Saturday, December 30, 2006

What a load of Croc!

At a Christmas Eve party I bumped into a past student of the school I work in who was wearing a fabulously colourful pair of shoes. After trying them on I concluded that they are possibly the most comfortable things I have ever had on my feet, which is quite a statement considering that the number one consideration I have when shoe shopping is comfort (followed closely by 'red'). I bought a black pair for work as soon as I could but I might have to get a pink pair at some stage in the near future (I am trying not to go for red again... it is difficult though, the red ones are particularly beautiful). Seriously, these feel good on your feet and they are about half the price of a pair of Doc Martins. I will update you on any drawbacks that I come across; they are slightly too good to be true at the minute...

And they are machine washable!

Friday, December 29, 2006

OK, OK, I'm letting myself be bad at this stuff. I fully recommend it if ever you have the inclination. The title of this is something like 'The Four Chambers of the Heart'.

Monday, December 25, 2006

happy holidays

hey. despite a cold so heavy i think it might be man-flu it's been a good day. happy christmas to all of you. thanks to the father for the unexpected and much appreciated (and much anticipated) gift. thanks also to ray bradbury for the dinosaurs. and to P/CS; i hope you're well, o-brother-where-art-thou, happy christmas.


Friday, December 08, 2006


So what do you know? Just saw this. It is so weird how this happens. You hear something (or see it) and immediately your brain usurps it as its own. I must have seen this a few days hence somewhere.... I had a kind of waking dream about it (had just woken up, half asleep) and its direct meaning for me.... and then I painted it....

It's like those times that students hand in a poem written by a famous poet to see if you'll be able to spot it or to check if you really hate them... *

Am only half disappointed. At least I don't have to rush out and buy a print of the above!

*[edit: on reflection I see how it is more like a student who thinks they have written Ulysses...]

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

he had so much to say but more to show

Have been thinking about what I might try and submit for the Ikon art exhibition thingy in the Waterfront next year. There will be proper artists doing stuff for this so even if I did get time to put something together it will probably not shape up to standard. Which is fine by me really. I am quite excited just by the idea of having a go. Last night I had an idea of what I might try to do. It is something that must have been influenced by the above Rothko which is stuck on our living room door (postcard size. I have no idea how big the original was but I'm willng to bet ours is a little smaller...). I have no idea how to paint though. It's in my head but I don't know how to get it out.... Normally words are the only way I can do that, so it will be interesting to see if there is another way.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Happy Birthday Ana

'Island calls to island across the silence, and once, in trust, the real words come, a bridge is built and love is done--not sentimental, emotional love, but love that is a pontifex, bridge-builder. Love that speaks the holy and healing word which is: God be with you, stranger who are no stranger. I wish you well.'

(Frederick Buechner)

she is two today. i remember when i was pregnant with her i used sing these words (tune courtesy of julie lee). today they are for her and also for paul whose post this morning reminded me of them again. God be with you, stranger who are no stranger.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

There Is A Light That Never Goes Out

Last night I went to hear Eliyahu McLean and Sheikh Abdel Aziz Bukhari speak about their work with Jerusalem Peacemakers, an organisation whose name should speak for itself if ‘peacemaking’ didn’t sometimes mean ‘killing’ in the strange times we live in. But no, these ones were on the side of peace and you could tell that as much from the way they spoke to one another as from anything they said.

Towards the end of evening someone in the audience asked a question I had heard earlier this year at Greenbelt (that time directed at Jim Wallis); how do we keep hopeful? How can we avoid discouragement? I knew what those questioners meant. Somewhere in that question is another; is this pointless? It seems like this is pointless… When governments don’t listen to their people and good people get bulldozed without thought…. Could there be hope?

Eliyahu’s response was the same as that Jim Wallis gave. Something I had never considered before this year. He said that we have to stop being results-driven in our hope; that he considered himself one who paves the way for peace to come rather than one who brings peace himself. That he sows seeds in faith; faith that the future for generations to come will see the fruit of this labour. When I heard Jim Wallis say the same thing I have to say my heart fell a little. I wanted him to tell me the secret of hope, of how to keep believing, of how to have faith. Instead he told me that faith is all there is. That, as David Gray sang, ‘for all of the talk it’s only true to say that if you have no hope, there is none’.

This time, hearing these men speak with such conviction something clicked. If they, living in their mess can hope and live and act on that hope… maybe….

Driving home from Belfast the other night the Christmas lights on City Hall were flashing, not off and on, but light and dim, and my ipod played this refrain, defiant, over and over;

There is a light and it never goes out
There is a light and it never goes out

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

he is but 30 miles away

and will be coming on stage right about now....

Monday, November 20, 2006

Gotta Have a System

Heads or tails? Tails? Or heads?

I have to say this is a bit exciting. I feel like I'm on Deal or No Deal, about to choose the final box... It is random, right? There's no technique, right? Should I pray? Or would that be unfair? But maybe Ian's praying! So I should pray to give us an equal advantage! Or maybe it wouldn't matter since he is undoubtedly the better human and 'the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective'? But maybe 'our righteousness is as filthy rags' so it wouldn't matter if both of us prayed?! I am so grateful for my evangelical roots! Worry wouldn't be half as much fun otherwise! Pity those existentials!

Now. Heads? or Tails?

