Monthly Archives: May 2013

My Obituary – a few broad strokes

For the second time in a month I’ve gone to a funeral. I’m always struck by how monologic is the dialogue in a Church mass. Those who pass on are spoken of in such positive tones, the dead bear no resemblance to us flawed souls. I think I would revolt and reject any attempt to describe me as virtuous, loving, with a good reputation. I don’t think of myself in those terms at all, and I certainly doubt others do as well. And as well as that, women are always at these things described as loving their children and their grandchildren, as if this was a major achievement for them. It makes me picture them in their pink slippers slowly making their way across the lino in an overheated kitchen, grateful that they have someone to talk to rather that to keep staring out into the back garden, wondering where their cat has gone. Most people I know have better things to be doing.

I couldn’t but plan my own obituary in the Church. Picture, if you will, the following, in any location you wish. I’m able to picture one or two faces I hope are there, but I’ll leave that to the future. Instead, I’ll give these broad strokes;

“Do not call her virtuous, because that would be a lie. She was a contrary woman. Given to moods even she couldn’t explain, she could be like shadows on a well lit night; there but not there at the same time. She could make you laugh, but when you got to know her she could be quiet, even shy at times. The comic side was a front, born from years of being bullied; in truth she rarely knew if she was liked, or even if she was likeable.

She despised the Catholic Church, and considered it not only absent of moral authority, but that it could negate goodness by its presence. She had the fury of the believer, in that she held to a God of sorts, and found its vessel on earth a repulsive parody. She was pro-choice, pro-divorce, pro-contraception, pro-women priests (if there had to be any at all). She had a private fantasy that some stage in her life she would be on the Late Late so she could call a priest a bollix. The idea of adhering to the moral code of these old men filled her with horror.

Do not call her a good woman. A good woman for many is a carer, a giver, an open hand. Call her not a good person, but instead good at being a person. A person who tried to be good, in the real sense of the word. A person who tried to do good for others, to do no harm, to be honest and real. She was a real person, not a parody, not a creature born of bravado – at least, not at the end.

She was a real person, and if she had a journey it was towards more and more authenticity. To see more, to lose the scales of blindness and of platonic ideals that conjure up the falsehoods in our lives. To see, to feel, and to be real in the world. This, was her goal.

Her failures and her successes were hers. She had her victories and she had her defeats. She had her loves and her hates, and she made the world her own, for a time. She was with us. She changed us, and was changed by us. We are all together, as living, for but a short time. In this way, do we record her living.

But call her not a virtuous woman. She would have spat in the dust at the word.”

Foulkstown Church

I’ll write when I want to.

It’s Sunday morning, and I’ve just sat down and completed a three page speech for Kytelers’ this coming Saturday. I’ve had the notes in front of me all week, but between work and taking care of Calum, I’ve found myself simply unable to stomach any further endeavor by ten thirty in the evening. It’s only since this morning, when the little fella was asleep upstairs, that I felt able to sneak downstairs and start typing out the memorandia that has been collecting in my head.

I have always been able to write. Maybe not well, but that’s not what I mean. I have always, when granted five minutes, been able to simply pull out a pen and paper and produce. I had written about four truly dreadful books by the time I was twenty four, and I can remember one utterly embarrassing evening when I reduced a date to laughter while I tearfully read from the final chapter of my latest opus.  (Oh god, why?!)

Now, I think I must at times reach the limit of endurance. I reach within my pantry for the materials to write and I find I’m a desert, empty of resources. I know I’m tired, certainly, but it means for the first time I’m obliged to wait until there is more within me. It is scary to be like this, to see this change.  I get no sleep, no rest and now have to worry about my faculties going too. I have to schedule my writing. Ye gods.

Anyways. The speech is done, and I can hear him upstairs driving his Dad nuts. I’ll talk to you all tomorrow.

Rembrandt’s the Philosopher. Bit obvious but what can you do?

Nearly There

Despite the lousy weather, the campus at UCD is finally green. Exams are on, but soon all the students will go and the campus will be quiet again. Silence will be everywhere, on the concourse, in the corridors in Newman, in the swimming pool and fields.

