" A wealth of information..."

"1169 And Counting is a wealth of information on our Republican past and present , and demonstrates how the Irish political landscape , like that of any nation, will never be a black and white issue..."

(From the ‘e-Thursday’ section of the ‘Business Week’ supplement of the ‘Irish Independent’ , 21st August 2008.)



IRISH BLOG AWARDS 2017 - ooops! It seems that our entry application was "not completed in time to be considered.." (?) and, as such, we are not now in the running. But we wish all the best to the successful entrants and to the organisers, and we hope all goes well for them on the day!


Wednesday, July 08, 2015

8TH JULY 1981 : DEATH OF OUR 17TH HUNGER-STRIKER.

BRÁVO, ELLÁDA! SYGKHARYTYRYA! (WELL DONE, GREECE! CONGRATULATIONS!*)

(*Translated by Google!)

"I voted no because I think having our own currency will give us better and more efficient management over our economy. Let’s take Iceland for example. They said no to the IMF, and now after five years, they are the fastest growing economy in Europe. There have been suicides because of how bad things have become. Our previous governments promised us no austerity measures. But then they passed two memorandums and drove us to the worst, favouring the rich and those who have interests against middle class..." (Student George Flamouris,20 - from here.)

"We are not Irish, we do not sacrifice ourselves for the rich..." (from here) - understandable that some Greek people should think like that, but a clarification is needed : it is the majority of the corrupt State and local politicians here that will sacrifice anyone they have to, including those of their own ilk, in order to financially secure their own position in society. Some of us protest continually against the endeavours of those corrupt politicians and should not be included with those here who do indeed 'sacrifice themselves for the rich'. Indeed, not all voters in Greece voted 'NO' and it would be wrong to place those brave 'NO' voters into the same 'camp' as those who voted 'YES' ie those who voted to 'sacrifice themselves for the rich'.

Anyway - once again, congratulations to those who declared, on Sunday 5th July 2015, that they will no longer 'sacrifice themselves for the rich' : if only Irish 'YES' voters had your courage! The Republican Movement here in Ireland issued the following statement in support of those voters who made a stand against big business interests -

Statement from Republican Sinn Féin International Department :

July 5: A good day for Europe.

In a statement, released following the referendum in Greece on the evening of July 5th 2015, the International PRO of Republican Sinn Féin welcomed the NO vote of the Greek people: "The 5th of July will go down in history as a good day for all people of Europe!"

The statement continued: "Today, the people of Greece voted for a new, a social, Europe, in a democratic referendum. Dissatisfaction with the undemocratic, anti-social, and corrupt EU elite in Brussels and the IMF has been growing for years. The Greek people are among the very few people in recent years who had the chance to decide on their future on their own. The victory of the 'NO' campaign is the expression of the will of the people for a better, just, and democratic future. This victory of the 'NO' campaign in Greece can pave the way for a better future for all people of Europe.

Republican Sinn Féin welcomes the decision of the Greek people. We as Irish Republicans are of the opinion that only a complete break with the anti-democratic EU and the establishment of an association of free nations based on the values of prosperity, democracy, justice, solidarity, peace, and equality of all people in Europe will provide a peaceful and prosperous future for us, the people of Europe and the coming generations," the statement of the International PRO of Republican Sinn Féin concluded.

Críoch/Ends.

For confirmation: PRO, Republican Sinn Féin International Department, international@rsf.ie

Sinn Féin Poblachtach / Republican Sinn Féin

r-phoist: saoirse@iol.ie / international@rsf.ie

fón: +353 (0) 1 8729747

223 Sráid Pharnell, Baile Átha Cliath 1 / 223 Parnell Street, Dublin 1.


BRÁVO, ELLÁDA! SYGKHARYTYRYA!





THE PRICE OF PEACE......

Last month, 28 women who protested peacefully in the Phoenix Park, Dublin, against US President Ronald Reagan's visit to Ireland received £1000 each arising from their action for wrongful arrest. Gene Kerrigan recalls the weekend when another State determined Irish security requirements and details the garda action which could cost tens of thousands of pounds. From 'Magill' magazine, May 1987.

Pat Kenny and the TV crew set out to go to the commentary position but were stopped by a US Secret Service agent : Kenny explained that there were only twenty minutes to airtime and it would be highly embarrassing to everyone if TV screens remained blank during the president's departure, to which the US agent replied- "I have my orders." Pat Kenny's 'Foreign Affairs' friend saw what was happening and intervened, but to no avail. The gardai were sent for, but no dice. The US agent had his orders, he said, from his superior out there on the tarmac.

