I is for Inside

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I remembered sitting on my grandfathers lap – I must have been about four – and he was talking about God. That’s all I ever remember him doing, really, is talking about God.  It’s just about the only thing about him I can really grasp with certainty. But I was four and I was on his lap in the living room of the house he shared with my Gran for I don’t even know how long. He was telling me how God was everywhere. He waved his skinny hand in the air, telling me God was around us right there and then. God was in him, he said, taking my hand and putting it to his chest. I remember I could feel his heartbeat under the starched white shirt he was wearing but that’s probably something I put in later myself. And God was in me too, he told me, poking me in the belly. He laughed, wheezy and full of joy but I was scared as hell. God was inside me? That’s a lot for a four year old brain to wrap itself around.

I remembered when my grandfather died. I had just turned six. My father was getting me ready and I kept asking questions. Would we see my grandfather going to heaven? Did it mean that my father didn’t have a father anymore? Were we never ever ever going to see him again ever? My father had tears in his eyes. I’ve only seen that three times in my life and that was the first time. He told me that my grandfather was still alive inside him and inside me. He touched my chest. I asked was there enough room in me, because God was there too.

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H is for Herself

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Two men arrive at a bus stop.

Pat: Ah, Larry, is it yourself there it is?

Larry: Ah, it is indeed Pat, me very self. And sure ’tis clear as day that ’tis yerself before me.

Pat: That it is now alright Larry, thank God. Speakin” of clear days though, Larry, sure and isn’t it a fierce peculiar summer we’ve been having for ourselves? Meteorologically speakin’.

Larry: Errah, stop, it’s mad altogether.

Pat: Mad. That’s just the word alright.

Larry: I thought so anyway, Pat. But c’mere to me lad, how are ya?

Pat: Ah sure, y’know yerself Larry, same ol’ same ol’. The usual ups and downs.

Larry: And ins and outs.

Pat: Oh, them too alright Larry. C’mere and I’ll tell ya, I was in bed there the other night with Herself.

Larry: No better place, says you.

Pat: Ah, none at all now, no. But sure I was there with Herself ar aon nós and us after doin’ a bit of… y’know…

Larry: Ins and outs.

Pat: That’s the one. And sure I’m bate after. I’m havin’ an ol’ shmoke for meself and her readin’ one of her books. And she turns to me and d’ya know what she says to me Lar’?

Larry: Sure amn’t I waitin’ to hear!

Pat: She says “Pat?” she says,  pure sly now, “Pat, have y’ever thought of havin’ one o’ them threesomes?” Continue reading

G is for Gigs – Part 2: Sam Amidon

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Half Moon Theatre, Cork – 29th May, 2011

If you only ever listened to his records, you’d expect Sam Amidon to be an earnest and maybe even solmen performer. Many of the songs he sings are almost two hundred years old and filled with tales of murder and death, lost love and emigration; they’re painful stories that seem heavy with the weight of history.

But, refreshingly, Amidon is far from solemn; in fact he’s disarmingly charming and really quite funny. Throughout the gig in the intimate Half Moon Theatre, he seems to improvise bizarre back-stories to old murder ballads. There’s the story about the tiny desk people, talking on an elastic band bridge stretched between his fingers and the one about being a novelist, working on a book called King’s Speechy for which you only have one sentence written, which occurs half-way through the second chapter (“From this point on, you and I are adversaries!”). He talks about how he often seems to end up in Ireland on or around his birthday (it’s on June 3), something which has happened ever since he was 15. Amidon appears relaxed on stage and happy to be there, which always makes the difference. His off-beat, playful sense of humour even wanders into the music every so often, wailing along to an extended folk/blues guitar solo or making other strange noises whenever the whim takes him.  Continue reading

G is for Gigs – Part 1: Sufjan Stevens

(Photo stolen from my friend Alan)

Olympia Theatre, Dublin – 18th May, 2011

For the second of Sufjan Steven’s two night run in the Olympia, security around Dublin – and near the 114 year old theatre in particular – is tight and tense. The state dinner in honour of Queen Elizabeth II is due to take place in Dublin Castle at the same time, directly across from the Olympia, so Dame Street has been shut down. The city almost feels like it’s under siege as Gardai fill the streets around the castle and theatre and the gunshot-like sounds of the protestors’ fireworks echo off the buildings. Those going to the show have to go through Temple Bar and come up the back of the Olympia as Gardai check tickets. It feels as if the gig itself is something dangerous.

Right from the start, Sufjan Stevens and his 11 piece band pull no punches, musically or visually. Opening with a version of Seven Swans that swings from hauntingly fragile to arrestingly monumental, Sufjan and his band glow, Tron-like in the blacklight that bathes the stage.  Starry visuals are projected on the backdrop as well as on a mesh screen in front of the stage and as the song reaches its climax, Sufjan raises two huge, white, feathered wings and proceeds to rock out on the synths like some intergalactic angel.

