Onwards…

a few words of a kind…

Archive for the tag “Gort”

Another Leaving…

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My bags aren’t packed and I’m not ready to go. It’s my last few days in Ireland and autumn is slipping in. It’s my favourite time here, the country feels settled, tourists have mostly flown and Ireland has come back to her own —— the home boys and girls. We seem to be more Irish, more ourselves. There’s talk in Gerry O’Donoghue’s butcher shop about hurling and greyhounds. In Paddy Burke’s farmer’s store down the street, conversation is about how Arab stallions have destroyed the true breed of the Irish draft mare and the Connemara pony. A Saudi sheik is mentioned as the culprit.

“Longer bones and taller horses make anxious prima donas,” Mr. Burke sighs.

In Keane’s hardware shop the talk is about how the scarcity of mackerel this year.           
“They’ll be in with the next full moon,” Brenda the shop assistant predicts.

Friends are texting about meeting up. I’ve just done an interview for the Limerick Leader newspaper and my mate Gerry is coming over to record me doing a voice over/intro to Bob Marley’s ‘Three Little Birds’ for his radio show…maybe put down some spoken word. Time is tight. But it’s a beautiful evening and I go outside and sit in the sun, make another to-do list. JP pulls up in his black BMW and hops over the wall, no gates or gaps for this boy. He’s on the way to a gig and gasping for a cup of coffee. We drink java in the sun and catch-up on music and love. Then he’s off to a ceili in Kerry.

When JP leaves, I tidy up the living room to get ready for the recording. To set the atmosphere, I light a fire. Cool as a breeze, a robin flits into the room and I wonder if it’s a sign that I’ll win the Lotto. The Christmas bird perches on the back of a súgan chair and looks at me for a few seconds, then takes flight and collides with a cluster of metallic wind chimes. Poor bird does a panicked few loops around the room and flies out the door to Ireland. One of Bob Marley’s ‘Three Little Birds’?

Gerry arrives and we get the work done and chat. There’s a text about doing something at the Electric Picnic next weekend. Sorry, I’ll be gone. That’s life. Things always rev up when I’m preparing to leave. I wonder how many more times I’ll make these transatlantic trips. I’m an emigrant whose soul never leaves Ireland. But the body has to travel for work.

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One night before I left, I had dinner at home with my daughter Róisin. Afterwards, we sat by the fire and chatted about many things. Then she said,

“Dad, does it get harder to go back as the years roll on?”

I had never thought about that before and after a few seconds, I nodded and looked at the fire. There were no words for the pain that followed the realisation. She hugged me and said she’ll miss me loads. I nodded but couldn’t stem my tears.

There’s a text from Aindrias. He can go to the studio on Monday afternoon and lay a few tracks for the spoken word experiment. Time is tight. The bags aren’t packed and time is tight. We settle on just having dinner instead. After that I won’t see him until next summer. It’s time to bite the bullet, get back to packing and find that passport with the golden harp.

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Bonzo

This is the opening of Bonzo, one of the stories in my recent collection, Borderlines.


Bonzo stood out. His face looked a cross between WoodyIMG_0008 Allen and Harry Potter, but he was much plumper than Woody, and taller too. There was a reserved, almost studious air about him and no matter what the circumstances or situation, Bonzo never seemed out of place. He blended in at parish weddings and opera galas, local funerals and rugby matches. He was a man for all capers.

Nobody was sure what he did for a living, or if he did anything. He grew up in the parish, the only child of a small farmer and his wife. A gifted student, Bonzo won a scholarship to some prestigious college when he was twelve and left the village. The next time they saw him, he was a young man with a bookish look. His mother said he had a big job in Berlin, but someone else said he was working in Boston.

When his father passed away, he returned to Ireland and got a job in Dublin. Every weekend he came to visit his mother and when she died suddenly, he took to the booze for a few weeks and announced that he might become a hippy. From then on, he lived in the home thatched cottage and let twenty acres of land go wild around him. He came and went a few times a week in a yellow VW camper van with a surfboard-rack on the roof.

Some nights he walked down to Cleary’s pub in the village to listen to the music and have a few pints. Once in a while he got drunk and danced alone to jigs and reels, to the glee of the drinkers. Crumpled and cockeyed, he would shake hands with everyone and whisper that they were always welcome in his house.
“I mean it,” he’d say, squeezing their hands.

