Happy Birthday Horatio


Horatio Nelson needs no history lesson here, you know who he is.  Today is his birthday and he was born in 1758.  Despite leaving parts of himself all over Europe this tiny man had a huge impact.  He clearly liked his sun holidays did Horatio, and he used to get up to some crazy antics.  He left his arm behind in Santa Cruz de Tenerife in 1797 after one holiday.  He lost his eye in Corsica in 1794 and rumor has it that he lost his heart in Naples in 1798 to Lady Hamilton.

Nelson was ennobled as the First Duke of Bronté and it is this title that gave us the famous Brontë family, Anne, Charlotte and Emily.

The father of the three Victorian writers was born Patrick Prunty from County Down in Ireland.  Patrick attended Cambridge University and perhaps found that his Irish Heritage was a handicap.  These were the days when Europe was in turmoil as Napoleon demolished the Ancien Regime and spread concepts such as the rights of man, enlightenment and republicanism.  Ireland rebelled in 1798 seeking independence from the United Kingdom.  There is even a theory that his own brother was a rebel.  This highly political environment must have been a concern to a young protestant Irish student of divinity.

So Patrick Prunty changed his surname and adopted the name of Nelsons dukedom to become Patrick Brontë.

Fall, leaves, fall; by Emily Brontë

Fall, leaves, fall; die, flowers, away;
lengthen night and shorten day;
every leaf speaks bliss to me
fluttering from the autumn tree.

I shall smile when wreaths of snow
blossom where the rose should grow;
I shall sing when night’s decay
ushers in a drearier day.


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Today the Cherry Blossom meets the Shamrock in the Rugby World Cup.

Eight years ago this would have been a shoo-in for Ireland.  Today Japan represents a clear and present danger to Irish ambitions.  Nobody makes the mistake of underestimating the team from the land of the Rising Son, least of all the team from the land of the setting sun.

I write this as I wait for the kick-off.  I hope when I read it back later I can say that I was over concerned.  Come on Ireland, let’s go.  #ShoulderToShoulder #TeamofUs #EveryoneIn #COYBIG #RWC2019Shizuoka

Shizuoka City is famous for its views of Mount Fuji.  Here is a different view of Fuji from Madden Bridge by Utagawa Hiroshige from his series 100 famous views of Edo.  What I love about this print is how it is a pictorial puzzle.  The turtle, initially looking like it is flying, is framed on three sides by the handled pail from which it is suspended, and on the forth side by a railing of the bridge.  The turtle, an oriental symbol of longevity upon a bridge known as the 10,000 year old bridge.  The series of 100 prints map pilgrimage routes in Japan.  A custom in Japan was to buy a fish, eel or turtle from a seller on a bridge and release it into the river for good karma.

For good Karma today I promise if Ireland win I will write a celebratory Tanka.

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Happy Birthday Joan Jett

Born Sept 22nd 1958 Joan Marie Larkin was a founder member of the all girl rock band the Runaways, who were most famous for the song “Cherry Bomb”.

Joan Jett and the Blackhearts became a huge hit with “I Love Rock & Roll” in 1982.  Back in those days it was still possible to build a decent music career on a big hit single.

The biggest impact of her career was to be one of the very, very few females fronting a rock band.  A woman “front man”.

Interestingly enough Joan Jett is eactly one year younger than Nick Cave!  He of the Bad Seeds.

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Foucault’s pendulum in the Panthéon in Paris is a physics experiment to demonstrate the rotation of the earth.  Léon Foucault was born on this day in 1819, so 200 years today.  Happy birthday.  Foucault would have been a medical doctor until he discovered he had a phobia for blood.  Medicine’s loss was physics gain.

Foucault’s Pendulum is also the title of a great novel by Umberto Eco published in 1988 which pokes fun at conspiracy theorists of the Holy Grail, Knight Templars, the Holy Family and goes on to demonstrate how these conspiracies are preposterous but can be tweaked and prodded to make them believable.  It is the antidote to the Da Vinci Code.