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F is for fallen

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Our friend, Stokey, had fallen down that hole for the sixth time in as many weeks. I can’t lie, we were getting pretty tired of it. Ridiculous behaviour, Jerry called it. Stevie used more colourful language but then again, he always does. So we had a quick meeting at the side of the hole to decide what to do about it, or – more importantly – what to do about Stokey.

Stevie suggested we leave him there and maybe even fill in the hole. Stevie had been saying this ever since Stokey fell down there for the third time; he’s pretty impatient that way. Up until now, we had mainly ignored that suggestion. The group had felt it harsh and mean of spirit but now there were murmurings of agreement. George said we should haul Stokey out first and then fill in the hole. Most of us agreed that was a more logical – and less illegal – solution but Stevie argued that Stokey was likely to find himself another hole somewhere and we would be back where we started. This, we could not deny, not even George. We thought quietly for a while; the only sounds came from the brisk summer breeze in the trees and Stokey complaining about his ankle.

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E is for ‘even though’

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I’ve been having a terrible block lately when it comes to writing, so to get myself out of it I asked my friend Keira to make an alphabetical list of topics or words for me to work on to get me writing again. This is the fifth, e is for “even though”.

Even though James was fifteen minutes late, he took a seat facing the door of the café, ordered a tea and waited for her. There were only two other people in the plain-walled café – a couple in their thirties, sharing the Times. He didn’t know what this woman looked like, but it wasn’t the woman reading the sports section, he knew that for certain. Another twenty minutes past and James wondered if, in fact, he’d been too late. The couple finished their coffees, gathered their (matching) coats and left.

The girl who’d served James came from behind the counter and cleaned the table, picking up the Times they’d left behind. She offered it to James, who took it and asked her had anyone else been in the café before him, a woman, maybe on her own. The girl, who was pretty but wearing too much make-up, shook her head, telling James she’d only seen that couple and two other men since she’d opened an hour ago.

It was another fifteen minutes before someone else came through the door. James lowered the newspaper and saw a woman looking straight at him. She was maybe in her late thirties with shoulder-length brown hair and a long navy dress. She took a tentative step forward and asked if he was James Coleman. He nodded, stood up to shake her hand and motioned for her to take a seat. She apologised profusely for being so late, she felt like she was being followed and so took a longer route getting to the café. She glanced back towards the door, as if someone might be standing there. James looked too. There was no one. He hadn’t quite caught her name on the phone, James told her, when she turned back to face him. It was Assumpta, Assumpta Kelly.

James raised his hand to get the café girl’s attention and ordered another tea and a… he looked to Assumpta. She asked for a coffee. Assumpta was visibly nervous, she was fidgeting with her nails and kept looking around her. She wasn’t comfortable sitting with her back to the door, she told James, who offered to swap seats but she shook her head. She wanted to sit at the table in the far corner where their backs would be to the wall. James agreed and they moved, the girl bringing them their drinks as they sat.

James took his small notebook from his coat pocket, along with a pen and opened it on a new page. Assumpta had mentioned something on the phone about a missing person. He asked Assumpta who it was that was missing. Assumpta quickly licked her lips, looked at him and said just one word.

“Me.”

D is for dæmons

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I’ve been having a terrible block lately when it comes to writing, so to get myself out of it, I asked my friend Keira to make an alphabetical list of topics or words for me to work on to get me writing again. This is the fourth, d is for “dæmons”.

(For those unfamiliar with dæmons, they come from Philip Pullmans ‘His Dark Materials’ trilogy and are physical manifestations of people’s souls in animal form. Their animal form tends to be indicative of the personality of the person to whom they’re connected. For more, go here.)

We’d managed to annex ourselves a quiet corner of the kitchen, away from drunken commotion of the party. Our conversation, spurred on by alcohol and attraction, tumbled at speed from topic to topic. We’d been talking for almost an hour and a half. Somewhere between the West Wing and 90’s pop music, three lads barged in, making straight for the fridge and gathering up bottles of beer before leaving quickly when they saw us alone.

We lost track of the conversation and there was a pause. “Oh,” she said after a moment, “if you had a dæmon, what would it be?”

“Well,” I said, “let me just say, I love that you know what a dæmon is.” She winked. “But I don’t think I can pick my own dæmon. I mean, I could, but it’s not really going to accurately reflect my personality, is it? It’s just going to be how I’d like to think of myself.”

“It’s like people who give themselves nicknames,” she said, throwing her arms up. “I can’t understand that. A nickname is something other people give you. You’re just giving yourself some cool name you want people to call you because you don’t really like the person you really are.”

Christ, I said to myself, I think I’m in love and downed the rest of my beer. “So I could say my dæmon would be a wolf because-” I said, but she interrupted.

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