Murf

family1

I have looked at it from every angle

yet do not recognise the geometry.

I can see you slip slowly into memory

though sharp and in focus.

It’s familiar, distinct,

recognised from our shared lives as brothers.

Remembered; snapshots in a biscuit tin,

Crawfords Scottish Shortbread eaten,

cleaned and saved from Christmas past.

And there you are, playing the clown to all but my Da.

There always was a frisson to you and Eddie,

an eddy that could stir a hornet’s nest.

Playing guitar on the bridge at Waterfoot

before the tent was up.

You, strolling to the ferry at Lough Derg.

Along this trajectory to a spot where I say farewell.

A line, a web, a net that will fail to reach.

For that I will go inside to that infinite connection

to the heart where Love dwells.

family2

Rock In Peace

Lemmy

The imminent return of the prodigal son has my mother on overdrive. My father’s on the late shift, that’s a blessing in disguise as the expected arrival home of the prodigal son is accompanied by the most unexpected. A grey Ford Commer van pulls up in the street bearing the trademark of its contents: crosses, graffiti, indecent proposals. It’s The Rocking Vicars. The Vicars, dog collared and dressed in unconventional ecclesiastical attire of long coats, long boots, long hair, greet my long-suffering mother as she answers the door to the prodigal son.

As they enter the buzz is definitely rock’n’roll. But I worry that this volume of vicars may further undermine a house already buckling under the weight of religious iconography. The Sacred Heart, bearded, long-haired and lit by the flickering votive lamp, with has his hands outspread in benediction welcomes the clergy.

I am dispatched to the shop for bacon, eggs, sausages, black pudding, potato and soda bread, the makings of an Ulster fry a traditional Irish welcome. My mother prepares the feast for the hungry travellers serving it up appropriately on her best Royal Dolton which is reserved for the clergy, Sunday visitors, and special occasions. This ample banquet will fuel ‘The Vicars’ rock’n’roll mission preaching to the converted at some smoke filled speakeasy in downtown Belfast. The prodigal will be there but not me.

I’m 14 and it’s a new school term. New exercise book, I’ve homework and I’m distracted. The lord will provide. “Let me help you kid,” says a vicar wearing knee length reindeer boots with the poise and confidence of a biblical prophet. If truth be told, he doesn’t look above mugging Santa and leaving the wellbeing of Rudolph in serious doubt. He takes up my pen and inscribes the inner leaf.

‘The Rocking Vicars are Great, not grate’ signed Lemmy!

I’m impressed by his mastery of common English usage and hope my teacher will be likewise. This brush with celebrity does have its pay-offs. My ‘street cred’ gains points on the Dow Jones. Friends ply me with cigarettes in exchange for first hand rock’n’roll gossip. But it’s my mother who deserves the attention and credit for giving new meaning in the neighbourhood to entertaining the clergy!

Joseph’s dream

Xmas15

Joseph had had a hard week on the tools making and hanging doors for the Netanyahoos. Today young Benjamin, an aspiring politico, had bent Joseph’s ear on his vision for the Jewish Homeland. Joseph, happy to get finished up and away, concluded that young Benjamin was a yahoo by name and by nature.

Knowing that Mary was visiting her cousin Veronica, Joseph decided to call by the DeBeers, ‘Stone Cutting Specialists’, to visit his friend Jacob. Jacob had been experimenting with a brew he called ‘debeer’ a successful and welcome balm to slake Joseph’s thirst. After several crocks of the fine nectar he set off home, somewhat the worse for wear, falling onto his ass, the unfortunate beast already laden with tools and what brew Joseph could carry out from Jacobs.

And the rest is ……history?type

War, what is it good for?

WAR

1st December

 

I am writing this on the eve of the parliamentary vote that if ‘AYE’ will commit Britain to adding its military might to the French, American, and Russian air strikes against ISIL in Syria. I have been pondering the complexity of the issue. Listening to and reading the contributions from the many commentators exposes the lack of a consensus and the mess both politically and militarily that is Syria. Do I have an opinion? Everyone has an opinion though few seem to reflect that of those who have fled the country seeking sanctuary from the murder and mayhem.

The overarching opinion of the pundits suggests that air strikes alone are futile, and from refugees that they are indiscriminate. The death toll continues to rise while the Assad Regime, which unleashed this murderous intent, survives. Refugees see no resolution from the conflict without the removal of Bashar Assad’s Regime.

A British Army Officer, retired, added his voice to the call for military intervention on BBC’s Radio 4.He reinforced his argument sighting the success of British military action in providing an outcome in N.Ireland that led to the Good Friday Agreement. Jesus wept as did I in frustration at the blinkered view of one qualified in warfare not peace. The British Military intervention over a 30 year period, supported by the government, judiciary, and police, promoted a flawed policy that saw: the imprisonment and death of innocent victims, the nurturing of terrorist and paramilitary objectives and boosting of their ranks, and elements of which still haunt our society today.

