Saturday, April 29, 2006
aren't all girls on fire?
one way or another
not that you'd know
on your own
in the grey dawn
to fill the void
no lamby jesus
to enfold or comfort you
just the tap tap
leak of a cracked cistern
and the dog eared photo of the
you tried to put it into and
the freeze out of family that won't respond
tony the mouse
tony the terrified
tony the tomb
On 29 April, 2006 18:41, John The Bad said...
T... T... T and T.
Titanium T, Tenacious Tony. Usually on a Sunday morning when the grass is greener on this side for a change.
Interstital Tony, bang, smack in the middle of things. Tony's in the thick of it. The centre, the sun, the spiral point. The black hole. No, not a black hole... a supernova! Ywah that's about right.
And, don't talk to me about the lamb of God.
There's days I'd ate the lamb of Christ just to be rid of the fucker...
Saturday, April 22, 2006
"There is a flip side to that coin. What if you do got me boxed in and I gotta put you down? Cause no matter what, you will not get in my way. We've been face to face, yeah. But I will not hesitate. Not for a second. "
After dinner, we went with Daddy to Lough Rynn for a stroll. On encountering a couple of fellas out with their fishing rods, I said to Ellen how nice it was to see young lads out fishing on a good day rather than arsing around the town or getting into trouble.
Daddy caught up with the same bunch a couple of seconds later and asked them if they'd caught anything.
- What? came the reply. - I caught your mother.
Ah, the many wonderful levels of Irish society.
Daddy, wearing Bob's coat.
Ellen: You pair are always posing.
Christ, I look cool.
Friday, April 21, 2006
An Irishman's Diary
My grand-uncle Jim Rogers was a remarkable man. He was a little older than the 20th century, when we met in the 1970s while I was a student working in New York. It was hardly surprising we had not met before.
He left Ireland after the Civil War, having been on the losing side, and came home just once afterwards - in the 1930s, to introduce his young wife to my mother's family at Castleplunkett in Roscommon. There was no room in the new Ireland for a draper's assistant who had taken up arms against the young State.
If men like Jim Rogers did not have independent means there was only one route for them after the Civil War, and that was "out".
He had fought in the War of Independence, was imprisoned in Galway jail - where the Cathedral now stands - and was tortured by the Black and Tans. They captured him one winter night near Ballyhaunis in Mayo, stripped him and plunged him again and again into the icy waters of a local lake to get information, without success. Somehow he escaped and found his way to Ballyhaunis, where the Augustinians hid him in the old Abbey there.
Meeting Jim was an out-of-history experience. He and his wife had retired by then from the shop they had run all their lives on Manhattan's east side and were living just across the river in New Jersey. They had no family.
A small, feisty man with enormous energy, his knowledge and memory of every by-road in north Roscommon was more vivid than my own, though I had just come from there. Surrounded by Manhattan's great towers, his inner geography remained rural Roscommon. And his politics was as green as the county's pastoral landscape.
Blood of my blood, his attractiveness as a personality, his abiding patriotism, the decades of exile from what he loved most confronted me starkly with an inner conflict of my own - deep pride in my country combined with just as deep an unease over our physical force tradition.
Like a lot of young Irish people at the time I was increasingly appalled by reckless, indiscriminate IRA violence in the North. The enthusiasm with which so many of us supported the civil rights movement had given way to an all-pervading nausea before such squalid destruction of life.
Jim too was perturbed by this dirty violence. He had been a guerrilla, but car bombs were not his style. Or bombs in pubs and restaurants. Still, he supported the fight, which he saw as no more than finishing off what was begun in 1916.
We did not argue. Nor did he query my identity, as an elderly Irish-American had after a match in New York's Gaelic Park. "What sort of Irishman are you?" he asked rhetorically, when I questioned IRA methods.
I was reminded of my grand-uncle Jim on reading a remarkable book published recently by Kathleen Hegarty Thorne, of Oregon in the US. Her own grand-uncle was Roscommon man Ned Hegarty who fought in the War of Independence. They Put the Flag a-Flyin' (available from www.generationpublishing.com) is a fascinating account of the names and activities of "the Roscommon Volunteers 1916-1923". Jim Rogers is there. But one of the more remarkable stories in the book concerns an uncle of Minister for Justice Michael McDowell.