Tell Me Why I Don't Like Mondays

Ah bugger. We have two tickets to Bruce tmorrow night. And one sick baby. Which means a coin toss this evening to see who gets to go and who has to stay and clean up puke...

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Right Rev. Riah H. Abu El-Assal

i went to see him last night. he is an anglican bishop and an arab living in palestine. it was very interesting. i have to say i know very little about the jerusalem/palestine thing. his stories of the conflict and his peacemaking efforts were very sad but also a bit hopeful. it is so interesting hearing this stuff in belfast. i have to say i have never bought the big comparison between northern ireland and the middle east (i think mainly because i can't bear the appropriation of other people's conflicts as justification for our own... ) but it turns out there are some similarities after all. and it is always good to get a sense of people over there as real people...

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Remembrance; Time Before Memory

I don't go to church anymore but I was there this morning as I'd been asked to sing.

I like Remembrance Day. The idea that the past is always present in whatever form we choose to keep it; and what a privilege to have that choice. There was this very beautiful prayer during the service. And for the first time in a very long time I felt somehow reconnected to this vast body of belief and faith. It made me remember.

(see title link for more work by Daniel O'Byrne)

O Christ, in whose body was named all the violence of the world, and in whose memory is contained our profoundest grief, we lay open to you: the violence done to us in time before memory; the unremembered wounds that have misshaped our lives; the injuries we cannot forget and have not forgiven. The remembrance of them is grievous to us; the burden of them is intolerable.

We lay open to you: the violence done in our name in time before memory; the unremembered wounds we have inflicted; the injuries we cannot forget and for which we have not been forgiven. The remembrance of them is grievous to us; the burden of them is intolerable.

We lay open to you: those who have pursued a violent knowledge the world cannot forget; those caught up in violence they have refused to name; those who have enacted violence which they have not repented. The remembrance of them is grievous to us; the burden of them is intolerable.

We lay open to you: the victims of violence whose only memorial is our anger; those whose suffering was sustained on our behalf; those whose continued oppression provides the ground we stand on. The remembrance of them is grievous to us; the burden of them is intolerable.

Hear what comfortable words our Saviour Christ says to all who truly turn to God:
Come to me, all you who labour and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Monday, November 06, 2006

the gaping wound

Just found this when looking through my wp documents. It was a bloody weird time....

The Gaping Wound

It is somehow the case that when my body opened itself to give life to the world my soul also opened and would not shut again. As my body healed and the stitches dissolved to reveal new binding tissue, still there was a gaping wound through which began to pour a lifetime of thought, memory and learning. And it would not begin to shut. Long after the period which books and midwives tell you it is not unusual not to recognise yourself, I was still gazing in wonder at the revelation of who I had been and who I was about to become.

God came as a force pinning me to the bed. Like the cloud of Moses enclosing me in its darkness. The only comfort of which was the absolute experience of it. This was fear but of a new sort. The fear was of all things changing. But the comfort was all things being. No cause for working up a faith or answering some internal questions. This thing just was.

The gods I knew had left me but they left in kindness. There was no sneering or cynicism. ‘you knew us,’ they seemed to say, ‘And we were real, but now we do not exist’. They embraced me with such affection and then were gone for good. And with them the fear of them. And with them their judgement. Now all things good were truly good. All things open. All things mysterious and nothing named. I looked at Ana in her cot and lamented that I would never own her again. That her very perfection lay in that fact. That she was free and could not be owned. And I missed her. And the new god told me that neither could I be owned for nothing is owned. God is not owned. This distant creator lay on top of me for days. Every time I tried to come to him I could not but he came to me and enveloped me in that cloud where everything dispersed and came apart and was set free all at once.

An old man, the father of my friend, was having mass said for me regularly and as the days poured into one long day I felt a new belonging, even as I became more alien than ever before. It was a sort of communion of the saints and for a while I could not tell if I was a saint alive or a saint dead. Somewhere in between I believe for in that state of everything-changing the world still breathed human people in and out but I was caught in its breath, drawn to death, drawn back to life. Trapped in that constant wind was nothing like before. But the realisation was that what before had felt like a grounding in reality was only a false floor. It was necessary in its time but now the floor had gone and the world became so much larger and so much smaller. The contradictions would seem to come from everywhere and somehow everything would make much more sense that way. That god could be a physical force and a dark cloud. But god could also be the breathing in and out of the world. And I could be hunted down and held down and at the same time free and swimming in the air.

If this sounds far fetched I had only to hear other accounts of giving birth. The suffering of being in physical anguish and being torn and at the same time the joy of the activity of birthing which you cannot control and yet, since it is your body and you are for a short time becoming your body you are the only one in control. No wonder we cry out. No wonder they tell us to expect to feel unusual for a while afterwards. We have discovered how powerful we are when we are not trying to reason everything. We have discovered that to stop and question the process while it is occurring, if it were possible, would render it useless. We have discovered that giving out life is something that requires giving up life as we know it, if your life has been one where you need to think and reason and control. And the power therein is enormous. People will later ask ‘who delivered your baby?’ and the only answer is, I delivered my baby. Who else could have? Should she have been taken from my body with metal implements or lifted out by the hands of a surgeon, still my womb gave her up. And what choice did I have? None! But it is not a matter of choice, or of mind. It is only a matter of body. This is not to demean the process but rather to exalt what we did not previously know; that the human body possesses something more powerful than the mind. The ability to create life. Those who do not have children also give life to themselves as they unconsciously breathe and move.

