Maura’s Maybe Birthday

My mothers birthday is shrouded in mystery.  The selection of her birth date is a bit along the lines of what the Christians did when selecting year 1 AD.  It is the first year in which they could categorically say that Jesus was alive.

So 13th October is officially Maura’s birthday, but unlikely to have been her birth date.

It is poignant in being the day before Paddy’s anniversary.  Maura was born in 1927.  Paddy was also born in August of the same year, and passed away Oct 14th 2006.  Maura hung on in there until Christmas Eve 2016.

Below are a few random snaps from the files of Maura & Paddy

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Some Christmas Party with Angela & Paddy O’Flaherty

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Maura holding Jerry while Paddy contemplates how anyone ever chose that carpet

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Maura having a laugh with Esha

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Paddy at one of the kids birthday parties.

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Maura with Gavin decked out in the Christening Robes

 

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Centenary of R.M.S. Leinster Disaster

lenister_featuredImage

RMS Leinster was the greatest maritime disaster in Ireland. Sunk one month before the end of WW1 just outside of Dublin Bay.

One passenger was Francis Edward Higgerty. On his way from Canada to take up a commission in the British Army, he took the opportunity to visit the land of his ancestors. The visit cost him his life. Frank was a poet and wrote the following verse on October 8th 1918, two days before the Leinster was torpedoed. The poem was found on his body.

From Canada my homeland, to Ireland my Sireland,
from Ottawa to Dublin, some three thousand miles away.
The call of one’s relations, above the din and war of countries
conserves the one green spot in memory for ever and a day.
And when back o’er the sea I wander to the land that there lies yonder
I’ll bring tidings from dear old Ireland to the land I adore,
to Canada my homeland, from Erin my own Sireland,
stretch fond memories and emotions for ever and evermore.

Three 17 year olds Anthony Baker, Anthony Jones and Ralph Murray, students of the Irish School of Telegraphy in Cork were also lost on the Leinster. The body of Anthony Jones was recovered and buried in St. Joseph’s Cemetery, Cork. The bodies of Anthony Baker and Ralph Murray were never recovered.

Les Morts; by Albert Murray (Father of Ralph)

They sleep in quiet waters where Kish towers,
‘mid sand and slender sea-grass soft and deep,
through all the sunlit and the moonlit hours
they sleep.

They are content, they murmur not, nor weep:
no rushing flotsam hastes to mock their powers;
they are content, and very deep
their sleep.

No tombs enclose them, and they need no flowers,
no mothers’ kisses make their fond hearts leap —
‘mid slender sea-grass, bending where Kish towers
they sleep.

Grimy feet

barefoot-boy

The Hoosier poet, or the Children’s poet, James Whitcomb Riley was born today in 1849.  Budding writers might do well to learn of his life.  He became popular doing recital tours, but was locked into dreadful contracts which limited his earnings.  Effectively he was being exploited.  Then he got good and drunk and made a fool of himself on stage.  His contracts were cancelled and he went on to become filthy rich.

A barefoot boy; by James Whitcomb Riley

A barefoot boy! I mark him at his play.
For May is here once more, and so is he,
his dusty trousers rolled half to the knee,
and his bare ankles grimy, too, as they:
cross-hatchings of the nettle, in array
of feverish stripes, hint vividly to me
of woody pathways winding endlessly
along the creek, where even yesterday
he plunged his shrinking body – gasped and shook –
yet called the water ‘warm,’ with never lack
of joy. And so, half enviously I look
upon this graceless barefoot and his track,
his toe stubbed – ay, his big toe-nail knocked back
like unto the clasp of an old pocketbook.

Perils of translation

Pomegranate

I came across this translation of a poem:

YOUR FACE AND THE TOLLING OF BELLS; by Ayten Mutlu

it was just like spring to laugh with you
and to touch the chimes of your face
lecherous and tranquil like a naked pomegranate

your face was the intimations of forenoon

at the meeting place of autumn
in the closed seas of your face
the birds flew like poisoned arrows
the summer blindfolded at the bottom of a wall

what is left of your face, a rusty shadow
the receding forest, the flower in mourning
pieces of broken glass the colours of spring

how do birds get accustomed to losing a sky?

ah, I’m late in getting to know the rain
like a naked pomegranate I am defeated and offended
where like the deteriorating autumn your old face
vanished with the tolling of the bells
(Translated by Suat Karantay)
(The Turkish PEN, 1995)

You can translate a poem but can you translate the meaning?  From this poem I will take one symbol, the “naked pomegranate”.  Coming from Ireland we have no symbology associated with this fruit.  It made an appearance every year at halloween as an exotic,  something out of the ordinary.  Most Dubliners called it a “Wine Apple”.

In more recent years the pomegranate has been more widely available and has crept in to a more regular role as an ingredient or a garnish in cookbooks.  But it has no deep meaning for us.

If you speak to people educated in the classics they may remember the tale of Persephone, daughter of Demeter, who was whipped off by Hades to his kingdom where she ate six seeds of a Pomegranate and hence we are condemned to 6 months of growth and 6 of death and winter was born.  This Greek tale begins to hint at a deeper symbology to the fruit.  The fact that the seeds represent a calendar, a marker of time or age.

The symbology of the pomegranate in the middle east runs very deep.  Because the tree is evergreen it was used as a symbol of immortality by the ancient Persians.  I can imagine middle eastern children playing a game of counting the seeds of a fruit to represent the years of their life.