As most people are aware, the Minister's grandfather was Eoin MacNeill, the man who countermanded the order for the 1916 Rising. MacNeill was later Minister for Education in the first government of this State. He also represented the State on the Boundary Commission from 1924 which, controversially, agreed the Border on this island. Such was the criticism MacNeill faced subsequently that he resigned from government. He lost his Dáil seat in 1927.
What is less widely known is that one of Eoin MacNeill's sons, Brian, fought against his father's government in the Civil War. Kathleen Hegarty Thorne recounts how he trained republicans for the North Roscommon Brigade of anti-Treaty forces at Mantua in north Roscommon
during the winter of 1921-22. As Mr McDowell mentioned in his article in this paper last Tuesday, he was killed by Free State forces on Ben Bulben, Co Sligo.
On September 20th, 1922, he and other anti-Treaty soldiers made an unsuccessful attempt to capture the barracks at Tubbercurry. They had already displaced Free State forces from the Moy hotel in Ballina and divided into two groups before escaping into the Ox mountains, followed by Free State troops. At Bonniconlon, near Ballina, they ambushed Free State forces, killing Brig Joe Ring and wounding six soldiers.
Later, an armoured car driver (nicknamed "The Big Fella" after Michael Collins, shot dead the previous month) was killed by the anti-Treaty side, who then broke into still smaller groups, one of which ended up at the foot of Ben Bulben. This group, which included Brian MacNeill. headed over the crest of the mountain but were trapped there by Free State soldiers. The anti-Treaty men surrendered and handed over their guns, but were summarily executed.
In later years Brian MacNeill's sister, the Minister's mother, talked of how, even during the Civil War, her father would give Brian a lift into Dublin in his car, suggesting that the animosity then raging through the country had not divided father and son.
This image of family normality in abnormal times gives us some small idea of how the death of Brian MacNeill in such circumstances must have impacted on his family. And some small sense of the grief it left in its wake.
© The Irish Times
Finally, when “Naive Melody” played, he threw up his arms in near annoyance.
- Unbelievable! What station is that? Classic after classic after classic.
The name of the radio station, folks?
Q104 Classic FM.
Days when I can't get up in the morning, lying there as my alarm goes off every ten minutes. Lying through digitised birdsong for three or four hours. Unable to reach over to the bedside locker to turn off my phone.
Days when I sit in front of the TV just like I used to do after school. Except now, with the glory of bit torrent, I've got all the shows I want and no ads or Australian soaps.
... in it for himself, as always...
Days when I'm just in it for myself, as always and when I just have it in for myself... as always.
Days when I need a good kick up, into the arse but who's gonna do it?
- I will!
- I will!
- I'll do it!
- Get in line.
Days when I know I'm only days away from project deadline and I'm still waiting for someone else to come along and do it for me.
Days when I know that I'm heading for a disaster but I know there's nothing I can do about it. So, what's the point in trying.
Days when I explode in anger because they put ketchup on my chicken burger instead of mayonnaise. Or seethe in beautiful rage because someone has stacked the dishes in the sink when I go to wash them. Or throw my eyes to the gods because someone's dug up the garden with cutlery. Or explode in venomous scorn at a radio ad. Or not care at all that I barely passed that exam but if I had studied...
Days when all she has to say is elephant juice and it damn near breaks my heart.
And there are days when I hope that tomorrow, maybe I'll have the guts to start over and do what has to be done before I'm done.
Early to bed and early to rise
Makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise
Up all night and in bed all day
I often heard my father say
“It's bad for your health
And you know it too
If you don't stop
It'll soon stop you.”
The water needs to be hot, almost too hot. Take a clean face cloth and rinse it under the steaming water. Scrub face with the hot water until skin is red. Apply three drops and three drops only of the shaving solution (Total Shaving Solution, Castlebar, Co. Mayo) to palm of hand and massage it into face. Wet face again.
Fill the sink and stand the double-edge razor blade-down in the water. Stand razor for 6 to 7 seconds. After sufficient soaking, start to shave. The feeling of the red-hot blade on face as it glides through two day's worth of stubble is satisfying to say the least.
Wash razor in the water regularly. Take care not to cut face. When finished, pat face dry with a clean towel. Rinse out sink. While watching the water swirl down the plughole, hope that yesterday's crap and other unfinished business goes down with it.
Repeat every 1 to 2 days as required.