Each successive British government from Jim Callahan’s (1970’s) to Tony Blair’s Labour Party (1990’s) had open lines of communication with the IRA and UDA. Thatcher stated that she would not negotiate with terrorists, while behind the scenes diplomacy and negotiation was key to a long-term solution to the open sore that ailed our society. The recent death of Fr. Gerry Reynolds brought focus on those who had worked diligently, out of the spotlight, in pursuing a resolution to a fractious war, with a common consensus that terrorism could neither be beaten nor succeed in it’s objectives. From this potted local history perspective I would conclude that, in my opinion, the ‘War on Terror’, now in its 15th year, is unwinnable.

What approach to take with a disparate grouping of murderous barbarians, ISIL, Boko Haram, AQ, Shabaab, and others no doubt, when the general consensus is that air strikes will have no positive outcome. The ‘boots on the ground’ proposal offers its own set of complexities, while diplomacy may be a rank outsider but ultimately it will have its moment.

Are the real criminals in all conflict not those who manufacture and supply weapons that are designed to eliminate human beings whilst making profit for CEOs and shareholders?

 

2nd December: We are at war. I will probably take some flak for my views but that will harm no one.

 

Sent packing

R2

I’m not nor ever have been a fan of the Package Holiday though have found occasion to avail of the last minute offer. Twice, if my memory serves me well, we have flown to Rhodes on such a deal. The first was actually fine, the second a potential nightmare, potential because we didn’t have the staying power.

Emerging from Rhodes airport, with N.Ireland on holiday, we were shuttled to the various hotels. I think we got the short straw. The hotel was reminiscent of a 1960’s inner city tenement complete with swimming pool and sea views. The short straw, we didn’t get a sea view.

Our ‘apartment’ was immediately of the stairwell from the lobby. The balcony had a blank wall view, was most of the day in shade, and offered stunning views of the under carriage of incoming flights. By night the stairwell gave a live feed from the lobby, exhausted families with exhausted children adding loud vocal accompaniment to the hotel disco to a base line of jet engine.

After day two suffering from sleep deprivation, the sun starved balcony, and an ill temper I’d had as much Thomas Cook as I could handle. I may have been heard to say, in competition with flight LG72 buzzing the rooftop,

“Lets get to fuck out of here.”

“Where to?”

“Symi.”

“Why Symi?”

“It comes recommended.”

“Oh, ok then.”

Bags packed and off to the port to catch the morning sailing on the Symi 2 to Symi. Sailing out of Mandraki watching Rhodes Town, an imposing medieval walled city, recede as the turquoise Aegean filled the frame. A gentle breeze and the heat of the morning sun the tonic required to raise the spirits, suffused with a sense of adventure. The real moment of joy was yet to come.

Symi 2 does a tourist stop en route at the Monastery of Ayios Mihalis at Panormitis on the southern tip of the island before setting sail along the coast, cliffs and coves, finally rounding the headland into Symi, a natural deep water haven. Neoclassical villas stack up the surrounding hillside of Horio over looking the port, Yialos. My heart rejoiced in a moment of homecoming, all residue of the nightmare swept overboard. Disembarking on to the quayside in the heat of the day we were met and greeted by locals offering rooms adding to my sense of escape. A small figure with a large bike, Manolis, emerged from the throng, loaded our bags on to the carrier of his bike and brought us to the rooming house, which was to become home on several return trips to the Island.

To beard or not to beard

beard1

Yes we seem to have averted a total meltdown of regional government as in “we’ll all throw our toys out of the pram”. This is a common occurrence at Stormont’s non-functional and divided administration. Not to drag you down some winding path but do keep in mind this is about that bit of facial hair i.e. the beard.

The near collapse was the result of a murder in the nationalist redoubt of Short Strand, Belfast. In brief, two former IRA assassins had a falling out, one shot the other dead and was then shot dead by unknown gunmen. This, in turn, shot the Stormont administration in the foot with the accusation by the DUP that the IRA’s military machine was still functioning contrary to the Good Friday Agreement. Has the issue been resolved? Well let’s just say they are still drawing their salaries.

Remember the Beard?

