01/01 Direct Link
I write in a gale. Mad, high miles of air race to rumours of calm in some far away place. It sucks at my chimneys, and there is sea salt on the window panes. My candle is fretful and vaguely troubled in it all. It is a night that outrageous fortune might mark for giving birth, on such a night as this, my father was born, a hundred years ago, come September. Perhaps it foreshadowed the turbulence of the century, for him and for them all; it is calm where they sleep now, no swell or shipwreck amongst the shades.
01/02 Direct Link
What would I be prepared to accept as conclusive physical evidence that G_d exists? What would convince me? It’s a tough question. What happens if it is answered? Would I ignore any answer?
If I ask that G_d brings together the local galaxies Andromeda and the Small Magellanic Cloud, in the near future, to the one place, and then I will definitely believe in him, what would happen if next Tuesday night, they’re found to be, indeed, no longer where they once were, but now nicely moved at greater than light speed to the same location, just as I asked?
01/03 Direct Link
Since they are hundreds of thousands of light years away, this extraordinary event, witnessed next Tuesday by the whole Earth, or at least literate and TV accessible Earth, must have happened aeons ago and can not be a response to my request, can it?
And I forgot to publish my demands, so no one knows of this spectacular verification, and a wild coincidence can not be ruled out.. I wish I had written a book, asking for what I’d like. Within two months, there would be a paper in Nature about some wormhole or other, explaining how the feat happened.
01/04 Direct Link
Anyway, I would immediately regret not being more demanding, could I not have 20 galaxies slammed together please, this would be far more convincing? Even at the Big Bang, what would be acceptable evidence that it was willed into being? It all came from nothing, physics itself began there.

It did, but even the remotest combinations of infinitesimal probabilities are’nt apparently convincing as a proof either, because zillions of (maybe) failed universes are postulated now, all unpopulated and, being unobserved, are not really there, except as a Deus Ex Machina to explain the stupendous unlikelihood of the one we’re in.
01/05 Direct Link
If we can figure out how it could be done without a doer, then sorry, we won’t accept it as evidence of a doer. Nor should we. We’re asking, I think, an inadequate question.

Instead of galaxies for me, create your own test, maybe a spontaneous cure for Aids, nuclear fusion at room temperature, Elvis back, and consider how, as soon as it would be granted, you’d feel your real expectations had moved on……..” Is that all there is?”……..” It’s great to have you back Elvis, and we don’t know how it happened, but it ain’t a life altering development”.
01/06 Direct Link
I can think of no physical test that would not actually short change ourselves in announcing it. Am I really going to declare belief in, and worship, someone who can pass a physical test I set? I don’t think so, I’d marvel a while but frankly I’d yawn and move on.

They’re all just variations on “really colossal magician, cookie maker extraordinaire or cool galactic furniture mover” and that’s not what we’re asking for proof about, is it? We’d still trudge home after those fireworks, no matter what they were, and we’d confront a remaining dissatisfaction, a feeling of incompleteness.
01/07 Direct Link
“I’d like you to visit and prove that I have a soul, apart from mere consciousness, that’ll live forever, and that all I love will do likewise, and then could you please raise your good self from the dead, so we’ll know that even when what I fear most happens to you, you can undo it, even from that annihilated state, and that way I need attach no fretful significance to your apparent absence from every street corner, or trench, and THEN I’ll know it’s you for sure?”

It gets all very déjà vuuuy though, at this point, does’nt it?
01/08 Direct Link
Uploading a poem is like goodbye on a first school day.

I will leave it all here then
and go to Glandore
down to our own place
back down to before
when toes in the embers
we both duveted up
with squealing when handies
a breast frozen cupped
or the sweet and exquisite
revenge that she took
when wrestling I read
the last page of her book
and afterwards peaceful
with no more reproof
just a one hopeless whisper
we spoke to the roof
and down in the moonlight
the clunk of an oar
murmuring lobstermen
pulled for the shore
01/09 Direct Link
Destiny is something to entertain us, like the witches in Macbeth. They predict he will be king, and upon his hearing that, and with his ambition feeding off it and forcing him to act, the mix makes it come true.

If he never met them, would it have happened? We cannot say. It feeds off its own prediction, and is delicious as a play because of the internal feedback in it.

How many times in our lives do we arrive at a point of choice, and make it, and then wonder wistfully at fortune foregone on the road not taken?
01/10 Direct Link
Back in September, I visited the site of the Battle of Cannae, which took place on August 2nd, in 216 BC, between Hannibal and the Romans. It was the greatest loss of life on European soil, until the Somme in 1916. The Romans lost 45,000 dead.

The site is a flat plain, sloping towards the sea, north of Bari, overlooked by a hillock where sits the ancient ruined town of Cannae. There was a faded floral wreath at the obelisk monument, where the words of Livy were inscribed.

“Any lesser people would have gone under after so great a disaster”
01/11 Direct Link
James Joyce wrote the most beautiful lyric poetry in Chamber Music, and he wrote it to protest it against himself. He wrote it because he could, but he held the genre in the highest contempt.

