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Today is Imbolg, the first day of spring. I had to dig a little in the garden to try to find the cover of the stopcock on my water service pipe, which has become missing in action.
As I dug in the sucking clay, and disturbed dozy earthworms, it all felt friendly and moist and clinging and full with sleepy life. Spade on stone, the thud of heavy sod. It was’nt at all like the grey clayey December day at my uncles’ funeral a few short weeks ago. If I had to go in it, I would’nt feel unwelcome there.
If she had lived, my mother would be 91 today. When laughter took her, it shook her; drove the breath out of her, and a huge inhale of subsequent air would only feed tears of exhausted mirth. She was the youngest of five.
She loved my father to a reckless degree, in that his death crushed her for a while, frighteningly so. But when she rekindled old friendships, she bloomed again, especially in her grandchildren, and Ciarán, her favourite. I caught her once, while I carved the chicken:
“ A nice wing for Ciarán”
“Whaaat? Give him the breast !”
The next person who says “basically” to me, in any part of a sentence, will be harpooned through the sternum. Not yer ordinary lance, mind you, something explosive tipped, with barbs, and a rope attached, for recovery of the carcass.
Acknowledging the normal maritime context for such things, it’s likely to happen indoors, so there’ll be a “boom”, a fleshy thunk and grunt of cartiligeous grisle, very likely pinning the offender to the door followed, basically, by a little shlurpy sigh of expiration. The damage to the décor is a small price to pay for the protection of the language.
I’m drifting to the left all morning.
Having checked the length of legs, the wear of shoes, and the state of ballast in jacket pockets, all in accordance with the Razor of Occam, I have come at last to the holy conclusion that it is the Coriolis effect made flesh.
It would appear that we’re rattlin’ around at a velocity of near 18 miles a second in these latitudes, with an anticlockwise ballistic drift on top, and “the fixed stars” after that are a hoofy herd of oxymorons. It’s enough to make you take to the bed and hang on.
Sometimes there are indices of economic distress, which are far more telling than GDP.
In this country, the car registration plates commence with the last two digits of the year. Any other year, I would’nt get past Jan 4th without seeing a new car, registered in the new year.
As I write, I have not seen a single 09 car yet.
The next big indicator will be the numbers of Irish attending the English horseracing festival in Cheltenham in March. Annually, it is a badge of national rivalry to meet, greet and relieve them of their family silver. We’ll see.
My younger brother, the one with the poker face, found the bottle of whiskey in the hayshed, uncorked it, upended it, and pronounced it
“ lovely stuff”
I later concluded he had put his tongue in the neck of it, by the malicious mirth of him, when it was my turn to gulp a mouthful of gulletgawping lava.
It was for mixing with cows milk to warm orphaned lambs against the fierce neutrality of January. The correct dose was one measure per feed. I can confirm that more than four makes a pure wobblin’ farmyard disgrace of week old mutton.
My mother had it, so does my daughter, and I used to have it myself. The ability to enter a trance-like state, gazing out a window, losing eye focus, lost to the world, and lost to all thought, right up to the point of catching oneself at it, and resuming conscious action with a kind of wistful regret.
I only recently recognised it for what it is. Teach me to meditate, to still my mind, empty it of all thought, breath easily, and I’d only arrive at the land of raindrops on glass, a place I already know very well.
Evidence is only necessary in a partly known, or less than truthful world.
Scientific evidence is beautiful in its’ disinterested revelation of a facet of the phenomenon, but it still stands mutely and enigmatically, awaiting interpretation.
It points to the next bend along the searching road, and it is vindicated, deepened and enhanced by accumulation of itself.
But we can drift to deify it, being forever limited by things we do not know, minds we cannot read, and by the occasional infection of life with lies.
We are’nt conditioned to receive someone who speaks the truth with gentle, complete authority.
For Sunday mass, I go to a little old stone chapel, part of a psychiatric hospital complex, built with the pennies of the poor in much harder times.
There are gentle allowances made, for the occasional disturbances of the service, by those of the congregation who suffer from mental illness. The main church in the town centre is much larger, it has the parish choir, and so peripheral prayers tend to be songless.
Not yesterday. One old man, a tattered coat upon a stick, mangled an old hymn, .....loving G-d tunelessly, and we, the well, stayed silent in mute embarrassment.
Mein kampf gegen Cliché Vol 2
Q: Outside what cardboard, corrugated, corral on genius, is all inventive inspiration, productive synapse firing, and lateral creative pondering, conducted?
A: The box.
Q: And perfect astral alignment of ones’ experience, talents, prejudices, orientation, planets, zodiacal stars, and nebulae, ticks all?
