The Department of Education decided to close schools in several counties over the last two days due to the threat posed by Storm Barra.
We asked readers for their views on whether the decision was justified and how it affected them.
This is an edited selection of your responses.
‘Another example of the contempt that this Government treats parents with’
The late-night decision by the Department of Education to close schools in Dublin today is just another example of the contempt that this Government treats parents with. Much like the last-minute mask decision fiasco the Government takes no consideration of parents ability to choose what might be best for their children or give parents time to deal with the fallout from the decisions. I would hope that in future they could consider parents in their late-night decision making.
‘Does the Department of Education have any cop-on at all?’
A ham-fisted, behind-covering, one-size-fits-all decision that has greatly inconvenienced parents and deprived children of yet another day’s valuable learning. It was nothing more than a very windy day in south central Dublin on Tuesday. It was even less inclement on Wednesday. Does the Department of Education have any cop-on at all? Why not delegate the decision to school principals. They are on the ground and best placed to make a call on local conditions. What will prompt the next enforced closure? The wrong type of wind?
‘This is just not acceptable’
In Galway city, Tuesday was a bit breezy; Wednesday was calm and the sun was shining. There is absolutely no reason why schools in Galway city should have closed. We will have a long winter, and negative implications on our children’s education, if schools close every time there is an orange weather alert. We are both trying to work from home whilst our children are home from school, and the school did not roll out any online learning or send home any materials for the children to work on. This is just not acceptable, or sustainable long-term.
‘My exams were postponed’
I am a third-year student in NUI Galway doing exams. They were planned to be on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday but due to the college closure the Tuesday and Wednesday exams were postponed to Saturday and Sunday. This creates a very stressful period as they have been placed in the middle of other exams. I now have four exams in a row from Friday to Monday, also with exams on the following Wednesday and Thursday. Six exams in seven days is not ideal. Both Tuesday and Wednesday did not display any strong winds that would prevent such exams taking place. This is not the type of pressure my course colleagues and I want in the run up to Christmas.
‘I’ve no back-up. The pandemic has taken away all my unpaid supports’
I’m a separated mother of two small children working a four-day week. Working from home (WFH) has its benefits and generally I work a hybrid model mostly. However, when the preschools & schools are closed and I’ve no back-up, I’m actually parenting from work at my kitchen table rather than working from home. And I have no back-up. The pandemic has taken away all my unpaid supports – mainly my elderly parents – and the housing crisis, resulting in ever increasing rents, keeps pushing me further and further away from the city where my friends and family live. I do not live long enough in one place to make lasting friendships with neighbours that I could approach for help. My childminder is wonderful, but I pay her €70/full day when I earn €95 net. I borrow to work the school summer holidays, I cannot afford any unplanned or unexpected curveballs like these last two days of red weather alerts and school closures. And with end-of-year deadlines, calling in sick is not an option. My workload would only be waiting for my return. Furthermore, I worry about the lasting developmental damage this frequent ‘WFH’ is forcing upon my young children. Both have been sick a lot lately and I cannot send them to school with even a snivel anymore. When they are sick I can no longer take time off to mind them because I am now able to ‘WFH’. So the frequency of this scenario of me at the kitchen table on the laptop ignoring them has increased.
When there are two parents, they can help one another, give each other a break. I on the other hand, cannot even go to the shop for milk without packing us all out the door! Lets not forget that we’ve had long runs of school closures in the very recent past in this pandemic. And, in isolation these two days of red weather alerts and school closures would be manageable. However, within the context of this pandemic, a housing crisis and only the beginning of a long winter, it feels like the last straw.
‘At 11pm we got the email the creche would close’
I was okay and scheduled all meetings to next day as I have toddler at home and it was difficult to work with him around. On Tuesday, weather was not bad in Dublin 16 and I thought the decision to close schools and crèches were uncalled for. They should have access the severity and took the decision only on affected areas and not generalised the decision. We got an email from the creche that on Wednesday it would be be open but at 11pm at night got the email that it was closed due to Government decision. Weather was not bad at all, as I have seen much worse weather than these two days. Has the crèche refunded us two days’ fees?
We have already had enough stress due to Covid-19.
‘Probably the right decision at the time’
In our area of east Cork, the storm, thankfully, didn’t hit us as hard as other parts of the county or other counties. The decision to close the schools for the second day proved to be unnecessary in our part of the county, but it was probably the right decision at the time, and was no doubt influenced by poorer conditions in the west of the county. The decision was made in good time, 5.30pm and it was flagged for a few hours before the official decision was made.
