…for the good wishes, prayers, support and sound advice, and thank you for sharing your own personal misadventures. I appreciate each and every one of you deeply.
I’m sorry I’m not here much these days. Fact is, I just can’t cope with more than 200 emails/blogs every day, I just can’t.
A nasty stomach flu turned nastier with complications and after three falls in quick succession I was admitted to hospital where my blood pressure was stabilised and I was rehydrated. I was and am listed as a fall risk so now I’m the proud possessor of a walking frame. Yippee!
Anyway, I intend going on, I have no choice. My annual sub to WordPress is due soon and I will renew for another year, and try to be here from time to time.
Despite the setbacks I want to let you know I’ve published three more books since ‘natural selection’ and assure you (modestly) they make good reading. Have a look when you get a minute.
Of Land, Sea & Sky
A collection of travel and expat experiences,
observations, jots, strained relationships
and amusing and awkward moments
With an introduction by Benjamin Keele
The Longing of Elizabeth Martin and other stories
A collection of 11 short stories
A second (and final) collection of poems
With an introduction by Jon Michael Willey
Knock in County Mayo in the West of Ireland is a place of pilgrimage ever since the Virgin Mary appeared there, or so it’s believed, in 1879.
Each year, Father Celestine – known with affection to the other monks as Kate because of his patent leather Cuban heels, his mincing steps and dramatic gestures – organised a two-day trip to Knock for about 30 boys of the school, the students considered more religiously inclined. Kate booked a bus for the trip and arranged overnight accommodation. The selected students were more than glad to pay all expenses, they escaped the confines of school for two days.
One year, the pilgrimage went badly. A few days after Kate and the boys got back to school, the abbot of the monastery, Dom Bonaventure, received a letter from a stall holder in Knock complaining the boys stole prayer books, scapulars, rosary beads, statuettes of the Virgin, small bottles of holy water, sandwiches and bars of chocolate from numerous stalls. The theft of chocolate and (overpriced) sandwiches was obvious enough; the theft of the other items was for the adolescent hell of it. Dom Bonaventure, rightly, passed the letter to Father Douglas, Head of School, and asked him to deal with the matter. Douglas, a stern man more feared than liked, was furious and embarrassed, and summoned Kate to his office and demanded an explanation. Kate denied all knowledge of what happened, and when the 30 or so students were summoned they, too, pleaded innocence. Douglas ordered a search of the boys’ lockers but nothing incriminating was found, the boys were a few steps ahead, and Douglas had no choice but to write a letter of apology to the stall holders. He enclosed a cheque for £100 by way of compensation. Nothing more was heard.
The following year, Kate decided a one-day pilgrimage was sufficient, easier to supervise, less risk for stall holders and less time for students to commit silly misdemeanours, and went ahead and booked a bus. After the booking, he went to Father Douglas as he was obliged to do for official approval.
‘You what?’ Douglas said.
‘Booked a bus but not overnight accommodation,’ Kate said. ‘One day will be enough, less expense for the students and less chance of anything going wrong.’
Douglas said, ‘Father Celestine, you don’t seem to understand. After last year’s embarrassment and humiliation for this school and for the monastery there will be no more pilgrimages to Knock.’
‘No, never again, never, and I’m surprised you think I would sanction it; frankly, I’m very surprised.’
Kate looked put out and his discomfort pleased Father Kevin, Deputy Head of School, who was sitting next to Father Douglas. Kevin disliked Kate and any setback or rebuke was welcome.
‘That was last year, Father Douglas,’ Kate said, ‘water under the bridge. We can forget the silliness and start over.’
‘No, we can’t forget, Father Celestine, and there will be no starting over. The students certainly haven’t forgotten. Are you aware what they refer to the pilgrimage as?’
‘No,’ Kate lied.
Father Douglas turned to Father Kevin and said, ‘Father, would you mind telling Father Celestine what the students call the pilgrimage?’
Kevin was more than happy to and said, ‘Father Celestine, they call it the pilfermage.
Haven’t you heard them laugh and say pilfermage?’
Kate wouldn’t give Kevin the satisfaction of admission and said, ‘No, I haven’t heard that,’ and threw his hands in the air.
‘That’s it then,’ Father Douglas said, ‘no more going to Knock.’
Kate tried to play a feeble last hand. ‘But I’ve already booked the bus,’ he said.
‘Then you need to cancel it, Father Celestine, there’ll be no more buses and no more Knock,’ Father Douglas said. He added as he usually did when a meeting was over, ‘I now have other matters to attend to.’
Father Kevin was delighted Kate had been put down and couldn’t wait to get to the monastery to share the news with other monks. He could have chosen to whisper the entire time but decided sign language was more interesting, and more to his intention. His first communication was a whispered ‘news’ and in a flash there was a gathering of about a dozen peers. News is always welcome in a monastery. The gathering waited for Kevin to whisper more but he chose to sign. He extended his arms straight in front and in the air inscribed a figure 8. Right away, everyone in the gathering knew he was referring to Father Celestine. Then he brought his hands in front of his chest and rolled them over each other rapidly several times to indicate wheels, and all understood. And then he raised his arms in front of his face and crossed them in an X. Confusion and consternation on every face as Kevin hoped there would be, and whispers of, ‘How can it be?’ and, ‘Impossible!’ One monk even blessed himself. No one in the gathering remembered it was time for Father Celestine to take the students to Knock for the annual pilgrimage, everyone interpreted as the wicked Kevin hoped they would that Kate had a miscarriage.
Some years back, a young pop singer had a hit with his very first song, and overnight success went straight to the boy’s head. His second song, however, never made it to the airwaves, his promoter and the recording company that signed him refused to have anything to do with it, they considered some of the lyrics unsuitable and the title of the song offensive.
