Poor Dad

Fava Beans

Fava beans are one of the oldest foods known to man.  In the middle east they are known as foul medames, and they are the basis for a bean soup or stew served from Morocco to Central Asia.  Foul is pronounced, usually, as “fool”.

These days most people reference fava beans to Hannibal the Cannibal of Red Dragon fame.  Hannibal Lecter is the doctor, serial killer and advisor to the FBI in Silence of the Lambs.  He famously told of the census taker who tried to quantify him “I ate his liver with some fava beans and a big Amarone”.  When the book was made into a film the research demonstrated that the audience did not know what expensive Amarone was, so they changed it to a cheap Chianti.

If you come from Southern Italy or Sicily you might know about the association of fava beans with the Feast of St. Joseph.  Today is American Fathers day, a Hallmark holiday.  The Catholic Fathers day was always St. Joseph’s Day on March 19th.

In Ireland since we had St. Patricks Day on March 17th the feast of St. Joseph was not a thing.  But it was very popular in Italian, Spanish and Portuguese Catholic Communities.  One of the symbols of Joseph is the “lucky bean”.  If you bring a dried fava bean to the church on St. Joseph’s Day and have it blessed by the priest it serves as a charm against poverty.  You keep the lucky bean in your wallet or purse and you will never completely run out of money.

The feast is preserved these days in the saying “I haven’t got a bean” meaning that you have no money.

 

 

 

Lockdown Week 1

Image result for phyllis mcginley

It has been nothing short of bizarre this week and reminds me a lot of the Phyllis McGinley poem below.  We now have the subject matter for a hundred such poems.  Phyllis was born on this day in 1905 in Ontario, but was not a Canadian.  There is a town called Ontario in Oregon, USA.  There’s a trick question in there for a table quiz!

I worked from home all this week, with a break on Tuesday which was St. Patrick’s Day.  The Irish national holiday passed free of parades, with pubs and restaurants closed.  Tourists stranded in Dublin by the rapid pace of events wandered empty streets like lost souls.

Our heating broke down.  We spent the day shuffling a hot air blower and an oil filled radiator from room to room to alleviate the cold.

The plumber did come and spent the day with us on Thursday fixing the system.  He was pursued about the house by Louise wielding anti-bacterial sprays and sterile wipes in case he had been repairing a heating system in an infected house.

The three kids are working/studying from home also.  Esha sat her first exam of the semester, remotely from her bedroom on Friday.  It’s at times like this that you recognise wants from needs; electricity, wi-fi, heating.

Today Jerry and I did the weekly shop.  A bizarre experience.  Supermarkets filled with socially distanced shoppers.  None of the usual friendly chat and greetings.  No touching.  Everyone super polite, standing back to let others pass by.  No rushing at the checkouts.

You know instinctively that all this distant politeness will come to a violent end if the supply lines dry up.  The most important thing today for goverments the world over is to continue to provide confidence to citizens that the food, and drink, will continue to arrive on the shelves.  A hint of panic and there will be blood in the aisles.

 

Daniel At Breakfast; by Phyllis McGinley

his paper propped against the electric toaster
(nicely adjusted to his morning use),
Daniel at breakfast studies world disaster
and sips his orange juice.
the words dismay him. headlines shrilly chatter
of famine, storm, death, pestilence, decay.
Daniel is gloomy, reaching for the butter.
he shudders at the way
war stalks the planet still, and men know hunger,
go shelterless, betrayed, may perish soon.
the coffee’s weak again. in sudden anger
Daniel throws down his spoon
and broods a moment on the kitchen faucet
the plumber mended, but has mended ill;
recalls tomorrow means a dental visit,
laments the grocery bill.
then having shifted from his human shoulder
the universal woe, he drains his cup
rebukes the weather (surely turning colder),
crumples his napkin up
and, kissing his wife abruptly at the door,
stamps fiercely off to catch the 8:04

St Patrick by Harry Clarke

St Patrick

St Patrick depicted on Stained Glass Window by Harry Clarke.  Commissioned for St Michaels Church Ballinasloe.  Harry Clarke was born on St Patrick’s Day in 1889. He was a leading figure in the Irish Arts & Crafts movement, an illustrator but best remembered for his work in stained glass.

He worked on illustrations for Hans Christian Andersen Fairy Tales, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Pope’s The Rape of the Lock.

Plagued by ill health he moved to Davos in Switzerland seeking a cure for TB.  He died, aged only 41.

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (Excerpt) : by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Down dropt the breeze, the sails dropt down,
‘Twas sad as sad could be;
And we did speak only to break
The silence of the sea!
All in a hot and copper sky,
The bloody Sun, at noon,
Right up above the mast did stand,
No bigger than the Moon.
Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.
Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.
The very deep did rot: O Christ!
That ever this should be!
Yea, slimy things did crawl with legs
Upon the slimy sea.
About, about, in reel and rout
The death-fires danced at night;
The water, like a witch’s oils,
Burnt green, and blue and white.
And some in dreams assurèd were
Of the Spirit that plagued us so;
Nine fathom deep he had followed us
From the land of mist and snow.
And every tongue, through utter drought,
Was withered at the root;
We could not speak, no more than if
We had been choked with soot.
Ah! well a-day! what evil looks
Had I from old and young!
Instead of the cross, the Albatross
About my neck was hung.

