Happy Anniversary Harry


Harry “Breaker” Morant, Soldier, Poet, Horse Tamer, Lover, Australian folk hero and cattle drover.  Executed 101 years ago today for the murder of Boers during the Boer War.  His “war crimes”, trial and subsequent execution remain a controversy today.  The trial documentation “disappeared” and has never since been found.  The  events have been the subject of many books and articles and the film “Breaker Morant” is well worth a watch.  Directed in 1980 by Bruce Bereford and starring Edward Woodward as Breaker and Bryan Brown as Peter Handcock.

The Australians want him pardoned.  The South Africans object.  The Queen is caught in the middle.

His poetry is the bush doggerel of the outback, and reads a lot like Banjo Patterson, Robert Service and Rudyard Kipling.

Butchered to make a Dutchman’s holiday:  byHarry Breaker Morant

In prison cell I sadly sit,
A dammed crestfallen chappie,
And own to you I feel a bit–
A little bit—unhappy.

It really ain’t the place nor time
To reel off rhyming diction ;
But yet we’ll write a final rhyme
While waiting crucifixion.

No matter what end they decide
Quick-lime? or boiling oil? sir
We’ll do our best when crucified
To finish off in style, sir !

But we bequeath a parting tip
For sound advice of such men
Who come across in transport ship
To polish off the Dutchmen.

If you encounter any Boers
You really must not loot ‘em,
And, if you wish to leave these shores,
For pity’s sake, don’t shoot ‘em.

And if you’d earn a D.S.O.,
Why every British sinner;

Should know the proper way to go
Is: Ask the Boer to dinner.

Let’s toss a bumper down our throat
Before we pass to heaven,
And toast: “The trim-set petticoat
We leave behind in Devon.”

Monday blues.

When you feel sad it’s time to get the Len out, whack on the Cohen.  Listen to 30 mins of Canadian lyric poet come balladeer and soon realise what you have ain’t so bad.  That’s the whole philosophy of the blues.  When things get bad, sing them out until the mood lifts and you start smiling.  That’s why the blues is poor folk music.  The poorer you are the better the blues.  And if you have a busted jaw, an empty wallet, an unfaithful spouse and no job, you’ve got yourself one hell of a blues song 🙂

Suzanne:  by Leonard Cohen

Suzanne takes you down to her place near the river
You can hear the boats go by
You can spend the night beside her
And you know that she’s half crazy
But that’s why you want to be there
And she feeds you tea and oranges
That come all the way from China
And just when you mean to tell her
That you have no love to give her
Then she gets you on her wavelength
And she lets the river answer
That you’ve always been her lover
And you want to travel with her
And you want to travel blind
And you know that she will trust you
For you’ve touched her perfect body with your mind.
And Jesus was a sailor
When he walked upon the water
And he spent a long time watching
From his lonely wooden tower
And when he knew for certain
Only drowning men could see him
He said “All men will be sailors then
Until the sea shall free them”
But he himself was broken
Long before the sky would open
Forsaken, almost human
He sank beneath your wisdom like a stone
And you want to travel with him
And you want to travel blind
And you think maybe you’ll trust him
For he’s touched your perfect body with his mind.
Now Suzanne takes your hand
And she leads you to the river
She is wearing rags and feathers
From Salvation Army counters
And the sun pours down like honey
On our lady of the harbour
And she shows you where to look
Among the garbage and the flowers
There are heroes in the seaweed
There are children in the morning
They are leaning out for love
And they will lean that way forever
While Suzanne holds the mirror
And you want to travel with her
And you want to travel blind
And you know that you can trust her
For she’s touched your perfect body with her mind

March on!

February draws to a close, and with it goes the Winter.  March.  An aptly named month, accidental though its meaning is.  March is in fact named for the Roman god of War, Mars.  But war is all about marching, and March give momentum to the year.  A time of growth.  The darkness is already receding and the days grow longer.  The crocus’ and daffodils are bursting forth and the grass is beginning to grow.  Better get the lawn mower out!

A lot to do today, so I won’ dwell long.  I need a car charger for my  iPhone.  My daughter needs material to make a cushion, we need to visit an ailing grandfather, the grass must be cut, and rugby matches must be played.  Amongst all that which is most important?  Allow me to give you a clue…

De profundis clamavi ad te, Domine;
Domine, exaudi vocem meam. Fiant aures tuæ intendentes
in vocem deprecationis meæ.
Si iniquitates observaveris, Domine, Domine, quis sustinebit?
Quia apud te propitiatio est; et propter legem tuam sustinui te, Domine.
Sustinuit anima mea in verbo ejus:
Speravit anima mea in Domino.
A custodia matutina usque ad noctem, speret Israël in Domino.
Quia apud Dominum misericordia, et copiosa apud eum redemptio.
Et ipse redimet Israël ex omnibus iniquitatibus ejus.

Walk on!