A: …. the boxes
Q: With smoke and mirrors, and cloaks and daggers, and furtive stalking in the light and half-light, what manner of pugilistic intercourse is preferred with shadows?
Q: When PTA meetings break up In This Order, what is the manner of transfer of such blows?
A: They’re exchanged.
I remember the death of the lamb, and the ewe fretting in circles, with low bleaty grieving.
My uncle tied her to the hayshed post, and took the dead lamb out of sight. He skinned it, and then went into the small lean-to shed, where another orphaned lamb had spent two days by then, being bottle fed by me.
He tied the skin over the orphans’ fleece, baling twine around each leg, and out it wobbled, with its’ sad overcoat, to greet the ewe. She sniffed, suspicion suspended on a thread of hope, longing to be fooled, and she was.
Caesar in head office has issued a decree. He will subsidise the cost of bicycles for those who want to cycle to work.
The pixies at coffee wondered aloud, if my august and portly majesty will be wobblewheeling upon spokes and a saddle any time soon. They were of the view that I’d struggle with wind resistance, being less than streamlined and my circumference being PI times my diameter.
With a back of me hand, and sneer of cold command, I reminded the serfs that, if they were’nt nice to me, I’d withdraw their privilege of buying me fruit scones.
We had an internal training seminar yesterday, on our first experiences working with troublesome new conditions of contract, dreamed up by lawyers, who should not be let out on their own, to buy milk.
It was brilliant. My colleague prepared and presented it, in that most confident way.
“Here is what I did wrong, here’s how the other guy exploited that, and here’s how I wish I had done it”.
The most junior person in the room felt comfortable declaring worry, or inexperience. No ego hijacked it, and some pending problems got discussed and solved. Work as it should be.
I rise at the crack of dawn.
This is conditional on dawn cracking around ten minutes to eight. These last few days, around that time, soft diffuse light has begun to filter past the edges of the curtain. First the true darkness leaves, then forms begin to emerge, then enough light to see a watch.
The grandparents of these gentle photons left the fierce turmoil of the surface of the sun eight minutes ago. They struck high eastern clouds, and picked up pinks and blues in soft scatterings.
Their children bounded westwards, through deeper greys, to exhaust themselves with me.
I think I’ll invent the Story Candle.
It would be decorated with whorls and stars, and lit, with solemnity, as the story begins.
Its’ light would warm the tale, and the wobble of the flame of it, would light the way for pumpkins, and princesses, and shadow their arrival on the walls.
Its’ soft glow would banish things electrical, the better to wean a little mind off the garish things of day.
Every fair has it’s gathering, it’s day, and it’s scattering, and we are sometimes called upon to bring reverie to a close. A puff, a sleepy kiss…………..and smoke.
I bring news of encouragement to backsliders with my algebraic theory of salvation. If there is more joy in heaven over one repentant sinner, than over ninety-nine righteous people, the implications, to me, are compelling.
A life spent on horses, fast women, strong drink, the dogs, bingo and rackets of all kinds ( bar tennis ), bootleggin’, poitín makin’, hoorin’, runnin’ for high office, followed by well timed repentence, can increase the joy in heaven a hundredfold. The trick is in the timing of the thing.
Forgiving everyone seventy seven times after such a colourful life, surely delights them entirely.
Sometimes even beautiful things, are tainted by unhappy memory, so much so, that they can never again be enjoyed. Some ancient reflex whispers flight, in a sort of visceral rejection, forever after.
My father suffered a stroke in the third week of March that year, and we spent long, fluorescent-bulb nights in vigil as he slowly declined. There was a little room adjoining the Intensive Care area, with a tiny, useless, window, and benches by the walls. Dawn, and noon, and midnight were indistinguishable there, and on the wall, was Turners’
I have instinctively recoiled from it ever since.
Even as a child, I loved to play with water in a sink.
If I ever wash up those curved bowls used for mixing baking ingredients, I love to create beautiful, wobbling, paraboloids of revolution with soapy water, and watch it slow, and swirl, my own private galaxy of bubbles.
And emptying the bath, I’ll sit in the cooling air, and watch the vortices shlurp and gyre.
Two years ago, we landed in Auckland NZ at midnight, and having kissed my eldest son, and taxied to our hotel, I took a bath, partly to satisfy a lifetime of vortex curiosity.
I left out some breadcrumbs in the frost, and the rind of a rasher, for the robin who is lord of my garden.
However, the eternal nine year old imprisoned in my body could’nt leave well enough alone, and I propped a mirror against a flower pot on the patio.
He landed in a doubled realm, lit by two suns, and opened almost immediate red breasted warfare with himself. He then fluttered off the mirror, off to one side, and compounded his wonderful confusion, finding one sun, and one adversary, instantly gone.