Saturday, April 15, 2006
Check it out at twosixnine.blogspot.com.
(Jaysus. If I copy Bob anymore, I'll end up with a mullet and wearing clothes more suited to a kids TV presenter.)
Monday, April 10, 2006
Me: ... and poor John McGahern.
Sean: Went down fast.
Me: Were ya at the funeral?
Sean: I was.
Derek: You were in your arse.
Sean: Your dad's doing up the attic.
Me: Feckin' Mohill. How'd ya know that?
We look at each other for a second and then in unison...
Me & Sean: Leitrim Observer, bottom corner, Mohill Notes.
Derek (to Me): Did ya ever get that money off The Beatles for the cello playing in Eleanor Rigby?
We were just walking along the taxi rank when the damn umbrella got blown inside out - you weren't holding it right says herself. Of course, I was about to lose it like only I can - you were giving out like giving out was going to unbreak it - when we turned the corner at The Harp Tavern and got a hell of a land.
Standing at the door of The Harp was a swan. The swan looked for the world like it was making up it's mind as to go in for a pint or not. We walked past and looked at him with mouths agape and then we just cracked up.
We laughed the whole way to The Factory. Ronan Brennan was there when I arrived and he asked what was so funny.
- We saw a swan.
He didn't get it.
A bunch of mostly well-off men and women with too much time on their hands convinced an army of ignorants to take on a fight that they couldn't possibly win. Worse than that, they knew they wouldn't succeed but hoped that their sacrifice would compel a nation to rise and take up the struggle. The glorious revolution was a disaster with no winners and only one loser. The 'ordinary' men and women on the street who got caught in the crossfire. They made the true sacrifice, despite never having been asked to serve.
Or maybe I'm wrong. Maybe the Rising was the inevitable result of the careless actions and inactions of a British Empire too oblivious and too ignorant of a subjugated race. A race who had been dealt no favours, been granted no freedoms and had been treated as little more than slaves for hundreds of years. A race, now a nation, who had had enough of their masters and who only wanted the God-given right to determine their own destiny. A people willing to take up arms against their oppressors because every other avenue of protest had been taken from them.
So, which was it? Was the Rising the careless work of mad poets and priests and warrior-wannabes – the early nineteen-hundreds equivalent of today's anti-globalisation students? Or was it the legitimate rebellion of an army of men and women, trying bravely to overthrow the yoke of foreign occupation. The truth, as always, can be found somewhere in between.
But back to my second question. What does it matter? This happened ninety years ago. It may well have helped to divide the country and celebrating it now will only widen that divide. So, forget about it. Move on. Build a bridge and get over it.
The government wants to celebrate 1916. Come next weekend, we will have a military parade in Dublin. We will have a re-enactment of the Declaration of Independence – a document I find hard to fault. We will have a laying of a wreath and a minute’s silence.
Bob feels that the government is trying to reclaim 1916 and that this, at least, is a good thing. I agree with him. For too long, the Easter rising was the property of Sein Fein and no-one else. Why? Well, no-one else wanted it. Harping on about the brave boys and girls of the GPO while bombs of the same colour were slaughtering men, women and children in the North was something considered too indelicate by the other parties. Now that the IRA has retired and the brave volunteers are off playing golf, it's safe again to shout about 1916. It's ok again to celebrate and throw revolution-themed fancy dress parties. And party we will.
I guess that's where my problem with the 1916 celebrations comes in. I don't think it should be a celebration. Neither do I think we should brush it under the carpet. For too long, we were ashamed of the Rising and the thought of honouring it was abhorrent. Now, we feel free to not only acknowledge Pearse, Connolly and Co., but to celebrate their heroics. This bi-polar approach to our history is not healthy. We need to understand what 1916 means. We need to talk about it and examine it and debate it and we need to do all this calmly.
We should celebrate. We should celebrate that we, as a nation, have survived our birth of blood and fire and have grown into a thriving land of opportunity. We should mourn. We should mourn the fact that the British treated us so badly that we felt we had no recourse but to rise and fight and slaughter and get slaughtered. We should mourn the dead, whatever side they were on – and there were more than two sides. And we should remember. We should remember the cost of hatred and the consequences of force. Let us remember the words of the declaration.
The Irish Republic is entitled to, and hereby claims, the allegiance of every Irishman and Irishwoman. The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and all of its parts, cherishing all of the children of the nation equally.