Stephen Fanning, head of the Special Branch, told the US agent to let Pat Kenny and his TV crew pass through. "I have my orders" , said the agent. Eventually, however, Fanning ordered that the RTE people be let through "on my authority". President Reagan flew out to London at 3.30pm and, back at the District Court, the women were still being processed. They were all released by 4pm.

IN A LEGAL SHADOW.

Over three weeks later - on the 28th June - John Kelly TD (sic) , Fine Gael, raised, in an adjournment debate in the Dáil (sic) , the matter of the Phoenix Park arrests because, on the 19th June, the women had appeared in court to find that the case against them had been dropped - the gardai were offering no evidence.... (MORE LATER).





IRISH REPUBLICAN P.O.W. PICKET , GPO, DUBLIN :

A picket will be held at the GPO in Dublin on Saturday 11th July 2015, from 12.45pm to 1.45pm, in support of republican prisoners. All genuine activists welcome!









"WE HAVE WORN DOWN THEIR WILL....."

Ed Moloney speaks to a leading member of the Provisionals who has been authorised to speak on behalf of the (P)IRA Army Council.

From 'Magill' magazine, September 1980.

Ed Moloney : What effect did the appointment of Sir Maurice Oldfield as security co-ordinator have on the IRA ? IRA : Well there was a feeling of expectancy whenever Oldfield was appointed ; after all, this was what Thatcher offered after the massive demoralisation on British forces of Warrenpoint and the execution of Mountbatten. Some of us thought internment might come in but instead they produced Oldfield at the time, and we know this, he said that he would have the IRA beaten within six months. Now he's gone without any success except the much lauded detente between the RUC and British Army.

Ed Moloney : What are the reasons for attacks on UDR and ex-UDR men, when most Protestants in the North view those attacks as sectarian?

IRA : In the RUC Constabular gazette of June 1979, they admitted that the UDR and RUC Reserve were the eyes and ears of the Crown forces in the North. We don't shoot anyone because of their religious beliefs. There have even been a few Catholics in the UDR killed by the IRA - there was one killed by a landmine at Castlewellan this year. We have given notice to UDR men that if they contact us and assure us they are no longer members of the UDR we will not touch them. The problem has been because of the difficulties the UDR has in recruiting members because of declining morale - the turnover has been so high and occasionally our intelligence has been mistaken and we have shot by mistake former members. In rural areas, it is the UDR and RUC, not so much the British Army, which is repressing people, so our attacks on them will continue. But nobody can show there is a sectarian pattern to our attacks on the UDR. (MORE LATER).





PAT CANNON COMMEMORATION, DUBLIN, WEDNESDAY 15TH JULY 2015.

Patrick Cannon from Dublin and Peter McElchar from Donegal (pictured, left) : both of these IRA Volunteers will be commemorated in Dublin on Wednesday 15th July 2015. Born in Dublin on November 28th 1955 - one of a family of seven (three girls and four boys) - Pat Cannon and his family lived in Edenmore, on the northside of the city. He was a fitter/welder by trade , and was only 20 years of age when he died.

SINN FÉIN ELECTION MANIFESTO, WESTMINSTER ELECTIONS, 1955 :

In the Election of 1918 the Irish People, by an overwhelming majority repudiated the claims of England and her parliament to rule them and they established the Irish Republic which was proclaimed in arms in 1916. The Republican Government and State then established were later overthrown by England and the nation was partitioned into two statelets. The cardinal objective of the Irish People is the restoration of the Republic thus unlawfully subverted.

The resurgent confidence of Irish men and women in their own strength and ability to achieve the full freedom of their country and the right of its citizens to live in peace, prosperity and happiness has enabled Sinn Féin to contest all 12 seats in this Election and give an opportunity to our people in the Six Counties to vote for Ireland, separate and free. Sinn Féin candidates are pledged to sit only in a republican Parliament for all Ireland. Apart altogether from the futility of the procedure, sending representatives to an alien legislature is in effect attempting to give it semblance of authority to legislate for and govern the people of North-East Ulster. Sinn Féin candidates seek the votes of the electorate and the support of the Irish people as the representatives of the Republican Movement now on the onward march towards achievement of the National ideal - the enthronement of the Sovereign Irish Republic.