Iranian mythology celebrates the ancient hero Esfandiyar who is easily a match for the DC Comics or Marvel superheros.  In one tale he eats a pomegranate and gains super strength like an ancient version of Popeye with his spinach.

The pomegranate appears in ancient Jewish architecture as a symbol of fertility and prosperity.  The fruit was one of the seven species brought by the 12 spies to Moses as proof of the fertility of Canaan.  It has been used as a teaching tool by Rabbis who say the fruit contains the number of mitzvot, 613.

Islam adopted the Jewish symbology of fertility.  Muslims consider the tree one of the four holy fruits along with dates, figs and olives and they depict it in representations of the garden of Eden.

In modern day Turkey as part of new year celebrations a pomegranate is cracked on the floor in a blessing ritual for prosperity in the coming year.  At wedding a bride may be asked to throw a whole pomegranate on the floor and will bear as many children as the seeds that fall out.

The Prophet Mohammed told his wives to eat the fruit so they would bear beautiful children.  From this hadith arises the notion that the fruit is a symbol of beauty.

So when the Ayten Mutlu speaks of a naked pomegranate in her poem she brings a rich weight of symbology of the fruit as a marker for beauty and for the hope of a new beginning and the disappointment of the declining of a life in the winter of years.

Unless you come from the Middle East, or do a lot of research into symbology, it is very difficult to grasp the meaning the poet is trying to convey.  Language and culture erect barriers that are very difficult for the translator to surmount.  Google can translate words, it takes a poet to translate meaning.

Ayten Mutlu is a Turkish Academic, Poet, Writer and Women’s rights activist.  Born this day in 1952.

Plenty of silliness

Shelby

Plenty of silliness and lots of really good songs, pretty sums up Shel Silverstein for me.  He is a giant of literature who ranks alongside those other geniuses like Roald Dahl, Spike Milligan and Edward Lear.

As you can see from the photo above he was truly a giant.  Must have been 10 feet tall.  It is his birthday today.

 

The Generals; by Shel Silverstein

Said General Clay to General Gore,
‘Oh must we fight this silly war?
To kill and die is such a bore.’
‘I quite agree,’ said General Gore.

Said General Gore to General Clay,
‘We could go to the beach today
and have some ice cream on the way.’
‘A grand idea,’ said General Clay.

Said General Gore to General Clay,
‘but what if the sea is closed today?
and what if the sand’s been blown away?’
‘A dreadful thought,’ said General Clay.

Said General Gore to General Clay,
‘I’ve always feared the ocean’s spray,
and we may drown!’ ‘It’s true, we may.
It chills my blood,’ said General Clay.

Said General Clay to General Gore,
‘My bathing suit is slightly tore.
We’d better go on with our war.’
‘I quite agree,’ said General Gore.

Then General Clay charged General Gore
As bullets flew and cannons roared.
And now, alas! there is no more
Of General Clay or General Gore.

Miura Anjin

Fluyt

A 16th Century Dutch Fluyt

Born on this day in 1564 William Adams was the first Englishman to reach Japan, and one of the few westerners to become a Samurai.   Immortalised by James Clavell in the novel (and TV series) Shogun.

When his father died he was aged only 12 and was apprenticed to a shipyard, where he learned the skills that later allowed him to build Western Style ships for the Shogun of Japan.

He served in the Royal Navy in the war against Spain, as Master of a supply ship during the fight against the Armada.  In 1598 he joined a flotilla of five Dutch merchant ships on a trading exploration voyage to Japan.  They predated the foundation of the Dutch East India Company.

Adams was hired as “Pilot Major” of the fleet, a navigator.

They were hunted and harried by both Spanish and Portuguese in their voyage, who wanted to protect their monopolies in Africa, South America and the Pacific Islands.

One ship of the five made it to Japan, carrying only 23 men who were sick or dying.  Of these only 9 recovered their health.

Portuguese Jesuits, already in Japan tried to have the Dutch and English Protestant sailors killed as pirates.  The Japanese had other plans for them.  They invited the Dutch to open a trading post at Nagasaki in competition with the Portuguese.

Adams built a fleet of Western Ships for the Shogun which allowed the Japanese to expand their trade in Asia.  While Adams was honoured with Samurai status and given a large farm complete with the retainers to maintain it, he was never permitted to return home.

He married a Japanese girl and had a second family, his original wife and children being in England.  As a Samurai he was “reborn” and given the name Miura Anjin.

Boss Birthday

born-to-run

Happy Birthday Bruce Springsteen.  Every year some idiot politician rolls out his best known song to giddy up the crowd, singing along to those uplifting words “Born in the USA”, and you know they never, ever listened to the words!

Born down in a dead man’s town
The first kick I took was when I hit the ground
End up like a dog that’s been beat too much
Till you spend half your life just covering up

Got in a little hometown jam
So they put a rifle in my hand
Sent me off to a foreign land
To go and kill the yellow man

Come back home to the refinery
Hiring man said “son if it was up to me”
Went down to see my V.A. man
He said “son, don’t you understand”

I had a brother at Khe Sahn
Fighting off the Viet Cong
They’re still there, he’s all gone
He had a woman he loved in Saigon
I got a picture of him in her arms now

Down in the shadow of the penitentiary
Out by the gas fires of the refinery
I’m ten years burning down the road
Nowhere to run ain’t got nowhere to go