Temple Bar Pub

Ireland’s pubs and beer are legendary, but the country’s traditional drinking holes are experiencing a new phenomenon – the 12 days of Christmas have turned into the 12 pubs of Christmas… visited all in one night.

To pass the threshold of a true Irish pub is to enter a blessed world far from our darkest, modern woes. The burgundy colours of wood along with the stained and etched glass create a comforting, seductive atmosphere.

After four years spent real-pub-less abroad, I have returned to Ireland for the run up to Christmas, my throat almost cracking with emotion it emits the magical words: “Two pints, please.”

The barman pours my pint slowly, with thought, and rests it on the long, stony counter together with others nestled on the bar like debutantes awaiting their first dance of the night.

My thirst quenched by the sweet, burnt velvety black liquid I notice the sounds and lights of the pub, the low mahogany tables and fire glowing in the hearth – a warm bower concealed from the icy storm outside.

Ballad singers in a Dublin pub, 1964
Ballad singers in a traditional Dublin pub, 1964

But suddenly, a hollering collection of young yahoos in garish Christmas jumpers adorned with flashing lights descends and I am abruptly jolted out of my reverie.

What on earth are they doing in what is affectionately known as an old man’s pub, bereft of loud muzak, glassy fixtures, and wall to wall TVs? Their presence jars insanely with the aged, nicotine consecrated walls I love so well.

“That will be the 12 pubs of Christmas brigade,” explains my patient companion.

“They go from pub to pub taking a drink in each – 12 like the Christmas carol. Instead of the 12 days of Christmas it’s visiting 12 pubs in one night. For the last three years it’s grown to be a tradition in Ireland and is now massive.”

We adjourn to a quieter pub but again find more seasonal sweaters and foolhardy souls up for the 12 pubs challenge. This group of about 20 from University College Dublin who have finished their exams are relatively quiet and considerate.

Students from University College Dublin doing the 12 pub challenge

“First you plan your route of 12, then you agree on rules,” says one of them, John Hanney, who is on his sixth Guinness of the night.

Rules? “Oh yes we have to have rules – for the banter, for the craic.”

A quick search online brings some up:

  • Left-handed pub – drink only with your left hand
  • No swearing pub – no swearing
  • Silent pub – no speaking
  • Swapsies pub – swap shoes with someone in your group
  • I love my brick pub – you say a Father Ted phrase every time you drink
  • Moving-a-bit-of-furniture-from-one-pub-to-the-next pub

As for the route there are, rather like the 12 days of Christmas song itself, local variants and adaptions.

“The standard route in Dublin is to start at Upper Baggot Street, in the southern suburbs, and end up in Town – Grafton Street or even Temple Bar,” adds Hanney referring to what’s known as the Baggot Street Mile.

Dublin seems to be taking this mass phenomena in its stride, perhaps because many, despite starting as early as 5pm, simply don’t always manage the full monty.

Newsagent Dave Collins only reached six drinks last weekend. His excuse: “Distractions, like pretty girls, and the slow pace of some. The Irish are not fond of rushing as you know.

Three pints of Guinness on a bar

“The 12 pubs offers us an excuse, and likewise our wives, to get together for an occasion… Do we do the 12? Does anyone? Probably not. With the distractions of modern life it’s a welcome ‘official’ night out.”

I couldn’t find anyone in Dublin against the 12 pub challenge but the Irish health authorities warn about the harmful effects of heavy drinking.

“There remains a consistent trend for drunkenness among young Irish people,” reads a statement from Alcohol Action, an Irish charity for alcohol-related issues.

“Until we legislate to protect them by addressing the pricing, availability and marketing of alcohol in Ireland then we will continue to see many of them drinking in a way that is harmful to their health and wellbeing,” it warns.

While just over a third of the Irish population binge drink, 25% never drink alcohol at all, according to a survey by the Health Research Board of Ireland.

Perhaps the biggest casualty of what some see as 12 pubs “faux, forced-craic” is the dignity of these lovely old pubs themselves.

The Real Irish Pub (RIP) is under threat from commercialisation and the curse of wall-to-wall sport on flat screen TVs that loom incongruously among the still-pots and shillelaghs (traditional sticks or cudgels).

But, by God, the stout is mighty and while the 12-pubbers come and go, the pub abides.

When drinking, you hear the blessing of good health, “Slainte!” And I often add a silent prayer of my own: “Please, if there is a God, make him Irish and never take this away.”



Posted: 2014/12/21 in غير مصنف





Desktop responsive version of news front page, 17 December

If you’re a regular visitor to the BBC News site you may recall us mentioning that we are developing a new “responsive” version of the site, designed to work across all screen sizes.