And perhaps this is what is meant by ‘he created man in his own image’. That life can come and go and we cannot control it and yet we, our bodies, are the beings that live and die and we should acknowledge that power that our bodies have if we are to begin to acknowledge where the body, soul, spirit and mind began.

Monday, October 30, 2006

The foul rag and bone shop of the heart

I have always been a little slow, particularly in catching on to really cool stuff. So forgive me for this, but I had such a shock to find myself standing in front of Bruce Springsteen at that gig in Dublin and thinking, not only can this guy perform, but these lyrics are bloody amazing!

Seriously, I didn't know ! You can imagine the following days of rapture as I began to listen to all of Ian's albums. The other artists that came immediately to mind were Tom Waits and Billy Joel. But also this Yeats poem which still echoes in my mind when I listen to Bruce.

Initially the link was bound to be the mere mention of the circus (see my last post and the lyrics of that Springsteen song). Wild Billy is one of my favourite songs because it reminds me of being a kid of maybe 8 or 9 and listening to Billy Joel and realizing that songs could be about telling a story as well as about dancing or a catchy chorus (other favourites of the day included 'You're the One That I Want'- John Travolta and Olivia Newton John). But I also love Wild Billy's Circus story because I feel like I fit into it. I'm there in that circus (and before you say it, no, I'm not the man-beast lyin' in his cage sniffin' popcorn.... I was thinking a little less literal than that... although somedays....)

It helps. Songs like that help. The weirdness of all those circus freaks, the clowns waiting for a saviour, the hopes surrounding moving on. And there is so much colour in it too. I like how Springsteen and Waits can do that. Like there is some revelation of gold to be found in the darkest and most human of places.

And so onto this Yeats poem. It's about writing but (I think/ imagine) it's about writing as a human function of being. As if sometimes the act of writing can be so transcendent that you have to remind yourself that 'human' and 'writer' are inextricably linked, lest you find yourself unable to do the job at hand. Mike Ridell has this piece on his website (see title link and then click on 'articles') called 'Voiding the Void' which makes a pretty great job (in my opinion) of describing this sort of tension. He says:

'The writer can never be healed, but can be maintained through judicious palliative care. In writing there is a clumsy reaching toward the stars; a kind of outward movement of the Void, expanding into the world. It is unavoidable....and it is deflating. The words can never carry the weight of the eternal, and yet for the writer there is nothing else to transport it in.'

I can feel that in Springsteen and in Waits and in this Yeats poem. Here it is:

The Circus Animals' Desertion

I sought a theme and sought for it in vain,
I sought it daily for six weeks or so.
Maybe at last, being but a broken man,
I must be satisfied with my heart, although
Winter and summer till old age began
My circus animals were all on show,
Those stilted boys, that burnished chariot,
Lion and woman and the Lord knows what.

What can I but enumerate old themes,

First that sea-rider Oisin led by the nose
Through three enchanted islands, allegorical dreams,
Vain gaiety, vain battle, vain repose,
Themes of the embittered heart, or so it seems,
That might adorn old songs or courtly shows;
But what cared I that set him on to ride,
I, starved for the bosom of his faery bride.

And then a counter-truth filled out its play,
'The Countess Cathleen' was the name I gave it;
She, pity-crazed, had given her soul away,
But masterful Heaven had intervened to save it.
I thought my dear must her own soul destroy
So did fanaticism and hate enslave it,
And this brought forth a dream and soon enough
This dream itself had all my thought and love.

And when the Fool and Blind Man stole the bread
Cuchulain fought the ungovernable sea;
Heart-mysteries there, and yet when all is said
It was the dream itself enchanted me:
Character isolated by a deed
To engross the present and dominate memory.
Players and painted stage took all my love,
And not those things that they were emblems of.

Those masterful images because complete

Grew in pure mind, but out of what began?
A mound of refuse or the sweepings of a street,
Old kettles, old bottles, and a broken can,
Old iron, old bones, old rags, that raving slut
Who keeps the till. Now that my ladder's gone,
I must lie down where all the ladders start
In the foul rag and bone shop of the heart.

Wild Billy's Circus Story

It was so nice to look at Paul's blog this morning and see a picture of Bruce. I still can't do linkage but click on the title to have a look at said blog which is marvelous.

I am sort of a latecomer to Bruce Springsteen. For years my husband tried to tell me how great he was and our house was full of his albums before I ever listened to one song. All I knew was 'Born in the USA'...

Then a few years ago a friend of a friend offered us their tickets to see him in Dublin and we went....

It's hard to say how grateful I am for that. I had no idea.

So anyway. This is the song that does it for me. This is where I meet Bruce and he meets Tom Waits and Tom Waits meets Yeats (maybe more on this later when not so frazzled by babystuff) and so on. I love this song.

The machinist climbs his ferris wheel like a brave
And the fire eater's lyin' in a pool of sweat, victim of the heatwave
Behind the tent the hired hand tightens his legs on the sword swallower's blade
And circus town's on the shortwave

The runway lies ahead like a great false dawn
Fat lady, big mama, Missy Bimbo sits in her chair and yawns
And the man-beast lies in his cage sniffin' popcorn
As the midget licks his fingers and suffers Missy Bimbo's scorn
Circus town's been born

Whoa, and a press roll drummer go, ballerina to and fro
Cartwheelin' up on that tightrope with a cannon blast lightin' flash
Movin' fast through the tent Mars bent, he's gonna miss his fall
Oh God save the human cannonball.

