29 October 2007


Clare. The County Clare. In the far west of Ireland looking out to the Aran Islands and the wild Atlantic. Here tracks weave out over the bogs and the limestone hillocks that form The Burren to hidden farms and cottages where lanterns dot the night under a million silvery stars. And then the rain comes in. Sideways rain. Rain in bucketfuls. Drizzled rain and grey rain that is half mist. It seeps into your bones.

Somewhere between Kilfenora and Ennistymon is where my brother Paul lives with Josephine and the two lads. A brook bubbles by and cows low deeply as morning sheds its pale light over the rolling fields. Vehicles pass at the rate of one an hour on a busy day.

Up in Kilfenora the Guinness flows at night. It sits lined up in pint glasses on the bar like black nectar waiting to be topped up. There's no hurry. You drink it down remembering the old ad slogan - "Guinness is good for you" - but did they mean six of them? By the end of the evening the thick County Clare brogue is like a foreign language but there are no subtitles.

Yesterday - Sunday - I took Paul and the lads up the coast to Black Head via Fanore. White horses were racing in and the coast felt elemental, the wind and the waves seeming to laugh at the pinprick silhouettes of human beings bending into the weather.

I have been here many times. I have seen it changing over the years. Seen pubs closing and bungalows being built - the influx of tourists who come to stay from Holland or France or Germany and Irish migrants coming home. I have heard the Celtic Tiger roaring and seen the village stores introduce new fangled products like rice and coffee and pasta. But while some things change "The deep heart's core" remains - the peculiarly egalitarian Irish sense of community and the humour that flows, the kindness and the music and the stories and beneath all of it - the land - as ancient as time itself - limestone pavements and caves and settlements where Stone Age, Bronze Age and Iron Age people lived for the days they were living in, oblivious of a future that would contain aeroplanes and electricity and plastic and an arrogant belief that it has dispelled all mystery and magic.

26 October 2007


I was tagged by Alkelda the Gleeful of "Saints and Spinners" and asked to list some favourite albums for all the remembered years of my life. I did what she asked and went to Wikipedia but the truth of the matter is that I can often take music or leave it. Between 1963 when my brothers and I were given a copy of "With the Beatles" to share and 1973 when I returned from my South Pacific adventures, I listened avidly to a lot of music, attended many gigs, took "Melody Maker" and "The New Musical Express" and even made it to a few summer festivals - including The Isle of Wight - but since then a lot of music has passed me by and I haven't cared a hoot. I go through phases of making my own music with a guitar and words that well up from the murky depths of my soul and this music means so much more to me than other people's. Recently I have heard "Hey There Delilah" by the Plain White T's - what a brilliantly constructed song! For what it is worth, here is a list of some albums I owned and listened to on the ten year long path from childhood into adulthood:-
1963 With the Beatles - The Beatles
1964 Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M. - Simon and Garfunkel
1965 Mr. Tambourine Man - The Byrds
1966 Blonde on Blonde - Bob Dylan
1967 Days of Future Passed - Moody Blues
1968 This Was - Jethro Tull
1969 Unhalfbricking - Fairport Convention
Sweet Baby James - James Taylor
1971 Blue - Joni Mitchell
1972 Harvest - Neil Young
1973 For Everyman - Jackson Browne

My very first album.

21 October 2007


"Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness..." Leaving my place of punishment where I am ploughing through uninspiring exercise books and homework projects on a bright October Sunday afternoon, I ventured up our garden to glimpse some of the vividness of another year dying... another cycle almost done... This is what I found:-

Holly berries ripening two months before Christmas.

Apples hanging like nature's baubles from a sky blue ceiling.
My favourite gnarled trunk. The scars run deep.

Leaves aflame like Mediterranean fire fish drying on lines.

19 October 2007


So I found this new fangled search engine thingumyjig called "Goggle" or "Dougal" or something like that and I typed in "Yorkshire Pudding" in a moment of vain self-interest, expecting to receive lots of references to my literary accomplishments. Instead I find millions of recipes for the risen golden batter pudding which was named after this blog! The swines!

There was even a reference to a blog called "The New Yorkshire Pudding" by a New Yorker living in London. How dare he take my name in vain! The swine!

