Happy Birthday Louis MacNeice

louis_macneice

Poetically associated with W.H Auden and C. Day-Lewis who he met in Oxford.  He was also in school with John Betjeman and the Art Historian/Soviet Spy Sir Anthony Blunt, who lost the knighthood of course.  MacNeice is from Northern protestant stock and grew up in Carrickfergus.  Though educated in Dorset and Oxford his Irish roots ran deep and he has been an inspiration to many poets, especially Northern Irish poets and in particular Paul Muldoon.

Wolves; by Louis MacNeice

I do not want to be reflective any more
Envying and despising unreflective things
Finding pathos in dogs and undeveloped handwriting
And young girls doing their hair and all the castles of sand
Flushed by the children’s bedtime, level with the shore.

The tide comes in and goes out again, I do not want
to be always stressing either its flux or its permanence,
I do not want to be a tragic or philosophic chorus
But to keep my eye only on the nearer future
And after that let the sea flow over us.

Come then all of you, come closer, form a circle,
Join hands and make believe that joined
hands will keep away the wolves of water
Who howl along our coast. And be it assumed
that no one hears them among the talk and laughter.

 

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Fishtrap

LobsterPot

Easy to get in, very hard to get out.  That is the principle of the fish trap.  The photo above shows how this is done in a traditional lobster pot.  The fish can swim in from the top down into the heart of the trap to eat the bait.  Once the bait is eaten the fish swims around the perimeter looking for a way out.  But that is the trick, the exit is in the middle, not at the edge.

What has this to do with anything?  The fishtrap sums up every software company ever.  They make it easy to get in and very very difficult to get out.

An example is mobile phones.  Anyone who has ever tried to move from one technology to another will understand the pain.  When you join a mobile phone company they do everything they can to make it easy for you to import your data to their system.  All your phone contacts, all your social media and as many files as they can get from you.  They provide you with plenty of space at setup to store your photos and documents.

It is a different story when you try to leave.  If you move from Apple ios to Windows, or from Windows to Android, or from Android to Chrome etc you will find every barrier thrown in your path to prevent a seamless move.  Like the Hotel California “you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave”.  Or as Maurice Sendak said “Oh please don’t go, we’ll eat you up we love you so!” (Where the Wild Things Are).

When you decide to invest in a technology for the next 18 months to 2 years it is a wise researcher who looks at the exit costs.

To this day I have a list of mothballed contacts locked up in Apple cloud storage that has been there since I last owned an iPhone – I think that was 2014.  I have a stack of photos that I hope I can retrieve at some later date.

I would like to sign up with a technology company that did not treat me like a plump fish to be landed on their plate.  I am not a net profit, a cash flow, an income line or a revenue stream.  I don’t love their marketing lure or their sales hook.  I want a fair exchange.  I’ll swim with you a while, but when it’s time for me to leave I don’t want to have to escape your grasping claws.  Let me go gently and I just may return one day.

 

The Fish: by Elizabeth Bishop

I caught a tremendous fish
and held him beside the boat
half out of water, with my hook
fast in a corner of his mouth.
He didn’t fight.
He hadn’t fought at all.
He hung a grunting weight,
battered and venerable
and homely. Here and there
his brown skin hung in strips
like ancient wallpaper,
and its pattern of darker brown
was like wallpaper:
shapes like full-blown roses
stained and lost through age.
He was speckled with barnacles,
fine rosettes of lime,
and infested
with tiny white sea-lice,
and underneath two or three
rags of green weed hung down.
While his gills were breathing in
the terrible oxygen
– the frightening gills,
fresh and crisp with blood,
that can cut so badly-
I thought of the coarse white flesh
packed in like feathers,
the big bones and the little bones,
the dramatic reds and blacks
of his shiny entrails,
and the pink swim-bladder
like a big peony.
I looked into his eyes
which were far larger than mine
but shallower, and yellowed,
the irises backed and packed
with tarnished tinfoil
seen through the lenses
of old scratched isinglass.
They shifted a little, but not
to return my stare.
– It was more like the tipping
of an object toward the light.
I admired his sullen face,
the mechanism of his jaw,
and then I saw
that from his lower lip
– if you could call it a lip
grim, wet, and weaponlike,
hung five old pieces of fish-line,
or four and a wire leader
with the swivel still attached,
with all their five big hooks
grown firmly in his mouth.
A green line, frayed at the end
where he broke it, two heavier lines,
and a fine black thread
still crimped from the strain and snap
when it broke and he got away.
Like medals with their ribbons
frayed and wavering,
a five-haired beard of wisdom
trailing from his aching jaw.
I stared and stared
and victory filled up
the little rented boat,
from the pool of bilge
where oil had spread a rainbow
around the rusted engine
to the bailer rusted orange,
the sun-cracked thwarts,
the oarlocks on their strings,
the gunnels- until everything
was rainbow, rainbow, rainbow!
And I let the fish go.

