Mortality

Did you hear –

And did you hear?

He’s dead, she’s dead

Oh no, oh no

One more, one more

Tombstones

Pale and cold

Line up, waiting

For my name

To be inscribed

I shake my head

Oh no, oh no

My peers accept

Mortality

But what has that

To do with me?

MELANIE

Tinted warm by rose and amber light

Melanie smiles and pouts her painted mouth

Exotic spider, webbed in scarlet silk

She wears the face of Venus, Helen, Circe

Drawing one-hour lovers to extol her grace

And wit. She lends her body, listens, comforts

Promises a paradise of lust

The door lets in the shocking light of day

Melanie leaves, her pockets full of gold

Her eyes are clean and cold and bold

And know the sorrows of the world.

Today’s Ulster Poet – Séamus Heaney.

This is the last Ulster Poet post and it’s the best of all.

POSTSCRIPT

And some time make the time to drive out west

Into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore,

In September or October, when the wind

And light are working off each other

So that the ocean on one side is wild

With foam and glitter, and inland among stones

The surface of a slate-grey lake is lit

By the earthed lightening of a flock of swans,

Their feathers roughed and ruffling, white on white,

Their fully grown headstrong-looking heads

Tucked or cresting or busy under water.

Useless to think you’ll park and capture it

More thoroughly. You are neither here nor there,

A hurry through which known and strange things pass

As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways

And catch the heart off guard and blow it open.

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson: the reason why . . .

This is one of my favourite books; I’ve read it twice and am about to begin again. I was looking through the introduction and it was so interesting to read about what started him thinking . . .

” . . . I grew up convinced that science was supremely dull, but suspecting that it needn’t be, and not really thinking about it at all if I could help it. This, too, became my position for a long time.

Then, much later – about four or five years ago, I suppose – I was on a long flight across the Pacific, staring idly out the window at a moonlit ocean, when it occurred to me with a certain uncomfortable forcefulness that I didn’t know the first thing about the only planet I was ever going to live on. I had no idea, for example, why the oceans were salty but the Great Lakes weren’t. Didn’t have the faintest idea. I didn’t know if the oceans were growing more salty with time or less, And whether the oceans salinity level was something I should be concerned about or not. (I am very pleased to tell you that until the late 1970s scientists didn’t know the answers to these questions either. They just didn’t talk about it very audibly.)

And ocean salinity, of course, represented only the merest sliver of my ignorance. I didn’t know what a proton was, or a protein, didn’t know a quark from a quasar, didn’t understand how geologists could look at a layer of rock on a canyon wall and tell you how old it was – didn’t know anything, really. I became gripped by a quiet, unwonted but insistent urge to know a little about these matters and to understand above all how people figured them out. That to me remained the greatest of all amazements – how scientists work things out. How does anybody know how much the Earth weighs or how old its rocks are or what really is way down there in the centre? How can they know how and when the universe started and what it was like when it did? How do they know what goes on inside an atom? And how, come to that – or perhaps above all, on reflection – can scientists so often seem to know nearly everything but then still not be able to predict an earthquake or even tell us whether we should take an umbrella with us to the races next Wednesday?

So I decided that I would devote a portion of my life – three years as it now turns out – to reading books and journals and finding saintly, patient experts prepared to answer a lot of outstandingly dumb questions. The idea was to see if it isn’t possible to understand and appreciate – marvel at, enjoy even – the wonder and accomplishments of science at a level that isn’t too technical or demanding, but isn’t entirely superficial either.

That was my idea and my hope, and that is what the book that follows is intended to do.”

The scientific mind fascinates me; what could it be like to have a mind like that? I watch every show about the universe that comes on the television, every show about the earth and its inhabitants. You know when the programme shows a blackboard covered with numbers and symbols and it makes perfect sense to the scientist? I smile ruefully. I understand very little but am always drawn to them anyway. I shall begin the book – again – straight away.

10 More Magical Movie Moments

1. 4 Weddings and a Funeral: 1994

Written by Richard Curtis who also wrote Love Actually and Notting Hill among others. Directed by Mike Newell whose movies crossed all genres, including Donnie Brasco, Love in the Time of Cholera, Great Expectations, and Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire.

The moment for me in this movie involves Rowan Atkinson who plays a clergyman. At one of the weddings the character played by Kristin Scott Thomas tells him that his first wedding is like the first time one has sex. Rowan Atkinson’s face is good enough on its own but he gives this small embarrassed laugh, more of a snigger, a small sound which he repeats while turning his face away. How does he do that? It seems so creative to me. I’m laughing here as I’m writing . . .

2. The Beast with Five Fingers: 1946

This horror movie was a short story in the first place, written by W. F. Harvey and then became a screenplay writtend by Curt Siodmak. Rober Florey directed the movie. He directed other horror films as well as the first Marx Brothers feature, The Cocoanuts.

