At world’s end!

So, the Mayan Calendar has counted down to the end of the world, and time is no more.  I sit today outside of that time, beyond the life envisaged by the Mayan civilization.  And what thoughts occur, now I have outlived their ken?

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d tow’rs, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.

The Tempest Act 4, scene 1, 148–158

Yes, before us others have seen that life is but an illusion.  Indeed our very presence in this universe is signified neatly by Beckett in his play “A Breath”, as filmed by Damien Hirst below using hospital waste, look out for the swastika, symbol of both life and death;

Life is short, the revels soon are ended.  So what are you going to do with the rest of yours?  What difference do you plan to make?  Figure it out, and get busy tryin’ or get busy dyin’.


To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time

by Robert Herrick

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today
Tomorrow will be dying.

The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun,
The higher he’s a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run,
And nearer he’s to setting.

That age is best which is the first,
When youth and blood are warmer;
But being spent, the worse, and worst
Times still succeed the former.

Then be not coy, but use your time,
And while ye may, go marry;
For having lost but once your prime,
You may forever tarry.

Foggy Day

Today is a foggy day both physically and metaphorically. A white mist lies across the land and across my mind. The one across my mind is a result of a stinking cold, a very upset stomach, and some powerful drugs. As a result I am not feeling lucid enough to write a long post. So I give you a foggy poem. As I recall this was given to us as examples of personification and alliteration when learning poetry criticism in school. Stay well clear of cruel, hungry foam. Instead pour yourself a beer and marvel at that cool and thirsty foam winking merrily at you from the top of the welcoming glass 🙂 Now, I must go and call those cattle home!

The Sands of Dee

Charles Kingsley (1819–1875)

‘O MARY, go and call the cattle home,
And call the cattle home,
And call the cattle home
Across the sands of Dee;’
The western wind was wild and dank with foam,
And all alone went she.

The western tide crept up along the sand,
And o’er and o’er the sand,
And round and round the sand,
As far as eye could see.
The rolling mist came down and hid the land:
And never home came she.

‘Oh! is it weed, or fish, or floating hair,
A tress of golden hair,
A drownèd maiden’s hair
Above the nets at sea?
Was never salmon yet that shone so fair
Among the stakes of Dee.’

They rowed her in across the rolling foam,
The cruel crawling foam,
The cruel hungry foam,
To her grave beside the sea:
But still the boatmen hear her call the cattle home
Across the sands of Dee.

Interesting times.

Ever feel if any of it matters?  Ever wonder if you are making a difference?  You are!   Importance is simply a matter of perspective.  If you don’t do what you do, you will be missed.  It will make a difference.  So do what it is that you do, and do it with the whole of your heart.  Do it well.  Be the difference that you want to see.

Epic ; by Patrick Kavanagh

I have lived in important places, times
When great events were decided, who owned
That half a rood of rock, a no-man’s land
Surrounded by our pitchfork-armed claims.
I heard the Duffys shouting “Damn your soul!”
And old McCabe stripped to the waist, seen
Step the plot defying blue cast-steel –
“Here is the march along these iron stones.”
That was the year of the Munich bother. Which
Was more important? I inclined
To lose my faith in Ballyrush and Gortin
Till Homer’s ghost came whispering to my mind.
He said: I made the Iliad from such
A local row. Gods make their own importance.

Smart Law – Stupid Enforcement

When the founding fathers of the USA passed the second amendment to their constitution in 1791 they did do with a specific aim in mind.

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

In case you don’t already know, I don’t believe in rights.  I find the concept of “rights” to be something that causes confusion to stupid people, and instills a culture of dependency.  There are no “rights” without obligations, and it is more useful to express the obligation than to express the right.

The obligation in the US constitution is to preserve the Union, to guarantee the freedom of the state from the actions of tyrants or from the threat of foreign invasion.  The obligation, clearly stated, is for citizens to enroll in their local militia for the protection of the state.

The founding fathers would weep cups of tears to see how their well meant law has been abused by stupid people and weak politicians.  They would rail and scream to see the massacre in Connecticut of small children and their teachers.  To know that their constitutional amendment had been abused to permit idiots to own machine guns would shame them.  It does shame them, and it shames the great legacy of the constitution given to the American people.

People will call for gun control in the aftermath of the massacre.  The local chapter of the NRA will stage a rally in the area to establish clearly their “right” to bear arms.  Their “right” which is “enshrined” in the constitution.  Stupid people leaning on what was once a smart law to protect the rights of stupid people to do stupid things with dangerous weapons.

The dependency culture intilled by “rights” is insidious.  The right to bear arms is pointless without the right to use them.  Using them against other people is a short step in the mind of a stupid person who believes somehow that “society owes him”.