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:

———

I

We

———

Ali

Strange bedfellows

Relations between the Irish and the Blacks in America have often been at odds.  When hundreds of thousands of poor Irish fled the great famine and emigrated to America they found themselves at the bottom of society.  Between 1845 and 1852 the starving Irish boarded coffin ships and threw themselves on the mercy of America.

We Irish need to remember this as we observe the flood of refugees and economic migrants who daily put their lives at risk in Libya, boarding unsuitable vessels in their droves and casting their lot on the waters of the Mediterranean.

There are anecdotal tales from America of wealthy landowners hiring Irish workers for dangerous jobs because they didn’t want to risk a valuable slave.

Irish people living in slave states found themselves in competition for work with Negros.  They opposed the freeing of slaves as this would release a workforce in direct competition to them.  Even in the free states of the north the Irish immigrants found themselves in competition with Negros for the lowest and most menial jobs.  These Irish were in ill health, uneducated and many could not even speak English.  The only advantage they held over the Negro was the colour of their skin.

At the same time the Irish could identify with the plight of the American Blacks.  The Irish were no strangers to transportation and slavery.  Many of the original slaves in Caribbean sugar plantations were Irish and Scottish petty criminals or indentured labourers.  The tiny island of Montserrat reflects this influx, most of the inhabitants have Irish names despite their dark skin, and the island holds St Patrick’s day as a holiday.

The Irish who arrived in America emerged from a culture of persecution by Absentee British Landlords and their local Bailiffs.  Unlike farm tenants in England the Irish cottagers were little more than serfs, subsisting in a non-monetary economy with no rights of tenure, rent control or free sale of their property.  They understood much about the life of a slave.

This conflict between sympathy and competiton resolved itself in the Civil War of 1861 to 65 when Irish elected to fight on both sides.  Indeed at the battle of Fredricksburg the 69th New York Infantry (The Irish Brigade) was decimated at the Sunken Road below Marye’s Heights.  Their opponents were the 24th Georgia regiment, comprising McMillans Guards, an Irish regiment.

After the civil war the fate of the Irish in America diverged sharply from that of the Negro.  The Irish became educated and worked their way into positions of political power.  Many Irish gravitated to careers in law enforcement and public service.  While the men worked hard the mothers drove their children to education and improvement.  Lace curtains went up on the windows and the Irish integrated.  Eventually, in the 1960’s the scion of an Irish immigrant family became President of the United States.

There was no ‘risk’ of a black president of the USA in the 1960’s.  This was the age of the struggle for civil rights.

In a perverse twist of fate it was the black struggle for civil rights in America that ignited the Catholic struggle for civil rights in Northern Ireland.  The Irish learned from Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X.  Peace protest marches began, and they ended similarly to the marches in Birmingham Alabama, in violence, persecution and death.

Here is a piece of footage and a highly poignant moment from that time.  Muhammad Ali reciting his own poem on an Irish TV show.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yNrNpw7hmcE

Winter’s final month

by Maira Kalman

by Maira Kalman

With Valentines day behind us, Fat Thursday, Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday all duly celebrated we can at last settle into the rhythm of misery that truly defines the second month of the year and the final month of winter in the Northern Hemisphere.

How the hell did this February get so many “days”?

Gird your loins, the next bit of light relief is St Patricks day, on March 17th.

February ; by Margaret Atwood

Winter. Time to eat fat
and watch hockey. In the pewter mornings, the cat,
a black fur sausage with yellow
Houdini eyes, jumps up on the bed and tries
to get onto my head. It’s his
way of telling whether or not I’m dead.
If I’m not, he wants to be scratched; if I am
He’ll think of something. He settles
on my chest, breathing his breath
of burped-up meat and musty sofas,
purring like a washboard. Some other tomcat,
not yet a capon, has been spraying our front door,
declaring war. It’s all about sex and territory,
which are what will finish us off
in the long run. Some cat owners around here
should snip a few testicles. If we wise
hominids were sensible, we’d do that too,
or eat our young, like sharks.
But it’s love that does us in. Over and over
again, He shoots, he scores! and famine
crouches in the bedsheets, ambushing the pulsing
eiderdown, and the windchill factor hits
thirty below, and pollution pours
out of our chimneys to keep us warm.
February, month of despair,
with a skewered heart in the centre.
I think dire thoughts, and lust for French fries
with a splash of vinegar.
Cat, enough of your greedy whining
and your small pink bumhole.
Off my face! You’re the life principle,
more or less, so get going
on a little optimism around here.
Get rid of death. Celebrate increase. Make it be spring.