The Square


You turned the corner into Donegall Square – trust the Brits to add the redundant letter at the end of an Irish placename; yet another separatist sore thumb dismissive of the border county of Donegal that birthed the O’Donnell line of High Kings right back to times in the mist.  Across the park the Belfast City Hall hit you with a pain in the eyeball. A monolith to monolithism that some would tell you had been constructed as a declaration of whose prick was biggest. It looked more like a folly that the Shah would have built for himself in the desert with his oilwells. It was an offence in scale with the city’s poverty when it was erected barely a hundred years ago when the builder and Messrs. Harland, Wolf and their ilk hired only workers who prayed at the right church. Continue reading

A personal plunge.

Apple_iPad_iBooks_1645855cThe current Australian national reading initiative seems little different to the many similar promotions that have preceded it. What sets it apart for me is its synchroneity with the announcement that Encyclopaedia Britannica will no longer produce their illustrious and time-honoured 32-volume publication. This concurrence prompts me to finally relax my Canutian resistance to the sea of eBooks. This inevitable and tremulous personal milestone will mark my participation in the National Year of Reading 2012.

Before I take the plunge however, Continue reading

The hearth

For at least nine months of the year there was always a fire in the hearth in the Living Room. The tall coal-scuttle always shone in contradiction to the begrimed contents while its mouth yawned at the ceiling as if bored with staring at it. A large brass dog sat to heel in opposite alignment across the grate, cleverly concealing the four tools hanging behind in his hollow shell; tongs, poker, brush, shovel. Continue reading

An overdue letter.

Dear Vincent,

As we are unacquainted it is somewhat presumptuous of me to write this unsolicited letter. I felt compelled to do so following my visit to the Museé d’Orsay this afternoon, where I had the pleasure of viewing the gallery dedicated to you.

Like many of my generation, you were humanised for me in Don McLean’s 1971 tribute composition ‘Vincent’. The song described you, your tragic life and a number of your works, in particular ‘The Starry Night’ 1889 which has since become the most representational of your works worldwide.

Currently on display at d’Orsay is ‘Starry Night’ 1888, Continue reading

A sensory monologue

I am sitting at a promenade table beside the river at Southbank, scribbling with a pencil into a little notebook. The atmosphere is cosmopolitan, the mood stimulating, the people animated, the venue, trés-chic. I write, enduring the minor discomfort of the restaurant chair, which is of course designed to maximise customer turnover. Only in Paris can you own a restaurant chair all day for the price of a cup of espresso. I can feel the organic texture of the lead pencil traversing the fibrous paper, sending a tiny reverberation through my fingers. Continue reading

A happy new year.

I am a humanist. My life has become one year shorter. The elegies for 2010 mostly depress but serve to increase my resolve to further develop my self in humanist philosophy.

I love mankind, womankind – or to simplify, humankind. At its best, it gives life meaning and measure. At its worst, it identifies the potential for enrichment. In particular I hold great confidence in young people. They will demand reason from a world where antique notions stubbornly cling to the edge of the abyss with obstinate fingernails.

I will divine cells of Hope to populate my veins, to proliferate in my heart and to polish the patina of my aura for the approaching year. This may or may not ameliorate a finer humanness in myself and those I reach out to, but I will have the satisfaction of knowing that even in the worst eventuality, Hope always dies last.

I invite you to make this a happy new year.

On the Shannon

Early winter evening. An orange sun was about to meld with the horizon. Suspended so, it reflected on the entire width of the broad estuary, its colour diluted to yellow. The fog from my breath feigned a resembling hue.

A swan burst from the reeds and cracked the chill air with the heavy draught from its massive wings. The sound decreased as it became a silhouette across the face of the orange orb. There were water sounds too, gurgling’s and lapping’s. There was the sound of air heaving into my lungs.

Cox bellowed, “Forward,” and our seats slid on their tracks to the position that mirrored his command. Bodies froze with knees against chest, our eight feathered oars maintaining equilibrium as the perfectly balanced, pencil-slim craft sat poised. Continue reading

Loop Head

We took the cliff walk, a family of five, hierarchy evident in our heights. I held my father’s hand. He was speaking of the barren land, making some allusion to the difficulty of farming such poor soil and how sea salt thwarted agriculture. My father knew these things, and much more besides. I was looking towards the lighthouse, a construction that destructed the natural setting, yet strangely complimented it with the suitability of its function. An harmonious heteroclite.

I loved these annual seaside holidays when he was with us more often. He talked and laughed a lot. My father told me that we were now standing in “the closest Parish to America” and I laughed at the silliness of it. My father not only knew things, but he knew how to say them. America still far away but not as distant.

As I strained my eyes to the horizon in what I thought to be the direction of New York, my father released my hand. I turned and saw him leaping at the cliff edge with his arms outstretched, upwards and outwards.

I can remember how I felt. My skin tingled. It started in my cheeks, hesitated there – or maybe time stopped – then shrouded me with an alacrity that spent my breath. Now without air, then dizzy, I grew smaller until I diminished onto the coarse grass, numb. Was this fact or phantasm? Which would I decide before I looked up?

My father retrieved his hat from the Atlantic wind and casually replaced it on his head.