Silence comes dripping slow…

Today I stood amidst the trees while the rain fell, and looked up at the sky made bright through the gaps. The long stretch of summer is almost upon us, and the chance to breath, to write, to meet with loved ones is nearly here.  Just a few more weeks, and all will be done.

The wet leaves, the smell of the cut grass… it must be Summer.

A Brief Progress Report

Last Saturday I gave my first reading in Kytelers’ Inn, in Kilkenny. I had prepared some readings from my book The Stone, and a few words about each one, but really I had only a loose idea of what I was going to say. I find that such talks are really best when I have only a general idea of my speech, as that way it sounds much more conversant and pleasant than a prepared speech.

The talk itself hadn’t been very well advertised, but nevertheless the room filled up quite quickly by 4.30pm. It was really only in the last five minutes I found myself nervous, as is usually the case for me. I looked over my notes, double checked the book sections  again and gave the nod to start.

The majority of the crowd were American, eager to learn even the smallest of details regarding Alice Kyteler. That means I have a crowd that wants to be entertained as well as receive facts. Irish audiences would have a different priority, in that they would hope to attend a lecture, or structured talk, about Alice. I’m not sure that I impressed everyone, if that was the case. I would have chatted away about Alice and her early life, given the details of the trial, and then read from the novel at points that illustrated what I was trying to say. That worked well but I’m not sure that I’ve hit the right balance of being  informative as well and entertaining.  I’ll need to sit down and work out a proper planned speech, one that allows me to include or exclude information as necessary. It might just see me up at five am to do it, however, but hey, what can you do?

“Sure!…why not…”

I’ve seven dates now booked down in Kytelers, which is good and positive and an enjoyable thing to do. I’ve heard back from most, but not all of my readers for the novella, and it is all I can do to pick up the phone and be a total ass and make the others hurry up for God’s sake and get BACK TO ME WHAT IS TAKING SO LONG! But I won’t, because that would be bad. Ahem. And I’m never bad, when I can be good. Or something.

So if any of you have any kind/wise/logical words to throw my way, leave a comment or send an email. Do, gwan. GWAN!

A Late Word

I have only moments to write this, otherwise I’ll have already failed in my attempt to write once a day. I’ve had a day that has been interesting, and not altogether successful. I find that I am trying to regard it as a learning exercise, and to take from it the lessons I need to be more successful tomorrow. Is it possible I’m growing up? Failure is a word that stops learning cold. Developing sounds much more full of possibilities.

Night all.

A Hidden Drama

On my way to work each morning, I take the same bus, at the same time. I see the same characters each morning. The overweight IT guy who takes up a full seat and who keeps a cigarette in his hand to light as soon as he gets off. The contrary madam who never lets anyone sit beside her. The dark haired woman at the front who always looks at her phone. The girl with very fine, light blond hair who always wears the same multi-coloured hat. And the two boys.

They’re young, not more than twelve. One is small build, dark skinned, and judging from his accent born in America, though he’s been here a while. Enthusium bursts from him, even at the early hour. The other is taller, blond, German, and very logical in how he thinks. Together they’ll debate musicians, films, TV shows as the bus makes its way into town. In Winter they’d play noughts and crosses on the wet glass, variations always ending in a standoff, and leaving the battlefield for us to look at when they got off to go to school.

And then one day, it stopped. What replaced it was a silence one morning I assumed was due to tiredness. But it didn’t seemed relieved at all. Instead, the German boy would talk to another child his age, and an older boy. The older boy was fifteen or more, and had about him an air hungry for appreciation. He would sit with the German and spin tales of drug abuse on Batman sets, mad escapes of daredevils, insane things he had done at the weekend. The boys would giggle at this insanity, fascinated, and not exchange a word with anyone else.

All the while the American would sit across from them, alone in his seat, back rigid with not looking over. He would get out at an earlier stop and make his way on his own to school.

Last Friday the German wasn’t there, for the second day in a row. The American ignored the boring twittering of the older boy. No indication did he give of hearing a single word. But as he stood up to leave the bus, he gave the pair a glance that was molten in its fury. They didn’t see it, and I with my music in my ears, wondered at the events that could have inspired such a look. Was it a childish nothing? Or was there a real schism going on, the kind we always remember years later? There’s no way to know. No way to know. And the bus travels on without them, the world of their arguing unmoved as it goes away.