SEASCAPES from Minus One

  1. Midnight, and the pale moon palely     

Lighting up the worm beds on the beach.

We hoked them out, threw them wriggly into buckets.

Damp knees in the damp sand.

Uneasy in the stillness, watching for the yellow hair of fairies,

Hidden in the tide, their voices from another world.

That white beach an other world itself

That sent me home a changeling

Waiting to reclaim myself.

2. Barely rose, pearly in the dawn,

An angry sea throws spray across the wall,

Wrecks the boats tied up beneath the lighthouse on the pier.

Its flashing light lights up the summer picnic island.

Foam spuming flying, keeping all indoors.

Seaweed stranded on the road like giant insects.

And I, an elemental on a swing, lick my salty lips and

And watch the sea for Manaman, its King.

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A little Shakespeare for a warm, sunny morning.

On my daily walk along the river, there is a particularly warm spot, whatever way the river turns, or the shelter the trees provide, or the corner of the path – whichever. I always stop there for a moment, and today, this sonnet came into my mind. I hope you enjoy it.

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

Thou art more lovely and more temperate.

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,

And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.

Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,

And often is his gold complexion dimmed,

And every fair from fair sometime declines,

By chance or nature’s changing course untrimmed;

But thy eternal summer shall not fade

Nor loose possession of that fair thou ow’st,

Nor shall death brag thou wander’st in his shade

When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st

So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,

So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

I learned this off by heart at school, and still remember it.

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt – some thoughts . . .

I saw the movie of this book a long time ago, and recently took a notion to read it. Something must have sparked it off, perhaps something I read here on WordPress. If so, thanks to whoever it was. I’m enjoying it so much, and will write a proper review when I’m finished. I should say here, that it’s a non-fiction book about an antiques dealer, but it reads like fiction.

I have never before been so drawn in to the atmosphere of a book. Even when I’m not reading, I feel like I’m in Savannah. Here are a few words:

‘There was ample evidence in the records of the historical society that in Savannah’s palmier days it had been a cosmopolitan city and its citizens an unusually worldly sort. Mayor Richard Arnold, the man who had sweet-talked General Sherman in and out of town during the Civil War, was typical of the breed. He was a physician, a scholar, an epicure, a connoisseur of fine wines, and a gentleman who took his social obligations seriously. He wrote in one letter, “Yesterday, I entertained the Hon. Howell Cobb at a sociable dinner party. We sat down at 3 o’clock and got up at half-past nine.” Mayor Arnold’s six-and-a-half-hour dinner lent weight to what I had been told about Savannah’s fondness for parties, and it put me in mind of the genteel merriment going on nonstop in the town-house down the street from me at 16 East Jones Street.

My casual surveillance of the house paid off one day at noontime. A car drew up to the curb and screeched to a jolting stop. At the wheel was a neatly dressed elderly lady with white hair as neat as pie crust. She had made no attempt to parallel park but had instead pulled into the space front end first as if tethering a horse to a hitching post. She got out and marched to the front door, took a ball-peen hammer out of her purse and methodically smashed all the little panes of glass around the door. Then she put the hammer back in her purse and walked back to her car. The incident didn’t seem to make any difference to the people in the house. The piano went right on playing, and the voices went right on laughing. The panes of glass were replaced, but not until several days later.’

Does that give any idea of the very strong flavour of this book? I seem to be totally subsumed into Savannah!

An Excerpt from DANCER by Colum McCann – a gripping story based on the life of Rudolph Nureyev.

The date I have written in this book is February ’19, and I haven’t read it since. I loved it; the writing was terrific, and flesh was put on a distant star. I picked it up the other day, and I’m ready to re-read.

It was a hot summer in Ufa, the city enveloped in smoke from the factories and ash blown in from the forest fires, off the Belaya river. A thin film of soot lay on the benches in Lenin Park. I was finding it difficult to sit and breathe, so I finally plucked up the courage to spend the last of my money on the extravagance of the cinema.

Having not been there since Anna passed on, I though I might be able to revisit her, twine a lock of her grey hair around my finger.

The Motherland cinema was located down Lenin Street, gone slightly to ruin, the beginnings of cracks in the magnificent facade, posters yellowing in their glass cases. Inside, fans on the ceiling were at full force in the heat. I hobbled in on my cane and, having forgotten my eyeglasses, sat close to the front.

