Friday, December 15, 2006

Insurrection

RTÉ Easter Week schedule 1966 commemorating the 1916 rising

I've always remembered the brilliant dramatisation "Insurrection" (written by Hugh Leonard) and wished I could see it again. There are several excerpts from it online now. (Why don't they put the whole thing up?) Although it looks different, naturally dated somewhat, I still think the clips are great.

From Episode 1
From Episode 2
From Episode 3
From Episode 4
From Episode 5
From Episode 6
From Episode 7
From Episode 8

The RTÉ archives also contain marvellous interviews with survivors such as James Connolly's daughter, recalling her and her mother's visit to him before he was shot. Every day of the week has a separate page with a list of the special schedule for TV and radio and clips, though it's a pity how many have been lost. (I know, one could say that about people as well.)

Here is a clip from an interview with Kathleen Clarke widow of Thomas Clarke, one of the seven signatories of the Proclamation of the Republic (all shot). "You must make your goodbyes as casual as possible...I didn't really ever see that he'd come through, I must say."

Kathleen Clarke is also in this clip, talking about P. H. Pearse. One gathers that she remembers him not with any fondness, as an exceptionally silent type.

Former president Seán T. Ó Ceallaigh recalls the looting in O'Connell Street and his failed attempt to deal with it under orders from General (James) Connolly. Connolly subsequently talks about sending somebody to shoot some of the looters: "Shooting over their heads is useless. Unless some of them are shot, they won't stop." Ó Ceallaigh requests and is allowed to be excused from that duty. He doesn't know if it was actually done. Here he is again, talking about the release of Bulmer Hobson.

"Seán F. Kavanagh, a member of the Irish Brigade, recalls meeting [Roger] Casement at the Hotel Saxonia in Berlin on 10 April 1916." (About Roger Casement)

"In this [vivid] extract, Norah Connolly O'Brien recalls making her way back to Dublin and her concern to find out how her father was." She recalls a friend telling her, "They're all dead and slaughtered. She battered us with words..." In another extract, she describes her [and her mother's] final visit to her father before his execution." Very beautiful, the words, but heart-rending. Because of Connolly's injuries his execution was worse, if that is possible, than the others: they shot him sitting in a chair.

After the surrender, the hostility of other Dubliners to the rebels as they were marched away, is recalled by one of the prisoners. He thought that there was nothing left of Dublin, it was all fire, "still burning."

There are other recollections of the leaders, people and events as well as coverage of the opening and closing ceremonies, the march in Belfast, and speeches by that sanctimonious old prig De Valera, who was largely responsible for the miseries of Ireland after 1916.

I was 11 in Easter, 1966. For the fiftieth anniversary of the rising, we had three giant new flagpoles installed by the entrance to the De La Salle primary school in Finglas, and we'd been practicing for weeks to sing on the occasion of their inauguration: The Foggy Dew and Roddy McCorley. About the hemp rope on his neck, the golden ringlets clung.

We were then all bused into O'Connell Street on Easter Sunday and marched to Croke Park for an extraordinary pageant. There were parades and displays by hundreds of variously costumed people portraying Irish history. Here's an archive recording about the 'Aiséiri' [rising] pageant. The whole effect of the commemorations was an inoculation of nationalism that never needs any booster shots. The next time I marched from O'Connell Street was the Wednesday after Bloody Sunday in 1972, with 100,000 in protest to the British Embassy.

Perhaps I should close with the special version of the national anthem that was used at closedown every night for the week, with drawings of the seven signatories ending up with Pearse, proving again that the writing of poetry is no guide to good character.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Case Notes

"Case Notes", a sort of story, has been published in Magazine (New Zealand) Issue 4 "Nga Whanau - Families" (issn: 11763787) together with a review of The London Silence and loads of interesting poetry, pictures and prose. To order, contact Magazine - loaded with arts.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Jacob Bronowski

Everything stopped for us when it was time to watch The Ascent of Man on TV in 1973. One of the most memorable sections was when Bronowski shared his thoughts from the site of a Nazi concentration camp. Somebody has uploaded this clip onto YouTube.

By the way, I find it ironic that Cromwell, of all people, should have provided the quote "Think it possible that you might be mistaken".

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Remembering Suzi

Obituary for Suzi Pritchard

"Originally from Chicago, she spent more than 40 years in Britain and expressed a lifelong passion for the arts through music, drama, teaching and writing." (Guardian)

Suzi was a friend of mine. I still have some of the brandied preserves she sent me last Christmas. I always thought of her as the unsinkable Suzi Pritchard, but a dicky heart valve finally got her. I know it's a cliche, but she was indeed "a life force", always starting artistic ventures with enthusiasm and never giving up.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Monday, September 18, 2006

Q.e.d.