There was strong wind here for a couple of days. Nothing to worry about, yet two children home from school. Complete nonsense. Children packed into Mcdonald’s yesterday, and packed into indoor play centre today. It was NOT dangerous to go out. Stupid decision.
I’m astounded at why the schools were closed when they have had ample opportunity over the past two years to operate online. It reinforces that those accountable for education in our country are not of a proactive or progressive mindset and take the easy option. Very disappointing.
‘Conditions were not dangerous’
I am at a loss to understand why the schools in Dublin were closed. Conditions were not dangerous, it was indeed cold, wet and miserable, but it was also the same in December when I went to school 35 years ago. However, we just went to school and got on with it. Children have missed more school over the past two years due to the pandemic, on top of already the ridiculous amount of holidays for teachers, course days, etc. Of course, the decision to close schools was the one decision over the past number of years that the teacher unions accepted without question. I fear for the education of our children and their mental health.
I had not been advised by the preschool so on Tuesday I turned up to it and realised it was closed. I had hectic days trying to do basic things as I live alone with a toddler. The school closures have disrupted my days but finally it’s over.
‘These decisions should be taken lightly’
The weather didn’t seem severe enough to justify the closure, in Dublin at least. Children have missed some much school time with Covid closures that these decisions should not be taken lightly. Additionally, most working parents had to take two days’ annual leave or lose two days’ pay to mind their kids at short notice. Obviously this isn’t the case in the Department of Education but decision-makers should be mindful of the impact on private sector workers.
‘I don’t get this need to blame schools for the weather’
I would not have sent my kids on Wednesday even if the Government had not closed schools. The weather warning finished at 7am. We leave the house at that time so I had already decided to do the safest thing for my children and work from home. I don’t get this need to blame schools for the weather or the Government and I’m happy to blame the Government for a lot. I’m not sure sure I’d want to be a principal having to deal with that last night, but as a parent kids’ safety overrides my inconvenience. Even if in your particular area it seemed fine we all travel to work think how much more dangerous it would have been with school traffic and fallen branches.
‘Is this to be the new norm?’
Ireland is an island. Consequently, the weather is regularly wet and windy. In Bray today it is merely breezy and a status yellow warning has been applied. But somehow the local environs are deemed unsafe for school commutes. If navigating your way past fallen leaves and the occasional puddle is challenging, then the decision to close schools for a second day was indeed a wise one. If on the other hand, you consider the inclement weather to be a regular feature of life in this country, then the school closures are perplexing to say the least. Is this to be the new norm – school closures on the basis of oft-cited, but rarely challenged, health and safety concerns?
‘We don’t have a family to help in Ireland’
In Dún Laoghaire, Dublin, the storm was mild, with only leaves and bins being affected. My son, that is two years old, goes to a creche that closed Tuesday and Wednesday, with such short notice that I couldn’t make any arrangements. We don’t have a family to help in Ireland. This put massive stress over my partner and me to take the day off on Tuesday, move meetings and customers to the following days, only to be warned at 11pm on Tuesday that Wednesday would also have the creche closed. I found it unfair as I can see that the storm is not affecting my region, and I pay a hefty amount to the creche to help me take care of him so we can work. Moreover, it was clear in the note that the orange warning was only up to 7 am, with the first employees arriving close to 8.30am, they could definitely work on Wednesday. I’m mad and just hoping they can open on Thursday/Friday without any new surprise.
Egypt: Excavating the archives of the man who uncovered Tutankhamun’s tomb | Culture
It is rare to travel north in search of Tutankhamun. The young Pharaoh’s tomb is actually to the south, in Luxor, Egypt, as is his mummy, while the vast majority of artefacts buried with him – the famous “wonderful things” that include treasures such as the gold mask – have traditionally had their home at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. But there is another treasure linked to Tutankhamun, less glittering but also fascinating, in the shape of the archives of the late Howard Carter, the archaeologist who discovered the tomb.
The documents compiled by Carter include maps and plans, detailed records of the thousands of artefacts – 5,300 to be exact, photographs, drawings, slides and both personal and excavation diaries, as well as other materials, such as private letters, telegrams and press clippings, all of which give the discovery context and are an exceptional source of information.
Donated to the center for Egyptology at Oxford University’s Griffith Institute by Carter’s favorite niece and heir, Phyllis Walker who died in 1977, the collection is now the subject of a timely exhibition at Oxford’s Bodleian Library, with additional material from other sources such as the Metropolitan Museum in New York.
