27 March 2021

When 5 million means
more than framed
war-time banknotes

What does 5 million mean … whether they are war-time banknotes or readers of this blog? (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

There are some phrases I heard constantly in my childhood and teens that lost their currency in my adult years:

‘Jet-setters’ and ‘high-flyers’: until the pandemic put an end to many of our travel plans last year, Ryanair had put Ireland at the centre of Europe and allowed many Irish people to fly to major European capitals on city breaks.

‘Leafy suburbs’: the suburban sprawl in every direction in Dublin from the 1970s means no-one lives very far from a leafy suburb.

‘The high life’: high living went out of fashion in Dublin when the towers were built in Ballymun. The debates between Frank McDonald and Jonny Ronan in The Irish Times about the shape of the future Dublin makes me wonder whether it is going to come back into fashion again.

‘Two-car families’: in the leafy suburbs of Dublin, it appears the only two-car families nowadays are the ‘empty-nesters.’

‘Millionaires’: When the high-flyers in the leafy suburbs count up the value of their homes, their pension pots, the more-than-two cars in the drive, the small stash from granny’s will, and the early retirement package, we might realise there are more millionaires in Ireland than we ever imagined.

I never wanted to be a millionaire, still less a multimillionaire. But framed among my collection of old, redundant, war-time Greek banknotes are two 5 million drachmai notes from 1944. When I die, I may not only be a millionaire, but a multimillionaire – even though those two 5 million drachma notes are worthless.

It brought personal satisfaction to realise that the number of visitors to this blog passed the 5 million mark earlier this evening [27 March 2021] while I was watching to Leinster v Munster PRO14 rugby final.

I have said often that this is not a ‘bells-and-whistles’ blog, and I still hope it is never going to be a commercial success. It was never designed to be so.

I decline advertising and commercial sponsorships, I accept no ‘freebies,’ and I endorse no products. Even when I am political, mainly about war and peace, racism, human rights and refugees, I refuse to declare my personal party preferences when it comes to voting.

I am keen to resist commercial pressures, I have refused to receive books from publishers and I only review books I have bought myself. Without making too much a point of it, I value my independence so much that I refuse the offer of complimentary coffee when I return to a restaurant or cafĂ© I have mentioned … as journalists like to be reminded, there is no such thing as a free lunch.

The five most popular postings on this blog so far are:

1, The Transfiguration: finding meaning in icons and Orthodox spirituality (7 April 2010), over 17,000 hits.

2, A visit to ‘Howth Castle and Environs’ (19 March 2012), over 12,200 hits.

3, Readings in Spirituality: the novelist as a writer in spirituality and theology (26 November 2009), over 10,100 hits.

4, ‘When all that’s left of me is love, give me away’ … a poem before Kaddish has gone viral (15 January 2020), over 10,100 hits.

5, Raising money at the book stall and walking the beaches of Portrane (1 August 2011), about 7,400 hits.

When I began blogging, it took until July 2012 to reach 0.5 million hits. This figure rose to 1 million by September 2013; 1.5 million in June 2014; 2 million in June 2015; 2.5 million in November 2016; 3 million by October 2017; 3.5 million by September 2018; 4 million on 19 November 2019; 4.5 million on 18 June 2020; and 5 million today [28 March 2021].

To break down those figures, you could say this blog is getting over half a million hits a year, somewhere about 50,000 to 60,000 a month, and at the moment an average of about 2,100 or 2,200 hits a day.

But those figures surpassed on some occasions, and this is a tally of the biggest daily hits:

19,143: 3 February 2020
17,641: 5 February 2020
16,854: 4 February 2020
15,587: 6 February 2020
14,775: 2 February 2020

13,030: 26 May 2020
9,960: 30 January 2020
8,671: 26 December 2019
7,239: 20 May 2020
7,128: 3 May 2020

6,933: 24 November 2019
6,683: 14 January 2020
6,541: 9 April 2020
6,507: 22 December 2019
6,463: 26 January 2020

6,374: 6 November 2019
6,308: 26 November 2019
6,285: 14 October 2019
6,280: 3 January 2020
6,208: 29 November 2019

6,205: 30 November 2019
6,152: 1 October 2019
6,113: 2 January 2020
6,094: 15 October 2019
5,926: 10 March 2021

In other words, the top ‘two dozen’ have been within the past year or two.