In the morning before waking, pleasure is at its height when the phone rings downstairs. There is a solution to great problems, too important to relinquish. I might be onto the reason for amyloid plaques forming in the brain, which it turns out has something to do with the neglect of beauty. The phone rings again but the duvet offers its most sybaritic, enveloping softness, warmth without heat, holding me up instead of lying flat under me. There is none of the bruising pressure that is sometimes there. Proof of how amyloid plaque derives from the neglect of beauty is only a couple of mathematically elegant expressions away. But the phone that's connected to another planet rings again.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

The end of summer

"It's ours" - Bukowski

A breezy afternoon, the sun still partly overhead on its journey from the street outside to the back gardens. The trees still hold their shadows below, rustling with all their leaves. Fruit is strewn everywhere, from street trees and garden trees that overhang fences— red apples, plums, cherries. There are more black elder and orange firethorn berries than the wood pigeons can eat. Birdshit falls purple on a car windscreen. The west facing high walls are at their brightest, dazzling white and creamy pastel. The warbling of conversations, words indistinguishable, with folk rhythms and jags of mirth. Something that sounds like a basketball bouncing always when you listen, but never seen. Traffic whines far off. The high wild pear tree shivers like tambourines jostled by the breeze, its sway and reach more passionate and appealing than a dance. Some small engine drones in a garden on the next street. The sky is ice-blue. Telegraph wires shimmy not very much, bounced by the breeze. All the talk in them weighs nothing. If you could take all the talk from all the wires in the world and put it on one side of a scales, it would be outweighed by an empty chestnut shell.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Friday, July 21, 2006

That's my Dad there

Christy Moran, in his prime...



The picture was taken when Dad was General Manager of a shirt factory in Leitrim. It's from a two-page spread in the Irish Farmers' Journal about the factory, which was owned by locally famous business tycoons, the McCartin brothers, one of whom was and is still a prominent politician. The brothers' homespun technique for wealth creation (which ultimately ended in bankruptcy) was the way they had been taught to pick fruit, to take one tree at a time and pick it clean. They bought farms, milled and produced feed to supply to the farms, provided engineering etc. After creating hundreds of jobs for men, the McCartin's setup the shirt factory to provide work for local young women who might otherwise have had to leave the area.

My Dad, Mam and my sisters (I have no brothers) all worked in the rag trade, and so did I for the first six years of my working life. (Imagine our delight the year Rag Trade won the Grand National! That Saturday in 1976 I was working overtime in a factory in Smithfield, Dublin when everybody took a break to watch the race in a pub around the corner. A great day—but that's another story.)

Dad was at a garden party this week in Áras an Uachtaráin, as chairman of Ballymun Men's Centre (BMC). In spite of an inauspicious address (Lift Shaft 4, Shangan Road) the BMC is a great facility, a warren of rooms with a computer network for training, meeting room, office etc, though scheduled for demolition together with the rest of Ballymun.

Amongst many other things, Dad was formerly Secretary of our local Labour party branch. He resigned when they decided to go into coalition with Fine Gael (many years ago.)

One of his favourite books is The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, and he is as genuine Dublin as you can get. He has a highly developed sense of the ridiculous, which I'm glad I inherited, and no time for pretentious tomfoolery. Here he is in the Ballymun Men's Centre, trying to keep a straight face while pretending to point at something for my camera.

Monday, July 03, 2006

In the garden today

Everything is better out of doors—drama, food, music, love.

You can hear the wind in the trees, moan of buzzflies, the smallness of voices in the distance, the similarity of gulls and schoolchildren's cries, desultory clink of hammer on tin far away, pecking of a neighbour's shovel on stone, angry jets.

The sheen of green-bellied flies does not go unnoticed, the visits and revisits of a rufus butterfly, and a wood pigeon's one bar blues.

On a hot day when any wind rushes through and cools your ankles, on a dry day when the trickle of water nearby is a joy to hear. Sirens do not distract the terrier from chewing a stick, working on it implacably, less concerned with noises off than with a hover fly that dares to interrupt.