Simply the Best.

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I heard this poem on the radio this morning.  These days I only reliably listen to two Irish radio shows; Saturday playback and Sunday Miscellany.   There was a little snippet about George Best.

On the 14th of September 1963, the year I was born, at the age of 17 he made his first division debut for Manchester United, so today is a bit special for George.  That year they finished second in the league behind my team; Liverpool.

George Best was problematic for me as a kid.  He was from the wrong end of Ireland.  He played internationals for Northern Ireland.  Everyone knew he was a genius, but he played for the wrong team.  Those were the great years of Liverpool Vs Manchester United rivalry.

If I wrote this poem it would be 1974, Liverpool winning the FA cup in Bill Shankly’s final year as manager, the young Kevin Keegan scoring twice in the final.  Dermot is that little bit older than I.  But we had the same english teacher in Beneavin College.


In Memory of George Best: by Dermot Bolger

In one corner of our mind it remains 1969:
Frosted pavements, icy breath, yet our hands thaw
in the thrill of chasing a ball under streetlights,
voices in the dark calling the names of Best and Law.

A drudge of decades have clogged our arteries,
yet no matter what occurred, what we have become,
when we see again his feint, his sheer artistry
thousands of us are instantaneously made young.

The Testaments

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The long awaited and instantly famous sequel to The Handmaids Tale has been released at last.  The Margaret Atwood novel is already shortlisted, prior to publication, for the Booker Prize.

On this day I am happy to feature one of her poems.  I empathise with the angst of postcard writing, what do you say and why bother?  You’ll be home before it arrives.  I get the disjoint between the hyperreal simulacrum of the holiday paradise and the reality of a place where humans actually live, generally on a lower income level than their visitors.  I see behind the curtain.  I went to Disneyland and where others saw fantasy I saw plastic.

“Wish you were here”.  A phrase that always made me uncomfortable.  On the one hand it sounds like you are saying “I wish you were here”.  But why?  Are you bored without them?  Do you need them to entertain you?  Can’t last a week on your own?  How desperate do you sound?

On the other hand maybe it says “Don’t you wish you were here?”  Sucker!  I’m on holiday and you’re stuck in wet, cold. miserable Milton Keynes, Mullingar, or Midland Michigan.  Sounds positively mean to say that.

Maybe you just want to tell them you have time to revisit some old favourites and listen to some decent music.  “How I wish, how I wish you were here, we’re just two lost souls, 
swimming in a fish bowl, year after year.”


Postcards; by Margaret Atwood

I’m thinking about you. What else can I say?
The palm trees on the reverse
are a delusion; so is the pink sand.
What we have are the usual
fractured coke bottles and the smell
of backed-up drains, too sweet,
like a mango on the verge
of rot, which we have also.
The air clear sweat, mosquitoes
& their tracks; birds & elusive.

Time comes in waves here, a sickness, one
day after the other rolling on;
I move up, it’s called
awake, then down into the uneasy
nights but never
forward. The roosters crow
for hours before dawn, and a prodded
child howls & howls
on the pocked road to school.
In the hold with the baggage
there are two prisoners,
their heads shaved by bayonets, & ten crates
of queasy chicks. Each spring
there’s race of cripples, from the store
to the church. This is the sort of junk
I carry with me; and a clipping
about democracy from the local paper.

Outside the window
they’re building the damn hotel,
nail by nail, someone’s
crumbling dream. A universe that includes you
can’t be all bad, but
does it? At this distance
you’re a mirage, a glossy image
fixed in the posture
of the last time I saw you.
Turn you over, there’s the place
for the address. Wish you were
here. Love comes
in waves like the ocean, a sickness which goes on
& on, a hollow cave
in the head, filling & pounding, a kicked ear.


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Recent recommendations 

The Sparrow – Mary Doria Russell,

Spin – Robert Charles Wilson

When a Crocodile Eats the Sun – Peter Godwin – very topical just now as Robert Mugabe has just passed away – a journalists account of the collapse of Zimbabwe.