And the flying Zambinis watch Margarita do her neck twist,
And the ringmaster gets the crowd to count along: "Ninety-five, ninety-six, ninety-seven"
A ragged suitcase in his hand, he steals silently away from the circus grounds
And the highway's haunted by the carnival sounds
They dance like a great greasepaint ghost on the wind
A man in baggy pants, a lonely face, a crazy grin
Runnin' home to some small Ohio town
Jesus send some good women to save all your clowns

And circus boy dances like a monkey on barbed wire
And the barker romances with a junkie, she's got a flat tire,
And now the elephants dance real funky and the band plays like a jungle fire
Circus town's on the live wire

And the strong man Sampson lifts the midget little Tiny Tim way up on his shoulders, way up And carries him on down the midway past the kids, past the sailors
To his dimly lit trailer
And the ferris wheel turns and turns like it ain't ever gonna stop
And the circus boss leans over, whispers into the little boy's ear "Hey son, you want to try the big top?"
All aboard, Nebraska's our next stop.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Time change

The heating is broken. Ian cannot leave for some foreign place without some disaster (usually some expensive disaster) arriving to herald his departure. Last time it was a leak from the washing machine. The time before that 2 visits to the vet for the cat and stitches etc. This time it is the heating. Oh, and another leak from the washing machine. And Ana has got the flu.

So the clocks went back last night but of course she doesn't know this and her flu plus her inability to time travel culminated in a particularly restless night which she is now re-living; it's meant to be naptime but she is standing up, crying through snot and lamenting the demise of her Postman Pat doll who I have removed lest I should behead him for keeping her awake with his stupid bloody theme tune which I have heard around 1000 time today already.

I think I am going insane.

I have counted to 100.

Go. To. Sleep.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Festive Hygiene

There are just too many people I wanted to share this website with. Please click on the title link. I specifically thought of Mags, Jude, Cary, Sarah, Kellie and Clare. But really, all of you must take a peek. I am amazed and joyful..

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Be Honest

Our whole house looks like this. Does anyone else have a house that looks like this? I think if it was someone else's house I would think it looked colourful and bohemian. But sitting across from it in my kitchen it kind of just looks like more work to do....

lâ ilâha illâ allâh

Took some of the GCSE Islam students to the mosque in Belfast last night. Us laydees all wore the hijab (I did not wear it well I have to say. It kept slipping off). It's coming to the end of Ramadan and they invited us to break fast with them after prayers. They were extremely kind to us. And the food was great (Algerian apparently). Peace be upon them.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Hands Off My Baby Paisley!

Apparently the DUP are saying that they managed to secure 'the retention of academic selection in the province's post-primary sector' as part of the devolution package.

I failed the 11plus exam. Then I resat the whole year again (because hey, I was young for the class and clearly had nothing better to do with an entire year of my life) and promptly failed it again. I've got to say it didn't bother me at all at the time. I got to go to the big school with my friends. And my parents were cool about it too. No great feeling of disappointment. So I went to high school and at 16 I thought I'd leave and get a job. And then something unexpected happened. I aced my GCSEs. Like, passed them really well. It was quite a shock. And I wondered what to do. Well, I had no big plans about working or anything so I applied to grammar school and started studying for A-levels. And when I was finished then I would get a job. And then something else unexpected happened. I passed those exams pretty well too. I had no great plans for university or anything but once again I thought 'why not?' so that's what I did...

And now here I am teaching students, some of whom passed the 11plus and some of whom didn't.

It didn't do me much harm, did it? Failing that exam. I mean my life took the same path as my sister's and she had passed her's, gone straight to grammar school, did not pass 'go', did not collect any stigma...

But it wasn't the same path.

When I think about how many times it was made difficult for me to move on in education and how many times I almost left and missed out on the studying that I came to truly love it makes me crazy with anger to think how we are still dividing children into 'smart' and 'not-so-smart' at age 11 (or any bloody age! People change folks!).

I had to leave my school when I was 16. The school I loved, the friends and teachers I knew. I had to get better grades than the grammar school kids in order to study A-levels with them. I didn't enjoy 6th year. Grammar school was different to the one I went to and I was never comfortable with that. I stopped playing the violin and quit my interest in drama. I almost left after about 3 months, convinced that everyone but me knew what they were doing (despite eventually doing better than many in my classes). I had no notion of going to university. No-one in my immediate family had done so and they were very pleased I had got as far as I did. I only applied because I thought it was 'the rules' that everyone had to and I had little intention of actually going. I applied for random courses that I knew nothing about and luckily one of them was at Queen's and luckily I got the grades to take that course and luckily they let me change my course completely after 2 weeks so I could take English which was looking a lot more interesting than it did when I was at school....

There are several points when that test that I repeated and repeatedly failed could have seriously mucked up the path I eventually took and I wonder how many other people missed out on something they could really have benefited from because they didn't have the luck I had.

And now this nonsense from the DUP. I find it thoroughly depressing. Sometimes I think Northern Ireland deserves everything it gets because we keep voting in these backwards-looking politicians. And what of Blair and the rest? It makes me so cross because I see as an insider in the world of education how a non-selective, integrated system can work.