Groceteria

Shop

In the 1890s the concept of a self-service restaurant developed in the USA.  Based on the Scandinavian model of the smorgasbord it was given the Spanish name “Cafeteria” by John Kruger when he was serving food at the World’s Columbian Exposition (Chicago Worlds Fair).  Perhaps it was the association of Columbus with Latin America that inspired Kruger to call his format the Spanish for Coffee Shop.

On this day in 1916 the first self-service grocery store opened in Memphis Tennessee.  The Piggly Wiggly opened by Clarence Saunders was originally marketed as a grocery version of the cafeteria and was called a “Groceteria”.  You entered through a turnstile.  You were offered a basket or a grocery cart for convenience.  It offered self service, price marked goods and a customer checkout.  The supermarket was born.

I have seen the rise and fall of many groceterias over the years, including the Ballymun Cash Stores (which was in Finglas), H. Williams, Superquinn, Quinnsworth, Crazy Prices, Super Crazy Prices, Roches Stores.  The rise and survival of Iceland, JC Savages in Swords, Nolans in Clontarf, Musgraves/Supervalu, Dunnes Stores, Tesco and most recently the German invasion of Aldi and Lidl.

As a kid growing up in Dublin I was always exposed to supermarkets.  On the other hand my summers were spent in Kilkee in the West of Clare.  There were no supermarkets in 1960’s Clare.  I have vivid memories of my mothers frustration, on her holidays, having to queue at the butchers and at the grocers to be served one at a time with a long line of other mothers.  I always had the enjoyable job of going to the bakery.  Picking up fresh loaves, hot from the oven and bringing them back to the house for breakfast time.

Travelling to the continent in 1976 was an eye opening revelation.  The French Hypermarche was a decade ahead of Ireland.  All those wooden barrels full of olives, who knew olives were so popular?  Those were the days when you bought Olive oil in a pharmacy in Ireland to treat an ear infection. Very different days.

Happy Birthday Paddy Clancy

Paddy

My dad passed away in October 2006.  That is significant because it predated the smartphone.  In those days cameras on phones were a new and expensive add on.  As a result most of the photos of Paddy are old style paper photographs, and there are not many digital ones.  I never got around to scanning all my old paper photos, but I managed to find this one in my archives.

Paddy and Maura were preparing for a trip.  It may have been the holiday they took in Dubrovnik.  I know this because my dad was doing up his cabin bag when I took the photo.  Paddy was the ultimate boy-scout, being prepared for every eventuality.  It was a product of his upbringing in a military household.  On camping holidays when anything broke Paddy had a spare in his “magic box”.  His in-flight bag was a treasure trove of travel “must-haves”.

My parents grew up during WW2, or “the emergency” as it was called in Ireland.  Born in 1927 they were 12 when the war began.  Ireland suffered a similar rationing regime to Great Britain, which meant frugality and food discipline was central to their lives from age 12 to around age 20 when rationing eventually tailed off.  They never lost their discipline in relation to waste.

Here is a story that illustrates their mindset.  When they were newly married my father bought a good coat for his wedding.  It was a fine heavy wool tweed coat.  Good Donegal tweed is tough stuff and lasts many years.

Over time the coat began to wear and my mother had to turn the cuffs and put in some repairs.  Eventually Paddy said it looked too shabby to wear.

Maura agreed, so she took the coat apart, panel by panel, and reversed the material and made up the coat again.  She put in new lining and the whole garment looked brand new.

When you turn the fabric it looks fine for a while, but it is worn thin and within a short few years the coat looked beat again.  Paddy said “Maura, this coat is finished, I need to buy a new one.”  Maura looked it over and sadly agreed.  “Yes” she said, “it’s finished, you can’t wear that any more…….I’ll cut it down to make clothes for the children”.