I should’nt tease his feisty little spirit so.
Epimetheus and Janus are two little moons of Saturn, which share almost the same orbits. The result is, that the inner one, orbiting ever so slightly faster, gradually catches up over a long number of years with the outer one.
When it does, a wonderful waltz occurs.
They begin to attract each other as they approach, and, in a gentle swirl, they swop orbits!
What a lovely pursuit that is, years of yearning for one another, above the clouds of Saturn. And when they catch sight of one another, and embrace, and the music plays on, what a wistful parting.
When NASA landed the Phoenix spacecraft on Mars, the final part of its’ descent involved parachuting to the surface. They waited, and hoped, and prayed for its’ safe arrival on the planet.
They had a second spacecraft in Mars orbit for some months before that, Orbiter, and shortly afterwards, they received a remarkable photograph from the orbiting spacecraft.
In a tiny, enlarged area, of an otherwise unremarkable cratered backdrop, there it was, the descending parachute of the Phoenix lander.
If ever a spacecraft could feel lonely, surely the Orbiter experienced a flutter in its metallic heart.
“I am not alone”.
I love Thomas Hardys’ novels, for the malevolent fatalism in them.
He comes by moonlight to her house, and slips a note beneath the door. He has to leave, but begs her to elope with him, and promises to be at the train next day, waiting for her.
Next morning, in the dark, the housekeeper opens the door to let the cat outside, and a breeze blows the note in behind an upturned umbrella.
She does’nt show, and, deeply upset, he misinterprets that. She wonders where he went. The bitter glass is not yet drained, until a rainy day arrives.
Smell is the most powerful stimulus of memory.
Flat sheets of beeswax, fresh comb from the hive, rainwater steaming off a hot, dusty road, cloverblossom, newly mown hay, drying turf, freshly milled grain, very young babies, freshly ground coffee, church incense, highly polished floors, potatoes boiled in bulk, limestone, sheep dip.
Sound comes next.
Water over a canal lock gate, waves on pebbles, gurgle under keel, the cuckoo, a military brass band half lost on the wind, the sound of known doors, the sound of known bells, the creak on the seventh stair, Ó Dómhnaill Abú played on the radio.
I walked to work, in a soft Dublin morning, along a canal path, lost in my thoughts. I passed a moorhen and two chicks in the rushes, and a pair of ducks, a colourful male and his brown demure mate.
I then found myself behind a tall young woman, with long black hair, a business suit, but with bright purple shoes, of a sort of velvet texture, with purple ribbon bows on the heels.
She had dressed that morning determined to fire purple cannonballs at the grey day, and she lifted and brightened it for man she did not meet.
My favourite uncle caught Meniéres disease in his thirties, and was very deaf afterwards.
He was a grain merchant and grocer, and had a gentle, wicked, sense of humour. I think he was the kindest man I ever knew, given to hiring people who could not hold a job with anyone else.
I was his ears in my weekends, riding passenger with him in his delivery truck, reminding him to change gears when the roaring engine protested, unknown to him.
Occasionally I would deflect his hurt, when some disgruntled customer would mutter just below his hearing, but just above mine.
There is something about water, which brings out doubtful expertise in the clanky chair democracy of parish meetings in poorly heated halls.
If it emerges from underground, or if it involves migratory fish, or the navigation of small craft, even more expertise descends by parachute.
Untroubled by V squared over 2g, or the usual gravitational politeness normally attaching to uphill and downhill, they’ll advance elaborate alternatives to the design before the meeting, including siphons, wind pumps, geothermal heat, and tunnels bored deep in the Earths’ crust.
And so begins the wearying, diplomatic process of teaching it, as well as doing it.
I am not yet seeing signs of social solidarity in how we are tackling this recession.
The employed, and the unemployed, inhabit two different planets. The latter are silently segregated from trains and theatres, by a self discipline conspicuously absent in the lamentable and lavish practices of those who continue to overpay themselves.
And the furtive closing of ranks, the feathering of nests, the building of castles of sand, against a tide of trouble, maddened by the moon.
“If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich”
We must share.
I sometimes dream, that most frustrating of dreams.
It’s the one when you dream you have just woken in the morning, and you listen to the warming plumbing creak, until you have to drag yourself from the warm womb out into the wobbly cold, to a comatose 90 second read before the ablutions, toothbrush, starting to look like my father, towel to the floor by the shower, wait for the hot water to arrive at the shower head. Soap, shampoo, step out, dry off, deodorant, comb hair and dress.
And then you wake up, and do it all over again.
The Tip Jar