The winning of seats in these elections will not be regarded by Sinn Féin as an end in itself, nor will the results, whatever they be, effect in any way the determination of republicans to forge ahead towards their objective. Neither will the number of votes recorded for the republican candidates be looked upon as something in the nature of a plebiscite affecting in any way the right of Ireland to full and complete freedom. That right is inalienable and non-judicable and must never be put in issue through referendum of a section of population nor of the people of the country at large. Through the medium of the election machinery, Sinn Féin aims at providing an opportunity for the electorate, in all constituencies, and for the people of the country to renew their allegiance to Ireland, and by their support of the republican candidates demonstrate to England and to the world the right of an ancient and historic nation to its complete and absolute freedom and independence.

Sinn Féin has been charged with disruptionist tactics. The aim of Sinn Féin today as always is to secure unity of thought, purpose and deed in the achievement of separate nationhood. Bigotry, persecution and sectarianism have no place in the Sinn Féin programme. Republican policy has ever been to secure civil and religious freedom for the Irish Nation and the individual citizens. Ireland and all its resources belongs to the Irish people. Sinn Féin will, with the consent of the Irish people, organise and develop the resources of the nation for the benefit of its citizens irrespective of class or creed. The continued occupation of Ireland by England makes such development impossible, since England has succeeded in making effective in Ireland the Imperial dictum of 'Divide and Conquer' thereby impoverishing not only the Irish people but the material resources of the country as well. Sinn Féin appeals to all Irishmen to forget all past dissension's and to demonstrate by their support of the Sinn Féin candidates their opposition to English occupation and their determination to achieve National Independence.


Published by Sinn Féin Northern Election Committee, Divis Street, Belfast and printed by the Cromac Printery, Belfast.

The big news of that 1955 election was Sinn Féin's two seats and its 23.6% of the vote. Sinn Féin's two successful candidates in Mid-Ulster and Fermanagh and South Tyrone had been imprisoned for their part in the raid on Omagh. Philip Clarke and Thomas Mitchell were the successful Sinn Féin candidates for Fermanagh and South Tyrone and Mid Ulster respectively. However as they were serving prison sentences they were deemed ineligible to serve in the House of Commons. In that same year - 1955 - a child was born in Dublin on November 28th : he was one of a family of seven (three girls and four boys) and his name was Pat Cannon. He and his family lived in Edenmore, on the northside of Dublin city and he became a fitter/welder by trade. He joined the IRA whilst still a teenager and soon became a trusted member of that organisation....

Republicanism in Ireland in 1976 , the year Pat Cannon died :

March 31st - 'Sallins Train Robbery': A large quantity of money is stolen from a CIE train at Sallins, County Kildare.

July 15th - Four prisoners escape when bombs explode in the Special Criminal Court, Dublin.

July 21st - Christopher Ewart-Biggs, UK ambassador, and a civil servant, Judith Cooke, are killed by a landmine at Sandyford, Co.Dublin.

September 23rd - Free State President Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh, consults with the Free State Council of State for four hours on whether to refer the 'Emergency Powers Legislation' to the Free State Supreme Court.

October 22th - Free State President Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh resigns following the 'thundering disgrace' remark from the Free State Minister for Defence, Paddy Donegan.

12th February - Frank Stagg, Provisional Irish Republican Army hunger striker for 62 days , dies in Wakefield Prison (he was born in 1942).




In July 1976 - 5 months shy of his 21st birthday - IRA Volunteer Pat Cannon and his comrade Peter McElchar from Donegal , set out in a car in which they were transporting an explosive device. They crossed the border from Donegal into Tyrone and were approaching the town of Castlederg when the device exploded prematurely. Peter McElchar was killed instantly and Patrick Cannon was gravely injured. He was taken to Tyrone County Hospital in Omagh. He was being transferred to a hospital in Belfast when he died...

The 39th Anniversary of these two men will be marked by Republican Sinn Féin in a commemoration which will be held in Dublin on Wednesday 15th July 2015 at 6.30pm in the old Balgriffin Cemetery, near the Malahide Road. Those attending by bus from Dublin are advised to get the number 42 from Talbot Street and get off near Campions Pub on the Malahide Road. The assembly point is at the cemetery gates at 6.30pm. All genuine republicans welcome!






ON THIS DATE (8TH JULY) 34 YEARS AGO : DEATH OF OUR 17TH HUNGER-STRIKER.

