’m not sure what the GDPR police would be saying about this!!) but they have made me think about them in a really positive light which brings me to my very last point.

This is Positive PR

KLM have taken the opportunity (in awful circumstances) in a really nice, caring and soft way to reach out and tell a lot of people just how great they are!!

I’ve just told you about them..

So, a huge well done to KLM and their team for a really clever and well timed piece of correspondence that reminds us all about the power of great communications!

Can you do something similar with your customers today?

Greg

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion Communications, a full service Marketing, PR, Graphic Design and Digital Marketing agency with offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland

 

 

The gal in Girona and how we are all connected

October 10, 2019

Girona

We were standing outside the tourist office in the beautiful city of Girona in Spain and taking in the stunning old buildings while figuring out our route for the day – a walk through the city  alongside the river, a visit to two of the famous cathedrals, exploring the Jewish quarter and then a climb to the wall walk, which towers high above providing stunning views and runs for at least a mile and then maybe lunch!

While we stood figuring out the route I noticed a woman in a green and white dress with blue shoes and an unusual light green heel.

Aren’t her shoes unusual” I commented to Dee. I got a strange look!

We went about our stroll, taking in the stunning architecture of the shops that ran along the river, we explored the few bridges, popped over to Independence Square and then went to the first Cathedral.

There she was our lady with the blue and green shoes, standing ahead of us in the queue and she asked for the headset with the tour in Russian.

Her hair was tied up nicely, she wore a gold watch and some discreet jewellery.

We collected our headsets and they took us from station of interest to station of interest, each with a sequential number in your headset that told you all about that part of the church.

Our Russian friend was one stop ahead of us as we went from station to station.

At stop number 10 we were overdosing on too much historical information and we just wandered on until we completed the visit and went on our journey to the main cathedral in the city.

The location for this was stunning, at the beginning of the Jewish quarter, a huge imposing building towering over the city. We climbed the steps to the cathedral, grabbed our headsets and started the 1,2,3,4 sequence of each historic spot within. There was our Russian friend again with the unusual shoes.

Judging from the guests in our hotel many Russians seem to come here on holidays.

The fantastic hotel where we were staying near Lloret de Mar, the Santa Maria, seemed to have many while we were there including a group of women, who were definitely enjoying themselves by the pool, at the bar and at breakfast – the Cava was flowing on the one morning when a ferocious storm spent the day visiting.

After all, what else could you do?!

Was our Russian friend alone I wondered?

If I was alone, would I go visiting cathedrals or even come on a holiday like this by myself? It must be difficult for anyone who is alone I pondered.

We hit fast forward, exited the cathedral and wandered through the Jewish quarter, passing the beautiful, unusual shops, restaurants and buildings and then we made our way up, up, up to the beginning of the famous wall.

Climbing those steps was tough in the heat, when in particular en route we had to pass a few restaurants with people enjoying paella and cold drinks!

Girona

The wall towered over the city and it snaked it’s way parallel to the river on the opposite side of the city centre. We walked and walked and eventually came to the end of the wall and back where our day started near the tourist office.

With the knowledge we now had of the city we made our way to the Jewish quarter and settled on a beautiful old restaurant and sat outside to enjoy the food and the brilliant pastime of some people watching.

The menu carrying salesman at the front of the restaurant carefully moved in when anyone showed interest in the menu. All dishes were for two, and we settled on a walnut, blue cheese and apple salad for €16, which included two glasses of Cava. The dish was huge as well as being delicious and we just had to order ‘Dos copas du vino blanco‘ to complete the course!

The people watching was as enjoyable as the meal as all sorts of unusual people, young and old passed by … holidays are just great!

Our Russian friend came into my mind as I thought about the ‘meals for two menu‘ at the restaurant.

As I sat there I asked Dee “would you come to a place like this on your own”?

No sooner as the words came out of my mouth, our Russian friend with the blue shoes and the lime green heels walked by.

How is it that the second we think about someone, they appear?

I swear, there are no coincidences, we are all truly connected, even with Russian women in Girona!

There would be no need for dinner after that feast so we bought a baguette and some cheese on the way back to the car to eat later on the balcony of the hotel.

That was a good day ..

Greg

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion Communications, a full service Marketing, PR, Graphic Design and Digital Marketing agency with offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland

Orange Pride?