How can the Muses be so profligate as to squander talent like that on one who has only contempt for it? Hear the bleak wind under the gliding wing, solitary sea-bird, cold predatory eye, white capped swell.

All day I hear the noise of waters
Making moan,
Sad as the sea-bird is when, going
Forth alone,
He hears the winds cry to the water's
01/12 Direct Link
I lost my last uncle in December, a 96 year old parish priest, who was the glue that held the extended family together, in bonds of laughter, and interest, and discussion.

When I was 18, and he was well in his 50s, he took me, and two of my older cousins, one a recently qualified doctor, on the ferry to France. We slept on deck, because we had no money for berths, and the cousins hit the duty free booze while uncle slept. That did’nt stop the doctor volunteering to treat a sick staff member, with a placebo ass shot.
01/13 Direct Link
We had to wake uncle to tell him the bad news that the two lads were well drunk, but the good news that we had four berths in the captains quarters.

I shared the driving with him from Le Havre to Orléans, where, tired and irritable, we had to make up the frame of, and pitch a borrowed tent in the dark. We bitched and cursed at each other like weasels in a sack, and when it was all up, I announced it was inside out. They hotly disputed it. “ So why are the fucking curtains on the outside?”
01/14 Direct Link
In my fathers’ farmhouse home, there was a wide open hearth, with a chimney you could stand in under, and look up at the rising turf smoke. The fire was always lit, the ashes at night were put on top of damp turf, and in the morning it was raked down and rekindled.

The gander in the yard used chase me, hissing viciously. But once a year, before the station Mass was said in the house, it was necessary to clean the chimney. The gander was shoved in the chimney, and struggled upwards to the light. He was the brush !
01/15 Direct Link
Aldebarans’ Catechism of Cliché Volume 1:

Q: In what mundane abode, does that Prince of Darkness, wanderer in the world for the ruin of souls, employer of Beelzebubbles and countless other denizens of the malignant demonic host, reside?

A: The detail.

Q: And when he is out in the back yard, snaggin’ turnips, cuttin’ stalks of his spuds and pullin’ caterpillars from his cabbage, the aforesaid abode lies between him and where?

A: The deep blue sea.

Q: And his choice of manufacturer of overalls, while all the foregoing industry in soul destruction, mayhem and horticulture is proceeding?

A: Prada.

01/16 Direct Link
The veil of eternal happiness sometimes slips, and we wistful beings, housed in clay, catch a glimpse of the bliss that awaits us. It happens invariably with the wonderful use of language of little people, who unleash the imps of imagination and illuminate our lives.

I paddled in the sea on Christmas Eve past, a day of greys and sullen waves. It was pride more than sense that drove me, but I remembered a day long ago, when my little daughter, paddling with me on that same sand, announced;

“I’ve had enough, I have ice cream headaches in my ankles.”

01/17 Direct Link
Do ya know what I’m going to tell you? Blue cheese should be barred.

There it sits, the little microbes workin’ away happily, when, all of a sudden, these mouldy lads are injected into the middle of them. They go to war, devourin’ each other and burrowin’ blue-green canyons of detritus in it, and what happens then?

You eat it, but that’s not the end of it.

They’re no sooner in the bag, than they attack the wall of it, with little enzyme picks and shovels, hackin’ and slashin’.

It’s a wonder we’re not all stretched out cold from it.

01/18 Direct Link
My work takes me to construction sites of all kinds, but I sheep and goat them into the two essentials, “happy” and “unhappy”.

They’re distinguished by their different responses to calamitous surprises, the badge of all enterprises involving holes in the earth. One of them will follow the visit of the fuck-up fairy with epistles to all and sundry, recording those most dreary irrelevences, the facts.

The other will set about fixing it, without delay or Treaty of Versailles, but will ask that most disarming of questions:

“ When it’s over, and I assemble my case, you’ll look after me?”

01/19 Direct Link
It is possible to untrain a red setter.

Bree came into our lives, in red bounds over our neighbours wall, when my daughter and boys were very small. He was a disciplined gun dog, until he began to consort with chaos. He was pupil in her classes, patient lolling tongue at her tyrannical tea parties, and player of football with the lads in his spare time.

Soon he learned to obey nothing, and shortly thereafter he caught his owners jaundiced eye, by the indiscretion of chasing swallows, who teased him in graceful ballistic arcs, cresting and maddening his jumping jaws.

01/20 Direct Link
When I look back on my three decades at what I do, I am most proud, not of anything I helped to build, but of something I prevented.

Only three weeks in a new place of work, renting a house, with a small family, an environmental disaster occurred at one of our sites. A young employee, and a client worker, together made a mistake, and one that got national attention. In one of those reckless, instinctive, reflexive moments, I took responsibility for it, and saved their jobs. My finest hour was a moment. I made friends for life from it.

01/21 Direct Link
In the laneway behind our street was a blacksmiths’ forge, where one Joe Bulmer was lord. He drew a chalk line on the floor, behind which we were corralled, while he lit cigarettes from reddened half made horseshoes, and maddened a coke fire with a creaking hand bellows.