IRA Volunteer Joe McDonnell - died on the 8th July 1981 after 61 days on hunger-strike.

The fourth IRA Volunteer to join the hunger-strike for political status was Joe McDonnell, a thirty-year-old married man with two children, from the Lenadoon housing estate in West Belfast. A well-known and very popular man in the greater Andersonstown area he grew up in, he had a reputation as a quiet and deep-thinking individual, with a gentle, happy go-lucky personality, who had, nevertheless, a great sense of humour, was always laughing and playing practical jokes, and who, although withdrawn at times, had the ability to make friends easily.

As an active republican before his capture in October 1976, Joe was regarded by his comrades as a cool and efficient Volunteer who did what he had to do and never talked about it afterwards. Something of a rarity within the Republican Movement, in that outside of military briefings and operational duty he was never seen around with other known or suspected Volunteers, he was nevertheless a good friend of the late Bobby Sands, with whom he was captured while on active service duty. Although he didn't volunteer for the earlier hunger strike in 1980, it was the intense disappointment brought about by British duplicity following the end of that hunger strike and the bitterness and anger that duplicity produced among all the blanket men that prompted Joe to put forward his name the next time round.

And it was predictable, as well as fitting, when his friend and comrade Bobby Sands met with death on the sixty-sixth day of his hunger strike, that Joe McDonnell should volunteer to take Bobby's place and continue that fight. His determination and resolve in that course of action can be gauged by the fact that never once, following his sentencing to fourteen years imprisonment in 1977, did he put on the prison uniform to take a visit, seeing his wife and family only after he commenced his hunger-strike. The story of Joe McDonnell is of a highly-aware republican soldier whose involvement stemmed initially from the personal repression and harassment he and his family suffered at the hands of the British occupation forces, but which then deepened - through continuing repression - to a mature commitment to oppose an occupation that denied his country freedom and attempted to criminalise its people. It was that commitment which he held more dear than his own life.

Joe McDonnell was born on September 14th 1951, the fifth of eight children, into the family home in Slate Street in Belfast's Lower Falls. His father, Robert, a steel erector, and his mother, Eileen (whose maiden name is Straney) , both came from the Lower Falls themselves, and they married in St. Peter's church there, in 1941, living first with Robert's sister and her husband in Colinward Street, off the Springfield Road, before moving into their own home in Slate Street, where the family were all born. A ninth child, Bernadette, was a particular favourite of Joe's, before her death from a kidney illness at the early age of three : "Joseph practically reared Bernadette", recalls his mother, "he was always with the child, carrying her around. He was about ten at the time. He even used to play marleys with her on his shoulders." Bernadette's death, a sad blow to the family, was deeply felt by her young brother Joe.

Joe and his then girlfriend, Goretti, who also comes from Andersonstown, married in St.Agnes' chapel in 1970, and moved in to live with Goretti's sister and her family in Horn Drive in Lower Lenadoon. At that time, however, they were one of only two nationalist households in what was then a predominantly loyalist street, and, after repeated instances of verbal intimidation, in the middle of the night, a loyalist mob - in full view of a nearby British Army post, and with the blessing of the raving Reverend Robert Bradford, who stood by - broke down the doors and wrecked the houses, forcing the two families to leave. The McDonnells went to live with Goretti's mother for a while, but eventually got the chance to squat in a house being vacated in Lenadoon Avenue. Internment had been introduced shortly before, and in 1972 the British army struck with a 4.00 a.m. raid ; Joe was dragged from the house, hit in the eye with a rifle butt and bundled into a British Army jeep. Their house was searched and wrecked. Joe was taken to the prison ship Maidstone and later on to Long Kesh internment camp where he was held for several months. Goretti recalls that early morning as a "horrific" experience which altered both their lives. One minute they had everything, the next minute nothing.