In Ireland we have people who believe the same thing.  They sometimes commit suicide.  Usually by themselves.  Sometimes they take their own family first.  They don’t have access to assault rifles, so they don’t take a swathe of the population with them as they go out in a blaze of glory.

If you feel like taking your life but you don’t want to do it alone, perhaps you are not yet ready for that particular journey.  Read some poetry, and think about it some more before you start buckling on your small arms.

Ode to a Nightingale; by John Keats

My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
         My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,
Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains
         One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk:
‘Tis not through envy of thy happy lot,
         But being too happy in thine happiness,—
                That thou, light-winged Dryad of the trees
                        In some melodious plot
         Of beechen green, and shadows numberless,
                Singest of summer in full-throated ease.
O, for a draught of vintage! that hath been
         Cool’d a long age in the deep-delved earth,
Tasting of Flora and the country green,
         Dance, and Provençal song, and sunburnt mirth!
O for a beaker full of the warm South,
         Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene,
                With beaded bubbles winking at the brim,
                        And purple-stained mouth;
         That I might drink, and leave the world unseen,
                And with thee fade away into the forest dim:
Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget
         What thou among the leaves hast never known,
The weariness, the fever, and the fret
         Here, where men sit and hear each other groan;
Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last gray hairs,
         Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies;
                Where but to think is to be full of sorrow
                        And leaden-eyed despairs,
         Where Beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes,
                Or new Love pine at them beyond to-morrow.
Away! away! for I will fly to thee,
         Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards,
But on the viewless wings of Poesy,
         Though the dull brain perplexes and retards:
Already with thee! tender is the night,
         And haply the Queen-Moon is on her throne,
                Cluster’d around by all her starry Fays;
                        But here there is no light,
         Save what from heaven is with the breezes blown
                Through verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways.
I cannot see what flowers are at my feet,
         Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs,
But, in embalmed darkness, guess each sweet
         Wherewith the seasonable month endows
The grass, the thicket, and the fruit-tree wild;
         White hawthorn, and the pastoral eglantine;
                Fast fading violets cover’d up in leaves;
                        And mid-May’s eldest child,
         The coming musk-rose, full of dewy wine,
                The murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves.
Darkling I listen; and, for many a time
         I have been half in love with easeful Death,
Call’d him soft names in many a mused rhyme,
         To take into the air my quiet breath;
                Now more than ever seems it rich to die,
         To cease upon the midnight with no pain,
                While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad
                        In such an ecstasy!
         Still wouldst thou sing, and I have ears in vain—
                   To thy high requiem become a sod.
Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird!
         No hungry generations tread thee down;
The voice I hear this passing night was heard
         In ancient days by emperor and clown:
Perhaps the self-same song that found a path
         Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home,
                She stood in tears amid the alien corn;
                        The same that oft-times hath
         Charm’d magic casements, opening on the foam
                Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.
Forlorn! the very word is like a bell
         To toll me back from thee to my sole self!
Adieu! the fancy cannot cheat so well
         As she is fam’d to do, deceiving elf.
Adieu! adieu! thy plaintive anthem fades
         Past the near meadows, over the still stream,
                Up the hill-side; and now ’tis buried deep
                        In the next valley-glades:
         Was it a vision, or a waking dream?
                Fled is that music:—Do I wake or sleep?

East & West

Vikings.jpgWhat unites Ireland with Shetland, the Faroes with Kiev, Novgorod with Greenland, Iceland with Denmark?  Vikings.  They founded the cities of Ireland, they ruled Britain for a time, they landed in America and they founded Russia.  Rurik the Varangian founded Russia.  In Ireland we have the name Rory, or Ruairi, meaning “red headed”.

Red hair is a genetic mutation which survives in the north atlantic region because it imparts an advanage to us red heads.  We don’t suffer from Vitamin D defficiency.  We don’t get rickets from lack of sunlight.  We can metabolise enough vitamin D through weak sun exposure on our faces and hands to see us through the darkest winters.

Of course the downside is that we fry alive in sunshine.

Varangian was the greek name for Vikings.  The emperors of Byzantium were protected by a guard of varangians.  Many is the good Viking who made his fortune in Constantinople, the second Rome.  Vikings could be trusted to guard the emperor, because they were outside of the usual Greco-Roman politics.

Harold Hardrada was a Viking of the Varangian guard.  He made his money, returned to Norway and invaded England in 1066.  Defeated at the battle of Stamford Bridge by Harold Godwinson, king of saxon England.  Godwinson was subsequently slain at Hastings in the same year when an arrow pierced his eye.  Enter the Norman invasion!