I recently grew a beard not as a metro male statement but to add some volume to my thinning visage Stay with me now as this is relevant to the precursor as, hopefully, will become clear. The potential tsunami of political uncertainty that threatened to sweep the country caused tightened security at ports and airports. On a recent return from Scotland through the seaport of Cairnryan we were subjected to security not see since the bad old days. The slow progress of the traffic into the port did not immediately suggest a security alert. As we reached the barrier the beard marked me out as a potential suspect. In the psyche of the ever vigilant security operatives a beard is the trademark of all terrorists, freedom fighters, jihadists, therefore: documentation? check; search boot (trunk)? check; underbody of vehicle? check. Is this a bout of paranoia or the minority oppression flag being raised? Maybe, but there again, maybe not.

Let me take you on a brief tour of those bad old days alluded to previously, days of high security when N.I .was at the nadir of political upheaval. If I wore a beard I was often stopped by Police or army demanding ID and sometimes searched. Returning from my mother’s funeral in Scotland through the same port I was sitting in the middle backseat of the car, bearded. I was the guy asked to step from the car and ID,ed Travelling through Manchester airport on return from the States, bearded, having cleared emigration I was followed to the baggage carousel by two special branch officers, ID’ed and questioned. Six O Clock in the morning is not a good time for me. I was not polite.

Clean-shaven my saintly and angelic coupon caused me no intrusions. So beware all metro males, the beard is a changing face.

The Farce be with you.

Skellig2

Over several days I made calls to Sean at Skellig Boats.

“Hello Sean, How’s it looking today for the crossing?”

“There’ll be no sailing today, there’s a terrible swell.”

I never made that trip!

The Skellig Rocks are towering sea crags some 8 miles off the Kerry coast in South West Ireland. They have UNESCO World Heritage status. Skellig Michael is the site of a 6th century monastic settlement annually attracting pilgrims and tourists, weather permitting, whilst the Skelligs are one of Irelands largest breeding colonies for many species of seabird, Gannets, Kittiwakes and Puffins, to name a few. This is the chosen location of Disney LucasFilm to shoot scenes for the interminable Star Wars saga.

The Minister of the Arts, Heather Humphreys in a cloak-and-dagger application submitted at 5pm Friday and issued 9am Monday granted a license to Disney LucasFilm. The license permitted Disney Corp. to fly helicopter sorties around the Skelligs which last year caused a large number of fledglings to be swept to their death. The Corp. has returned to shoot further scenes for the sequel with an initial estimate of 30 sorties per day, landing actors and equipment on the site.

The potential for further desecration to the unique site goes unsaid. Disney LucasFilm manifesto in an eggshell is profit for investors, with a ‘loaves and fishes’ miracle concession for the Irish economy. Interestingly there is a restriction on tourist numbers visiting Skellig Michael in any year but the mighty mammon overrides all restrictions, and the potential for aficionado tourist interest in the site will increase exponentially with the release of the film.

Riding roughshod over people, nature and heritage is prevalent in the Corp. mindset and can be witnessed in the osmosis to the psyche of Dream Factory progeny. The battle of Malibu, where the breed-apart occupants of the beachfront houses lay claim to the beach itself, employing security and signage to enforce an illegal ban on non-residents walking the beach, i.e. the land between high and low tide.

The notion of ownership is pervasive and expansive in the rarified atmosphere of the corporate bubble. The beneficiaries, an ever decreasing percentage of humanity, believe and propagate this notion of ownership, privilege, and privacy on their terms to the detriment of a positive human experience for all human beings.

Transatlantic Trade Investment Programme

TTIP

“In days of old we’d both agree

that I am you and you are me.

What has happened to us two

That I am me and you are you?”

Anon.  Sanskrit Poem

 

TTIP. It’s curious that most people have no idea what this small grouping of letters denote. If the proposed agenda is realized it will have seismic repercussions for all European countries. We are being sold a pup.

Transatlantic Trade Investment Programme is none other than a land grab by a consortium of large corporations and multinationals under the auspices of a beneficent US government. The UK’s Conservative government has bought the pup and is selling it on as a boost to Britain’s trading opportunities with the US, therefore a boon to the British economy.

Now if you buy that you may be interested in sharing your bank and credit card details with me as I have instruction from the estate of Horatio van Horten, late of the Horten Diamond Consortium, to redistribute his vast fortune to a very select few.

The problem with TTIP is that negotiations are currently conducted for the benefit of the European economy without consultation with the electorate. This is a land grab of the greatest magnitude that will allow the faceless Multi’s and Corps to steal our democracy for the benefit of the small percentage of ultra rich. When you take into account that Nestle were exporting water from Canada during a drought, and their ex CEO stated that ‘water was not a human right’; Monsanto are attempting to establish copy right on seed stock; AngloGold, Rio Tinto, and other giant mining corps are responsible for land grab, human rights abuses and pollution, something is amiss don’t you think. In the interests of profit (greed) governments in Asia have been persuaded to back the corporate land grab with the might of their armed forces to subjugate and murder their own citizens. Is this where we are headed? Are we to bow to the superior greed of this alien breed who lack empathy for us mere mortals? With a population of 7 billion and counting I think we can win this battle.

