Monday, 31 July 2017

A legend from the West

The late Mick Melvin, founder of Kairos Communications, taught me probably everything I know about the comma, the apostrophe, syntax, crediting, definition, synonym, antonym, homonym, copyright, plagiarism, lots of other isms – how to spell –the difference between truth and opinion – a distaste for exaggeration, an abhorrence of the exclamation mark - And – the importance of consulting both the Oxford and Chambers dictionary.

I fear, in the many years since I worked with Mick, I have indulged in much exaggeration, exclaimed a lot, been unfaithful to the comma and have come to rely heavily on spellcheck rather than consult the great dusty dictionaries.  Mick taught me how to edit, and to re-edit my edits.  He taught me how to cut out the crap before the copy was typeset.  This was vitally important back then - because cutting and pasting was scalpel and glue, deadlines were met by staying up all night over a lightbox, and last-minute corrections had to be invisibly glued-over by corrections of identical length.

Mick also taught me how to make videos. Back in the day when the equipment necessary to film filled a Highace van and an editing suite looked like it could put a man on the moon. Mick LOVED equipment. No sooner would one get the hang of one unwieldy piece of kit than another more complex gizmo would appear.  I have tried to stay true to everything he taught me about publishing – but I didn’t keep up the filming and video making. It would have been a costly hobby and I wasn’t technically adept! (this exclamation is warranted).

I wonder what Mick would have made of the smart phone. ‘Huh,’ I can hear him say.  And after some consideration ‘Huh’ again.  Maybe that’s why I’m so hesitant to embrace all its functions.  But – even if it doesn’t take ‘proper’ photographs, and allows any ‘eejit’ to start broadcasting – ‘it has to be said’ (to quote another broadcasting legend), that it’s great fun.  So…..

Dear Mick,

I am writing to tell you that I have recently made two videos.  The first is of a duration of 14 seconds and deals, rather dramatically I admit, with the undulations of my clothesline. (I have linked it to my previous post). The second (linked below) is of a duration of one minute, and deals with a visit to North Mayo - most specifically to the Céide Fields.  I am working on a third more complex project (which I will post shortly) of a duration of 1.34 minutes.

I hope you are well and that you approve of blogging.  I think you would have enjoyed it.  Indeed it is a great pity this medium was not available to you and we do not have your wisdoms on record.

If you would like to view North Mayo Magic – click HERE. 

Sincerely yours C

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Are those clothes yours?

There’s good drying out there today folks if you can hold on to ‘em.

Question? What could be more satisfying than sipping coffee while watching the undulations of one’s laundry?

Answer: The creative avoidance of housework by reading clothesline poems – or listening to laundry songs

Like this gorgeous cover, by Suzzy and Maggie Roche, of Bob Dylan’s Clothes Line Saga.

After a while we took in the clothes
Nobody said very much
Just some old wild shirts and a couple pairs of pants
Which nobody wanted to touch

Mama come in and picked up a book
An' papa asked her what it was
Someone else asked, what do you care
Papa said well, just because

Then they started to take back their clothes
Hang 'em on the line
It was January the thirtieth
And everybody was feelin' fine

The next day, everybody got up
Seein' if the clothes were dry
The dogs were barking, a neighbor passed
Mama, of course, she said, hi

Have you heard the news he said with a grin
The vice president's gone mad
downtown when last night
Hmm, say, that's too bad

Well, there's nothing we can do about it, said the neighbor
It's just something we're gonna have to forget
Yes, I guess so said ma
Then she asked me if the clothes was still wet

I reached up, touched my shirt
And the neighbor said, are those clothes yours
I said, some of them, not all of them
He said, ya always help out around here with the chores
I said, sometimes, not all of the time
Then my neighbor blew his nose
Just as papa yelled outside
Mama wants you to come back in the house and bring them clothes
Well, I just do what I'm told so I did it, of course
I went back in the house and mama met me
And then I shut all the doors

 Sing along HERE

If you liked that here are the Roches again with Loudon Wainright III

When I’m at your house

When I'm At Your House everything's strange
When I'm At Your House I go through the change
I feel out of touch, way out of reach
Like a fish out of the water or a whale on the beach
When I'm At Your House, When I'm At Your House

When I'm At Your House everything's weird
There are so many things there to be feared
The telephone rings and I get scared
The machine takes the message,
I wouldn't have dared
When I'm At Your House, When I'm At Your House

Somebody's at the front door and I wanted to hide
They want in I'm locked inside
Today's Thursday, and it's your cleaning lady
She wants to get paid today, she's got a key
When I'm At Your House, When I'm At Your House

When I'm At Your House I go out of my head
I lie on your couch, I sit on your bed
I eat and I drink I don't know what for
I spill wine on the carpet, and food on the floor

When I'm At Your House God only knows
Why I go through your drawers, and try on your clothes
I shower and I shave, use your tortoise shell comb
When I'm At Your House and you're coming home

Listen HERE.