Sometimes after the pub closed, a small crowd went back to Bonzo’s cottage with packs of beer and bottles of spirits. When musicians came, there was a rollicking session. The parties took place in the old country living room, decorated with pictures of saints and a red Sacred Heart lamp. Books overflowed from shelves to the floor and people built them into seats and sat on them. There was an open fire, a couch and a few sugán armchairs, which were given over to the musicians. He was a welcoming host and cooked up plates of charred sausages and sardines on toast. On those nights, Bonzo got really spaced and was often first to hit the floor.

His land stretched down along the sea road, from the edge of the village to a ruined castle once occupied by his ancestors. It was prime development land and Bonzo let it be. Every few months a hippy named Guy came with horses and grazed the place for him, but other than that the land was idle, left to itself. When he was drunk one night in Cleary’s pub, Bonzo said he was going to ‘plant it, plant it with trees. Broadleaves, native trees.’ It was good for the planet, he said and a few drinkers cheered, “Good man Bonzo!”

Backpackers knocked on his door once and a while asking if they could camp in his fields and he gave them permission. One Dutch girl stayed for two weeks and slept with him a few times. An American woman with a lemon Citron van pitched there every May and again in late summer. She was a photographer and took the picture of Bonzo and the cat that hung in Cleary’s Bar.

The first time Kiki McFadden met Bonzo, he was backing the camper van out to the road, being directed by Guy the hippie. She stopped her silver jeep, got out and approached him.

“Hitting away for the weekend,” she smiled, noticing sleeping bags and backpacks in the van.

Bonzo nodded and Guy hopped in beside him and began rolling a smoke.

“Are you going to the Electric Picnic?” she asked, smiling broader.

“You got it,” nodded Bonzo and Guy chuckled.
“You lucky things, you,” she sighed, “God, but it’s well for ye and some of us slaving away to try and make a living.”

“You’re keeping us all going,” smiled Bonzo.

“Listen,” she said, “I’ve been meaning to talk to you. Will you give me a call when you get back, I’d really appreciate it. God, I should introduce myself, I’m Kiki McFadden from Round Tower Real Estate in Ballygale.”

They shook hands and he said,

“Hi, I’m James, James Callahan.”

She gave him her business card and said,“God that’s gas, you have the same name as a cousin of mine in Mayo. I know you to see as Bonzo.”

He put her card on the dashboard and said,“Nice meeting you, Kiwi.”

“Kiki,” she corrected.

“Of course,” he smiled, “Kiki”

The VW pulled away slowly and Bonzo scoped her out in the wing mirror as she went back to her jeep, taking a call on her mobile. She had a full figure, tight power suit and sexy swagger.

“She’s a smooth operator,” he said.

“They’re on to you, man,” warned Guy.

He didn’t call Kiki McFadden when he got back from the Electric Picnic. The outing lasted longer than he had planned. On the way home he made a detour to West Cork with two English women and stayed with them for three days. Then Kiki’s business card disappeared from the dashboard and he forgot all about her.

Autumn arrived and he was away a lot. There was no VW parked beside the cottage when Kiki passed and after a few weeks, she slid a note under his door.
“I heard the Picnic was great. Hope you enjoyed it. Give me a call for lunch sometime when you’re free — All the Best, Kiki.”

Bonzo put the note beside the phone and it got covered with piles of mail. Guy came over with horses and they went to a Christy Moore gig in Lisdoonvarna. Then Bonzo disappeared and nobody saw him for weeks.
Kiki’s head turned when she noticed the camper van tucked behind the cottage. She parked the jeep and knocked on Bonzo’s front door. It was Sunday and he was having a snooze by the fire, a weekend radio talk show chattering away unheeded. Her knock woke him. Dang! Bet they have heard the radio, I’d better see who it is, he thought.

“Hello Bonzo,” Kiki, greeted and he was startled. For a second he didn’t recognize her, she was dressed for heavy weather in an Australian outback raincoat and broad brimmed hat.

“It’s Kiki, remember?”

“Of course, of course, Kiki.”