 

‘TTIP a proposed agreement between the EU and US ( aimed at creating the worlds biggest trade-free zone spanning the north Atlantic ) runs the real risk of reducing the ability of future governments to regulate for healthier food systems by, in effect, prohibiting regulations that could hit the profits for foreign investors’

Lucy Siegle. Obs. Aug 31

 

O’Leary’s research

Magic

A senior pupil is seated in the anti-room to the headmasters office. Mrs. Trip returning from the headmasters office sees young O’Leary and greets him.

“Good morning Timothy”.

“Good morning Mrs.Trip and how are you this fine morning,well I hope?”

‘Yes, thank you. Headmaster is expecting you. He is having morning tea so I expect he will be with you shortly.”

“Oh good, I’m sure he’ll enjoy his morning tea.”

A short time later Headmaster calls young O’Leary into his Office.

“Well O’Leary you have been escorted back to school by the local constabulary. They say they found you on your hands and knees on the 5th fairway of the local golf course, of which, I may add, I am a member. And this was during school hours. Can you please explain yourself.”

“Well sir, I was carrying out some ground work.”

“Ground work O’Leary….?”

“Aye sir, for my biology project.”

“Who takes you for biology?”

“Dr.Transplant, oh I mean Mr.Hart, sir.”

“Ah old Transplant,eh. And what exactly is the nature of this project, lad?”

“That’s right, sir.”

“What’s right, O’Leary?”

“Nature, sir”

“Be more specific boy, expound, expound.”

“Well sir, I chose fungi as the topic for the project and this being the time of year for fungi I have been doing field work. This, of course, being the explanation for my presence on the golf course, a well known location for ground mushrooms.”

“Yes?”

“Well sir, I have been collecting samples.”

“Is this research fungi in general O’Leary, or edible fungi, poisonous fungi, bracket fungi?”

“Yes sir, though I have been concentrating my study on a particular genus which, incidentally, has a bearing on my sociology studies.”

“Fascinating O’Leary. And on which genus have you focused your combined study?”

“Psylocybin sir, aka the ‘magic mushroom’ which is known to have hallucinogenic properties, sir. A dose of one hundred can induce a state of euphoria, a mystical experience.”

“And you have been collecting these things, O’Leary?”

“Yes sir.”

“How many have you collected?”

“Over the last week about one hundred thousand, sir.”

“My God, lad. Have you eaten any?”

“No sir, not me sir.”

“Thank God for that, lad. What exactly have you done with them?”

“Well sir, that’s exactly where the sociology and biology projects merge.”

“Where exactly, O’Really, you’re not making myself very clear, am I?”

“I chose a closed community of nine hundred and fifty to conduct my experiment…”

“Jesus O’Leary, that’s the entire population of this school!”

“Exactly sir, well minus one. Enjoying your tea, sir?”

Unclear on nuclear?

hiro.c.

Another WWII anniversary seventy years on as the conflict drew to its conclusion. Not a military extravaganza of marching veterans, regimental flags, displays of military hardware, or fly-bys. There may be no laying of wreaths for the fallen soldiers or the hubris of battles won. It’s the anniversary of the unleashing of a mighty and destructive force, the Atom bomb, and the advent of nuclear weapons.

Was the opening of Pandora’s box a force for good or a force for evil? Seventy years on and the nuclear debate remains unresolved. Our planet has eight countries with a nuclear capability which, claim its advocates, are a deterrent to would be aggressors. In support of the case for a nuclear arsenal the acronym ‘MAD’ (mutually assured destruction), a doctrine of military strategy and national security, sold the case for the deterrent and as a cunning proposition of non-aggression.

In recent years following SALT2 and arms reduction, though not elimination, public awareness or concern for nuclear weapons seems to have virtually disappeared, with the odd spike to reinforce the subconscious fear and ensure the silos remain armed. Is that down to a healthy appetite for celebrity and reality TV shows, the 21st century’s “opiate of the masses?” So all is well.

Well? Well not quite. Britain’s nuclear arsenal is under attack from those troublesome Scots. The SNP are determined not to host the new generation of Trident missiles on their turf. Now another voice has been added to the debate. The Labour MP and leadership contender Jeremy Corbyn has pitched his tent in the anti-Trident camp. Hooray for the voices of sanity in a MAD debate.

Our current Conservative Government has put the fear of god into the electorate with battle cries of austerity and immigration. It has imposed draconian measures on the public to ensure we do not live beyond our means, yet they intend spending £100bn on Trident in the US arms market for our security. Now that is MAD. No actually it’s fucking insane!