Open until February 5, 2023, Tutankhamun: Excavating the Archive, invites visitors to “see beyond” the golden treasures of the young Pharaoh and explore the complexity of the discovery as it unfolded. A celebratory centenary exhibition, it recalls the moment on November 26, 1922, when Carter and his sponsor Lord Carnarvon looked into the tomb for the first time, breaking a seal that had held for over 3,000 years and beginning the excavation of the only untouched ancient Egyptian royal burial site to be found in the Valley of the Kings.
The exhibition features Carter’s first written mention of the find in one of the Lett’s Indian and Colonial Rough Diary pocket notebooks he used to record his activities during the eight months he spent each year in Egypt: “First steps of tomb found,” he scrawled in pencil, conveying irrepressible enthusiasm. The entry takes up the entire page for Saturday, November 4, 1922. It was the fourth day into the last sponsored excavation, as Lord Carnarvon had finally decided to stop paying for the concessionary rights to the Valley of the Kings.
The exhibition goes into the details of the sensational find and how it developed for better and worse, with recognition of the fact that Carter and Carnarvon lied in order to smuggle several small objects out of Egypt. It also explains how the discovery coincided with the proclamation of Egypt’s independence from Britain and the change in the country’s policy regarding its antiquities; and it mentions the infamous “curse” associated with the tomb. Significantly, it acknowledges the shortcomings of European colonial archaeology during that era and hails the essential role of the overlooked Egyptian professionals and laborers in the investigation.
The Egyptians, including many child laborers, appear in numerous photos of the excavation without being identified, reducing them to little more than exotic extras. They were rarely mentioned, and their role was underestimated in official reports. Now, archival research “is making it possible to restore the Egyptians’ role in the excavations,” and to “address the error.”
Donkeys instead of cabs
The exhibition also flags up the neglected role of the women who participated in the venture, such as Minnie, the wife of photographer Harry Burton, author of the famous photos of the excavation, who helped her husband and kept a personal diary that is a valuable source of information. In one passage, she recalls the excitement of visiting the tomb while it was being emptied and how Carter sent a donkey to fetch her home like someone might send a cab.
Coming to Oxford with the sole purpose of seeking out Tutankhamun lends the city an incongruous air of Egypt, even if arriving by bus rather than donkey. The kites spotted en route over the English countryside bring to mind the birds that fly over the pristine skies of Luxor, which are represented in pharaonic temples and tombs as divine creatures. These same birds are also present in Carter’s paintings, such as the 1895 watercolor of a falcon in the chapel of Anubis in the temple of Hatshepsut at Deir el-Bahari. Carter was an excellent draughtsman who came to archaeology precisely because of his artistic ability.
The Bodleian exhibition occupies the treasury room of the library and is small, like Tutankhamun’s tomb, but equally full of documentary wealth, though it requires immersion and the determination of an archaeologist to extract the information from the 20-odd showcases fittingly shrouded in gloom and mystery.
In a preamble, data is given on the reign of the young Pharaoh. For example, it is emphasized that his death was unexpected, and his burial consequently improvised, which explains many of its unusual characteristics. It is also mentions that the tomb remained substantially intact despite being visited by thieves shortly after first being sealed – they did not gain access to the mummy and the tomb was again rearranged and resealed so that what Carter encountered was virtually untouched. While it is written on a vaulting that the body of Tutankhamun is still in the sarcophagus, it was, in fact, removed from the stone coffin years ago and is exhibited in the same enclosure, but in a modern heated urn installed in the antechamber.
Obsession with the tomb
The tour begins with the climax of the discovery noted in Carter’s diary, before delving into the background of the discoverer himself, who was a complex personality who never married and had no children. A photo shows him at the age of 19, the same age as Tutankhamun when he died. An 1892 letter from the great Egyptologist Flinders Petrie, who took him to Egypt, offers this insight: “His interest is in painting and natural history (…) He is of no use to me as an excavator.”
There is then a space dedicated to “the long search” – a period that began after a proclamation in 1913 by excavation sponsor Theodore Davis that the Valley is exhausted; enter Carnarvon, who hired Carter, as he was obsessed with the idea that there was still a tomb to be found. It is thrilling to actually see a map drawn by Carter’s own hand with the excavations between 1917 and 1922, when the tomb was not yet located, lying concealed beneath the remains of the ancient workers’ huts from the neighboring tomb of Ramses VI. And then, the great moment of the discovery and the first actual foray into the tomb, around four o’clock in the afternoon on November 26, by Carter, Carnarvon, his daughter and several others.
A page from Carter’s excavation diary contains the account of that Great Moment in his own handwriting. The hole in the door, the candle inserted, and Carnarvon asking: “Can you see anything?” The answer, Carter noted, was not the famous “yes, wonderful things” which he later claimed in subsequent records, but the less dramatic “yes, it’s wonderful.”