I digress.  Let’s go back to Russia, Rurik the redheaded Viking, who founded the now largest country in the world.  Russia, an enormous landmass, and yet a country with a yearning for the sea.  A country that looks at the world through the window of St Petersburg and holds jealously to the exclave of Kaliningrad.  Survived the second world war by holding open Archangel and Murmansk to the Arctic Convoys.  A country that fought for the Black Sea ports in the Crimean War, which gave us the Charge of the Light Brigade, and again in World War 2 when the Crimea again became a key battleground.  Japan defines the modernisation of its navy at the battle of Tsushima, and Sakhalin and Vladivostok continue to represent a strategic Russian Presence in the Pacific.  So Russia commands ports on the Arctic and Pacific Oceans, the Black, the Baltic and the Caspian Seas as well as the sea of Japan.

Russia, the largest land country in the world, is in fact a maritime state.  Russia is a child of the Vikings.  No surprise then that if you ask a Russian to recite a poem, most of them can remember one about a sail.  And if you ask them to sing a song, many will give you the Song of the Volga Boatmen.  безопасное путешествие.

The Sail:  Mikhail Lermontov (Translated by the Author)

Gleams white a solitary sail

In the haze of the light blue sea.—

What seeks it in countries far away?

What in its native land did leave?

The mast creaks and presses,

The wind whistles, the waves are playing;

Alas! It does not seek happiness,

Nor from happiness is fleeing!

Beneath, the azure current flows,

Above, the golden sunlight streaks:—

But restless, into the storm it goes,

As if in storms there is peace!

Father time

Today was the 12th day of the 12th month of the year 2012.  12/12/12.  The next time such a conjunction will occur will be 01/01/01 in the year 2101.  I doubt I will be alive.  I feel the march of time and I begin to feel old.

Roll on the next significant day – The Lord of Misrule.  December 17th is the first day of the Roman festival of Saturnalia.  It was a period of great  feasting and festivity, with a lot of drinking and eating.  Slaves would become masters for the festival, and everything was turned upside down. This tradition of turning everything on its head survives to this day.  We call it the Christmas Pantomime.

Properly played out the lead man in panto is played by a woman and the grand dame is played by a man (or men in the case of Ugly Sisters).  Pantomime usually involves the triumph of the small over the great.  Aladdin and Ali-Baba become fabulously rich and win the girl, Peter Pan defeats Hook, Cinderella marries the prince etc.  The low born servant exchanges places with the highborn lord.

Then you leave the theatre and realise it is all illusion.  A mad, chaotic dream of what might be, but never will.  Order reasserts itself and the world is set to rights.  Time marches on to the winter solstice and the turning of the year.

Time; by Percy Bysshe Shelley

Unfathomable Sea! whose waves are years,

Ocean of Time, whose waters of deep woe

Are brackish with the salt of human tears!

Thou shoreless flood, which in thy ebb and flow

Claspest the limits of mortality!

And sick of prey, yet howling on for more,

Vomitest thy wrecks on its inhospitable shore;

Treacherous in calm, and terrible in storm,

Who shall put forth on thee,

Unfathomable Sea?



Happy Birthday to Emily Dickinson, December 10th 1830! Woody Allen wrote a book called “Without Feathers”. It was an homage to Dickinsons poem on Hope. Was Woody suggesting he was hopeless? If you haven’t read “Without Feathers” then you are in for a real treat. It is fantastic.

I once acted in the play “God” from the book “Without Feathers”. I don’t know if we were any good, but it was a lot of fun. I laughed a lot.

And so to Hope. Hope is the thing with feathers. It is also a charity.  Give freely for Christmas, or for not Christmas, either will be welcome;  Hope Foundation Ireland

Hope is also the thing that emerged last from Pandoras box. Another great story!


Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune–without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I’ve heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

Lighting Up

I spent the weekend ferrying my son Jerry up and down to Clonmel, where he was packing bags in Tesco for his charity drive.  You can check out his progress here,  and he also has a blog on wordpress to track his fundraising and the trip to Calcutta.  If you are feeling all Christmassy and want to give him something you can donate as little as €2 on the website, and genuinely, all donations are very much appreciated.  OK, begging bowl away….

For those of you who don’t live in Ireland, the 8th of December is THE shopping day for Christmas.  In the Catholic Calendar it is the feast of the immaculate conception.  According to the church authorities in the middle ages, it was not enough that Jesus was born of an immaculate conception.  The vessel of his birth, the womb of the Virgin Mary, had to be as pure as driven snow, so she was also accorded an immaculate conception.  What this means for children in Ireland is……a day off school.

So traditionally Mammy packed the kids down to the drapery and fitted them out with new duds for Christmas on the 8th.  The tree arrived in the house, the lights went up and everything started to feel a lot like Christmas.