Let us reclaim the words and wash away the blood that stains the words. Let us put the words to heart as we face the future, the unwritten history, the undiscovered Ireland.
I am proud of my country. I am ashamed of my country. And I can be both at once. Just as I should be proud of myself and I what I've done. Just as I should be ashamed of what I haven't done. Just as I should allow myself to live with both.
Thursday, April 06, 2006
I'm a mumbler. For someone who loves the stage and would give anything to get back on it (do you hear that oh gods? I'll hand over me first born for another part) I can get quite tongue-tied sometimes.
I was far worse when I was younger. Never more so when it came to ordering food in a restaurant. And if the waitress was pretty, well, I'd probably sound like that famous plate of beans.
Once, about seven years ago in NYC, Patrick brought me to a Ukrainian diner for dinner. We were ravenous as only Connacht men can truly be so we decided to try pretty much everything on the menu. We ordered borsch, pierogi, stuffed-cabbage, stuffed-potato skins, stuffed-stuffing, loadsa stuff. I also ordered a pork chop. The waitress was a knock-out and of course I could hardly string a sentence together. Combine this with her dodgy English and we had a problem.
So, the beautiful Ukrainian girl brings down our food to the table and myself and Patrick start sorting out who ordered what. Everything was running smoothly except she hadn't brought me my pork chop. I was looking for it amongst all the dishes on the table when Patrick asked - did you order the poached eggs?
- Oh, says I - poached egg.
Patrick's laughing still.
Saturday, April 01, 2006
In the evenings, we used to play football on the pitch behind the boy's National school. Well, the lads used to play football; I'd show up now and again and get in the way. As a young fellow, I was more interested in books or worlds of my own than kicking a ball. Pity, I missed out on a lot.
Anyway, we used to use the pitch behind the National school but, by this stage we were in Secondary school and the National school's pitch was out of bounds. This didn't stop the lads, besides they had two good reasons to use it. One, it was a good, level and relatively dry playing surface and that's not a common thing in South Leitrim. The second reason was the school's caretaker.
If the caretaker, we'll call him Frank, got a whiff of a game on the pitch, he'd be down in a shot and then the lads would get the one thing better than a good game of football; a chase from a grown-up.
This man would give up lovely, summer evening weather to walk down the town and stop people from playing football on a football pitch. The boys thought he was an idiot. I knew better; he was an adult and we were breaking the rules. And you don't break rules without facing the consequences.
One gorgeous evening, around eight or so, the lads were in the middle of a game. It was a rare occasion when I was present. Frank had developed stealth qualities by then so no-one noticed him creeping along the sideline until he let a roar - GOTCHA!
And we're off.
Everyone scattered in all directions. There were buckos jumping off the wall, onto the road and away. Lads jumping the other wall, into Dr. Cadden's garden. Fellas going through the hedge, into the girls' school.
Frank was in turmoil, twisting around, trying to decide who to go after until he spotted something new. One of the boys who'd gone for the road had stopped running.
Frank walked over to me in triumph. I was confused. Part of me was petrified; an adult had caught me doing something I wasn't supposed to be doing. But a small, calm, somewhat perplexed voice was saying that this wasn't adding up.
- Were you playing on the pitch? he asked and his face was puce, red as a red biro.
- Ah... wha... you were... oh.
This totally threw him off. He was like a dog who chases cars until the day one of his auto-quarries stops and he doesn't know what to do next.
This wasn't the way it was supposed to go down. The bad guys don't crack this easy to Inspector Steve Keller of the San Francisco Police Department. And they sure as hell don't squeal like this to Principle Leo Donlon of San Miguel Boys School in Mohill.
Or maybe, Frank was just a tough caretaker, the toughest of the tough, and this young scut fell apart there and then.
Frank quickly recovered. He reached into his shirt pocket and took out paper and a pen. A red pen. A red bic biro, just like all the teachers have.
- What's your name, John? (I'm not kidding.)
- Full name?
And I gave it over. Oh, I folded like a cheap suit. All was taken down and written in red, and underlined.
- Right, I'll be down to your father, and he was off, after the other criminal scum.
Now my heart started going. Not Daddy. If Daddy finds out...
I headed for the house. I was shitting it. No, I wasn't. What's going on? I'm in trouble, amn't I? Why does it feel like I'm not in trouble.
