To Make Someone a Saint.

Image result for glass of powers gold label in pub

The evening sun slanted through the window inscribing a triangle of golden light across my newspaper.  I was struggling with the final clue on the simplex crossword, and this was war!  I don’t mind failing the Crosaire, but I’m in a foul mood if I can’t finish the Simplex by the end of the day.

“To make someone a saint.”  Eight letters.  I thought it was “Sanctify” this morning.  First clue and I was so sure I had it right.  I scan the crossword quickly when I pick up the paper in the morning, read all the clues, allow them to percolate slowly into my brain.  I jot down any obvious answers.

The real challenge comes at lunchtime.  There is the race to finish the Simplex and see if I can crack open the Crosaire, the real brain buster.   If I fail at lunchtime then I sneak in to the local on the way home and try to nail it before dinnertime.

There is a rule at home you see.  Born of the experience of sitting in silence, watching me wrestle with one problem after another, my wife brought out the big guns.  Once I get home the Irish Times becomes a newspaper and only a newspaper.  No crosswords, no puzzles, no Sudoku.

So I face this unfair challenge to complete before I return home.  The challenge sometimes drives me to the local for a drop of golden sunshine in a glass, a Powers Gold Label.  Another family habit passed down to me, father to son, like the crossword.  It drove my mother insane too, but my father boxed clever.  He told her it was an education in the English language, a way to understand words better and a tool for expanding my vocabulary.

So, part of my evening homework was to sit with my father, puzzling out the clues, as he sipped on his glass of Powers.

My oldest child is only five.  When can I decently roll out my dad’s plan?  I figure three, maybe four more years.  But until then what can it be but “sanctify” which does not fit?  The laptop beside me knows the answer.  A matter of seconds to look it up, but that would be cheating.  “You may cheat others but you can’t cheat yourself” my dad always said.

The phone rings in my pocket.  “Hi honey” I answer, “I’m just leaving the office, should be home by six.  Would you like me to pick up anything on the way home?  Bread, milk, bottle of plonk?”

“Who canonised you?  Go on then, but no Chardonnay.”

C-A-N-O-N-I-S-E.  And I didn’t cheat!

Related image

Leda

IMG-20190509-WA0001

The latest addition to my family, my grand-niece Leda.

My first concern is that she not get too friendly with Swans.  Last time that happened a pretty little girl was born, and married Menelaus the Mycenean King of Sparta.  Helen of Sparta is not how we remember her, for Paris, son of Priam, stole her away to his home city.  And so we remember her as the face that launched a thousand ships and burnt the topless towers of Illium.

Illium was the ancient name for the city of Troy, so Helen of Troy was daugher of Leda.  But who was the father of this child with the dreadful fate?  It was Zeus himself, who raped Leda, in the guise of a male swan.

And the brother of Menelaus?  The dread Agamemnon King of Mycenae itself, ruler of all the Achaeans as the Greeks called themselves in those days.  From this followed ten years of war.  Ajax and Achilles, Hector and Aeneas, wily Odysseus and his Trojan Horse.  Death and destruction as the Gods themselves engaged in the battle of the great Homeric Epic.

Calling a daughter Leda can come to no good I say.  But I am Cassandra and they shall not listen.

Leda and the Swan; by W.B. Yeats

A sudden blow: the great wings beating still
above the staggering girl, her thighs caressed
by the dark webs, her nape caught in his bill,
He holds her helpless breast upon his breast.

How can those terrified vague fingers push
the feathered glory from her loosening thighs?
And how can body, laid in that white rush,
but feel the strange heart beating where it lies?

A shudder in the loins engenders there
the broken wall, the burning roof and tower
And Agamemnon dead.
Being so caught up,
so mastered by the brute blood of the air,
did she put on his knowledge with his power
before the indifferent beak could let her drop?

cecil-ffrench-salkeld-leda-and-the-swan

Happy Birthday this guy

Image result for david attenborough

I am quite literally from another age, I was born during the Holocene – the 12,000 year period of climatic stability that allowed humans to settle, farm, and create civilisations. That led to trade in ideas and goods, and made us the globally connected species we are today.

That stability allowed businesses to grow, nations to co-operate and people to share ideas. In the space of my lifetime, all that has changed. The Holocene has ended. The Garden of Eden is no more. We have changed the world so much that scientists say we are in a new geological age: the Anthropocene, the age of humans.” … David Attenborough

 

Human Habitat; by Alison Hawthorne Deming

Some did not want to alter the design
when the failure message
said massive problem with oxygen.
Some wanted to live full tilt with risk.

By then we were too weak for daily chores:
feeding chickens, hoeing yams,
calibrating pH this and N2 that . . .
felt like halfway summiting Everest.

We didn’t expect the honeybees
to die. Glass blocked the long-wave
light that guides them.
Farm soil too rich in microbes

concrete too fresh ate the oxygen.
We had pressure problems,
recalibrating the sniffer. Bone tired
I reread Aristotle by waning light.

Being is either actual or potential.
The actual is prior to substance.
Man prior to boy, human prior to seed,
Hermes prior to chisel hitting wood.

I leafed through Turner’s England,
left the book open at Stonehenge.
A shepherd struck by lightning lies dead,
dog howling, several sheep down too.