Were he still with us Paddy would be 90 today.  My dad shares his birthday with William Ernest Henley (b. 1849), the Victorian poet made famous all over again by Nelson Mandela.  Mandela would read “Invictus” to his cellmates in their darkest days.  He gave the poem to the South African Rugby Union team in 1995 to spur them on to win the Rugby World Cup for the new South African Nation.  Clint Eastwood directed Matt Damon as Francois Pienaar, the Springboks captain, and Morgan Freeman as Mandela in the 2009 movie centred on that poem.  Here is another from Henley more along the theme of “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may”.

Oh gather me the rose; by William Ernest Henley

O gather me the rose, the rose,
while yet in flower we find it,
for summer smiles, but summer goes,
and winter waits behind it.

For with the dream foregone, foregone,
the deed foreborn forever,
the worm Regret will canker on,
and time will turn him never.

So were it well to love, my love,
and cheat of any laughter
the fate beneath us, and above,
the dark before and after.

The myrtle and the rose, the rose,
the sunshine and the swallow,
the dream that comes, the wish that goes
the memories that follow!

Cats

BomDem

Bombalurina (Esha Hourihane Clancy) Demeter (Naomi Ryan)

 

Just a quick post to capture a moment from last week when Phoenix productions in Thurles staged Cats.  An amazing performance that took many weeks of hard graft.  Thorough professionals.  This is not a youth musical society, this is Phoenix!

First and foremost this is a dancing show and the cast really stepped up to the plate.  The choreography was first class and would give Broadway a run for its money.  Of course I am a sucker for any show based on great poetry.

All the cats were great but Bombalurina (Esha Hourihane Clancy) was magnificent.  She and her partner in crime, Demeter (Naomi Ryan) were the pillar and post to every set piece in the show. But then I am biased.

 

Catnames

Cats

 

 

Happy Birthday Mark Knopfler

Knopfler

Back in 1977 Mark Knopfler and his brother David founded one of the iconic bands of my experience. Their eponymous first album, Dire Straits, is one of my favourites.  Mark was born on this day in 1949.

Mark went on to work in the film industry.  A lot of people I know have great nostalgia for “The Princess Bride”.  I wonder how many of them know that Knopfler was behind the score?

One of the top 100 guitarists in Rolling Stone Magazines list he is probably most famous for his use of the National Guitar in the “Making Movies” and “Love over Gold” albums.  I saw them in Punchestown during the Love Over Gold tour in July 1983.

A fingerpicking guitarist; Knopfler developed his playing style because when staying with some friends the only guitar he could get his hands on was a wreck with a warped neck.  He had to tune it slack and could only play by fingerpicking.

I will never forget the impact when they came on stage in Punchestown and opened with this one:

Bucket list #6

Dustbin

The latest installment in my bucket list thread is this rakish looking model, a large size plastic bucket with a weather proof lid complete with locking handles.  I need it for the chickens.  Well, really they are hens, laying hens.

I wanted my own fresh eggs, so I bought a henhouse and enclosed a chicken run.  It is equipped with suspended containers for water and feed.  The feed needs to be replenished regularly and it comes in very large 25 kilo bags.  The feed bag goes in the bucket, and it stays dry in all weather.  Each morning I refill the feeder from the bucket.

The weather proof locking handles double up to keep out varmints.  We don’t have to worry about raccoons or bears in Ireland but never underestimate the intelligence of a fox, a stoat, a rat a mouse or a crow.

The hens are working out well.  They are mostly Blackrocks, which is a first generation cross between Rhode Island Reds and Plymouth Rock Barred.  A couple of them are slimmer and have white feathers at the neck.  They are White Star crosses, which are Rhode Island Reds crossed with a Light Sussex.  I figure William Carlos Williams had either Light Sussex or possibly Leghorns, but he is never so specific is he?

Currently we get 5 to 6 eggs a day from 6 hens.  That will tail off come winter, but a light I installed in the coop should prevent a complete drop off.

Hens are great for reducing your garbage load as they eat all your food scraps.  They then produce copious amounts of good manure which goes to the vegetable garden, to produce more food.  Should they stop laying for any reason there is always a recipe for coq au vin…….

 

The Red Wheelbarrow; by William Carlos Williams

so much depends
upon

a red wheel
barrow

glazed with rain
water

beside the white
chickens.