The March of Time


So here we are on the 31st of March and we reach my favourite time of year.  The clock has sprung forward and at last it feels that we have bested the winter and emerged again into the world.  The spring flowers are brightening up the sere landscape and the first tender buds are emerging from the hawthorns.

Time to get busy in the garden sowing the new season vegetables.  We play the annual game of chance with the weather.  When to plant out the seedlings nurtured in the conservatory?  Too late and they become pot bound.  Too early and we risk a late frost carrying them off and ruining weeks of work.

Frost and Spring….reminds me of a poem….

March 26th 1974 (R.Frost 100th B’day): by Richard Wilbur

The air was soft, the ground still cold.
In wet dull pastures where I strolled
Was something I could not believe.
Dead grass appeared to slide and heave,
Though still too frozen-flat to stir,
And rocks to twitch, and all to blur.
What was this rippling of the land?
Was matter getting out of hand
And making free with natural law?
I stopped and blinked, and then I saw
A fact as eerie as a dream.
There was a subtle flood of stream
Moving upon the face of things.
It came from standing pools and springs
And what of snow was still around;
It came of winter’s giving ground
So that the freeze was coming out,
As when a set mind, blessed by doubt,
Relaxes into mother-wit.
Flowers, I said, will come of it.



I was too busy this Easter to blog.  So here is an Easter Egg for everyone out there.  A bit late, but it’s a good one.  Two pieces of advice hard won for your life, if you will listen.  Don’t force kids to eat what they don’t want, it only turns food into a battleground.  Food should be wrapped in memories of love, not war.  And don’t shout at them for dropping stuff.

Eggs; by Susan Wood

Morning broke like an egg
on the kitchen floor and I hated
them, too, eggs, how easily they broke
and ran, yellow insides spilling out, oozing

and staining, the flawed
beneath what’s beautiful. And I hated
my father, the one ****
in the henhouse, who laid the plate

on the table and made me
eat, who told me not to get up
until I was done, every
bite. And I hated how I gagged and cried, day

after day, until there was no time
left and he’d give in and I’d go off
to school like that, again, hungry.
But why did I hate eggs

so much? Freud, old banty rooster, who
knew a thing or two about such things, might say
I hated my self, hated the egg
growing in secret deep inside my body,

the secret about to be spilled
to the world, and maybe I did.
Or maybe it’s the way the egg
repeats itself again and again, a perfect

oval every time, the way I found myself
furious, standing by my own child’s bed
holding a belt, and hit, and saw her face
dissolve in yolk. But that doesn’t say

enough about why we hoard
our hurts like golden eggs and foolishly
wait for them to hatch, why
we faced each other across the table,

my father and I, and fought
our battles over eggs and never fought
with them, never once picked up
those perfect ovals and sent them singing

back and forth across the room, the spell
broken like shells, until we were
covered with them, our faces golden
and laughing, both of us beautiful and flawed.

Patron of the Arts

Without the Archbishop of Salzburg we may never have heard of Mozart.  Without the sponsorship of Pope Julius would we know of Michelangelo?   Since time immemorial the greatest contribution a rich person could make to society was to sponsor artists.  The greatest accolade must go to the patrons of the arts without whom there would be no art.

Become a Patron now!

The beauty of the modern world is that everyone can now rise to the lofty heights.  Anyone can become a patron of the arts thanks to the Crowdfunding movement.

Here is a perfect example.  The Randomer  A movie being filmed in Dublin, Ireland.  For as little as $10 you can become a backer to the project.  You get to become a creator, an owner of a piece of Cinema.  You can build a legacy.

That may sound a little grand, but think about it for a while.  John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough, built a palace a Blenheim, and created a legacy which turned up Winston Churchill to lead Britain to victory in WW2.  A legacy is more about values than wealth.  It is a way  to educate your children and grand children about the values prized by you and your peers.

You may not be able to build Blenheim palace, but you can have a movie poster on your wall.  You can say to your grandchildren, “That movie was made because of my contribution”.  The money is different, but the message is just as compelling.

Buy the movie poster here

Best of all is the personal buzz you get from becoming a patron.  The money you contribute gives you a warm fuzzy feeling.  The more you give the longer the feeling lasts.  So think no further, get funding now!  Put your name in lights, or be anonymous, the choice is yours.  Be a part of something great!