If you are in Cashel on Sunday March 3rd 2013 then we have a walk for you.  From the rock of Cashel to the rugby club, followed by a welcome reception at the club with fun and frolics for kids.  We are doing this to raise money for Guidedogs for the Blind.  If anyone would like to donate to the cause you can do so at the following link:  http://www.mycharity.ie/event/cashelrfcjuniors/

Of course, if you just want to turn up for a walk we would love to have you along.  The Rock of Cashel is one of the most remarkable and historic spots in Ireland.  Ancient seat of the kings of Munster and later the episcopal centre for Christianity in Munster.  It was one of the key visits made by Henry II when he invaded Ireland, and more recently was one of the few places visited by the current English Monarch, Elizabeth II on her historic visit to Ireland.

A walk is a journey.  A road.  Sometimes a journey is in time and space, and sometimes it is a journey of the mind, like this WordPress site.  Mindship is a journey of the mind.  JRR Tolkien knew this more than most, as you can see from his poem “Roads Go Ever On”

Roads go ever ever on,
Over rock and under tree,
By caves where never sun has shone,
By streams that never find the sea;
Over snow by winter sown,
And through the merry flowers of June,
Over grass and over stone,
And under mountains in the moon.

Roads go ever ever on,
Under cloud and under star.
Yet feet that wandering have gone
Turn at last to home afar.
Eyes that fire and sword have seen,
And horror in the halls of stone
Look at last on meadows green,
And trees and hills they long have known.

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with weary feet,
Until it joins some larger way,
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

The Road goes ever on and on
Out from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone.
Let others follow, if they can!
Let them a journey new begin.
But I at last with weary feet
Will turn towards the lighted inn,
My evening-rest and sleep to meet.

Still ’round the corner there may wait
A new road or secret gate;
And though I oft have passed them by,
A day will come at last when I
Shall take the hidden paths that run
West of the Moon, East of the Sun.

Pére, pear, pair, pare.

My father in law is ill, poor pére.  He is in a nursing home at present, but I think he would prefer to be at home.  Can’t say too much here as these things are private.

Today I planted a pair of Pear trees.  I bought them as a valentines gift for Louise.  Actually I think they say a lot about us as a pair.  We are less about the ephemeral things and more about solid foundations.  A bunch of flowers is pretty for a while but soon dead and gone.  Two pear trees though, they live on.  They are bare sticks today but will yield beautiful flowers every spring and fine fruit every autumn.  And they endure, like our love.

And so to Pare.  I pared back a chestnut tree today.  Pretty radical paring job really.  More a demolition than a pruning.  It will make some nice fires next year when it is well seasoned.

So to a poem, well, it has to be about a pear and a nursing home, and it has to be about a ship too for my site.  Very tricky:

The Pear

By Jane Hirshfield

November. One pear
sways on the tree past leaves, past reason.
In the nursing home, my friend has fallen.
Chased, he said, from the freckled woods
by angry Thoreau, Coleridge, and Beaumarchais.
Delusion too, it seems, can be well read.
He is courteous, well-spoken even in dread.
The old fineness in him hangs on
for dear life. “My mind now?
A small ship under the wake of a large.
They force you to walk on your heels here,
the angles matter. Four or five degrees,
and you’re lost.” Life is dear to him yet,
though he believes it his own fault he grieves,
his own fault his old friends have turned against him
like crows against an injured of their kind.
There is no kindness here, no flint of mercy.
Descend, descend,
some voice must urge, inside the pear stem.
The argument goes on, he cannot outrun it.
Dawnlight to dawnlight, I look: it is still there.

First impressions

You know the old saying, you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression!  Dale Carnegie, in his book “How to win friends and influence people” figured we interact with the world in four ways.  What we do.  What we say.  How we say it, and How we dress.

Of these I have no doubt that the most important is what we do.  We are what we do.  Look it up at wearewhatwedo.org if you don’t believe me.  Change the world for a fiver 🙂

My son flew out to Kolkata this week and it is very funny to read the first impressions of a 16 year old upon reaching a third world environment.  Here it is (edited for punctuation).  It took two flights to get there, stopping in Dubai:

I didnt get any sleep on either flight so I’m exhausted now.  Today we did loads.  On the first plane, I sat just a couple of rows behind first class so lots of leftover luxuries (biscuits, drinks etc) were given to me.  Dubai airport was huge but we were only there for an hour.  The next plane was horrible!  It was dirty, the seats were smaller and were really uncomfortable compared to the earlier flight and we couldn’t watch anything we wanted on demand, there were 20 channels with different things on. Calcutta airport was shabby and dirty.  On the flight to Calcutta they had to fumigate the plane during the flight so they sprayed chemicals throughout the plane.  I also had to fill in a card saying what I had to declare ( fish, seeds etc) it was the same as Australia on tv.  The hotel is great and everyone gets their own bed.  Calcutta is much worse than you could imagine.  There are slums next to skyscrapers and half of the city is under construction!  Instead of scaffolding they use bamboo.  Every car is honking its horn all the time and today we saw the aftermath of a car that went up in flames after tonnes of fire burst out of a manhole!!!  We visited a school for young girls whose parents can’t take care of them.  They were very excited and they performed plays, skits and dances for us.  Cows wander through the city and people take no notice of them.  Tomorrow we will be visiting a home for boys and on Sunday will will be given a full tour of Calcutta.  The food isn’t great.  It was nicer on the plane.”