Current read 

Children of Earth and Sky – Guy Gavriel Kay  (Loving it)


Next reads in my TBR pile

In a Glass Darkly – Sheridan Le Fanu

American Pastoral – Philip Roth

One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez



The Teachers Pet Podcast

5 Day

This American Life 388:  The Rest Stop

Blindboy Podcast: Soss Potion

Science VS:  The Abortion Underground



Game of Thrones is over. Do I deleted it from the Sky Box now?

Peaky Blinders

Star Trek Discovery

Lord of the Rings – Movies – Again



Sniper Elite 4



Integrated Assurance Management System

Corporate Planning Tool

Selling in Tipperary and Buying in Cork



Jerry offered an MPhil with TUD in Aerobiology, Atmospheric monitoring and Environmental Sciences:  Fully funded and sponsored by EPA.  Booked into the Point for accomodation.

Esha started 3rd year Elec Engineering in UCC on a WIT scholarship for tuition from Intel.  In a house share in Cork.

Gavin started 1st year Engineering in UCC staying in Deans Hall residence.



Rudely healthy but terribly unfit.  Friday lunchtime yoga classes.  Fitbit is broken, but it’s the free one Jerry gave me.



Still all Brexit, Brexit, Brexit.  UK parliament is prorogued by Boris Johnson the PM.  Prorouge is the word of the year.  Irish parties are pretending they don’t want an election to protect the stability of the country at this sensitive juncture.  In reality they have nothing to gain and the Dáil appears to operate more efficiently with a minorty party in power than it does with a majority.

Greta Thunberg just sailed to the USA for Climate Action.

Donald Trump sent Mike Pence to Ireland to bump his re-election campaign.  Pence insulted the Irish Goverment, many times.  Do Irish American Republican voters even care?

When I read this back in years to come I hope Greta Thunberg is ascendant and nobody much remembers Trump, Pence or Johnson.



I need an oil change.  Driving on an amber light.  Renault megane dynamique 1.4 diesel 131 TN One short of the number of the beast.



Watching masterchef Australia.



Likes cheese.  Also likes mice.


Sporting Highlights:

Ireland Rugby team are No. 1 in the world rankings.  World cup begins Friday week.

Liverpool lead the Premier League with 4 wins from 4 matches.

Dublin play Kerry on Sunday (again) for 5th Sam Maguire in a row.  The last game was a draw.


Poem that sums up my life right now:

Begin; by Brendan Kennelly

Begin again to the summoning birds
to the sight of the light at the window,
begin to the roar of morning traffic
all along Pembroke Road.
Every beginning is a promise
born in light and dying in dark
determination and exaltation of springtime
flowering the way to work.
Begin to the pageant of queuing girls
the arrogant loneliness of swans in the canal
bridges linking the past and future
old friends passing though with us still.
Begin to the loneliness that cannot end
since it perhaps is what makes us begin,
begin to wonder at unknown faces
at crying birds in the sudden rain
at branches stark in the willing sunlight
at seagulls foraging for bread
at couples sharing a sunny secret
alone together while making good.
Though we live in a world that dreams of ending
that always seems about to give in
something that will not acknowledge conclusion
insists that we forever begin.

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My last word.  Cut short.

Choked off as they say, by the ligature.



My last drink, a bitter draught.

Hemlock were better.


Oh.  Eau.  Auvergne.  Land of the Arverni.

My last freedom.

Five years past.

Freedom surrendered to Caesar to save my people.


Verse.  No poet I.

Verse in….

In what?  It was poetic for a time.

Glorious.  Heroic.  Foolish.



Yes.  Now I recall.

At Alesia, beneath the Yoke.

Beneath Caesar.

He is bald.

He hides it with a wreath.


My hair long, free, in the Celtic way.

Proud, so proud.

Oh how proud.

Oh, Oh, Oh.