August 11, 2019

Orange Parade

When I received an invitation from Niall Gibbons, Chief Executive of Tourism Ireland and President of Dublin Chamber to attend a very small gathering in Belfast to observe the Orange Parade on the 12th July, I must admit I was quiet surprised.

This initiative is something that Niall has been working on for a number of years to build bridges and trust across communities.

After some consideration and diary juggling, I decided to make the trip, mainly out of curiosity and to get a deeper understanding of the political climate in the North.

I was warned by many to be extremely careful where I drove, where I parked the car and not to wander out of the hotel alone for any reason. 

I must admit to feeling some trepidation as I drove into Belfast on the afternoon of the 11th watching the many Northern reg cars going in the opposite direction.

My Google Maps took me safely to the door of the newest hotel in Belfast, the superb Grand Central and I chose the valet parking to avoid any risk of going down a wrong street!

On the evening of the 11th there was a mini gathering in the breathtaking Observatory Bar at the top of the hotel, which was a spectacular location to look over the city and the various bonfires that could be seen in different parts.

The gathering included our small group, representatives from Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce, some tourism officials as well as Rev. Meryn Gibson, Grand Secretary of the Orange Order and some business people from the city.

As we enjoyed the wine and tasty treats we watched as the crowds started to gather close by, at a site where they were getting ready to set their bonfire alight at midnight.

It was a very strange and uneasy feeling watching the huge structure, higher than a house, with our Irish flag on top and an election poster for a female Sinn Fein candidate tied onto it… I understood why people left the North for these few days.

One of the group who lived in Belfast left the function briefly with her niece to observe the bonfire from the street and I asked if could I tag along … I did ask if it was safe first !!

The scene around the bonfire was strange with couples, families, friends and a random but large assortment of people of all ages all with their smartphones ready to capture the moment when the fire was lit. 

For some it was a mini party and they had their bottles of beer and cider on the go.

I felt more than a little strange witnessing what was going on and I was careful not to engage with anyone as the Cork accent might just be difficult to disguise!

Eventually the bonfire was lit and in no time at all the fire was raging, smoke bellowing into the sky and a strong blast of heat made it to us , even though we were across the street.

There was some cheering when the bonfire was lit and a small group started to chant something that I couldn’t make out – while everyone was busy capturing the “moment” on their smartphones. I really didn’t get a sense of huge celebration from the onlookers and I wondered was there a degree of discomfort with them as well, watching a flag burning that represented their neighbours and the poster of a female politician?

We returned to the hotel with our thoughts, had a nightcap and headed to bed.

The following morning there was a breakfast reception at the hotel with some of the leaders from the different Orange Lodges.

Before we sat down for breakfast there was lots of chit chat as the various people arrived in our private room at the hotel. It was clear already that this was a very special day for the ‘Orange Order’ community as they started to give us insights into their day of marching. Some were from Belfast and others had travelled from places as far away as Scotland and they spoke with pride about what this day meant to them.

Needless to say they were all turned out immaculately for this special day.

Finally the group sat down for breakfast and we had a chance to chat in more depth with those sitting either side of us.

I was sitting next to a very nice gentleman called William Hughes, The Deputy County Grand Master of the Belfast Grand Orange Lodge.

I shared with him my lack of knowledge about the day and the warnings that people had given me about a visit to Belfast.

He used some of the promotional material on the table for the “Twelfth” to describe the day to me, what it meant to the Orange Order and what collectively they were trying to achieve with the day.

There was a square beer mat with the campaign key message “Its about the Battle, not the Bottle”.

Basically, it’s about the significance of the Battle of the Boyne and the celebration of this and not a day for getting drunk! 

On the other side of the beer mat there was an image of people standing at a bonfire with the words “Heritage, Respect, Remembrance, Tradition and Culture”.

The overriding idea is that this is an ‘OrangeFest’ for everyone to enjoy and instead of it being an occasion that would make people avoid the North, it should be the opposite, an attraction that people would want to experience and enjoy.

He explained to me how the Orange Order and the Orange Lodges worked, how they are rooted in religion and good living and how they are an important part of people’s identities and lives.

He did explain that from time to time they clash with the church, as the view is that if they really are upholding the values of their religion then they should be attending church regularly, which is not the case.

It did strike me that they were a very close knit community and that there was a huge tradition around the Lodges that passed from generation to generation and the Orange Parades were the ultimate expression and celebration of this.