It was the beginning of an amazing scientific adventure that would last until December 1932, the 10 years it took to empty the tomb. Carnarvon died on April 5, 1923, without seeing the opening of the sarcophagus and the mummy of Tutankhamun, which was not examined until November 11, 1925. A letter from Carter to Egyptologist Alan Gardiner describes some of the emblematic artefacts observed in the antechamber: carts, beds with strange animal shapes, two life-size figures of guardians… “So far, it is Tutankhamun,” he writes.
Burton’s photos displayed in the exhibition are “the most famous archaeological images ever taken,” and these, together with the drawings of the different rooms of the tomb and the artefacts as they were discovered transport us to the key moments of the discovery. The exhibition also explains the conservation challenges faced by the archaeologists and the solutions they came up with to preserve the objects. Then there is documentation of the complex system of rails used to transport the tomb’s contents in wagons to the river to be shipped to the museum.
Particularly moving is a large portrait of an anonymous Egyptian boy photographed in 1927 by Burton wearing one of Tutankhamun’s necklaces, demonstrating how it would have been worn. Years later, Hussein Abd el Rasul, a member of the local Qurna family, identified himself as the sitter. The exhibition points out that “many stories have been told about the image and who the boy was and his role in the excavation.”
A group of Egyptian schoolchildren stopped in front of the photo the other day listening very attentively to the explanations of their teachers. Despite the lack of recognition for the Egyptians who worked on the tomb’s excavation, some names have nevertheless been salvaged thanks to the gratitude Carter expressed in his writings, such as the name of the foreman, Ahmed Gerigar and his colleagues Gad Hassan, Hussein Abu Awad and Hussein Ahmed Said.
Besides criticizing the patronizing attitude toward the Egyptians involved in the excavation, the exhibition flags up the pursuit of profit, especially Lord Carnarvon’s. It suggests that the origin of the famous curse on those tampering with the tomb mentioned in a delightful yellowed telegram in 1923 to “Carter Tutankhamun Thebes” from Dublin warning that if trouble continues he must reseal the tomb, was partly revenge by certain media angered by the aristocratic Carnarvon’s exclusive contract with The Times.
Curses and criticism aside, public excitement at the find was such during the 1920s that it inspired a boardgame and a rash of songs. Meanwhile, the archive, which continues to be enriched and has been digitized for open access (www.griffith.ox.ac.uk), is invaluable to the study of the tomb’s material, a work that Carter left unfinished.
For those whose appetite for “wonderful things” is not yet sated, the Ashmolean Museum close by houses an extraordinary collection of Egyptian antiquities, such as the large statues of the god of fertility Min who appears excited at the sight of a sensual bust of Antinous, Hadrian’s lover who drowned in the Nile; an impressive stone head of a crocodile; the precious coffins and the mummy of the Theban priest Djed-djehuty-iuef-ankh and the Amarna pieces, which are closely linked to Tutankhamun as they represent his family, Akhenaten, Nefertiti and the princesses, as well as to people and places he saw during his lifetime. The ostraca collection compiled by Gardiner, who collaborated with Carter, is also on display there.
Hollywood: They have it all, and take it on the road, too: These are the luxury RVs of the stars | Culture
RVs have long been considered a fairly modest means of travel, an option that combines transportation and accommodation and that allows you to enjoy a more affordable vacation – bearing in mind that the comforts that they offer have little or nothing to do with those of a five-star hotel. However, this image has evolved in recent years, and the alternative of touring the world with your house in tow is gaining more and more followers, including some movie and music stars. Some use them for tourism and others to move between cities while they promote something or as a dressing room during shootings or tours, but they all have a few things in common: their enormous dimensions, their luxurious amenities and their million-dollar price tags.
At the beginning of July, all the details of Dolly Parton’s mansion on wheels were released. More than an RV, this one is a bus. Dubbed Suite 1986, it is 45 feet long and Dolly has traveled more than 300,000 miles and visited more than 60 American cities in it. It houses all kinds of luxuries and personal belongings of the country music star — a display case for her wigs, a wide bed with pink velvet sheets, or a Parisian-inspired dressing table, among other things — and it is available to rent from $10,000, with a two night minimum stay. The Dollybus is part of the hotel complexes offered under the Dollywood label, the universe created in her image and likeness, which also includes a theme park inspired by Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Florida, numerous hotels and spas and a water park.