He’d lift the hoof and sizzle the hot shoe for size, impressing his audience, as you might with a horse apparently on fire. For fitting hoops to the wheels of carts, a circular turf fire was made, the reddened hoop was hammered and cooled, and our Vulcan storied the fire to ashes.

01/22 Direct Link
This is my first year with all three children away in college, and I miss them on Mondays, but less so on Sundays. I know I was’nt as feckless at his age, one year older and he’ll be the age I got married at, millstoned with mortgage. I have arrived at that post middle age place, have’nt I?

Waiting for Warren………..I told him so last haying, did’nt I?

I don’t think I’d cope very well with living alone; I’d be all gung ho on a Monday, but wilting by Thursday night, chaotic in a supermarket, mournful in hopeless man laundry.

01/23 Direct Link
I love visiting the NASA website, and especially the Cassini section. This little craft wanders the moons of Saturn, like a wonderful precision slingshot. It comes to within a few kilometres of the surface of Enceladus, and it photographs the most delicate braiding in wispy rings of Saturn, troubled by tiny shepherd moons in the dark gaps

It finds lakes of methane on Titan, and I wonder what fearsome waves and tides contend upon the surface there, with Saturn huge in its sky, stretching rock and methane and all. And Saturn itself, majestic, with whorls and vortices of silent tempests.
01/24 Direct Link
I love visiting the NASA website, and especially the Cassini section. This little craft wanders the moons of Saturn, like a wonderful precision slingshot. It comes to within a few kilometres of the surface of Enceladus, and it photographs the most delicate braiding in wispy rings of Saturn, troubled by tiny shepherd moons in the dark gaps

It finds lakes of methane on Titan, and I wonder what fearsome waves and tides contend upon the surface there, with Saturn huge in its sky, stretching rock and methane and all. And Saturn itself, majestic, with whorls and vortices of silent tempests.
01/25 Direct Link
I have a sense of foreboding about the next few years, not for myself, but for my children about to seek work. Highly qualified, hard working, oprimistic children of a time of plenty, discovering the harshness of bad timing, like a brood of swallows hatched in August.

This country can neither manage boom nor bust, the sow that eats her own farrow. All ethics are dust in such a place, it’s no country for old men either. Grand larceny by tuxedo, burglary from the bank of youth by balance sheet. May they die dessicated in the desert unattended, unshrivelled, unannealed.
01/26 Direct Link
I found Steig Larssons’ Book The Girl who played with Fire in the Public Library yesterday, and it is well named. I’m hooked and can’t leave it down, not for coffee, not for scones, not for anything.

There is a fire in it, and a particular harshness in it, about the state of exchange between men and women in Sweden, which I don’t recognise, and which fascinates me. Is it to this place that the utopia of gender equality has come? Larsson died before it was published, a great pity, I miss him from the firmament of human commentary already.
01/27 Direct Link
Holocaust Memorial Day. What must it have been like, to wait all through January, in Auschwitz, for liberation, or for death? The cold, the starvation, the murderous uncertainty, the misery, the loss, the giving up on any goodness in human nature.

After that terrible place, and others like it, how can there be trust, or poetry, or music, or religion, or any G-d?.

I still struggle to cloth the enormity of it with faith, or hope, or renewal, or any sense of embarkation upon the new. And yet I am alive, with all the responsibilities of the living to discharge.
01/28 Direct Link
It’s the seventieth anniversary of Yeats’ death, arch poet, chanter of druid dreams, high priest of the hazel wood.

I associate him in my head, not so much with his native Sligo, as with the south Galway limestone country, a magical place with at least as much happening underground, as over. Limestone caverns, channels, waterdrop symphonies into deep still pools, streams that disappear, and then emerge again, carrying news from nameless cities of the faeries, unmeasureable to men. And overhead the hazel groves, saturated, mossy, greeney at the heart of summer, den of fox, and badger, ambushers of hens.
01/29 Direct Link
I am becoming recklessly impatient with pedants in my working life. A scribe today, from a government department, wants me to prove the basis of calculations, far beyond the point of reasonable justification.

How do I know that the people claimed for, were really craftsmen, and not general operatives? If the contractor claims the additional costs for them, how do I know he actually paid them?

Weary of the paranoia, I went and asked for random sample payslips, which, when checked, aligned with it all, as I knew it would. Sometimes it only needs the simple trust in honest men.
01/30 Direct Link
We are disguising salary cutbacks as unpaid additional leave. Oddly enough, many people are taking up more than the average allocation. They are more tired than they realise, and value the time more than the money foregone.

I am going to take five days myself. I don’t yet know what I will do with them, I’d love to take off on a train journey for ten days, and bring a journal, and write in it of people, and cities, and cafés. Maybe do part of the Camino de Santiago, though I’m not fit enough. I’d have to train for that.
01/31 Direct Link
Half past five, the cloudy sky is blue grey in the half light, not quite dusk. Méabh catches the bus back to college in an hour. It always takes something from me to bid goodbye to a child of mine, as if we wager with the devil against the vulnerability of flesh. It is weeks now since I have seen the boys, and by years end, they’ll likely be emigrated to further places, more wagering, worse odds.

Both my parents died when I was not present. It was no big deal, so why am I brooding upon this at all?