I asked about the significance of the bonfires and I was given lots of rational explanations about a guiding light, about warmth and a sign of life. I shared my extreme discomfort about the Irish flag and the election posters as part of the fire and expressed the view that this seriously clashed with how the Orange celebrations had been explained to me by him and that it felt quite disturbing to witness.

His response to me was that this was very unfortunate, definitely not in the spirit of the occasion and it was effectively the work of some hooligans.

While I was glad to hear this explanation, I rationalised it by comparing it to hooligans at soccer matches who can chant and do stupid things and give all fans a bad reputation.

However, it did niggle at me that if the bonfires were so significant and a key symbol to mark this time of the year, then there should have been a huge effort to remove these emotive symbols from the bonfires. Where there is a strong will, there is a way?

Of course the TV crews picked up on these symbols as part of their coverage of the occasion, which sends a poor message to everyone, possibly confirming what many people have in their heads about this society and the unease in the North.

As part of the format of the breakfast everyone present introduced themselves and said a few words. Everyone was made feel very welcome and without doubt the hands of friendship were offered openly.

When it came to my turn I explained how much my opinion had shifted as a result of the experience and I thanked them for their hospitality.

Orange parade

Outside our window along the route we could see people gathering, getting in position for the few hours of marches. These people were organised, with their fold up chairs, their British flags and their refreshments.

As time passed by, the Orange Lodge members were starting to get anxious as they were checking their watches as they all had to be ready to take their position and march with their Lodge.

Our new Orange friends put on their sashes, there was a presentation, photographs and very brief speeches and they headed off to join their respective Lodges.

I took my beer mat and the souvenir programme as momentos of the occasion and to study them in detail later.

We left the wonderful Central Hotel and we were led down the road to a spot which was deemed good for observing the marches.

The walk towards our “spot” was a little embarrassing as the street was lined on each side by eager people all waiting for the marches to begin.

I suspected that many thought that our smartly dressed group were VIPs of some sort as we walked in between them – there was a lot of attention on us and many had their cameras and smartphones ready, just in case there was someone worth snapping!

You could get a huge sense of community as we walked and many of those watching seemed to know the guys who were leading our little group and there was plenty of friendly banter between them.

We finally settled at a spot to watch the marches and waited.

I was observing the people around me waiting – there were old and young, families, couples, bunches of friends and just the very odd person walking by with a drink in their hand – It’s about the Battle, not the Bottle I thought!

Orange parade

In particular, I was observing two young girls in front of me, 20 years of age at most. They were well prepared with their refreshments, their seats and the British flags in hand and they were enjoying their day. One of them had a baby and she held it in her arms getting ready for what was probably the child’s “first” parade – another tradition begins.

After a while we could see the first Orange Lodge appearing with flags, band and other members all marching proudly.

Our wait was a short one, but for many of the people who were waiting it must have been quite a while – it surprised me that when the marching bands did eventually reach our area there was no one cheering or even clapping, just watching.

Orange parade

Band after band marched by, some large and some small, predominantly male and a big mix of ages. The one thing they all had in common was the sense of pride and honour that they carried with them with each step.

Eventually all of the bands had passed by, possibly after an hour and a half and that was that.

As part of our itinerary there was an option to visit the new James Connolly Visitor Centre on the Falls Road and in a way get a sense of how the “other part” of the community in Belfast treated these few days.

I was really impressed by the little Visitor Centre and cafe and we had the opportunity to chat to the manager there, Séanna Walsh and one of the local political representatives for the area.

They explained to us all of the hard work that is being put in year after year, to keep people away from trouble and to give them positive things to do. We heard about the free music festival ‘Feile’ that has been going on for decades and we also heard about the activities on the ground to ensure trouble does not break out.

The Falls Road in the ‘Gaeltacht Quarter’ was not at all what I was expecting!

Before I knew it my Orange visit was over and I had lots to mull over about the very positive experience on the long drive home.

The following morning with a cup of coffee in hand I took out the programme for the “Twelfth” which I had from the breakfast the day before,

I turned the pages and started to read the foreword, which was written by a senior member of the Orange Order.

Two paragraphs in I found myself reading about the “disgusting Sinn Fein politicians” and further on I read about fascists and it got worse.

As much as I had heard about an OrangeFest, celebrating “Hertitage, Respect, Remembrance, Tradition and Culture“, the deep wounds and raw hatred are still very close to the surface witnessed by this rhetoric being used by the leadership in the “souvenir” programme.