The story revolves around a death, relations and a will. The left hand of the corpse is cut off and begins to creep around at night and to play the piano. The film is in black and white and the hand glows as it moves. I saw this movie when I was about ten and it haunted me all my youth and gave me many nightmares. The moment that stands out is when a friend, played by Peter Lorre, catches the hand and tries to throw it into the fire but it leaps out and strangles him. I can just about stand to think about it now!

3. Schlinder’s List: 1993

Such a wonderful movie altogether, and my favourite moment is when we first see Oscar Schlinder (Liam Neeson) as he enters a room full of people. The camera is behind him at head level so we can appreciate how tall and imposing a figure he was. I loved that. The film was directed by Spielberg, and adapted for the screen by Steven Zaillian. The original book was called Schlinder’s Ark and was written by Australian writer, Thomas Keneally.

4. Babette’s Feast: 1987

This Danish movie was directed and written by Gabriel Axel who based the screenplay on the short story written by Karen Blixen (with whom I share a birthday!). In Danish – Babettes Gaestebud. It is set in the 19th century and tells the story of two sisters living in a village in Jutland in West Denmark. They are members of a very strict Protestant sect begun by their father, and we get their sad back stories as the movie goes along. Babette arrives at their door in the middle of a storm. She has escaped from the war in Paris and has a letter of introduction from Philippas’s old suiter, Papin. Babette keeps house for them. When she wins the French lottery she offers to cook a real French meal for the sisters and all the villagers, who live sober, controlled lives without much laughter. The moment I enjoyed the most is the kitchen scene while Babette is cooking; the heat; the smells; the tastes; it’s a magical scene. This movie is in my top ten list and won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.

5. There Will Be Blood: 2007

This movie, written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, is based on a 1927 novel “Oil!” by Upton Sinclair. It stars Daniel Day Lewis as Daniel Plainview, the oil man trying to convince the locals, in a pit mine hole in New Mexico, that this search for oil will benefit them. However he is opposed by Eli Sunday (Paul Dano) a local preacher. The film is magnificent on every front; it is a huge film. The stand-out moment in my memory is when Eli Sunday forces Daniel Plainview to his knees – the faces of those men, the acting, is amazing. It’s the kind of movie that makes me very quiet when I leave the cinema thinking – less than ten euro for all THAT!

6. Gone With The Wind: 1939

I won’t say much about this movie; everyone knows everything about it! It was produced by David O Selznick. The screenplay was written by Sydney Howard, adapted from the 1936 novel by Margaret Mitchell. And I’m sure no one will be surprised when I say the moment in this movie is when Scarlett, in a red, red dress appears in the doorway at Melanie’s party, when she is suspected of having an affair with Melanie’s husband, Ashley. Head up, shoulders back, brazening out the stares.

7. Strictly Ballroom: 1992

This Australian rom com was written and directed by the wonderful Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge and Romeo and Juliette). It was based on a play written by himself and fellow students while they were studying drama in Sydney. It is much more than a rom com of course. For anyone who loves dance movies this one is a must. It follows the lives of two young dancers – Scott (Paul Mercurio) and Fran (Tara Morice) as they struggle to remain partners and to try some innovative moves. For me, the magic happens when the Paso Doble is danced, not by the young ones, but by Fran’s father and grandmother. You’d have to stand up and clap!

8. The Apartment: 1960

Staring Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, and Fred MacMurray, this movie is a total delight from start to finish. Produced by Billy Wilder, and written by him with I. A. L. Diamond. “Bud” Baxter works for an Insurance Company and in the interests of getting promotion he lends his flat out to his boss for illicit meetings with his mistress. Soon, others want to use the flat as well and Bud’s life gets very complicated. He’s in love with the lift girl (MacLaine) and it all ends well eventually. I’m sure everyone knows what scene I’m going to mention. Of course it’s Bud straining spaghetti through a tennis racket. Jack Lemmon is one of my favourite actors; he can play anything. Look at him in in Glengarry Glen Ross or Days of Wine and Roses.

9. La Belle et La Bete: 1946

I fell in love with this film the first time I saw it many years ago. If you like fantasy and magical scenes you might want to look it up. It is truly beautiful, gorgeous, sumptuous, fantastic, dazzling, and dreamlike. The film was directed by Jean Cocteau, poet and film maker, adapted from a story written in 1757 by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont. It stars Josette Day as Beauty, and Jean Marais as the Beast. One of the stand-out moments (and there are many) is this; Beauty is floating along a corridor in the castle and as she passes, hands holding blazing torches reach out from the wall to light her way. I’m going to have to watch this again now!

10. Some Like it Hot: 1959

In a movie where every scene is one to remember, all I can say is, “Nobody’s perfect!”

I hope any movie lovers who read this have enjoyed the list. I’ll have to do a final one with modern movies this time.