The school I teach in does not select on the basis of academic ability. We are integrated and coeducational. And we have recently been in the papers as the top non-grammar school in our GCSE results. Apparently the big scaremongering voice that says 'you can't mix children who appear to do exceptionally well with those who appear to struggle (or even those who motor along just nicely thanks)' is lying to us! Woo ! And guess what? Our school even sends people (lots of people actually) to university and they can get first class degrees and everything! Double woo! And mixing with students who are different to them will not harm them! In fact it might even be good for them! In fact, the idea is that mixing with people who are different to you can be a very positive learning experience!

What a novel idea! Perhaps this is something that the DUP can learn when they finally sit down to do business with Sinn Fein et al. Perhaps if they had been to a school like our's they wouldn't have had a such a problem with difference in the first place. How ironic that this move which will serve to further stall the long-overdue move to eradicate academic selection might be the one which brings the DUP together with those they have avoided for so long.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Michael Donaghy

When I wrote before about Eolath I said that after I had heard of his death I wished I had written to him and told him what a great experience his workshop for teachers had been. I had meant to do it and chickened out.

My friend Grainne took me to hear this poet named Michael Donaghy reading a few years ago. I hadn't heard of him before but his poetry (and the performance of it) was utterly captivating (click on title link to hear him). Sadly he died suddenly in 2004. I had chickened out of talking to him on the evening I saw him perform (probably a good thing as I might have choked on my gush). But I did email him some time later and he kindly emailed back to say thanks. When I read his stuff it makes me feel waves of gratitude that there once was somebody who could write it down like this.


John 20:24 -29

We fell out of love as toddlers fall
glancing down, distracted, at their feet,
as the pianist in the concert hall
betrays her hands to thought and adds an extra beat -
The thought vertiginous. The reprimand.
It fells the bee mid-flight. It made me stall
before a holy water font in Rome
half afraid that if I dipped my hand
I'd find the water's surface hard as stone
and - this you'd never understand -
half afraid to leave the thing alone.
For I'd been taught that Jesus walked the sea
and came to Peter three leagues out of port.
Said Peter Bid me to come unto thee
and strode on faith dryfoot until he thought....
and thinking, sank. I'd never learnt to swim
but I'd seen insects skim across a pond
and I'd seen glasses filled above the brim.
Some firm conviction keeps a raindrop round.
What kept me rigid as a mannequin?

We fell out of love and nearly drowned.
The very wordlessness all lovers want
to feel beneath their feet like solid ground
dissolved to silences no human shout
could ripple -
like the surface of that font
when other voices, tourist and devout,
grew still, and someone whispered by my side
O ye of little faith -and shallow doubt-
choose here to wet that hand or stand aside.
No one was there. But I could tell that tone.
I heard his ancient apostolic voice
this evening when I went to lift the phone
to tell you this - and froze. The reprimand.
For once, in two minds, Thomas made the choice
to bless and wet with blood his faithless hand.

Monday, October 09, 2006


Wish I'd had my camera tonight. But I didn't. Tried to take a picture with my phone but it was just silly. A little red dot. When really the thing was immense. Huge. So no picture, only this which is deeply inadequate;

The moon is a red egg
Unbalanced on the sea,
Soft around the edges.
An illuminated ovum
Pulling me in and out,
Binding my arms to my back
As I run for the land.
Calling my name.
Promising my lost memories.
Reminding me where I came from.
Drawing me perpetually back.

Brian Moore

For Sarah and everyone; this is the opening bit of 'I Am Mary Dunne' by Brian Moore. It is a brilliant brilliant book and it made me cry in Starbucks. Sarah, do let me know if you have trouble getting hold of a copy.

Cogito ergo sum. I close my eyes and go back sixteen years. Mother Marie-Therese writes it on the blackboard. Her arm is rolled up bare to the elbow: the sleeve of her habit is rolled up to avoid chalk dust. 'I think, therefore I am,' she says. Where the Latin was just something to translate, the English jumps and my hand is up (unlike me, that) and when Mother sees me I ask wouldn't it have been more correct for him to have said Memento ergo sum?

'Memento?' With that winter frost smile of hers.
'Yes, Mother. I remember, therefore I am.'

She sends her smile searching among the other girls in the class. But no one has a comment. As for Reverend Mother's smile, it would mean 'A silly girl has misunderstood Descartes,' or 'See how we have engaged the attention of Mary Dunne.'

'And why would you say that?' she asks me.
'Because' (I am fifteen) 'we are what we remember.'
'Interesting,' says Reverend Mother, but did she really think so? Did she remember our conversation an hour after class? I have remembered it sixteen years and now I wonder. If we are what we remember, did that girl I was die because I forgot her? As now, perhaps, I am beginning to die because some future me cannot keep me in mind.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Hey Lizzie!

This post is for my mum who hasn't seen any picturs of Ana at Greenbelt yet. In the picture on the left she has just been taken from the creche and you can see her wristband and her stickers which say 'I've seen animals' and 'I've seen puppets'. Her paper bag contains raisins. Yum.

The Body Of Christ

Wanted to blog this mainly for Paul because it was the talk of eucharist lately that gave me the idea.