I reflected on the bonfire, the Irish flag and the posters of the female Sinn Fein candidate and it made sense to me that many would be quite truthfully more than happy to see these go up in flames.

Maybe it wasn’t a few hooligans after all?

It is hard for us to properly understand what it is like in the North, the deep divisions and the deeper scars.

I do fully understand why people leave the North, and their plans next year and the year after will be no different.

I can’t see how this time will be a festival that attracts visitors anytime soon, which is very unfortunate for the fine place.

Orange parade

I do admire the great work that many are doing to keep the peace and to reach out, but more leaders will need to show more leadership and change their rhetoric for the sake of future generations.

I do sincerely thank the people I met for their hospitality and for sharing their special occasion with us.

Finally, I do admire the huge sense of pride and identity that they have for their history, culture and way of life and wish that maybe we should have more of that about Ireland and our Patrick’s day.

Greg

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion Communications, a full service Marketing, PR and Graphic Design agency with offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland

 

 

Why Cheltenham?

March 19, 2018

Cheltenham

I was standing in the queue at the Spar on Mount Street in Dublin waiting to order a coffee to get me in shape for the day’s work in the office.

I spotted Dave, a buddy of mine from the drinks industry who I hadn’t seen for a few months collecting his coffee and he nodded across to me.

He made his way over and as jovial as ever he explained that he was exhausted after a few days at Cheltenham: “Jesus, I’m getting too old for this crack and I have a mountain of work to catch up on“.

When we both worked in the drinks industry these “junkets” were part and parcel of the job and while fantastic fun they invariably involved lots of travelling, late nights with more than a drink or two!

Dave is still working in the industry “The recovery time seems to be much longer these days” he told me.

The conversation went on and he asked that question: “How’s your dad doing?

He obviously hadn’t heard.

This is always tough because the answer always leads to some awkwardness and invariably warrants a much bigger conversation.

Dad, sadly passed away at the end of January” I replied and I started to give him some of the details including how he passed, how everyone was coping and both of us stood there holding our takeaway cups and we spoke about mortality and our different experiences.

Life is short” he said “and we never quite know how short it will be“.

We both stood there nodding and contemplating in silence.

That’s why we have to go to Cheltenham” he said and we both went on with our respective days.

He is right..

Greg Canty 

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion Communications who offer Marketing, PR and Graphic Design services from our offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland

 

 

 

Too much, too little and two mishaps

December 10, 2017

Cliff House Hotel, Ardmore

We’ve had two wonderful days at The Cliff House Hotel in Ardmore, Co. Waterford, which included the most incredible feast of fantastic food that you could imagine.

On our first night we treated ourselves to the tasting menu, which was a feast of the senses, delivered by a superb team, led by Adriaan Bartels who are passionate about great service and introducing customers to some amazing food that you would never taste otherwise.

The Wagyu beef from James Whelan Butchers was my favourite of all the amazing dishes on the tasting menu, which came with a well chosen matching wine selection of five different wines.

The following night we ate in the bar and as expected this meal was also incredible – I couldn’t resist the set menu with a selection of starters, desserts and a choice of main courses.

Of course we also indulged in a delicious breakfast each morning, which was a feast in itself.

Cliff Walk, Ardmore

Eventually it was time to leave after two fantastic days of indulgence, rest and recuperation and even some exercise as we did the breathtaking Cliff Walk and a long walk on Ardmore beach.

We headed back to Cork as we were due at the Cork Chamber Christmas lunch, which was at Fota Resort.

After all of the rich food we had eaten over the two days at The Cliff House, I was in the horrors at the thought of eating another morsel of food!

At Fota the perplexed waiters and waitresses came to us a few times questioning why we didn’t want the smoked salmon starter – was there something wrong, did we have special dietary requirements?

I explained that my special dietary requirement was that I didn’t need a starter as I was simply stuffed!!

I managed to eat most of the main course and I did have one little taste of the dessert – I was glad when the meal was over with, as I just wasn’t able.

I glanced around the room at the capacity crowd as together we ate the fine food, and drank the wine and indulged in the satisfaction of a positive year and a well earned Christmas break that would soon be here.

What are your plans for Christmas?” and “Are you taking much time off?” were the popular questions being asked at each table.

I reflected on my uncomfortably full stomach and the room full of festive spirits, and I thought of those who were cold and miserable today and would love nothing more than a hot meal in a warm room, let alone entertain any thoughts of an indulgent Christmas with friends and family.