For the NEW video version of clothesline click HERE

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Eight reasons to make a trip to Bray

My favourite singer Clara Rose hangs out with the coolest of people. 

This weekend Clara was in the Mermaid Arts Centre in Bray with Flo Mc Sweeney, Emma Nicolai and Jhil Quinn.  The four Ladies in the Blues were accompanied by blues band veterans Ed Deane on guitar, Garvan Gallagher on bass, James Delaney on keyboards and Kevin Malone on drums.

These eight maestros put on a live music theatre show honouring pioneer women in the blues - like Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Big Mamma Thornton, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, Memphis Winnie, Vera Hall - and boy did they do them proud.

Alan Monahan Photography

It was really hard to choose a favourite - every number was stunning - but Emma Nicoli's 'Trouble so Hard' and Clara Rose's 'Ball and Chain' made my heart stop.

For a big treat check out these recordings of our modern day Ladies in the Blues side-by-side with the original Divas....

This is VERA HALL (1902 – 1964) singing Trouble so Hard HERE
Now listen to EMMA NICOLI sing Trouble so Hard HERE

Check out BIG MAMA THORNTON (1926-1984) singing Ball and Chain HERE
Now listen to CLARA ROSE sing Ball and Chain HERE

Can't wait for next year to hear it all again - thank you Mermaid Arts Centre - well done!

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Want to know how to keep rats away from your shoes and survive algorithms?

Question: Where would you go to hear in one conversation about the Hindu Festival Diwali; how Thomas McDonagh kept the rats away from DeValeras shoes; Internet memes; post truth society; algorithms: coptic monks; echo chambers and clickbait?

Answer: Into any Irish pub - or maybe onto the Late Late Show!

This conversation featuring writers Stephanie Preissner (Can't cope, won't cope), Michael Harding (Talking to Strangers) and Artist and Rubber Bandit Blind-Boy Boatclub is so 2017 Ireland. 

Well worth watching HERE.

Friday, 30 December 2016

Cohen Candles

Leonard Cohen died on Monday, November 7.   The world did not know until the wee small hours of Friday 11th when the news started trending on social media.  Driving on the N4 to my Friday class I tuned into RTE radio.  Sean O’Rourke was reading a letter Cohen had written earlier this year to his muse Marianne when he heard that she was dying:

‘Well Marianne, it’s come to this time when we are really so old and our bodies are falling apart and I think I will follow you very soon. Know that I am so close behind you that if you stretch out your hand, I think you can reach mine. And you know that I’ve always loved you for your beauty and your wisdom, but I don’t have to say anything more about that because you know all about that. But now, I just want to wish you a very good journey. Goodbye old friend. Endless love, see you down the road’.

My teacher had heard it too.  When I arrived she was deep in remembering how, in the early 70s, her brother had taught her child-self to play ‘So long Marianne’ on the guitar.  She was remembering him bringing home vinyl from Dublin.  Remembering falling asleep in the room next door to the record player.  Remembering the night after he had gone out when the needle got stuck. Becoming hypnotised by an all-night rendition of ‘One Of Us Cannot Be Wrong.’ 

She is still hypnotised. 
She sang it then so beautifully then that I too became hypnotised ……
I lit a thin green candle to make you jealous of me,
But the room just filled up with mosquitoes, they heard that my body was free
Then I took the dust of a long sleepless night and I put it in your little shoe
And then I confess that I tortured the dress that you wore for the world to look through

I showed my heart to the doctor. He said I'd just have to quit
Then he wrote himself a prescription, your name was mentioned in it
Then he locked himself in a library shelf with the details of our honeymoon
And I hear from the nurse that he's gotten much worse and his practice is all in a ruin

I heard of a saint who had loved you, I studied all night in his school
He taught that the duty of lovers is to tarnish the golden rule
And just when I was sure that his teachings were pure he drowned himself in the pool
His body is gone but back here on the lawn his spirit continues to drool

An Eskimo showed me a movie he'd recently taken of you
The poor man could hardly stop shivering, his lips and his fingers were blue
I suppose that he froze when the wind tore your clothes
And I guess he just never got warm, but you stand there so nice in your blizzard of ice
Oh please let me come into the storm.

Later I got stuck in traffic in Maynooth.  I was stopped at the bottom of the town at the right angled bend.  The one which presents a choice to either to follow the road to the National University or to continue straight to the Pontifical one.  I tuned into RTE Liveline.  This time the car filled with the harmonious tones of the writer Michael Harding.  He was paying tribute to Cohen and he was at his best.  He described him as a priest. ….. A Jewish, Christian, Zen priest….. A master of resistance…. He didn’t need a Nobel Prize…. He was a priest who incarnated what remains when the fire goes out….

I cannot find now find his beautiful words online – please, please Michael publish them for us @hardingmichael

When I finally got to my destination I tuned into RTE again.  This time the poet Mary O’Donnell was speaking in the tones of my childhood.  She was remembering a summer holiday when she was 13.  She was remembering hearing for the first time the song Suzanne and becoming entrapped forever in Cohen’s lyrical web.  The song awoke the poet in her.  That summer she wrote her first poem. He danced her into poetry.  He touched her perfect body with his mind ….