Last month's ikon (see title link) saw us bringing our our 'station' to St George's. My idea is pictured here. During the evening particpants were invited to explore each station and take what they would from it. I remember something Pete said about ikon being a desert in the oasis. And I say to myself, thank god for that.

I had borrowed the communion kit from a friend of mine. It was used in the trenches apparently.

I so wanted to keep it.

The chalice contained bits of red paper and people were invited to write the names of those, living or dead, that they remembered. Then they would leave the names on the plate.

It all looked nicer in St George's than on my bedroom floor. We had candles and everything.

The script behind the cup and plate read as follows:

These are the saints I remember
These are the saints I think of
These are the saints I eat and drink Christ with

This is the body
We are the body

The body of Christ

The living body
The body immortal
The dead body
The body eternal

The body of Christ

The charmless body
The tired body
The body beautiful
The failing body

The body of Christ

The forsaken body
The swollen pregnant body
The empty, empty body
The hopeful body
The body rejected
The body desired

The body of Christ

The innocent body
The addicted body
The body joyful
The body terrible
The captive body
The emerging body

The body of Christ

The impoverished body
The decorated body
The body held
The body abused
The body broken

The body broken

The body broken

The body of Christ


Sunday, September 17, 2006

We Come to the Table

It is funny how things collide. I used to think it must be God when you read something at random, written by someone you never met, expressing your own thoughts, sometimes in the same way you had thought them. Maybe that is 'god' in some ways. I think it is definitely why people bother to read in any case. I think it also why people bother with other people. And why other people sometimes bother us quite so much.

So a friend sent me this poem this morning and it goes somewhere in the Venn diagram where my self and everyone else's selves intersect. This is how god is for me at the minute. And having written a lot for myself lately regarding the eucharist I am starting to imagine a way of writing it down for those other selves. Probably on this blog at some point.

The Vast Ocean Begins Just Outside Our Church: The Eucharist
by Mary Oliver

Something has happened
to the bread
and the wine.

They have been blessed.
What now?
The body leans forward

to receive the gift
from the priest's hand,
then the chalice.

They are something else now
from what they were
before this began.

I want
to see Jesus
maybe in the clouds

or on the shore,
just walking,
beautiful man

and clearly
someone else

On the hard days
I ask myself
if I ever will.

Also there are times
my body whispers to me
that I have.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

love the human form divine

Ok I nicked the title from Sarah and Dave's blog (see title link) and apologies for that, but I had this real Blakean moment this morning and it was the line I kept thinking of over and over.

It was a parcel of clothes for Ana from Rozi, Orla, Trevor and Connell. To the fab four; you don't know how gratefully that was received. Thank you very Very much. The shoes were especially appreciated. And we three are very happy this morning because of you!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

In My Blakean Year

I wrote this some time ago but felt the need to revisit it again today. Thought I'd post it so I could get access to it more often and in different places. It would be great if anyone had anything else to add. (And do check out the title link. I love her.)

‘He who bends to himself a joy
Doth the winged life destroy
But he who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity’s sunrise’
(William Blake)

To enjoy something beautiful we must let it be beautiful. To ‘bend it to oneself’ will alter our vision, as if seeing a beautiful painting and, wanting to possess it, pressing our faces up against the canvas; we are in one sense closer to it but ironically, we have lost it because we cannot see it as it was meant to be. To take a step back and let it be becomes a risk of enormous proportion. Other people can see it. Perhaps someone else will steal it. Perhaps we will see that it exists pretty well without us.

To capture the bird deprives it of its meaning. It is born to fly, and doing so it may escape us. It might happen that we experience its wonder only once before it moves on.

But what gives the painting and the bird their brilliance is the sense that they are fulfilling their purpose. That is the joy. That they are. Completely. So the risk is the joy. And pain which may come will be both its shadow and its meaning.

And the truth is we can live without the risk but we cannot avoid pain. With our faces up against the canvas it is true, no one else can see the picture and no one else can steal it. But it is also true that we cannot see it either. And we cannot see anything else while it is there. And we are burdened by the constant effort to carry around something that can never be us.

With the bird in the cage it is true, it will not escape us. But it is also true that we will never see it fly. And we too are captured by the weight of concern that accompanies possessiveness. We must keep watching the cage in case the lock breaks, in case someone else lets the bird escape. Our security in the knowledge that we have captured the bird is no security at all because in our souls we know that life cannot really be contained. The bird could (and will someday) die and we are powerless to prevent it. It is this soul knowledge which keeps us glued to the cage. The knowledge of our frailty then makes us more and more frail. What is the point, we might ask, of life when it is merely a struggle to avoid death, unavoidable death?

We have missed the point until we open the cage door:

The bird flies and for a moment we realise our fears- it may escape us forevermore. But at the same time we realise the point- the fear is accompanied by freedom. And this is the point. That beauty exists. We have been part of it. And the experience is known as joy. It may only be short lived, that is true. And when it finishes the pain will equal the joy in its enormity and its intensity. But the freedom will remain in the soul knowledge that we birthed the joy. Something else will have led to its demise. But it was our willingness to watch and experience and love without interfering with the other’s freedom that has let them be free. They live because we chose life for them and for ourselves. The pain may be greater this way. But anything else will kill our spirit and the spirit of others.