I also reflected on a thought provoking podcast that I had listened to on the journey to the Cliff House, just two days before. It was the Legends and Losers podcast by Christopher Lochhead and the particular episode featured the inspirational founder of ‘The Giving Spirit’, Tom Bagamane. This is a non-profit in L.A. that helps the huge number of homeless people in the city.

One of the big messages in the episode was that most people are just two mishaps away from being homeless – job loss, poor health, relationship breakdown, bereavement and mental problems are all mishaps that can easily throw any of us upside down, if they come knocking at our door.

Many of the homeless are not the stereotypes that we may often think they are.

Kathleen O'Sullivan

This morning I read about 43 year old, Kathleen O’Sullivan who had been found dead, wrapped in blankets in a doorway in Cork city. Apparently, ‘big hearted, kind, caring’ Kathleen who was suffering from emphysema and pleurisy hadn’t recovered from the death of her child a number of years ago.

We all deserve our breaks and we most definitely deserve to enjoy the fruits of our labour, but we mustn’t forget about those less fortunate than us, and remember that we are all just two mishaps away from being on the streets.

Merry Christmas to all..

A big thanks to Bernard MacNamee who brought me these powerful lyrics from the Kirsty McColl song, “Walking Down Madison

From an uptown apartment to a knife on the A train
It’s not that far
From the sharks in the penthouse to the rats in the basement
It’s not that far
To the bag lady frozen asleep in the park
Oh no, it’s not that far

Greg Canty 

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion Communications, a full-service agency that offers Marketing, PR and Branding  services from our offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland

Ryanair – The bit that comes before the Crisis

September 25, 2017

Ryanair - Always Getting Better

Early last week we were asked to comment by the publication Fora.ie about the whole Ryanair fiasco and what we thought of how they handled their crisis.

In a crisis situation we always advise –

  • Don’t hide
  • Quickly establish the facts
  • Be 100% truthful
  • Always provide a solution (or a least be honest about working hard to find one)
  • Don’t be afraid to say sorry (as long as you mean it)
  • Don’t be shy about telling people the good things you are doing

This can be achieved with a combination of holding statements, follow up statements, interviews and implementing any necessary changes.

In the case of Ryanair there wasn’t really a formal apology but Michael O’Leary was door stopped by reporters and did say it was “clearly a mess” but he went on to point out that it was just 2% of their passengers that had been affected. I think Michael is missing the point here about focussing on the good things!

On their website where they have a page dedicated to the cancelled flights they also remind people of this “2%” as well as listing the flights that have been cancelled. They also provide a ‘link’ to a page that directs people to an EU legislation document about entitlements to refunds and compensation.

The words “sorry” or “apologise” don’t appear anywhere!

Ryanair - Cancelled Flights

Understandably customers are irate – Ryanair are not helping the situation by drip feeding news about cancelled flights, their customer contact lines not being managed efficiently and are still overheating their situation by promoting flights at “€19.99”.

Furthermore, they have been denying that part of the problem is pilots leaving to take jobs in other airlines.

This scenario has got even worse with pilots going public with their gripes and painting a pretty awful picture about what life is like working for the ‘low care’ airline.

All of this comes at a time when the airline has been trying to refocus it’s brand with their “Always Getting Better” campaign.

A different scenario? 

So – would it have made a difference if Ryanair were upfront, issued a formal apology and showed genuine empathy with inconvenienced customers and were honest about solutions and assurances going forward?

The answer would be a big “Yes” but there is also a big “But” to contend with.

The effectiveness of this approach will depend on what people feel about the company when embarks on such a course –

  • Do people feel warmly towards the airline?
  • Do they believe that there is a genuine concern for customers?
  • Do they believe that staff at the airline are treated well?
  • Do they believe that this company does charitable work?
  • Do they believe there is a strong moral compass at the airline?
  • Have they communicated the great things (if such things exist) they have been doing to the general public and stakeholders?

Maybe realising this Michael felt there was no point pretending to care?

In a crisis a robust process will definitely help but the best preparation for a crisis is to be good and do good things and communicate this effectively – it is only then that people will be willing to listen to your apology and accept it.

Leopards don’t change their spots and not caring will bite you in the butt eventually.

Greg Canty 

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion Communications, a full-service agency that offers Crisis Consultancy Services from our offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland