IMG_3827I coveted a chair, an iconic Eames chair, with leather cushion and steamed wood made to look like rosewood and wings. A chair that would ‘fit like an old baseball glove.’ I liked the sound of that but could not fully imagine it, never having worn one. A retired person’s chair that epitomised comfort, grace and ease, the kind that would include lots of reading.
I deliberated, waited, hankered and finally succumbed, choosing a purveyor of fine furniture with a solid and dependable name. On line reviews of their reliability were staunch, besides they advertised in the Observer.
I parted with the money from my dwindling resource, a major purchase for one now un waged and sadly without a pension either (see WASPI for that sorry story). Disappointed but only mildly concerned to discover a wait of twelve weeks for delivery. Oh I counted down the weeks, like an expectant grandmother awaiting a first grandchild. I lasted ten weeks before I checked up on them.

Serves me right I suppose for entertaining ideas way above and beyond. Shortly after my purchase, well after the company would have known my precious £££s would serve only to fleece me and line their pockets, THEY WENT BUST. Never mind baseball gloves and Mom’s good old apple pie. It seems there is nothing to be done since they are in receivership and I parted willingly with my money.

But wait! Just as I prepare to compose a stinging sentence to do with the little man and the unfair system, my bank has refunded me in full. The idea of chair as investment had begun to pall anyway.

Romance of a holiday

Near the entrance to the anthropology museum in Mexico City an elderly woman sat on the pavement, her head bent diligently over her embroidery. Garments folded neatly on a mat beside her, immediately eye-catching, shouted their bright colours. I haggle over the last remaining smock with another customer. The memory of the holiday is too vibrant to permit leaving it behind even though I suspect the lovely garment will languish back home where the light is too grey for the tropical flowers to make sense. The other customer graciously concedes.

Then I ask for a photo, certain this is as much a mistake as the haggling; a typical patronising outsider; a tourist and the old woman, struggling to her feet, agrees without reluctance but without a smile. I explain the smock is a present for my elderly mother who would love to see who had made it and finally she grins. The customer who had so kindly gone without her smock also agrees to a photo


the beauty of peace


This is the view from my window this New Year  in beautiful Onich near Fort William and I am mindful that the beauty of peace is not afforded to all.

re blogging Michael Rosen’s post.

A reminder from Wilfred Owen about the politics of war
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.
[The Latin phrase was used at times of war in the 19th and early 20th centuries. It means roughly “It is sweet and glorious to die for one’s country.”]

Cirque du Soleil

If you have the chance, go to this circus.

Performed with passion, pride, soul even, enough to move the audience to gasp with fear at the daring and with wonder at the skill and dedication.  This is circus par excellence, not an animal in sight.
A charming story, a sort of global fairly tale,  weaves through a white knuckle ballet with audience participation.  The high wire, the balancing , the graceful, the daredevil, the clowning, human endeavour and ingenuity, the set, lighting, costumes and innovation are all breathtaking.

Canadian sense of humour


How much is it? We asked the bus driver. His first answer, A dollar seventy five, left us none the wiser.
You need a couple of sailing boats, a couple of beavers, maybe a bear and a couple of mooses should do it.

Wonderful Canadian coins. Lovely sense of humour. A random act of kindness for two old duffers (seniors) on the bus.

Did I ever tell you I met Colm Toibin?


This isn’t one of those articles that goes on to publicise a new biography and isn’t even a claim to fame. It is just a coincidence, or if you were to believe such things, serendipitous.

We had wandered to the central library in New York to admire the lofty ceiling of the foyer and found a small crowd standing listening to none other than CT.

His books were new to me, and Brooklyn, the first but magnificent introduction.
I was given Brooklyn by a very erudite nun, Elizabeth Strub. A wise woman who spoke to us in honeyed American tones. I know I was impressed at the time, but now of course would have to look again what her topics was. To do with love, for sure and a person’s duty viz a viz their fellows to do everything in their power to mitigate injustice, hunger, cruelty. Fired by her at the time but slithered back to old ways now, with other people and their problems a mere worrying crease in the brow.
I will be forever grateful for having my eyes opened to CT’s luminous, delicate prose.

CT spoke of the Testament of Mary with a rather angry contingent. His stage adaptation of the novella was being performed in N Y. And a woman took great exception to the imagery. He answered with such grace till eventually rescued by his interviewer and the talk moved on.



Following  new leads from blogs is pleasurable especially when taken to half remembered   old loves. Reading Ricardo Blanco does that : a yen for travelling, things Spanish and the curious mysteries of translation are a rich a rich seam. Add poetry and prose and bobs your uncle or should that be santas pascuas?

And so to Alistair Reid. A brief acquaintance from the Albermarle Book of Modern Verse at school and lo! a much richer, deeper quest begins.  Thanks Señor Blanco.

And when I check the book, certain to find Alastair Reid, I am mistaken.  Just because I remembered it was there, does not mean it’s true


may have killed the cat; more likely
the cat was just unlucky, or else curious
to see what death was like, having no cause
to go on licking paws, or fathering
litter on litter of kittens, predictably.

Nevertheless, to be curious
is dangerous enough. To distrust
what is always said, what seems
to ask odd questions, interfere in dreams,
leave home, smell rats, have hunches
do not endear cats to those doggy circles
where well-smelt baskets, suitable wives, good lunches
are the order of things, and where prevails
much wagging of incurious heads and tails.
Face it. Curiosity
will not cause us to die–
only lack of it will.
Never to want to see
the other side of the hill
or that improbable country
where living is an idyll
(although a probable hell)
would kill us all.
Only the curious
have, if they live, a tale
worth telling at all.

Dogs say cats love too much, are irresponsible,
are changeable, marry too many wives,
desert their children, chill all dinner tables
with tales of their nine lives.
Well, they are lucky. Let them be
nine-lived and contradictory,
curious enough to change, prepared to pay
the cat price, which is to die
and die again and again,
each time with no less pain.
A cat minority of one
is all that can be counted on
to tell the truth. And what cats have to tell
on each return from hell
is this: that dying is what the living do,
that dying is what the loving do,
and that dead dogs are those who do not know
that dying is what, to live, each has to do.

Going away and coming back again

We have been away for weeks.  Long enough to have forgotten how it feels to be us, to be at home with our little routines.  We have even forgotten what we look like.

We have walked  to sun soaked villages perched high on rugged mountain passes. Not strictly true as I have a mortal fear of narrow paths and long drops, but we nearly did.


We have seen such sights and done such things, such that life will not be the same ever again.



And yet, pretty soon the couch slouches the same old way, sagging to the  shapes of of our butts. The TV overheats from overuse and as the fire warms us to a stupor, the memory of the bright times reflect in the fire’s flames in our eyes.





Pictures tell a story

photo copy 3

I had begun to suspect the romance of Ireland to be more  imagined than actual, in the way people have created the East as a concept. We had only visited  once before, sailing along the south coast as far as Baltimore when more hours were spent at sea than on shore. Possible to detect a disenchantment with sailing here, but I suppose, calling in at small fishing harbours or marinas and eating on board gives a limited view. We did, now I come to think, encounter some characters and stay a while at an excellent bluegrass festival near Cork.

So it was a delight this last visit, flight to Shannon and hire car, to  find what I had imagined was real.

We went to County Clare and Connemara with a dual purpose. Research for a novel, thankfully now finished. (It has been a monumental though not unpleasurable task and all that remains is to find a publisher so as yet there is nothing to say it will ever see the light of day, but I’m ever hopeful.)


And to look for the home that had belonged to my grandfather’s family, see the place whence his name, the last of a long list of children on a census circa 1870, came .   There were plenty of old homes, but none we could be sure of.   Ruins are a fairly common sight  in County Clare, so too regeneration.

The contrast of the two cottages photographed  give pause for thought. All  life is here if you look.

Both tell a tale and prompt questions, especially the abandoned house with the tin roof staved in. Did the occupants die? All the sons gone abroad to seek their fortune and send money home, never to return, leaving the old farmstead to its own devices. Or simply move down the lane and build themselves something bigger, something grander?

The ruin is what I expected an archetypal abandoned home testament to the sadness of all that has gone before, but I think I am in danger of falling into the construct of Ireland.  Isn’t the re-roofed house also typical and testament to regeneration and the flourishing of old skills.