“Is this a good time to call on you? I know it’s the weekend, but I can never seem to get you at home during the week. How’re things anyway?”

“Fine, fine, great. Yeah, come in. Please, you’re welcome. The place is a bit of a mess.”

“Arrah it’s fine, what are you talking about. You should see my place! God this is grand, Bonzo, lovely and cosy.”

“Thanks. Would you like coffee.”

“God I’d love a cup, d’you know that? This is a lovely spot, and you have the open fire and all. God but I’d love a place like this…”

“Milk and sugar?”

“No sugar thanks. I s’pose you don’t have soy milk?”

“I’m afraid not. Sorry.”

“Arrah, it’s grand…just black is fine.”

They made small talk about the weather and she asked about the Electric Picnic.

“I’d love to go there next year. You’ll have to remind me when tickets come on sale. God but you have a very interesting life Bonzo. And d’you mind me asking, what do you do for a living?”

“Nothing very exciting, pen and paper work,” he said vaguely.

“I bet you’re a writer,” she smiled, “you have that look. Do you write poetry?”

“On occasion,” he replied, “but I wouldn’t consider myself a poet.”

“I would,” she said, “and I bet you’re very good. A lot of great artists didn’t consider themselves as good as they were. D’you know what I mean? Like Van Gogh, like.”

“Poor Vincent,” sighed Bonzo.
“Yeah, he cut off his ear, didn’t he? But listen,” she said, slowing her voice a gear, “we have a client who is very interested in buying some land from you.”

“Really?”

“Yes, I can’t say who it is at the moment, but it’s a serious player. They’d be interested in buying as much as you’d sell them along the road.”

“For development, I presume. It’s not somebody who wants it to farm.”

“Yes, for development. As I said, they’re serious. And they would make a sizable offer.”

Bonzo looked into the fire and Kiki bantered on about the holy pictures, chipped statues of Jesus and family photos that stared at her from every wall. She said she envied his lifestyle and longed to give up the rat race and retreat to an island and write poetry. Or just meditate. Kiki sipped her coffee and silence seeped around them.

“Well,” she said, “will you think about it anyway. The offer would be in the region of 300K an acre. Say, 5 to 6 million for the whole place.”

“Jesus, that’s a lot.”

“Of course it would be conditional on planning but the client is well connected and thinks that wouldn’t be a problem…”

Bonzo’s head swirled and he felt dizzy….


Borderlines is 3 long stories by Eddie Stack — Carnival Cop; Bonzo; One for the Rover. The stories are set in the West of Ireland. Kindle edition costs $0.99. Download here


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Ireland: Boom, Burst…Revolution?

PASCHAL MOONEY + C&W DIEHARDS ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL

PASCHAL MOONEY + C&W DIEHARDS ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL

Yesterday afternoon, I was looking at the grey sky, wondering if it would rain, when I heard an unusual sound for this part of the country. The sort of sound you’d associate with Mr. Whippy’s Ice Cream Van — a jingle in the wind, a few indistinct words and another jingle. It brought me back to my childhood and I fumbled in my pockets for a few euros…nothing like an ice cream cone to raise the spirits. And it was coming down our road! But as it came closer, I recognised the music…low grade Country & Western…and the voice, oh the voice…the syrupy sound of Paschal Mooney, radio DJ and Fianna Fáíl politician. Mooney’s Tunes…he’s running for election…wants to represent us in Europe. I ran inside and locked the door, turned Jimi Hendrix up to the limit to block out the nightmare. It’s election time in Ireland — hounds are off the leash and putting their mark on every lamp post, telephone pole and street corner. All politics are local, it’s all about being King of the Bog.

ELECTION POSTER POLLUTION, GORT, COUNTY GALWAY

ELECTION POSTER POLLUTION, GORT, COUNTY GALWAY

They say a country gets the government it deserves, but I doubt we deserve anything like the calibre of runners seeking office here in the upcoming Euro or the local county council elections. We know from recent exposés on corruption, cronyism and plain stupidity, that Ireland cannot keep doing ‘business as usual’; but yet the same kind of klutzes are out there salivating for votes. There are a few exceptions, but the klutzes out spend and out bark them. Ireland is broke. Not just financially, it’s morally bankrupt, spiritually drained, depressed and psychically disabled. Maybe it’s our Karma. Maybe we’re gullible, or naive — we never seem to learn from experience, never seem to be able to spot the sharks, whether they’re politicians, civil servants, builders, bankers, lawyers, etc in Armani suits — or thugs and perverts in religious robes decked with silver crucifixes. When we spot them it’s too late, and unimaginable carnage has been done. Then we have a tribunal, tomato throwing in the Dáil, talking air-heads on radio and TV. And in the distraction, there’s a nasty new stew being cooked by another cabal in some dark corner.