Their refusal outraged the young singer/songwriter, at least he claimed he was outraged, and in a local radio interview he railed at his promoter and the record company and vowed he’d not change a single word nor the title; to do so would compromise his artistic integrity, he said. The radio host asked him what was so objectionable and offensive about the song and once again the young man launched an attack on, ‘The morons who can’t appreciate what’s bold and original, who think they know better than the artist,’ and repeated he wouldn’t change a word and wouldn’t compromise his artistic integrity. And he went on and on and on.
By then, the radio host must’ve been wondering if he had any audience left and pressed the singer to get to the point with, ‘I’m sure our listeners would really like to know what the title of your new song is. Please tell us.’
The artist replied, ‘It’s called, I love you so much I could shit.’
When I published ‘natural selection’ last week the agreed price with Lulu Press was and is $9.95. In time, that price may go down but I assure you it will never increase.
Then it came to my attention the book was available on Amazon at $20. I wish to say I did not sanction that nor was I consulted, it seems the people at Amazon are a law unto themselves
and I’m surprised and annoyed they jacked the price up so much, double in fact.
I didn’t publish my book to exploit customers, I published it to share my poetry at what I consider is the fair and reasonable price of $9.95.
I wrote a note of complaint to Amazon and didn’t receive a reply, but I see today they list the book with the comment ‘temporarily unavailable’ – good!
The book is available at Lulu Press, and their website is considered very safe.
Sorry for this note but I wanted to clear the air.
At last i’ve got round to publishing a collection of poems:
natural selection (ISBN 978 – 1 – 387 – 64501 – 5)
My friend David Hightower, poet and author of The Hanging Man Dreams,
has very kindly written the introduction, and Winnie Osborne the back cover blurb.
I plan on publishing a second collection later this year and i’ll stop at that,
two collections are enough.
For some time now, friends have been encouraging me to collect and publish pieces from my
‘bits & pieces’ and ‘out and about’ and i will do so soon.
Best to All
The monastery had two kinds of monk – Fathers and Brothers. Fathers were priests with university degrees first and four years of Theology after; Brothers were for the most part less academically qualified and often came from working class families, and on the whole were more down-to-earth and streetwise. Despite the holy environment of the order and in theory the good intentions there was always some friction between the two kinds; well, monks or not they were human, and brothers felt, usually quite rightly, priests looked down on them.
Father Nivard was a rotund, self-important pain in the arse and a self-confessed expert on every matter theological, angels balancing on the heads of pins and all that. No other monk, priest or brother, liked him, but Nivard – or Nivo as he was known – didn’t much care. He’d taken the name Nivard after Saint Nivard the 7th century Bishop of Reims, and had ambition to become abbot one day. After all, an abbot is a bishop.
Brother Laurence was Dublin working class through and through but after an adolescence of hanging out in back streets with other little chancers more than going to school he took a course in nursing and much to the relief and delight of his mother became an SRN. A few months later, he joined the monks, a move his mother considered a waste of career and a lost opportunity to make something of himself. Later, she conceded she had no right to question his decision and said to a neighbour, ‘Sure if it’s God’s will, it’s God’s will, and the call is the call.’
In the monastery, Laurence was in charge of Sick Bay, and the infirmary was the one place where monks were allowed to speak in case of any misunderstandings regarding ailments or treatments. Of course only the most devout kept silence in all other places, whispering was usual, fashionable even.
One time, Father Nivard came down with flu, a much less serious condition than the good theologian admitted. No one else’s bout of flu was as serious as his and instead of putting up with it till it passed he took to a bed in Sick Bay, and Brother Laurence had to attend to him. Nivard’s presence inconvenienced Laurence mightily, he couldn’t smoke in his usual corner or drink his bottles of Guinness or send the gardener into town to put five shillings each way on the 33/1 outsider running in the 2:30 at Kempton Park, all three practices he was supposed to have left behind the day he donned the cowl. He relayed to the gardener, a local hire, that he wouldn’t be availing of his purchasing and betting services until the priest was better and gone, and this news pissed the gardener off, he wouldn’t be getting his usual tips. ‘Shite!’ said the gardener.
As if Nivard’s presence wasn’t bad enough the priest expected to be waited on hand and foot and for the purpose of summoning Laurence had carried into Sick Bay with him a small bell which he rang with infuriating frequency.
‘What’s it now?’ Laurence would ask in the flattest voice he could manage.
‘Laurence, be an absolute darling and bring me another glass of cold water, and while you’re at it close the curtains completely, there’s a small shaft of light molesting my eyes, and do fluff up my pillows, you’ve not fluffed them since morning.’
Lurence would mutter something unmonkish and bring the water and close the curtains and fluff the pillows, muttering all the while.
Three days of tinkling bells and Laurence was at the end of his tether – no smokes, porter or horses – and the pain in the arse showed no signs of leaving. The end came when Nivard rang and said, ‘Laurence, be an absolute angel and bring me a nice pot of tea, scalding hot and properly strained, and in the good floral pot.’
Laurence looked at the pompous rotundity now sitting in a chair beside the bed and not a thing the matter with him and said, ‘Nivo, as long as you’re still consuming oxygen, and I must say you’re a disgraceful waste of oxygen, and as long as you’re capable of the vertical and are not on the permanent horizontal you can make your own fucking tea.’
The exchanges were overheard by a third monk with genuine reasons for being in the infirmary, and after his recovery and discharge he was more than happy to whisper details to the entire community, and beyond.
A hieromachy is a quarrel between clerics.
Judges look for poise and for beauty of knee, eye and lip. A dozen contestants this year were disqualified for using botox.
To my friends here my best.
I’m not good at ‘politically correct’ so it’s MERRY CHRISTMAS to one and all