In the city the relevance of the 8th has declined, but down here in rural Tipperary it remains the big day heralding the Christmas season.  If you don’t buy your tree on the 8th you will be left with one of the lame, the asymmetrical, the mangy, the bald, the withered or the stunted specimens rejected by the early bird buyers.

And so it is that I was climing the ladder first thing this morning to festoon the front of the house with lights.  The tree is up and dressed, the star is attached, the ultimate christmas album is in the CD player.

So it feels like a night for Frost.  That would be Robert Frost rather than Jack Frost

Stopping by woods on a snowy evening.

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Blazing Saddles

During the first Gulf war, I think around 1993, inflation in Ireland went ballistic.  The mortgage interest rates ran up from 12% to 18% and into the 20 per cents.  Money dried up.  We had to eat cheaply.  We ate a lot of beans, and we became really good at cooking them.  Since the kids are growing up now I think it is time they learned the joy of the humble bean.

Todays casserole is Cannelini Beans, soaked overnight and boiled in unsalted water until soft.  Then into the casserole dish with tomato sauce left over from last nights Pizzas, boosted with a bit of Piri-Piri marinade and some tomato puree.  A teaspoon of treacle, some sugar, oregano, mixed provencale herbs, nutmeg, paprika, onion salt, a chopped onion, three cloves of garlic, green and yellow pepper, two mushrooms chopped finely, and some cubed courgette (Zuccini).  A splash of dry white wine and some water to top off.  All well mixed with a spoon.  Into a slow oven for an hour or so.

I am looking forward to it.  Of course beans have a high sulphur content, somthing which gives rise to flatulence, as parodied in a famous scene from the movie Blazing Saddles, and immoralised in the songs from childrens playgrounds.

Beans, beans, the musical fruit
The more you eat, the more you toot
The more you toot, the better you feel
So we have beans at every meal!

Beans, beans, they’re good for your heart
The more you eat, the more you fart
The more you fart, the better you feel
So let’s eat beans with every meal

Beans, beans, they give you gas
They make you fart, and burn your ass
The more you eat, the more it hurts
So slow down your eating to stop the squirts.

Beans, beans, they’re good for your heart
The more you eat, the more you fart
The more you fart, the more you eat
The more you sit on the toilet seat

The Great Hunger

Not since the Potato Famine has an event triggered such widepsread and deep seated misery as we are experiencing in Ireland today.  This may sound somewhat extreme but sadly it is true.  Because of the unfettered greed of a small clique of wealthy individuals, supported by a political class too stupid to know better, the small people of this nation are saddled with a crushing debt not of their making.

I spent my day analysing the impact of this years budget on families.  We are now in the fifth year of crippling depression.  The impact of this global downturn is especially acute in Ireland, surpassing the Great Depression of the 1930’s in the experience of the people.  Families in the greatest hardship are carrying the largest burdens, while the wealthy continue to escape relatively unscathed.

If you are a family with a chronically ill member, who have made your best fist by working all your life on a modest salary, not a burden on the state, then you will suffer the greatest loss.

Our government are slaves to the stupidity of their predecessors, and the diktats of German bureaucrats.  If you ask me it’s time to pull the pikes out of the thatch!

Oh, Father, dear, I often hear you speak of Erin’s isle
Her lofty scenes, her valleys green, her mountains rude and wild
They say it is a lovely land, wherein a prince might dwell
Oh why did you abandon it, the reason to me tell.

My son, I loved my native land with energy and pride
Till the blight came over all my crops, my sheep and cattle died
My rent and taxes were so high, I could not them redeem
That’s the cruel reason I left old Skibbereen.

It’s well I do remember the year of ’98
When I arose a Fenian to battle against our fate
I was hunted through the mountains as a traitor to the Queen
That’s another reason I left old Skibbereen.

It’s well I do remember the cold November day
When the landlord and the sheriff came to drive us all away
They set our roof ablaze in fire with their damning yellow spleen
That’s another reason why I left old Skibbereen.

Your mother, too, God rest her soul, fell on the snowy ground
She fainted in her anguish, the desolation round
She never rose but passed away from life to mortal dream
She found a grave and place of rest in dear old Skibbereen.

You were only two months old, and feeble was your frame
I could not leave you with my friends, you bore your father’s name
I wrapped you in my cótamór, at the dead of night unseen
We heaved a sigh and bid goodbye to dear old Skibbereen.

Oh father, dear, the day will come when on vengeance we will call
When Irishmen both stout and stern will rally one and all
I’ll be the man to lead the van, beneath the flag of green
And loud and high we’ll raise the cry, “Revenge for Skibbereen.”