As for the latest landmark figure of 5 million hits, I might ask on a positive note, what do 5 million people – as opposed to a worthless 5 million banknote – look like?

The population of the Republic of Ireland is just under 5 million – 4,977,846 this week, according to the Worldometer elaboration of the latest United Nations data. There are 5 million people in Oman, Palestine, Costa Rica, Liberia and the Republic of Ireland, and 5 million people live in Melbourne, Addis Ababa and Sydney.

The US reached the grim milestone of more than 5 million Covid-19 cases in August 2020, India’s total coronavirus cases passed 5 million a month later, and Brazil’s coronavirus cases passed 5 million in October.

By mid-January, the UK had administered over five million coronavirus vaccine jabs across the country.

But five million means more in so many other ways too.

Limerick City and County Council is spending €5 million on a total upgrade of the surface of the Limerick Greenway. On completion, the entire 40 km route from Rathkeale to the Kerry border near Abbeyfeale will have a 3-metre wide macadam surface … which is just enough to keep your 2-metre social distancing in order.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney, pledged a further €5 million in humanitarian assistance from Ireland for the crisis in Yemen earlier this month.

The Minister of State for Overseas Development Aid and the Diaspora, Colm Brophy, last month announced an additional €5 million in Irish Aid funding for the global health response to COVID-19, to enable developing countries access vaccines.

The Late Late Show last November raised over €5 million for Christmas charities.

Sometimes, 5 million can mean a lot and can go a long way.

What does it mean to be a multimillionaire when your millions are in war-time drachmai? (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Praying in Lent and Easter 2021:
39, Saint Michael’s Church, Gorey

Saint Michael’s Church, Gorey, Co Wexford … Pugin’s only Romanesque church in Ireland (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

During Lent and Easter this year, I am taking some time each morning to reflect in these ways:

1, a photograph of a church or place of worship that has been significant in my spiritual life;

2, the day’s Gospel reading;

3, a prayer from the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel).

This week I am offering photographs from seven churches that were designed by Augustus Welby Pugin (1812-1852), the architect singularly responsible for shaping and influencing the Gothic revival in church architecture on these islands.

My photographs this morning (27 March 2021) are from Saint Michael’s Church, Gorey, Co Wexford.

This is Pugin’s only Romanesque-style church in Co Wexford. His designs were strongly influenced by Joseph Potter’s mixed Romanesque and Gothic style for Holy Cross Church, Lichfield, which I featured yesterday (26 March 2021), including Potter’s entrance door and his turret.

This is one of the earliest of Pugin’s churches, and dates from 1839. When the church was opened in 1843, it was claimed that Pugin’s design had been influenced by Dunbrody Abbey in south Co Wexford. But Saint Michael’s has many of the proportions of Pugin’s cathedral in Birmingham, being as wide and almost as long.

The West Door of Saint Michael’s Gorey … can be compared with Joseph Potter’s Romanesque door in Holy Cross Church, Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

John 11: 45-57 (NRSVA):

45 Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. 46 But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what he had done. 47 So the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the council, and said, ‘What are we to do? This man is performing many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation.’ 49 But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, ‘You know nothing at all! 50 You do not understand that it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed.’ 51 He did not say this on his own, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus was about to die for the nation, 52 and not for the nation only, but to gather into one the dispersed children of God. 53 So from that day on they planned to put him to death.

54 Jesus therefore no longer walked about openly among the Jews, but went from there to a town called Ephraim in the region near the wilderness; and he remained there with the disciples.

55 Now the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before the Passover to purify themselves. 56 They were looking for Jesus and were asking one another as they stood in the temple, ‘What do you think? Surely he will not come to the festival, will he?’ 57 Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that anyone who knew where Jesus was should let them know, so that they might arrest him.

The interior of Saint Michael’s Church, Gorey, Co Wexford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary:

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (26 March 2021), prays:

Let us give thanks for the Church of North India’s Let My People Go programme, fighting injustice on behalf of marginalised communities in India.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

The turret of Saint Michael’s Church, Gorey (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org