And now I give you a poem from one of the greatest artists in history, both in and out of the ring.  Mohammed Ali, poet laureate of the boxing ring, used this short poem to express the ability of the individual to stand up and make a change that carries all the people.  On this St Patrick’s Day it is worth remembering that he inherited some of his gift of the gab from his Irish Great Grandfather, Abe Grady, from Ennis in Co. Clare.

A poem by Muhammad Ali:






Watch your back


“Beware the Ides of March” the soothsayer told Caesar.  The rest is history.  March 15th 44 BC Julius Caesar was voted out of office at the points of several knives.

Brutus then made a brilliant speech of justification, winning the hearts of Romans (at least in Shakespeare) and then made the political faux pas of leaving the floor to his opponent.


Be patient till the last.
Romans, countrymen, and lovers! hear me for my
cause, and be silent, that you may hear: believe me
for mine honour, and have respect to mine honour, that
you may believe: censure me in your wisdom, and
awake your senses, that you may the better judge.
If there be any in this assembly, any dear friend of
Caesar’s, to him I say, that Brutus’ love to Caesar
was no less than his. If then that friend demand
why Brutus rose against Caesar, this is my answer:
–Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved
Rome more. Had you rather Caesar were living and
die all slaves, than that Caesar were dead, to live
all free men? As Caesar loved me, I weep for him;
as he was fortunate, I rejoice at it; as he was
valiant, I honour him: but, as he was ambitious, I
slew him. There is tears for his love; joy for his
fortune; honour for his valour; and death for his
ambition. Who is here so base that would be a
bondman? If any, speak; for him have I offended.
Who is here so rude that would not be a Roman? If
any, speak; for him have I offended. Who is here so
vile that will not love his country? If any, speak;
for him have I offended. I pause for a reply.
None, Brutus, none.
Then none have I offended. I have done no more to
Caesar than you shall do to Brutus. The question of
his death is enrolled in the Capitol; his glory not
extenuated, wherein he was worthy, nor his offences
enforced, for which he suffered death.


Enter ANTONY and others, with CAESAR’s body


Here comes his body, mourned by Mark Antony: who,
though he had no hand in his death, shall receive
the benefit of his dying, a place in the
commonwealth; as which of you shall not? With this
I depart,–that, as I slew my best lover for the
good of Rome, I have the same dagger for myself,
when it shall please my country to need my death.
Live, Brutus! live, live!
First Citizen
Bring him with triumph home unto his house.
Second Citizen
Give him a statue with his ancestors.
Third Citizen
Let him be Caesar.
Fourth Citizen
Caesar’s better parts
Shall be crown’d in Brutus.
First Citizen
We’ll bring him to his house
With shouts and clamours.
My countrymen,–

Second Citizen
Peace, silence! Brutus speaks.

First Citizen
Peace, ho!

Good countrymen, let me depart alone,
And, for my sake, stay here with Antony:
Do grace to Caesar’s corpse, and grace his speech
Tending to Caesar’s glories; which Mark Antony,
By our permission, is allow’d to make.
I do entreat you, not a man depart,
Save I alone, till Antony have spoke.

Sun Pillar


Solar Pillar

Interesting dawn this morning.  We had a Solar Pillar!  This photo is just from the internet.  I don’t have a good camera  phone and in any case you can’t get a good photo through the scummy window of a moving train.

It’s a pretty impressive phenomenon though.  Well worth the 52 year wait to see my first one, or at least to recognise one.

You can imagine how primitive people might take such a dawn as a sign from God and set off in pursuit of it.  Was this the pillar of fire that Moses followed into Sinai?  Probably not, since it was a pillar of cloud by day, so it was, in all likelihood a volcanic eruption.



Half Century


We celebrated last night to mark the passing of 50 years for one of our peer group.  Happy Birthday Andrew!

We danced to tunes that were hot stuff when we met in College back in the 1980’s.  We were the DCU Business Studies class who graduated in 1990.  Simple Minds, Don’t you forget about me, The Whole of the Moon by the Waterboys, Morrissey and The Cure, David Bowie and even some Johnny Cash.

It’s great to relive the sense of your youth.  And at the same time we can’t forget our ages.  We may have adopted smartphone technology, but half of the gang can’t read a funny text because they forgot their reading glasses.  The music is too loud for good conversation.  What hair remains is either gray or is growing in the wrong places.