Another celebrity who likes to have a traveling home is Jennifer Lopez. The Bronx Diva owns a 1,200-square-feet trailer that is valued at $2 million and, like Parton’s, is also available to rent, for between $400 and $850 a night, when the singer is not using it. Its name is Baby Girl and, judging by the pictures, it has it all: in two spacious floors you can find amenities like a huge leather sofa, furniture made from materials like granite or marble, and all kinds of image and audio technologies, including everything from large TVs to state-of-the-art audio setups. An exclusive design by Anderson Mobile Estates, an American company specializing in this type of high-end vehicle, completely customizable to the customer’s taste.
The same company built Will Smith’s RV, known as The Heat, which the actor purchased in 2000 to use while filming. It is 55 feet long, has two floors and it is valued at 2.5 million dollars. It includes a projection room with a 100-inch screen and
capacity for thirty people, an ample lounge, a bathroom with sauna, first-rate materials like granite and leather, and technological devices everywhere.
Leonardo DiCaprio’s RV does not fall far behind: it is 52 feet long, with four modules that can be extended to further expand the space. Of course, it includes all the necessary amenities, with eccentric details like two fireplaces and a large recycled glass shower valued at more than $40,000.
Justin Bieber’s RV also has its fair share of eccentricities. In 2020, the Canadian singer purchased for $2.5 million a bus turned luxurious mansion that he takes on his tours and that he himself showed off in the American edition of GQ Magazine. Equipped to the last detail, it offers wonders such as underfloor heating, ceilings with LED lights, a steam shower, and an infrared sauna.
Other celebrities, after years of traveling with their house in tow, have decided to part with theirs. That is the case of Tom Hanks. The legendary actor auctioned off his RV last year: the trailer that was his home during the shooting of movies like Forrest Gump or Apollo 13 was sold for $235,200, an almost trivial figure when compared to those of his colleagues.
Among so much luxury on wheels, Chris Hemsworth’s RV is also surprising for its modest dimensions. It was made by the Australian company Lotus Trooper, and it is equipped for all kinds of terrain. Despite its limited size, it includes things like Italian leather sofas and a designer kitchen; with this vehicle, the actor who brings Thor to life in the Marvel Cinematic Universe likes to enjoy family getaways, as he himself has shown on his social media.
Whether it is to go on road trips or as a place to rest between concerts or shootings, it is clear that the biggest music and movie stars cannot resist the opportunity to take all the comforts of home anywhere they go, preferably in rolling eccentricities that reinvent a concept popularized in the 1960s by the hippie movement – and look more fit for a Transformers movie than for an actual highway.
Writer Salman Rushdie attacked while giving a speech in New York | USA
Indian-born writer Salman Rushdie was attacked on Friday while giving a lecture in Chautauqua County, a town of about 140,000 inhabitants in western New York state. The first images of the event that have been shared on social networks show Rushdie on the floor, being attended by attendees and emergency services.
New York state police announced in a press release that the writer suffered an apparent stab wound to the neck, and was transported by helicopter to an area hospital. His condition is not yet known. An Associated Press reporter witnessed a man storm the stage at the Chautauqua Institution and begin punching or stabbing Rushdie as he was being introduced. The 75-year-old author was pushed or fell to the floor, and the man was restrained. The assailant has been arrested.
Rushdie’s book The Satanic Verses has been banned in Iran since 1988, as many Muslims consider it blasphemous. A year later, on February 14, 1989, Iran’s late leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, issued a fatwa calling for Rushdie’s death. The theocratic Iranian regime also offered a reward of more than $3 million for anyone who killed the writer, who holds dual British and US citizenship.
Iran’s government had long since distanced itself from Khomeini’s decree, but anti-Rushdie sentiment has persisted. In 2012, a semi-official Iranian religious foundation raised the reward for Rushdie’s death from $2.8 million to $3.3 million.
Rushdie, an English-language writer and perennial contender for the Nobel Prize in Literature, downplayed that threat then and said there was “no evidence” that people were interested in the reward. That year, Rushdie published a memoir, Joseph Anton, about the fatwa.
The 75-year-old author achieved international fame with the novel Midnight’s Children, which was published in 1980 and won him the Booker Prize, the UK’s most prestigious literary prize, the following year. The book sparked controversy in India for allegedly derogatory remarks towards the then prime minister of the country, Indira Gandhi.
With an overflowing imagination, his style has been compared to the magical realism of Gabriel García Márquez and Carlos Fuentes, among others. He himself has recognized on numerous occasions his important links with Latin American literature. His latest book Quixote (2020) adapts Cervantes’ classic to the situation that the United States under the Donald Trump administration.
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