I went into the sitting room. Daddy was watching the news. I decided I better come clean. This was the highest authority in the land. If Christ came down off the cross, he'd tow the line to my old man.
- Am, we were playing football behind the boys' school and we're not supposed to and Frank came and he caught me and he said he'd tell you.
Daddy looked at me and smiled.
What?! Grand? Where's the roaring and shouting and what in Adam's name were you playing at?
And then I figured out that grown men who give up beautiful summer evenings to chase boys off a football pitch mightn't have all the pieces together. I grew up a little that evening.
Not a whole pile but a little.
Callaghan's is a great spot. I love bringing out-of-towners there. You can buy a loaf of bread, tea, mousetraps, a pint, a few cuts of ham and a bridle for your horse.
Eilish is a gas woman. She's always getting me and my younger brother, Karl mixed up. I wouldn't mind but Karl's a bit taller than me (not a hard thing to be) and isn't quite as good looking (who is?). Everytime I go in it's - hi, Karl and I haven't the heart to correct her.
One night I went into Callaghan's for milk or bread or a transport-box or the Third Secret of Fatima or something.
- Hi Karl.
- Hi Eilish.
- It is Karl, isn't?
- Actually, it's John.
- Oh John. I can never get it right. John, John, John, John, John.
I put the ham or the eggs or the Child of Prague on the counter and pay - goodnight, Eilish.
- Goodnight, Karl.
A man who 'loved the chat and the people'
The daffodils and heather are in bloom at John McGahern's modest house overlooking the lake. The shed is full of firewood. The gates were open yesterday and a lonely black and white sheepdog raced excitedly at the sound of a car. But the master is not coming home.
The people remember him fondly in Cootehall and Foxfield and Aughawillan and around all those country lanes he immortalised in his work. A bunch of daffodils has been placed against the grey stone wall in front of the barracks at Cootehall, an austere building beside the river and the majestic entrance to Coote Lodge.
Many people have since his death made the point that John McGahern should have won the Booker prize in 1991 - and indeed as far as the people of Co Roscommon are concerned, he did.
A stone's throw from the barracks where the seven McGahern children spent so many difficult years with their sergeant father, there is a tribute to Cootehall's most famous son. On the bridge over the Boyle river a detailed map outlines the many local tourist attractions and notes that John McGahern, "a master at describing provincial life", was brought up in the village. With a nod to what should have been, it proudly proclaims that he won the Booker prize for Amongst Women in 1991.
In Henry's bar opposite Cootehall church where the great and the good gathered not too long ago to say farewell to Seán Doherty, another famous local son, Chris Henry, remembered McGahern as a kind man. "I had a lovely letter from him when my brother Jim died last September," she said. The last time she saw "Seán", as he was known to family and locals, was on a recent visit when he was surrounded by a camera crew.
In Mohill there were similar memories of how celebrity sat uneasily on the shoulders of a man more comfortable in the local mart than at the great literary occasions.
Elderly men on the main street took off their caps when his name was mentioned. Anne Earley reckoned that McGahern would have smiled wryly at the accolades and the many tributes to his literary genius.
Earley's bar closed a few years ago but John, a creature of habit , used to drop in there every Thursday with Francie and Mai McGarty, an elderly couple who lived close to him out beside the lake.
"Thursday is mart day in Mohill and they would pop in in the afternoon," recalled Anne. Her husband, Luke, an undertaker and a dear friend of the McGaherns, has been entrusted with the funeral arrangements. A difficult task but an honour, said Anne.
In her coffee shop, a black and white photograph of John and his late friend, Francie has pride of place. "Madeline took it in the bar and she gave it to Luke," said Anne. Madeline, John's wife, rang the Earleys an hour after John passed away to convey his wishes.
He wished to be brought home to his beloved Leitrim and to lie at peace at Aughawillan churchyard beside his beloved mother.
Asked how she would remember her friend, Anne Earley replied without hesitation: "With a smile on his face. People who only saw him on television thought he was serious but he was a great man for the stories. He was a man of the people." That's what they said at O'Callaghan's shop and bar on Main Street, Mohill, another of the writer's haunts.
"John was a gentleman. There was nothing put on about him," said Eilish O'Callaghan from her perch in front of shelves. "He was a humble man, but very chatty. He loved the chat and the people."
© The Irish Times