The dancing was great, but this morning I have a swollen knee.  There was a remarkably high water consumption going on, as old heads assessed the prospect of a Saturday hangover and took steps to head it off at the pass.

Back in the good old days we drank like fishes and could resurrect ourselves for a Saturday morning Rugby match.  That’s really what I miss!  The recovery powers of a 25 year old body.


Dance Hall Girls; by Robert William Service

Where are the dames I used to know
In Dawson in the days of yore?
Alas, it’s fifty years ago,
And most, I guess, have “gone before.”
The swinging scythe is swift to mow
Alike the gallant and the fair;
And even I, with gouty toe,
Am glad to fill a rocking chair.

Ah me, I fear each gaysome girl
Who in champagne I used to toast,
or cozen in the waltz’s whirl,
In now alas, a wistful ghost.
Oh where is Touch The Button Nell?
Or Minnie Dale or Rosa Lee,
Or Lorna Doone or Daisy Bell?
And where is Montreal Maree?

Fair ladies of my lusty youth,
I fear that you are dead and gone:
Where’s Gertie of the Diamond Tooth,
And where the Mare of Oregon?
What’s come of Violet de Vere,
Claw-fingered Kate and Gumboot Sue?
They’ve crossed the Great Divide, I fear;
Remembered now by just a few.

A few who like myself can see
Through half a century of haze
A heap of goodness in their glee
And kindness in their wanton ways.
Alas, my sourdough days are dead,
Yet let me toss a tankard down . . .
Here’s hoping that you wed and bred,
And lives of circumspection led,
Gay dance-hall girls o Dawson Town!


The attraction of a military life


A Two-Up game aboard the troopship “Cape Alexander” taken at Lae, New Guinea, on November 2, 1944.

“Travel the world, meet interesting people….and kill them” goes the old joke.  What is the attraction of a life in the military.  I’m not asking about those who join the military in times of war.  I’m asking about those who choose the military as a career.

In most countries the military advertises itself to young applicants.  They adopt a variety of strategies.  There is the old Jesuit saw, give us the boy and we’ll give you the man.  They claim to train you in skills that will equip you for a civilian life, should you choose that later.  Some of these promises are real.  Become a military pilot, or diver, and you can transition into a well paid civilian job.  Making the transition into civilian life from the artillery or from a Sniper team is a bit more tricky.

Some military advertising suggests that a stint in the armed forces is the equivalent of a college degree.  Others stress the very real opportunities to attend education programmes which include college graduate and post-graduate training (although more for the Officer track).

There is the famous “Be all you can be” campaign in the USA which presents the military as a vehicle for self-actualisation.  It suggests that the military life can give you more than just the work skills.  For disaffected youth facing life in a ghetto there is potentially an attraction to the structure and discipline of military life, a sense of purpose, a regular paycheck and a community of peers.

“No Ordinary Life” is another strategy, which stresses the opportunities for adventure sports and to play with toys for big boys.  It focuses on the attractions of life in the Service, rather than on potentials when you leave.

Belonging is another clear motivator.  You see this very strongly with US Marines, French Foreign Legion and in a variety of Elite or Special Forces.  Along the lines of “Once a marine, always a marine” or simply the motto “Semper fi”.  Some people are highly attracted to membership of a “clan” and are motivated to become an insider.

My personal favourite is the quote below.  It has biblical connotations, so should appeal to the “God, King, Country” advocates.  Sadly  I have never seen it in an advertising campaign.  I wonder why?


“The Bible legend tells us that the absence of labor – idleness – was a condition of the first man’s blessedness before the Fall. Fallen man has retained a love of idleness, but the curse weighs on the race not only because we have to seek our bread in the sweat of our brows, but because our moral nature is such that we cannot be both idle and at ease. An inner voice tells us we are in the wrong if we are idle. If man could find a state in which he felt that though idle he was fulfilling his duty, he would have found one of the conditions of man’s primitive blessedness. And such a state of obligatory and irreproachable idleness is the lot of a whole class – the military. The chief attraction of military service has consisted and will consist in this compulsory and irreproachable idleness.”


Leo Tolstoy;  War and Peace, Book 7, Chapter 1.