The Cow; by Robert Louis Stephenson

The friendly cow all red and white,
I love with all my heart:
She gives me cream with all her might,
To eat with apple-tart.

She wanders lowing here and there,
And yet she cannot stray,
All in the pleasant open air,
The pleasant light of day;

And blown by all the winds that pass
And wet with all the showers,
She walks among the meadow grass
And eats the meadow flowers.


The view from my prison cell.


You can imprison a body, but you cannot cage a man’s soul. There have been some “great” prisoners through the years. People who used their time in custody wisely and continued to fight for their cause. Time looks upon such people kindly. Nelson Mandela, Thomas Francis Meagher, Bobby Sands, Mohandas Gandhi, Leon Trotski, Aung San Suu Kyi. For the smart person prison can represent an opportunity as much as a setback, a classic case of life giving you lemons and you make lemonade. Many people know the Ballad of Reading Gaol, but it is not the only tale of woe from the Irish guest of his Majesty who had nothing to declare but his genius. Sadly his time in prison gave him only a very limited redemption. The fight for homosexual rights is far from won.

At Verona; by Oscar Wilde
HOW steep the stairs within Kings’ houses are
For exile-wearied feet as mine to tread,
And O how salt and bitter is the bread
Which falls from this Hound’s table,–better far
That I had died in the red ways of war,
Or that the gate of Florence bare my head,
Than to live thus, by all things comraded
Which seek the essence of my soul to mar.

‘Curse God and die: what better hope than this?
He hath forgotten thee in all the bliss
Of his gold city, and eternal day’–
Nay peace: behind my prison’s blinded bars
I do possess what none can take away,
My love, and all the glory of the stars.

A squall.

A fair day.  All seems well.  Then you look upwind and see it coming at you.  It is dark, fast and threatening.  It moves differently to the cyclonic wind.  It is more aggressive, jerky, and hits the sea from a high angle.  You face three choices.  You can drop your sails, batten down and ride it out, as long as you are in the open, far from a lee shore.  You can run to the side, tighten your sail, steer full and bye, try to let it slide by, get around it.  But it can change direction, and come after you.  Finally, you could turn and run downwind.  Run directly away from it.  Probably the most dangerous course, because if it catches you there is the danger you will broach.

So, what to do?  Absorb the fury, front up to it, or run away?

A squall is a wind, but maybe a squall can be a person in your life.  How do you deal with those you threaten you and yours?

This I do know, you can’t avoid them!

Mr Tambourine Man (Excerpt); by Bob Dylan

Then take me disappearin’ through the smoke rings of my mind
Down the foggy ruins of time, far past the frozen leaves
The haunted, frightened trees, out to the windy beach
Far from the twisted reach of crazy sorrow
Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free
Silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands
With all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves
Let me forget about today until tomorrow.

Happy Imbolc


February 1st, St Bridgets Day, and the beginning of Spring.  Irish school kids are taught to make simple crosses from rushes to learn the story of St Bridget of Kildare.  A fascinating lady who embodies elements of the ancient pagan celtic goddess Brigid.  Feb 1st is the halfway point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox.  The “cross-quarter” days were very special in the pagan celtic calendar.  This year Imbolc fell on the 3rd of Feb.  It is a season of fertility and fecundity, a very un-Catholic thing, definitely not something you want to associate with a nun.

Her Oratory was built under an Oak, a tree sacred to the Druids.  Her monastery tended an “eternal fire” guarded for hundreds of years by 19 nuns.  A practice which was almost stamped out by the Norman bishop of Dublin, and lasted until the reformation of the church.

The cross of St Bridget looks far more like a Celtic fertility symbol to me than any facsimile of the cross of Christ.  But who knows?  Its origin is hidden by the mists of time.

Of course, you have to be careful not to confuse the Irish St Bridget with the Swedish St Brigit, she of the 15 prayers.  No relation whatsoever!

Anyway, I need a poem.  Where am I going to find a poem about springtime that embodies the concept of a Pagan Celtic Fire Goddess who inspires artistic creativity and fertility?  A fecundity of both the land and the spirit!  Tricky……..

The Enkindled Spring:  by D. H. Lawrence

This spring as it comes bursts up in bonfires green,
Wild puffing of emerald trees, and flame-filled bushes,
Thorn-blossom lifting in wreaths of smoke between
Where the wood fumes up and the watery, flickering rushes.
I am amazed at this spring, this conflagration
Of green fires lit on the soil of the earth, this blaze
Of growing, and sparks that puff in wild gyration,
Faces of people streaming across my gaze.
And I, what fountain of fire am I among
This leaping combustion of spring? My spirit is tossed
About like a shadow buffeted in the throng
Of flames, a shadow that’s gone astray, and is lost.