Leaves lit through by the evening sun on top of a laurel mostly in shade, bring a memory from a lost summer, of a grand avenue with four rows of trees, and side roads with small terraced houses below.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Knock, knock

The way the world is is not consistent with the notion of a loving, caring deity. Would such a god design creatures that survived by attacking, killing, ripping other creatures apart and eating their carcasses? It's clear that either this world is a haphazard accident, or we are the playthings of some cruel entity or entities. Some of us, like dogs that have been kicked by their masters, hypocritally and cravenly display adoration for what in honesty we should really despise, if it existed.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Now you don't

Alike to those who for To-day prepare,
And those that after a To-morrow stare,
A Muezzin from the Tower of Darkness cries
"Fools! your reward is neither Here nor There!"


The present is not a minute because half the minute is past and half in the future, not a second for the same reason and not any interval. There is no present. Everything that is is already gone and everything we are is already over. But we sense that this is not the case, and the explanation must be that time doesn't flow, it grows. Our now is only the surface of a growing thing.

Either that or we are just blurring frames in a colossal media player. Or are we the playthings of cruel and mischievous gods?

CCTV record of the attack on the Pentagon

Being tired

As you get older the things you do tire you more. But there are some things you have to do. You have to sleep, get up, eat, drink, and clean yourself. Of course you have to breathe in and out, in, out, in, out...But one day even that will be too tiring. Then all that's left is sleep.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Blather

I heard Gwyneth Lewis say, in a television interview, that the trick of being a poet was knowing when not to write, when to shut up. There are a lot of people around who seem to think they can write a continuous stream of poetry, but these people are not Dantes or Shakespeares; they are modern McGonagles, dressing the banal in florid words. They persist in trying to say ordinary things in an extraordinary way, but isn't poetry just the opposite: extraordinary things said in an ordinary way? Perhaps it's extraordinary things said in an extraordinary way, yes that sounds better. To be prolific to that standard requires something more than pretend genius.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Time is leaking

Time is leaking out of us like blood from the wounded, and with it whatever strength we thought we had. At comically long intervals we remark how time flies. Less of us remains, less and less, till we completely evaporate. The nests we gathered round us will fall to bits and new noises will replace our songs, till everyone who could have remembered our singing is gone as well. And the saddest part of all, we will never get to know what happens to the world, how it all turns out.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

John McGahern

Obituary in the Times

“I must have been extraordinarily happy walking that lane to school. There are many such lanes all around where I live and in certain rare moments over the years while walking in these lanes I have come into an extraordinary sense of security, a deep peace, in which I feel that I can live for ever.” (McGahern about walks to school with his mother)

I idolised John McGahern in a way that would surely have horrified him. He was dreadfully shy. I'm not going to tell you what a fan I was over him, thirty very odd years ago -it's too embarrassing. I think I've read nearly everything he wrote, except "Memoir", which I heard him read on Radio 4's Book at Bedtime.

I was lucky enough to see and hear him at the Small Wonder short story festival last September, which I wrote about here. He was amusing and generous with his readings and the question and answer session. He asked the audience what they wanted to hear and they opted for a scene from Memoir, which he retold without appearing to read from the book. It was about an occasion when his father had him by one ear to drag him to a football match, and a priest had him by the other ear insisting that he come to Sunday school, and it was outlandishly funny.

His prose is the most meticulously self-effacing of any writer I've read. Just one little example, he would write "small coloured lights" where a lesser author would write "fairy lights" or "christmas lights". That example is from "That they may face the rising sun" (renamed "By the Lake" for the US). The Times obituary calls it a book "in which nothing happens". Funny, because everything in life and death happens in it, but that's nothing apparently.

Playboy of the Western World

The Westwords Festival has been underway since the beginning of March. I have been participating in a tour of seven venues to promote and celebrate The Monkey's Typewriter winning of Raymond Williams award. (I had a short story in the book.) We've already been to Harrow, Ealing, Willesden (not far) and Heston. The remaining readings are:
  • Weds 5th April: Shepherds Bush Library, 7pm. 7 Uxbridge Road, W12 8LJ
  • Mon 10th April: Marylebone Library, 6pm. 109 Marylebone Road, NW1 5PS
  • Thurs 20th April: Kensington Library, 7pm. Philimore Walk, Kensington

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Time Out, Carmencita

I read a bit from the above at Gayton Library tonight to a lot of merriment. Siobhan Curham, who was presiding, asked where people could get the complete story. I mentioned that it's going to be published this April in Fish Drink Like Us, an anthology of new fiction. The promotional website takes quite a while to download but you can bypass the flash intro by clicking on "Skip Intro" which takes you to the books. (Scroll down and click on Enter to see the show.) The covers were designed by Stratos. The books and the website are by Pretend Genius.