I was just reading an online article about a Finnish initiative to alleviate homelessness that has had huge success. In short, the state provides discounted loans to a Finnish NGO that buys and renovates properties to house those without homes. Part of the initiative is to also provide counselling and social services support to assist former homeless people to gain a foothold in the labour market.

Reading about this initiative remind me of two things. First, the fact that Finland has a history of effective action to solve problems. They’ve done similar root and branch jobs on their water quality and their education system, effectively ripping up what was there and starting again. Presumably, as Stephen Covey would put it, ‘starting with the end in mind’.

Second, it reminded me that politics is about choices. In Ireland, the current Government, with the assent of Fianna Fail, through the supply and confidence agreement, has chosen to perpetuate the conditions that lead to homelessness in our cities and towns. It has also made choices that perpetuate the systemic failure of the health service to provide a basic level of care to sick people. Of course, the Government, Fianna Fail and others will tell us that ‘there is no alternative’. Bollocks. There are always alternatives. There are always choices. Those who tell us otherwise stand to benefit from the status quo.

We have an election on 8 February. We have a choice. We should use it to elect a Government that makes different choices.

On Saturday night, my step-mum Jane had her living room window destroyed by, maybe, kids with a catapult. It was a scary and unsettling event that one wouldn’t wish on anyone. Fortunately, Jane is made of tough stuff and, as soon as she overcame the initial shock of the violent assault on her home, she set about taking practical steps to sort out the damage and get her house and life back to normal.

The damage to the window was extensive but, oddly, rather beautiful …

Creatively, I’ve been following my nose over the last few days. Jane had a circuit board on her kitchen table on Saturday and I asked her could I have it. There were some lumpy attachments on it and an untidy couple of wires but I had an idea that it could look rather interesting with a little adjustment. I removed the unattractive bits, tidied up the wires (supergluing myself to the board in the process) and had a think about what I could do with it. Looking for something else entirely, I came upon a mannequin I bought a while ago to help me with drawing people and I developed an idea involving a scarf bought in Dunnes Stores, an angle-poise lamp, the circuit board, the mannequin and some photo filters on an app on my phone. Here’s the result. I’ve called the sequence Algorithm Dreams.

At the weekend I bought a small buddha head from Sostrene Grene, and over the last few days I painted it, first black and then with a thin coat of gold so that the black would show through and give it some additional character.

This evening I mounted and framed a fuchsia from our garden that I dried before Christmas, and a sprig of lavender that I picked up in Mount Argus cemetery while looking for my Uncle Rupert. The lavender (on a teabag) is a little lost but I quite like the effect. In real life there’s a gold shimmer on the green background which is attractive.

I started making something out of pistachio shells and while I was waiting for some glue to dry I found some old fashioned wooden pegs and lollypop sticks that I bought in Sostrene Grene a while ago. I won’t yet reveal what I’m going to do with them ultimately, but I began the process by painting them.

All under the watchful eye of Matt …

Matt Man.

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