Tralee Life Life In An Irish Town


Precious Resources

It was raining this morning. One of those September Monday mornings when everything is getting back to normal. The kids are well settled back at school by now and the Sunday evening dreads are a real feature of every weekend. Offices and businesses are at full flow and in a way it seems as if any holidays were months ago, stuff of legend and happy memories. The leaves are on the streets, the council is cutting back the hedgerows, the apple trees are heavy and the evenings are drawing in.

I waited for the rain to stop and did some work to get the day started. About 11am the clouds lifted ablackbeerrysnd the sun came out, or at least there were a few spots of blue sky dotted along the horizon. Those early leaves make walking up Ballyard Hill a bit slippery but Daisy and I picked our way through them easily enough. At the top we turned left for Ballymullen and though the rain was gone, it was very muggy. The blackberries are rotting on the vine which is a pity to see. It was my intention to get out and pick some over the weekend and I hope it isn’t too late now. It’s a pity to see such a fruit going to waste when it can be picked for free and yet you see people buying cartons for €1.99 in a shop. Such is the way with our globalized markets and I often notice that the sparsely filled cartons are labelled as the produce of another country.

Coming back along the Lee River walk I saw a helium balloon stuck on a branch overhanging the full river. The water was flowing at speed and the balloon was hanging there like a spectator at a Formula One racetrack, moving in line with the motion of the water.  It is fully inflated with the words ‘Congrats’ written in funky letters. Congrats on what I wondered? A new born baby? On reaching 18, 21 or maybe 85? Who knows but I doubt if someone waded out to tie it to the branch to congratulate me at the halfway mark of my walk. I didn’t get much of a lift from seeing it either. It looked sad and sort of took away from whatever occasion is was bought to mark. ‘Sic Transit Gloria Mundi’ as my Dad would say whenever a once successful football manager would get the sack.Balloon

Seeing the balloon hanging there also made me think of how much we waste in the world. The balloon is full of helium, a precious and unique gas. We can’t make more helium and it can’t be recycled. It is a finite resource and yet here we are pumping it into fairly pointless balloons that at the most have the lifespan of a day or two. Helium is used in MRI scanners, in space travel, to conduct vital scientific experiments and in the computer industry. The US stockpiles helium as it is seen as such a vital resource. They opened a facility in the 1920s and this is still in operation today at a place called the Bush Dome in Texas.  Though a new field of helium gas was discovered in Tanzania a couple of years ago, it still doesn’t take away from our waste of the precious element. Are we going to spend millions exploiting the field in Tanzania only to blow it all away?

Along with the blackberries going to waste and getting angry at the helium being squandered in a fairly pointless balloon, I was like a green pioneer when on the last leg home. The home that felt warm when I got back inside, the one with the hot shower I then took and the fridge full of food from which I am now going to get my lunch. I probably won’t give up those comforts of modern living but I will go picking blackaas and there won’t be any helium balloons at my next birthday party.


Posted by John Verling

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