One thing only I know, and that is that I know nothing.


They should take their lead from the founder of Western philosophy and admit to know nothing.


Take your pick: investment experts giving advice on what to do with our money; employment experts telling us how to find the best job; contagious disease experts talking about COVID. Or politicians talking about anything.

If you are constantly learning, searching, wondering, you are in good company.

Being together at home for Christmas, in good company, was magic.

In 2013/14, we went to the Atlantic in Hamburg to mark the special day. One year we met Udo Lindenberg. He lives there. When he went up in the lift with us, I thought about the story Leonard Cohen told in one of his concerts about Janis Joplin joining him, by chance, in the lift of the Chelsea Hotel.

“I said to her, ‘Are you looking for someone?’ She said ‘Yes, I’m looking for Kris Kristofferson.’” It was obvious that Cohen was not the large, gruffly handsome songwriter, but he made a play anyway. “I said, ‘Little lady, you’re in luck, I am Kris Kristofferson.’ Those were generous times. Even though she knew that I was someone shorter than Kris Kristofferson, she never let on. Great generosity prevailed in those doom decades.”

Not quite the same story and company. Udo didn’t say much to us. And instead of being cool, I was slightly star struck. But good company, nonetheless.

I had googled Hamburg’s nicest walk: a stroll of us along the beach. In Hamburg, it turned out that it was an artificial strip of sand along the Elbe river, opposite one of Europe’s largest harbours – giving a German like myself that sense of the wide open, a sense most definitely not shared by my Irish family. They reminded me that no one, ever, would take a stroll along the docks of Dublin harbour. Even Udo couldn’t make up for that miserable walk, they said. Udo wasn’t to them what he was to me anyway.

In those years, Pádraig was in hospital over Christmas. No way to get him out to join us for Christmas, for all of us together. Those were days of great uncertainty. Any day could be one bringing the most tremendous fear for his life. Anything could and did happen.

Of course, anything can still happen, any day and any moment. But the immediate fear has receded and given space to the daily struggles.

This year’s highlight was trying out the Super Slicer. It cut our fingers within just minutes of each other. It does what it says on the box. Deep cuts and blood on the floor. The cuts will heal in a few days and the blood is long gone.

I like the Far Out t-shirt. It makes me think of Alaska 2022.

One of Pádraig’s friends told me that it took him two years to get rid of all non-essential stuff he had. My New Year resolution for this and the coming year is to try that myself.

Will I feel lighter?

I recently came across a quote by Thomas Mann (The Magic Mountain) –

“Tolerance becomes a crime when applied to evil.”

… and was thinking whether this is something to take into account, take very seriously in this new year. Become crime fighters when we see evil, even when it is passive, caused by indifference rather than actively doing harm?

I was also thinking that it often seems that it takes a tragedy to bring out the good in people.

That does not make them less devastating or traumatic. It does not make them something we’d be ever calling for. But would that mean that even tragedies have a purpose? May lead to some good?

Make us less tolerant, less indifferent?