On his release Joe joined the IRA's Belfast Brigade, operating at first in the 1st Battalion's 'A' Company which covered the Rosnareen end of Andersonstown, and later being absorbed into the 'cell' structure increasingly adopted by the IRA. Both during his first period of internment, and his second, longer, internment in 1973, as well as the periods when he was free, the McDonnell's home in Lenadoon was a constant target for British army raids, during which the house would often be torn apart, photos torn up and confiscated and letters from Joe (previously read by the prison censor) re-read by infantile British soldiers, and Goretti herself arrested. In between periods of internment, and before his capture, Joe resumed his trade as an upholsterer which he had followed since leaving school at the age of fifteen. He loved the job, never missing a day through illness, and made both the furniture for his own home as well as for many of the bars and clubs in the surrounding area. His job enabled him to take the family for regular holidays - he took a strong interest in his children, Bernadette, aged ten and Joseph, aged nine, teaching them both to swim, and forever playing football with young Joseph on the small green outside their home - but Joe was a real 'homer' and always longed to be back in his native Belfast ; part of that attraction stemmed obviously from his responsibility to his republican involvement. An active Volunteer throughout the Greater Andersonstown area, Joe was considered a first-class operator who didn't show much fear. Generally quiet and serious while on an operation, whether an ambush or a bombing mission, Joe's humour occasionally shone through. Driving one time to an intended target in the Lenadoon area with a carload of Volunteers, smoke began to appear in the car. Not realising that it was simply escaping exhaust fumes, and thinking it came from the bags containing a number of bombs, a degree of alarm began to break out in the car, but Joe only advised his comrades, drily, not to bother about it: "They'll go off soon enough."

Outside of active service, Joe mixed mostly with people he knew from work, never flaunting his republican beliefs or his involvement, to such an extent that it led some republicans to believe he had not reported back to the IRA on his second release from internment. The British, however, persecuted him and his family continually, with frequent house raids and street arrests. He could rarely leave the house without being stopped for P-checking, or held up for an hour at a roadblock if he had somewhere to go. A few months before his capture, irate British soldiers at a roadblock warned him that they would 'get' him, and they did - his capture took place in October 1976 following a firebomb attack on the Balmoral Furnishing Company in Upper Dunmurray Lane, near the Twinbrook estate in West Belfast.

The IRA had reconnoitred the store, noting the extravagantly-priced furniture it sold, and had selected it as an economic target. The plan was to petrol bomb the premises and then to lay explosive charges to spread the flames. The Twinbrook active service unit led by Bobby Sands was at that time in the process of being built up, and were assisted consequently in this operation by experienced republican Volunteers from the adjoining Andersonstown area, including Joe McDonnell. Unfortunately, following the attack, which successfully destroyed the furnishing company, the escape route of some of the Volunteers involved was blocked by a car placed across the road. During an ensuing shoot-out with the British Army and the RUC, two republicans, Seamus Martin and Gabriel Corbett, were wounded, and four others, Bobby Sands, Joe McDonnell, Seamus Finucane and Sean Lavery, were arrested in a car not far away. Three IRA Volunteers managed to escape safely from the area. A single revolver was found in the car, and at the men's subsequent trial in September 1977 all four received fourteen-year sentences for possession when they refused to recognise the court. Rough treatment during their interrogation in Castlereagh failed to make any of the four sign a statement, and the RUC were thus unable to charge the men with involvement in the attack on the furnishing company despite their proximity to it at the time of their arrest.

From the day he was sentenced Joe refused to put on the prison uniform to take a visit, so adamant was he that he would not be criminalised. He kept in touch instead, with his wife and family, by means of daily smuggled 'communications', written with smuggled-in biro refills on prison issue toilet paper and smuggled out via other blanket men who were taking visits. Incarcerated in H5-Block, Joe acted as 'scorcher' (an anglicised form of the Irish word 'scairt', to shout) shouting the sceal, or news from his block to the adjoining one about a hundred yards away. Frequently this is the only way that news from outside can be communicated from one H-Block to the blanket men in another H-Block. It illustrates well the feeling of bitter determination prevailing in the H-Blocks that Joe McDonnell, who did not volunteer for the hunger strike in 1980 because, he said, "I have too much to live for", should have become so frustrated and angered by British perfidy as to embark on hunger strike on Sunday, May 9th, 1981.

In June 1981, Joe was a candidate during the Free State general election, in the Sligo/Leitrim constituency, in which he narrowly missed election by 315 votes. All the family were actively involved in campaigning for him, and despite the disappointment at the result both they and Joe himself were pleased at the impact which the H-Block issue had on the election, and in Sligo/Leitrim itself. Adults cried when the video film on the hunger strike was shown, his family recall, and they cried again when Joe was eliminated from the electoral count. At 5.11 a.m., on July 8th 1981, Joe McDonnell, who - believeably, for those who know his wife Goretti, his children Bernadette and Joseph and his family - "had too much to live for" died after sixty one days of agonising hunger strike, rather than be criminalised.