Sunday, September 10, 2006


Talking to a friend about poetry and catharsis this morning reminded me of this. When I was in hospital awaiting Ana's arrival the other waiting mothers and I were treated to a hideous symphony from above; a woman in the upstairs ward going through labour. It scared us all to death. It was everyone's first time and though we all feared the worst, none of us had ever heard it before.

There was this midwife who I didn't like much. She was bossy and rude and extremely insensitive. And she came round that morning and told us the most profound thing I had ever heard concerning childbirth. She said the noise a woman makes when she is giving birth is not related to the pain the way you might expect; it is not the pain that forces a woman to cry out. Rather it is the cry that keeps one going through the pain. It is a tool. And sometimes it might sound even louder than the pain. And that is partly the point.

A few hours later I would find out what she meant. The pain of birthing is not the pain of an accident. It is the pain of finishing. And the pain of becoming. Beholding. Everything new. Ouch.

Thursday, September 07, 2006


It is my birthday tomorrow. So in honour of myself I googled-imaged 'Shirley'.

I found, amongst other things;
  • a very scary looking Shirley Temple doll,
  • a school in New Zealand called 'Shirley High School for Boys',
  • a photograph of someone's gravestone (Shirley's),
  • a painting of a man with a beard called 'Portrait of Shirley',
  • a 9200lb elephant called Shirley (and you can buy a t-shirt with her picture on. How glad am I that this knowledge was not available when I was a teenager?),
  • a picture of Shirley McClaine in a green outfit
  • and the knowledge that there are several places called 'Shirley' and a number of flowers.

    Lilies are my favourite sort of flower ( not this sort, although I like them very much) . But oddly, the 'Shirley' lily is the sort that my mother-in-law buys me every-so-often. I didn't know until today that that's what they were called. The power of google.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Wild Geese

by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting--
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

A Man Is An Angel

Returned home from Greenbelt to find a CD in my postbox. A collection of songs and poems written by Eolath Magee and kindly sent to me by a friend of his. Thank you so much Heather. It is wonderful.

Being with the baby this year at Greenbelt meant being more selective. So I sought out only those talks that I thought might offer something very important. Because I didn’t have time for anything else.

Ana’s highlights were undoubtedly the (fabulous! Blair and your offsted buddies take note!) creche, the drummers situated near the mainstage and Nizlopi who she absolutely loved. We’d never left her with strangers before and maybe it was high time because she cried to not-be-left at the creche when we had cause to be there just to register or whatever.

So I guess that was also a highlight for me. To see her so happy with other adults and kids and not dependent on me or Ian for that. Even for a couple of hours. To see her rocking out to Nizlopi and joining in with the drummers. She’s a complete person and this is a joy and a relief to behold.

The other thing I will take with me this year was John Bell’s admonition to non-judgementalism during one of (I can’t even recall which) his talks. I had heard some of his stuff about the defeminisation of the church before in other people’s talks but it made me feel glad to hear him saying it in that plain and direct way of his to such a crowd. These things cannot be said enough.
And kudos also to Ikon’s feminist testimony as part of their service. The spectacle of a woman taking the microphone and saying nothing for several seconds was a provocative statement, the worth of which was proven (in my opinion) by the fact that some of the audience thought it was a joke.

So on that theme of non-judgement here’s one of Eolath’s pieces. The website address is

In the Presence of Death

It is tempting, in the presence of death,
To imagine we can know a person;
To summarise their life
Or to make assessments from the
Supposed advantage of surviving them.

But we have no perspective worthy of
The epic of a human life.
Did this man succeed or fail?
By what measure? Love, or fail to love?
Make a so-called contribution?
Go down in history or die forgotten?

Our judgements have no value.
Better that we attempt the impossible task
Of putting ourselves in this man’s shoes
For one minute.

What was his beginning, his legacy in life?
Some seeds begin in stony ground.
Some in rich pasture.
Some young shoots are nourished and tended.
Others survive alone by strength of simple obstinacy.

What were this man’s goals for himself?
Did he meet them or despair of them?
Picture in him, as adult or as child,
One moment of innocent delight;
One smile from a fully open heart,
And know that this is the nearest glimpse we can have
Of this one human struggle to be all that is possible.

Put aside any negative.
Put aside those parts of the curriculum of life
Where we suppose he could have done better.
Before AND after death,
No matter if sometimes hidden in life
We are each whole;
We are each beautiful;
We are each a miracle;
We are each a teacher;
We are each an indispensable part
Of this constantly renewed universe.

From that immortal part of ourselves,
Which is true compassion,
Let us ask for the wisdom to come to know OURSELVES
Through his example, and let us bless this man for his life.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Greenbelt '06

Ok so Ana's past the 4am stage now, and to be honest she sleeps just great in a tent. But there is something about camping with a baby that brings back the first-few-months craziness (you know; everything being so hectic that nothing un-baby-related can happen until well after lunchtime; forgetting to feed her; wondering where that last nappy ended up....).

I hadn't heard of Antonia Rolls before Greenbelt this year. Check out the title link for more.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

It makes me happy

Got a text message this morning from a happy student who believes my King Lear revision classes got him the one mark by which he received his grade B in english which will be sending him to university in a few weeks time. It makes everything worth everything when people get happy like that. It is more than the sum of a thousand essays marked in purple (because it motivates; me, not them) and a thousand hours of slogging through some set text no-one wants to read. When their efforts pay off and the balance just tips in their favour that little bit that changes everything. And I get to be happy because it is not me that saved it. It is not even King Lear (although if a text is gonna save someone, it's a good place to begin the search). It is the persistence and the hankering-after and the bothering to show up and the trying again because you didn't bother the first time. Good, good and good for him.