Rozet weel your fiddlesticks

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No better time than Robert Fergusson’s Birthday serves to ponder why the Lowland Scots who live close to England speak a dialect opague to many an English ear, while their Highland bretheren speak the Queen’s English with a tongue precise and fair.

The answer is simple.  The lowland Scots are Saxons, and speak a form of English.  Go back 200 years and the Lowland Scots had more in common with Lancastrians and Northumbrians than they did with wild long haired Highland Scots.

Because they spoke a dialect of English the Lowland Scots never felt the need to learn English.

The Highland Scots were Picts and the Pictish language is long gone.  It was replaced by Gaelic when the Scotii, an Irish Tribe, invaded Scotland.   Celtic Monks from Ireland and Iona helped further spread Gaelic when they converted the Picts to Christianity.

In the 18th Century following the Act of Union with Britain the Highland Scots began to acquire the English.  But it was not the English of Glasgow and Edinburgh they took to.  Instead they learned the language direct from officals arriving from London and the South of England.

And so it is that a poem in lowland Scots can be as obtuse in parts to a highland Scot as it is to an Englishman or an Irishman.  But 90% of the time you can get it.

The Daft Days; by Robert Fergusson

Now mirk December’s dowie face
glowers owre the rigs wi’ sour grimace,
while, through his minimum o’ space,
the bleer-ee’d sun
wi’ blinkin light and stealing pace,
his race doth run.

Frae naked groves nae birdie sings;
to shepherd’s pipe nae hillock rings;
the breeze nae odorous flavour brings
frae Borean cave;
and dwynin’ Nature droops her wings,
wi’ visage grave.

Mankind but scanty pleasure glean
frae snawy hill or barren plain,
whan winter, ‘midst his nippin’ train,
wi’ frozen spear,
sends drift owre a’ his bleak domain,
and guides the weir.

Auld Reekie! thou’rt the canty hole,
a bield for mony cauldrife soul,
wha snugly at thine ingle loll,
baith warm and couth;
while round they gar the bicker roll,
to weet their mouth.

When merry Yule-day comes, I trow,
you’ll scantlins find a hungry mou’;
sma’ are our cares, our stamacks fu’
o’ gusty gear,
and kickshaws, strangers to our view,
sin’ fernyear.

Ye browster wives ! now busk ye braw,
and fling your sorrows far awa’;
then, come and gie’s the tither blaw
o’ reaming ale,
mair precious than the well o’ Spa,
our hearts to heal.

Then, though at odds wi’ a’ the warl’,
amang oursels we’ll never quarrel;
thoogh discord gie a canker’d snarl
to spoil our glee,
as lang’s there’s pith into the barrel,
we’ll drink and gree.

Fiddlers! your pins in temper fix,
and rozet weel your fiddlesticks,
but banish vile Italian tricks
frae out your quorum;
nor fortes wi’ pianos mix –
gie’s Tullochgorum.

For nought can cheer the heart sae weil
as can a canty Highland reel;
it even vivifies the heel
to skip and dance:
Lifeless is he wha canna feel
its influence.

Let mirth abound; let social cheer
invest the dawnin’ o’ the year;
let blythesome innocence appear,
to crown our joy;
nor envy, wi’ sarcastic sneer,
our bliss destroy.

And thou, great god of ‘aqua vitæ’!
wha sway’st the empire o’ this city,
when fou, we’re sometimes capernoity,
be thou prepar’d
to hedge us frae that black banditti,
the City Guard.

Since you asked…

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It tastes of the warmth of a turf fire on a cold winters night.

It tastes like a draught from a deep cold well on a hot summers day.

It tastes like a fair wind in the face in a good running sea.

It tastes like a strong winded stallion leaping a hedge.

It tastes like a fine salmon taking the fly in a stream.

It tastes of the air you breathe when you reach a mountain top.

It tastes like the smell of a peacefully sleeping child.

It tastes of a job well done, a match well won,

a race well run

and of home,

and that special someone.