(From 'IRIS' magazine, Volume 1, No. 2, November 1981.)





BORN ON THIS DATE (8TH JULY) 245 YEARS AGO : A REVOLUTIONARY WOMAN WHO WAS OVERSHADOWED BY HER BROTHER.

Mary Anne McCracken (left) was born on this date (8th July) in 1770 and, at 21 years of age, she became an active campaigner for social reform and a supporter of revolutionary republicanism, abiding interests she maintained for the following 76 years.

She was born in High Street, Belfast, one of six children ; her father, John, was a ship's captain and her mother, Ann Joy, was a successful business woman with interests in the 'Newsletter' newspaper, a paper mill and the cotton industry. As a child, Mary Anne took an avid interest in world affairs and was especially well-briefed about the American War of Independence - it was this interest that encouraged her and her sister-in-law, Rose Ann McCracken, to join the Society of United Irishmen soon after its formation in Belfast in October 1791. Indeed, following the battle of Antrim in June 1798 and the collapse of the Rising in the North, Mary arranged safe passage for her brother, Henry Joy, on a ship bound for North America, but he was arrested as he was about to board the ship and imprisoned in Carrickfergus Jail, County Antrim, and from there he was transferred to Belfast Jail. Mary was present at his court-martial, and comforted him in his cell as he awaited execution. She accompanied him to the scaffold, and didn't hesitate when expected to look after Henry Joy's daughter, Maria Bodel. Five years later, just as she had seen her brother make the supreme sacrifice for liberty, she was to again witness another loved one, Thomas Russell, meet the same end at Downpatrick Jail in 1803. She withdrew from radical politics following Russell's execution and joined forces with English prison reformer Elizabeth Fry, to form a 'ladies committee' to demand better conditions in Belfast's workhouse.

She was a member of the ladies committee of the poorhouse, secretary of the Belfast Charitable Society (between 1832 and 1851) and president of the 'Committee of the Ladies' Industrial School for the Relief of Irish Destitution', which assisted victims of an Gorta Mór. She was also an outspoken opponent of slavery and campaigned to abolish the employment of small boys as 'climbing boys', who were young boys used by chimney sweeps as helpers, and won improvements for poor house women in the clothing trade and in children's education - she helped develop the idea of an infants school which flourished for a brief period. She was bitterly opposed to slavery and she fought hard for better conditions for other children who worked in factories. During the early 1840's she assisted Dr Richard R.Madden, the historian of the United Irishmen, with detailed accounts of the lives of her brother and Thomas Russell.

In her last years she saw the republican principles for which she had fought and for which those she had loved had died, once again being widely espoused throughout Ireland by the Fenian movement. Mary Anne McCracken died on July 24th, 1866, in her 97th year, and deserves to be remembered as much as her brother, Henry Joy McCracken.





GONNA BE A POST-FREE ZONE...

..ON WEDNESDAY 15TH JULY 2015 -

- but not because myself and the girlfriends will be in New York on holiday, unfortunately! If only. The reason is mundane, compared to the NYC reason I'd much prefer to be writing about : am busy helping to put a 650-ticket raffle together for the Dublin Executive of Republican Sinn Féin and, although it's not actually going to be held until Sunday 12th July, myself and the raffle crew are already 'marching' (!) throughout Leinster (and beyond) organising the collection of the ticket stubs and, highly organised and all as we are, the distribution of hundreds of tickets for the August 2015 raffle!

And, as if that wasn't enough to be getting on with , preparations for the raffle begin four days before the actual event is held and finish, 'officially', on the Monday night following the Sunday raffle, at a meeting to discuss how things went and how things could be improved etc ("give us an extra 150 tickets to sell, for God's sake...!") so, overall, I'll be 'down', timewise - including the weekend of the raffle - about five days, part of which I would otherwise have spent helping to put this blog together. And there you have it - we'll be back here on Wednesday 22nd July 2015, all going well. Unless, of course, the dollar/euro exchange rate improves (it's a lousy $1.10c to the euro, as I write) in which case in my next blog post (in late August sometime!) I'll be reminiscing about how much I already miss that wonderful, mad, smelly, gritty and noisey city!

But much more likely that I'll be posting here on Wednesday 15th July next. Check back and prove me wrong. And I hope you do!

Thanks for reading, Sharon.