I cannot find her beautiful words online – please, please Mary publish them for us @maryodonnell03

Later I decided this day belonged to Leonard Cohen so I curled up on the couch with his life story.  The book ‘I’m your man’ by Sylvie Simmons was a present given to me by the wisest man I know – a treasure not yet opened.  As I settled I tuned into the RTE one more time to find that the programme Arena was dedicated to Cohen – I listened to Dave Fanning describing him as a philosopher – and the best interviewee he had ever talked to. And then there she was - Sylvie Simmons live and sharing her thoughts with the nation.  Sometime I just love our national broadcaster. Thank you @RTEARENA and a million thanks to Sylvie Simmons for writing this book.
You stand there so nice in your blizzard of ice…..

Today I am back on the couch - this book – ‘I’m your man’ is my compulsory New Year reading

Today I also found this treat - a magical recording of Leonard Cohen and Marianne Ihlen talking about their life together.  She describes him HERE as ‘a man with a tongue of gold.’

I cannot think of a better way to see out 2016 than to try to decide which is my favourite poem….

Maybe - If It Be Your Will HERE by the Webb Sisters

Or maybe Theo Dorgan’s favourite - Alexandra Leaving HERE with the amazing Sharon Robinson.

In the meantime - I want to know - which is your’s?

Friday, 28 October 2016


I’m in poteen country. 

No I’m not.  Not really. There’s no such thing as poteen.
But, as I sit on my Ottoman and gaze out the window, I have learnt a beautiful new word –

the view from my ottoman

According to Wikipedia - Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, Charles Baudelaire, Paul Verlaine, Arthur Rimbaud, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Amedeo Modigliani, Pablo Picasso, Vincent van Gogh, Oscar Wilde, Marcel Proust, Aleister Crowley, Erik Satie, Edgar Allan Poe, Lord Byron and Alfred Jarry were all known absinthe drinkers. 

Did this result in their Absenting themselves from their families?

On Saturday last, former literary editor of The Irish Times and eminent author John Banville told Kathy Sheridan, who was interviewing him for the said Irish Times, “I have not been a good father. I don’t think any writer is. You take so much and suck up so much of the oxygen that it’s very hard on one’s loved ones.”

This quote – particularly the six words ‘I don’t think any writer is’, has made writers go a bit mental on social media….
This has in turn provoked Martin Doyle of the Irish Times to gather no fewer than 23 pieces from writers on Monday 24th in an article entitled, ‘Do writer’s make bad parents?’.

Walsh’s Love Letter from her Scriptorium

The first and most moving piece is by Triona Walsh.  Hers is a veritable love letter to her husband and children. She has ‘four of the beautiful, unique, fascinating little creatures,’ and she describes, ‘It is not just the pram in the hall that is the enemy of good art but also the nits in the hair, the mouldy kit in the sports bag, the 2am vomit on the bedroom floor, the squabbles in the living-room, the ketchup on the ceiling, the house phone in the toilet bowl.’

As you read her struggle to write alongside her fascinating little creatures you know, and you know she knows, and you know that John Banville rightly knows too, that none of these things are the enemy of art.

O’Connor's Reflections from his Ottoman

The funniest piece, by Joseph O’Connor, is a mock conversation between a teenager and father:

Father: Mmn?
T: It’s me, dad. Your daughter. I’m at the door of your office.
F: Term it my scriptorium.
T: Your, er, scriptorium. Sound. Can I come in for a sec?
F: Enter.
T: I’ve brought your absinthe.
F: Leave it on the ottoman.

Funny though - when I went back to my ottoman and read the John Banville article, it was six other words that jumped out at me, written when he was asked to contribute to a collection of six-word ‘stories’ –They were: ‘Should have lived more, written less.’ ”

So - what epitomises Banville?

Banville went on to tell a story that, according to his interviewer Kathy Sheridan, perhaps epitomises him.

B: “I tripped one day and fell in the street, and about six people were around me almost immediately, and I thought they could not have been more kind,” he says. “And my second thought was that in different circumstances they would be herding me into a cattle truck going to a death camp. ”

S: Really? That’s what you were thinking as people helped you up?

B: “We are an appalling species. We are capable of the most glorious things. For every Hitler there are two Beethovens, but for every two Beethovens there is a Hitler. So every silver lining has a huge black cloud around it.”

There is so much in this Banville interview, so much profundity, so much vulnerability, so many quotable quotes, one cannot help thinking that it is the choice of headline that provoked the furore.  But that’s another story.

So anyways –the two articles taken together have made me resolve to shirk on the Absinthe to make for a clear head.

Because now I must be sure to read all of these great writers - starting with Banville’s ‘Time Pieces: A Dublin Memoir.’ So thank you Irish Times for all this provocation.