Many of you helped us test this design earlier in the year. Your comments and feedback were hugely helpful, and we’ve been working on it for the past few months. We are planning to make it the default for everyone, across all devices next year.

From this week, if you are coming to the site on a tablet, you’ll see a banner on the News homepage with a “take me there” button, leading to the new version of the site:

"Try our new site and tell us what you think" screen grab

So if you want the latest view of what we are working on, please do have a look, and use the “tell us what you think” button to send us your views.

Also this week, we’ve modified the way the responsive site looks on mobile phones, with the aim of reducing the amount of scrolling needed and introducing more content on the front page.

My colleague Niko Vijayaratnam in the BBC Future Media News product team has written in more detail on the BBC Internet Blog about the process of testing and developing the new beta site, and you can also leave comments and queries on his blog post.

US President Barack Obama has strongly condemned the killings of two New York City police officers shot by a man who then killed himself on Saturday.

Mr Obama said the officers would not be going home to their loved ones “and for that, there is no justification”.

The two were killed while on patrol in Brooklyn. New York’s police chief says they were “targeted for their uniform”.

The gunman had posted anti-police messages online, amid continuing tensions over police tactics.

In a statement issued by the White House on Sunday, President Obama said: “I unconditionally condemn today’s murder of two police officers in New York City.”

“Officers who serve and protect our communities risk their own safety for ours every single day and they deserve our respect and gratitude every single day,” said Mr Obama, who is on holiday in Hawaii.

The gunman – named as Ismaaiyl Brinsley, 28 – was a black man while the two officers, Liu Wenjin and Raphael Ramos, were Asian and Hispanic respectively.

Before shooting them, Brinsley suggested on social media that he was planning to kill police in retaliation for the death of Eric Garner, a black man who died when white officers tried to arrest him for selling cigarettes in New York.

Earlier this month, a grand jury decided not to indict an officer over his death. Last month, another grand jury also cleared a white officer in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old, in Ferguson, Missouri.

Both decisions triggered nationwide protests.

Mourners gather before the bodies of two NYPD police officers are transported to a hospital, 20 December, 2014Police and ordinary New Yorkers have paid tribute to the officers
Police guard the scene where two NYPD officers were shot on 20 December 2014 in New York
Police secured the area after the shooting Instagram post

New York City police commissioner Bill Bratton said the officers had been killed in their patrol car with “no provocation” and that they were “quite simply assassinated”.

After the shooting in the Bedford-Stuyvesant area, the gunman ran into a subway station where he killed himself.

Mr Bratton also said Brinsley had wounded a former girlfriend earlier on Saturday in Baltimore, Maryland, and had made posts from her Instagram account.

“This may be my final post,” said one that included an image of a silver handgun.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said anyone seeing postings indicating a threat to the police should report them.

The Rev Al Sharpton, a prominent civil rights activist, said Mr Garner’s family had had no connection to the gunman and he denounced the violence.

“Any use of the names of Eric Garner and Michael Brown in connection with any violence or killing of police, is reprehensible and against the pursuit of justice in both cases,” Rev Sharpton said.

The last fatal shooting of a New York police officer was in 2011.

من أجمل أقوال جيفارا .. 

” علّموا أطفالكُم أنّ الأنثى‬ هي الرّفيقة .. هيَ الوطن .. هيَ الحياة

Aside  —  Posted: 2014/05/01 in غير مصنف

الشهيدان عادل وعماد عوض الله يعودوا اليوم بعد غياب طال 16 عامأ في مقبرة الأرقام

ويعتبر الشهيدان عوض الله من أبرز قادة “كتائب الشهيد عز الدين القسام”، الجناح العسكري لحركة “حماس” في الضفة الغربية المحتلة، ومن أبرز مؤسسيها، واستشهدا في عملية اغتيال نفذتها قوات الاحتلال في العاشر من أيلول /سبتمبر 1998 في أحد المزارع المجاورة لقرية ترقوميا بالخليل، بعد عملية مطاردة واسعة استمرت لأكثر من ثلاث سنوات من قبل قوات الاحتلال.

Video  —  Posted: 2014/05/01 in غير مصنف

إلى أين تنأين عن جاذبية شيءٍ مقدّرْ 

يشدك قسرًا إليه؟ 

رويدك مَهْمَا تشبثت أنتِ بذيل القرار 

ما من مفرْ 

بأي جناحين أنتِ تطيرين هاربة منه 

طيري كما شئت نحو أقاصي المدى 

جناحاك من طينةِ الشمعِ 

والشمسُ ملء الأقاصي 
وما من مفرْ