It’s been a while since my last post–small matters such as the birth of my son and being the best man at a friend’s wedding have distracted me from the urgent task of broadcasting my views across the blogosphere. On Tuesday, while my wife was focusing on her breathing and trying to survive her contractions, I excused myself and went out “for some air” (there are few things more useless than a husband in a Delivery Suite). As I walked out of the Coombe Hospital and sauntered down Cork Street, I was taken aback by the amount of construction going on–there must have been at least ten major developments being put up along a stretch of road about a kilometre long. What all the projects had in common was that they were all virtually devoid of aesthetic merit. A CAD system on autopilot could have generated their designs. Apart from their blandness, even their utility is questionable. Is Dublin really crying out for more office space (the vacancy rate in the city is one of the highest in Europe)? Presumably the apartments will be occupied by the next wave of Gastarbeiter-the near-invisible immigrants charged with serving our meals and cleaning up after our revels. Then a story that appeared in the Irish news a few days previously popped into my head. In response to a query from a TD (a member of the Irish parliament), it was revealed that 240 people who earned between a hundred thousand and a million pounds in 2001 paid no tax. These individuals had avoided tax by availing of various tax breaks, including so-called Section 23 investments earmarked for the urban regeneration of areas such as the Liberties (the working-class area of Dublin to the south of Christchurch Cathedral). So, on reflection, it’s not surprising that all the developments on Cork Street (and countless others across the city) are without style or much economic purpose. Their architectural and fiscal hollowness is merely an apt manifestation of their origins–they exist only to give money a safe passage, diverting it away from the Exchequer’s maw. They also exist, to use a quote from Milan Kundera, to contribute to the “uglification of the world.” I share these thoughts partly as a service to anxious fathers-to-be. It seems, for me at least, a serious bout of misanthropic introspection is a good distraction from the anxiety and sense of powerlessness that is likely to gnaw at you while watching the mother of your children writhe in pain beside you. However, three hours after I walked back into the hospital, my son, Hugh, arrived in the world. And concerns about the uglification of the world became mercifully abstract and distant. After all, fatherhood opens the door to a whole mansion haunted by far more pressing and all-consuming fears.