Oh, and I got to see Duke Special (check the title link) last night. And it was lovely. Despite being a very seated place with nervous-looking stewards who might have killed me or had a heart attack if I'd got out of my seat like I wanted to. My home town. It is very conservative and nervous. Always protestant and nervous. I can understand that I guess. Here's hoping that one day the harp of David will lift its spirits so significantly that we can all move around a little more freely. We're not asking for naked dancing (yet). Just a little room to breathe and move. A few more gigs like that and who knows. The quiet revolution might yet be upon us.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Superman Returns

And so do I, to the cinema that is. My first outing to the magical world of movies since Ana was born 19 months ago. But I did have to see this one, having been an enormous fan (take that as you will; both 'enormous' and 'possessing a fanhood of great proportion') of the original movies and slightly nervous (having purchased said originals on DVD when Ana was born for indoctrinative purposes) about the return.

Well, it was really ok. And that's a compliment. I liked Spacey as Lex Luther very much (which is good because I hate him in most roles apart from the American Beauty one). And Superman no longer looks like my dad, but this is no bad thing as truly, my dad no longer looks like my dad (if you asked me to describe him I can see him in my head with black black hair. In reality there ain't that much hair to be going on with, and it ain't so black). And the story was OK apart from a little needless weirdness surrounding Lois' (fairly redundant) husband.

Before I went to see it I watched the first Superman movie with Ana. It was so great. It has been much longer than I realised since I saw it last. I was surprised to find Marlon Brando as Jor-L. That's how long it's been! And another thing I noticed was the likeness of the scene where Clark contemplates leaving home as he stands in the field with his mother to the painting by Millet known as 'The Angelus'. The scene is worth checking out again for this reason if you missed the reference. I could be making it up of course, but even so (who cares?) it is fitting and sort of quietly beautiful in a way that the new film never quite approaches.

Just got to get my kid to like the old ones now....

Friday, June 02, 2006

Yay Sun

Sadly I've had to change my profile image as the drawing I had before no longer exists on the web. Bummer. I'll get round to drawing one of my own sometime.

Here's some more photos.

Ibid's first day in the garden! I don't know where he is now. I let him out this morning and he's already run off with a new friend.... he's all growed-up... hope he minds the traffic....

Ana's favourite thing in the world ever: her football. Well, second favourite after 'Suddenly I See' by KT Tunstall. Everything stops for KT...

New pictures for another of the stories I talked about before. This one was about wrestling.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

i wish i was an artist...

came across this site by half-accident today and realised i'd seen one of the paintings before on a friend's wall.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Colouring In

A friend of mine teaches an adult literacy class and they've been writing stories for their children. So she asked if I would do some illustrations for a story. This one is about a boy who discovers he has magic foam powers. He can make magic happen by blowing bubbles from his mouth. It's a cool story and I hadn't though about writing a story in which your child was the hero before. Good idea.

Monday, May 22, 2006

How Rude!

I hate getting spam without a subject! Really. Why should I bother to purchase your miracle fat-cure when you can't even be bothered with a friendly 'hello fatty!' in the subject line of your email? It's just lazy...

Sunday, May 21, 2006

What's the Password?

I'm sick. Well, obviously. But no, I've got like some sort of virus too. My body feels like lead. One of the things I miss about being at work is that you can take a day off when you're not well and lie in bed. You can't get a day off from babydom. But the Teletubbies can provide some respite at least.

Enough whinging. Last night watching Eurovision. And Big Brother. Why am I drawn to Big Brother? Why?! I think I really hate whoever produces it. In my mind I see them as the boys on the bus who bullied me when I was a kid. They're so cynical. And clinical. Ugh.

So far I like Pete and Shahbaz. I'm sure I couldn't live with them but then again, I'm not brilliant at living with anyone really. I think Shahbaz is a lot more self aware than the rest of them think (how irritating is it to hear someone tell someone else to 'just be yourself!' less than a day after meeting them?) and Pete's just a wee cutie. I'm sure I'll change my mind (so cynical.....)

Eurovision was a spooky as ever. Frightening acts included the one with the puppet and the one with the lady in the piano. It was fitting that Finland won. See the title link for my favourite ever Eurovision entry.

Friday, May 12, 2006

girl and boy

the other day i turned around in the kitchen to find that ana was wearing a tomato. she's very into hats at the minute.

congratulations to trev and jenna on the arrival on liam xxx

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

someday I might have broadband...

And then my life will be transformed. But for now it will remain a feat of patience to post anything on this blog. That and effort (I want to say whatever the opposite of 'inertia' is. It should be 'ertia' really). Apologies for the lack of posting. I am rethinking the blog at the minute. I have signed up to myspace but as yet haven't ventured any further than that. But I will. Someday. Maybe. When I find my ertia.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

art is a tart

As usual it’s been a while. Hope you’re all good. The title is a link to Andy Watson's art which was pointed out on the Jon Ronson forums lately. It’s good. And here is my very own work. Lately I have been mostly drawing pirates, using the medium of felt-tip.

And here’s Ana again. Of course.