And so I continued exploring "Boogle"/ "Gobble" (?) looking at dozens of pictures of the batter pudding mentioned above. Finally I came across this pale French Yorkshire Pudding with a fairly big sausage curling round inside it. That sausage must be a foot long! Only a foot long! The dish is apparently called "Toad in The Hole" - but where is the toad and where is the frigging hole? And trust the French to have a curly wormlike sausage when English sausages are known to be alarmingly rigid as housewives everywhere will testify. I guess it serves me right for allowing vanity to infest my thoughts this chilly autumn evening. Have a nice weekend!

13 October 2007


In the old town of Hull, not far from The Land of Green Ginger and The Old Bluebell Inn, there is a Victorian shopping arcade called Hepworth's Arcade. When I was a young lad, I loved that arcade because of its Hi-Fi shop, its bookshop, the amazingly cheap workers' cafe that sold substantial meals for next to nothing and above all its joke shop - the world famous Dinsdales! Never heard of it? Well isn't that usually the case with world famous things?

I would press my nose up at the window and marvel at the display - itching powder, fart cushions, rubber masks, rubber dog turds, rubber bacon and fried eggs, eyepatches, vampire teeth, stage blood, luminous paint, fake cigars, exploding cigarettes, plastic flick knives that retracted when you stabbed people with them, indoor fireworks, wigs, false beards and moustaches, lifelike bluebottles and snakes, hands that pulled off and bloody bandages you could put over uninjured digits. Above the door it said "We Sell Laughter".

In this ever-changing world, things have a tendency to disappear - old haunts, old pubs, fields you used to play in, people you used to know - but Dinsdales never seems to change. Perhaps if I win the Lottery I will buy out that joke shop and become the new Mr Dinsdale. What could be better? Running a shop that is all about making people laugh, mischief, silliness. I might even introduce some new joke products - such as:-

The computer that continuously loses its Internet connection - Ha! Ha!

The TV set that shows programmes that are worth watching - No way!

Official letters you can post to your worst enemies telling them they are HIV positive or landing them with enormous utility bills. Hilarious!

The mobile phone that gives you cancer of the inner ear! Haw! Haw! The possibilities are endless for the next Mr Dinsdale!

7 October 2007


London - such an amazing city. This morning I was in St Pancras churchyard near the University College Hospital. St Pancras church stands on a site that can trace its ecclesiastical origins to back before the Norman conquest. There was a track that wove its way from Hampstead towards the once tiny city of London right past this church. Farmers would bring their produce day after day. Now it is swallowed up by the London sprawl.

In the eighteen seventies the authorities had to clear a lot of the graves in order to make way for train tracks leaving the twin stations - Kings Cross and St Pancras. The man charged with their removal was none other than young Thomas Hardy the novelist - before he met with fame and was a journeyman architect. He - or at least his men - stacked many of the old stones round a sapling which has now become a great lime tree known as Hardy's tree. Its roots almost meld in with the gravestones - life and death bound tightly together.

Of course that's not why we were in London. We went to see Hull City at Crystal Palace and then on to see a West End show - "Les Miserables" before a cheap and cheerful Chinese meal on Gerrard Street and then back to our nice little hotel in Pimlico. There are so many ways to look at London. So many different things to see. And it is great to get overground and walk instead of riding the exorbitant Tube system - £4 fora single journey. This morning we also visited Camden Market which our son always raves about but it didn't have quite the same impact on us. Clothing and fashion disinterest me. I would be happy running around in animal skins like a caveman!

3 October 2007


When in need of cheering up, it's always a good idea to seek out some of the bizarre sayings of the leader of the free world - George Walker Bush. With apologies to American visitors. I am of course not "dissing" the USA - just the idiot a minority of your people put in The White House.

I'm conservative, but I'm not a nut about it.

This administration is doing everything we can to end the stalemate in an efficient way. We're making the right decisions to bring the solution to an end.

As Luce reminded me, he said, without data, without facts, without information, the discussions about public education mean that a person is just another opinion. (September 9, 2003)

There's an old saying in Tennessee -- I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee...that says, fool me once, shame on...shame on you. Fool me...you can't get fooled again. [9/17/2002]

Our nation must come together to unite.

In my sentences I go where no man has gone before.

I have a different vision of leadership. A leadership is someone who brings people together.

A lame duck session, for people who don't know what that means, it means the Senate is coming and the House is coming back between now and Christmas and they've got a few days to get some big things done. [11/7/2002]

He can't have it both ways. He can't take the high horse and then claim the low road.

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