The painter gave gigantic proportion
to sulphurous god rimmed clouds
lightning slashing indigo sky
while close at hand lie fallen stones

dead religion, pages dusty
brown leaf shards gathering
in the gutter yet I cannot turn the page
wondering what I am and when

in the story of life my life is taking place.
Now what. No shepherd. No cathedral.
How is it then that I read love
in pages that lie open before me?

Mental Health

Blind

Blindboy Boatclub and Mr Chrome: AKA Rubberbandits

I take my mental health advice from a foulmouthed Limerick goul who wears a plastic bag on his head.  It’s much more convenient than Catholic confession and much cheaper than a shrink.

In the process I get to learn a lot about history, politics, sport (he hasn’t a clue), the artistic process, Limerick, words the Corkonians are trying to steal, cocktails, short stories, how to distract Banshees, vaping and backing Jazz.  And that’s just from the first episode.

Home

https://www.patreon.com/theblindboypodcast

The bit about mental health is not a joke.  Pure serious.

Margarita Pizza

Margureite

Prepare yourself for nonsense:  Marguerite Piazza, the American Soprano, was born on this day in 1920.

The Pizza Margherita is a Neapolitan classic of Tomato, Mozzarella and Basil, the colours of the Italian flag.  There is a story that the famous Pizza was invented in honour of Margherita of Savoy, Queen of Italy, to celebrate Italian Unification, in 1889.

Image result for italian flag

This is considered now to be a false history, like many tales of the invention of famous dishes.  There is a competing theory that the Pizza Margherita is named for the pretty flower pattern in which the Mozzarella slices were presented on the pizza, representing a daisy flower, the Italian for which is margherita.

The Spanish for daisy is margarita, which is also the name of a famous tequila drink from Mexico, a country with the same tricolour flag as Italy.

Image result for mexican flag

But the origin of the drink actually comes from the Latin word margarita which means pearl, as in the maxim “margaritas ante porcos” meaning pearls before swine.  The margarita drink is named after the latin for pearl, as it is a pearly colour, and that may also explain why it is served with a ring of salt on the rim of the glass.

Image result for classic margarita drink

As to the American soprano, her real name was Marguerite Clair Lucille Luft.  She took her mothers maiden name, Piazza, as her stage name.  A Piazza is a square, not a pie.  So her stage name translates as Daisy Square.

Related image

I passed on a piece ‘a pizza in the piazza in Pisa in the past.  But not with Margherita.

Now, I ordered ages ago.  Where are my pizza and my margarita?  And do not get them mixed up again.

pizza

Happy Birthday Richard Grant Esterhuysen

Izembaro

I’m an actor playing an actor but it’s not inception?

The most famous Swazi actor in the world was born on this day in 1957.  Richard reduced his very Afrikaans last name to a single letter and became Richard E. Grant on his Equity card.

Nobody has ever been luckier in landing their first film role.  Grant was perfect to play the lead in the cult classic Withnail and I in 1987.  He played a tour de force opposite Ian McKellen in Jack and Sarah (1995).

These days he is better known to the world from parts in Dr Who, Downton Abbey and a deliciously hammy part in Season 6 of Game of Thrones in which he plays Izembaro, the impresario, writer and lead actor in the Gate troop of players in the City of Bravos.

Oh we’re all thinkers now, are we? Full to the tits with ideas. You have ideas, I have ideas, he has ideas. Why should my ideas have anymore value than yours, simply because I have been doing this my whole life? Who’s anyone to judge my work? This is my profession, I know what I’m doing! You have no right to an opinion.

Chainies

Chainies

My mother grew up in Dublin city.  Along with the many street games they played as kids they used to collect chainies.  These were pretty pieces of broken ceramics and pottery.  They were collected and traded by the children like a form of currency.

Ceramics are an amazing paradox because they are at one time one of the most fragile and one of the most enduring elements of human civilization.  Ceramics are man made.  They are almost an integral part of human civilization, occuring all round the world from Ancient Japan in the East to Mesoamerica in the West.  The earliest pottery dates from 30,000 BC.

Pottery developed independently in different human civilizations.  In Asia, Europe, Africa and in the Americas.  I don’t want to write a history of ceramics, but I do want to say that ceramics are integral to archaeology because of the fragile/durable paradox.

Fired clay ceramics can create beautiful vessels.  These vessels are delicate and fragile.  If you drop a bowl, a cup or a vase it will shatter and the vessel is lost.  But the chainies, the smashed pieces of ceramic are not.  They are pretty much indestructable.  Because they are durable they hang around.  They do not rot or crumble.  They don’t wash away or burn up.  They don’t rust or oxidise.  Those little broken shards endure.

And because they don’t go away they are brilliant markers.  If you can read the code of the chainies you can rapidly understand much about a culture.  You can assess the age of the civilization that created the pottery.   You can tell much about that civilization.  Is the pottery made with utility in mind or is it artistic.  Is it plain or glazed?  Earthenware, stoneware, porcelain or bone china?  Is it coloured, decorated?  How?  Are the images scratched into the clay, painted into the glaze or painted and glazed with a slip?  The pottery tells you a tale of the people.

So what do the chainies tell you of the little girls in Dublin who collected them?  At once you have a highly sophisticated society which can produce stunningly beautiful ceramics, and at the same time you have kids who collect stashes of smashed cups and saucers.

Do rich kids collect chainies?