FIANNA FAIL BILLBOARD AT FREAK SHOW ENTRANCE, GORT

FIANNA FAIL BILLBOARD AT FREAK SHOW ENTRANCE, GORT

It seems that once we got our freedom, we just replaced the brutal and incompetent British administration with our own brand of the same. And to guide the incompetents, we gave the Catholic Church a special place in our constitution and a kick in the butt to the Prods at the same time. Nice one guys… So, if our government ever needed help, all they had do was nip down to the Cardinal and he’d call God for them. And of course by having the Church on side, obedience was total. Like it or lump it, for most of our Independence, Ireland has been ruled by the prayer book and the political stroke. We may rant and rave about how bad the Brits were, but some of our own rulers were not much better. Craftier maybe, but just as sinister and two faced. And yet in spite of them, the Plain People of Ireland managed to survive, thanks in large part to help from our exiles and emigrants abroad.

Over the last year or so, Ireland has been turned on her head. The once lauded Celtic Tiger has slunk away, tail between it’s legs, like a dog who’s done the dirty on an Ikea sofa. Many Irish bankers, builders, politicians, religious orders, civil servants, lawyers and other professional high flyers have been exposed as people of low moral standards, scammers and parasites. The true standard bearers are our artists, musicians + writers. Culture, heritage and landscape make up the spirit of a nation and thankfully, we’ve some of that left. Though there’s more karma to reap up ahead for the madcap and sacrilegious deeds of building of highways and pipelines through sacred places, blighting beautiful spaces with McMansions. To quote singer/songwriter Steve Wall: “Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone/ the gombeen sold her for a song/ is it too late to right a wrong? I hate to lose her…”
Listen to Romantic Ireland's Dead & Gone: The Walls


ABANDONED BUILDING SITE: AKA 'TOXIC ASSET' = TAXPAYER BAILOUT

ABANDONED BUILDING SITE: AKA 'TOXIC ASSET' = TAXPAYER BAILOUT

Last week, the image of Ireland being an Island of Saints and Scholars was nuked forever with the publication of the Commission into Child Abuse Report. It stunned the country. Posted online, it was read worldwide and told how the Catholic orders treated the weakest and most vulnerable members of our society for decades. On Saturday morning, government member Dr. Michael Woods was on radio, spinning his part in the compensation deal for the victims. He came across as a slippery shithead and frustrated his interviewer, the cool and calm Rachael English. Woody seemed on a different planet, and he may as well have been talking about farm animals rather than innocent children. After the segment, Ms. English said she was taken aback by the public reaction to his spiel. All the while, people were queueing in Dublin to sign a book of solidarity for the victims of abuse. Now politicians and clergy are doing a backtrack dance. Too late guys. You’re all guilty, come out with your hands raised above your heads.

MR FINNERTY TRIES FOR THE YOUTH VOTE WITH THE AID OF HEINEKEN.

MR FINNERTY TRIES FOR THE YOUTH VOTE WITH THE AID OF HEINEKEN.

Something is going to ‘give’ in Ireland, and it could happen soon and happen suddenly. There’s an emotional undercurrent here, a deep sense of hurt and injustice. A widespread feeling that the country has been let down by it’s elected leaders, by the church, bankers and paragons of society. The Irish people were lied to, hoodwinked, sold dummies and now they’re being told they’ll have to pay for someone else’s mistakes. Maybe they’ll refuse. In other parts of the world, these ingredients would spark a revolt.