Word had gone around that Rudi was featured in the newsreel and there was a noise in the air, his name being whispered by what were presumably were old classmates, young men and ladies, some old schoolteachers. Yulia had written to say that in Petersburg young women had begun to wait outside the stage door to get a glimpse of him. She mentioned that he was even due to dance for Khrushchev. The thought was chilling and wonderful – the barefoot Ufa boy performing in Moscow. I chuckled, remembering the names Rudi had been called at school: Pigeon, Girlie, Frogface. All of that had been forgotten now that he was a solo Kirov artist – the arrogance that had been taken from the air and put in the victory soup.

After the anthem the newsreel came on. He was featured dancing the Spaniard in Laurencia. The sight of him was an acute but pleasing thorn. His hair was dyed black for the role and his make-up was garish. I found myself holding Anna’s hand and mid-way through she leaned across to me. Rudi was being savage and exotic, she said. He was bringing a flagrant ruthlessness to his idea of dance. She whispered urgently that he was altogether too flamboyant, that his feet weren’t pointed well, his line was slightly wrong, that he needed to cut his hair.

I thought: How wonderful – even as a ghost Anna didn’t hold back.

That wonderful narrative drive that keeps you turning pages; one of life’s best experiences.

ÉALÚ BINN | SWEET ESCAPE from Minus One

When I was a girl, a long time ago, most people had very strict parents, and I remember so well, the feeling of being squashed and kept down – it was just how things were then. Every Summer, we went to an Irish College in Donegal. The first time I went, I was fourteen, I fell in love with everything about those holidays, and Donegal is still my favourite place.

Wet Sunday afternoons

Micheál Ó hEithir full-voiced

My father leaned to hear

Forbidding us to talk

We kept our heads down

Read our Enid Blytons

Visits to relations

Sit straight with ankles neat

Weak tea, not quite hot

Men who would be jolly

Women with their blouses

Buttoned to the nose

Restless, teenage years

Stultified, depressed

Hemmed in by the iron will

Of parents bent on purity

Chips at the harbour wall

A mortal sin

But ah – August in The Rosses

Let loose among na buachaillí*

Blood-red cheeks and sparkling eyes

Mascara thick and black

And lipstick for the céilí –

Bhí gaeilge fíor mhaith againn!**

     *the boys

**We were very good at Irish!

Ginger Cake Recipe | An Easy One.

I made this cake yesterday; a recipe I hadn’t used for ages. The cake turns out very soft, a bit crumbly, and totally delicious. As you can see from the photograph here, I’m about to cut myself a (huge) slice and have it with lovely coffee.

1and 1/4 cups of spelt (or white) flour

2 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 cup of buttermilk

1/4 cup molasses

1/4 cup olive oil

1 dsp honey

1 beaten egg

Mix all the dry ingredients together

Mix all the wet ingredients together

Mix all together until well combined

Put into a greased/lined loaf tin – I just brush with olive oil

Oven 180 degrees for 30 mins

Cool in a damp tea towel on a wire rack.

Serve on its own, or warmed and topped with plain yogurt – and try not to eat it all at once!

For a change, you can replace the spices with crushed walnuts and 2 dsp powdered coffee.

Oscar’s Grief

I hear the river

rushing to the sea

onwards always,

splashing over hidden rocks

and weirs,

foaming down the falls.

I tread the river path,

smell the warming earth

and grass. Wild flowers

compete with lilac’s

nodding heads and

sweetest hawthorn

These things which Oscar mourned,

shut away from light and air,

more precious in his mind

than freedom.

Cloister

Some days I wish I’d been a nun

Cloistered, curtained by the hanging

Green of trees, pale apple green, serene cloak.

Measured days and nights,

Paced from hour to praying hour.

No pride no lust no greed no lies,

No loss no gain no pain no strife,

But peace, pale apple green, serene

Soft poultice on the quick of life.

“My Sorrow” from Minus One

So now I know and

Must accept my fate

The sear of ice is

Burning in my breast

I have tried to quench it

With the gasping taste

Of whiskey

With new distractions

I have tried to warm

My blood

Suicide wouldn’t suit me

I fear the gaping hole

Of hell

But ah, to be old and

Mindless

My wretched mouth

All gums and grins

The ice dissolved at last

In drools and dribbles.