What’s going to happen? We don’t seem to have any leaders, no Fionn MacCool, Brian Ború, Wolf Tone in the locker room. We’ve lost all street cred with our age old European old allies — the French and the Spanish. There will be no more Armadas and no matter how many songs we sing about Napoleon, he won’t resurrect and send us a Saviour. And we’ve ripped off the Irish Americans and sold them theme park culture and synthetic shamrock for way too long. And yet they are our only hope: Irish America, Old Ireland needs you…send us your brightest and your hippest. You could start by sending us Prosecutor Patrick FItzgerald to sort a out a few smart asses here. And ask him to bring his fiddle, there will always be a place for him at the Clare trad sessions. He knows our tunes.

Speaking of Clare, I’ve a friend there who’s a postman. He is a good bell weather for what’s happening in the country, he delivers the personal news — good and bad. A few years back he alerted me to the Boom time bomb when he quietly mentioned over a pint about having an to deliver ‘an awful lot of letters with windows to certain people’. Another time he told me that a ‘certain party’ were refusing to accept certified mail from certain other parties. He becked his head towards an area locally known as Millionaire’s Road. Everyone up there had massive six plus bedroom houses, putting green lawns, two cars in the drive, decks, barbecues, verandas — the whole Celtic Caboodle. Now several of the houses are for sale, marriages have gone on the rocks and there’s weeds growing where SUVs used park.

I met him during the week while driving through Lisdoonvarna and we had a chat and a catch-up.
“Tell me,” I said, “what sort of reception are all these political flyers getting when you deliver them?”
“People are tearing ‘em up without reading ‘em,” he said, “they’re pissed off with every political party. Doesn’t matter if it’s Fianna Fáil or Sinn Féin, Labour or Fine Gael, people are tired of them all. They see them as crooks and scumbags.”
“Lord God,” I muttered, “what’s the solution…”
“Jaysus, I don’t know,” he said, “but I’m thinkin’ we’re classa headin’ for a revolution.”

WELCOME TO GORT, HERITAGE TOWN, EPICENTRE OF IRISH LITERARY REVIVAL

WELCOME TO GORT, HERITAGE TOWN, EPICENTRE OF IRISH LITERARY REVIVAL




The Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse: Read + Download Reports



Special thanks: Steve & Joe Wall

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Soft day, hard landing…

Just got back from San Francisco a few days ago. It always takes a while to settle into the flow of Ireland after the 18 hour journey, like dipping my toes in the water again…
 
First impression on driving from Shannon Airport was how quiet the road was…much fewer trucks than a couple of months ago, not that many cars and no backlog outside the town of Gort. In fact Gort seemed to have slipped back a few decades, like I remember it in the 1970’s, a quiet  town minding its own business, silently recalling the times when Yeats, Lady Gregory and other scribes did their shopping and worshipping here. In the last decade, the town experienced a huge influx of Brazilian immigrants, plus ‘plane loads of Poles, Lativians and Estonians — all eager to ride the Celtic Tiger. Brazilian stores opened and local shops posted signs in Portuguese, Father G even had a Portuguese Mass for his new flock. Gort hadn’t seen so many changes or such an influx of bodies and cash since the British garrisoned there in the 19th century.

And now the Celtic Tiger and its promise of luxury for the masses has disappeared like the Leprachaun and his crock of gold. It was just an illusion and instead of gold, people are left with sheaves of bank loans and credit card bills. Many of the Brazilians left, others have joined the dole queues, along with the remaining Poles and the disheartened Irish. Ireland is in shock and nobody has any dosh to pay the piper for all the merry tunes he played for the last few years.

Anyway, I stopped in Gort for a few bits and pieces. Two of my favourite shops were closed for the day, so I reluctantly went to the supermarket. The PA brashly announced:
“Shoppers! We have great value for you this week! Pork chops are only €20 a kilo, Cyprus potatoes €5 a kilo. Gaga gin only €20 a bottle…”
Terrible shit to hear after a long haul flight. So I grabbed fruit and bread and went to the checkout, to be served by a bored lady with a ring in her nose and a tattoo on her neck. My bill has €11…about $14. I felt ripped off, because I’d have bought the same goods for half the price in San Francisco.

Rain began to fall as I crossed the car park. I passed two country women muttering about depression. On the car radio talking heads rabbited about the risk of social unrest and secret training that the army and cops were undertaking. Was this the same country I left two months ago?
Instead of an answer, a song played in my head — “I left my heart, in San Francisco…”

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