Author Archive: Eamonn Fitzgerald
Ex-pat Irishman keeping an eye on the world from the Bavarian side of the Alps.
“We can become blind to details because our brain is operating on instinct. By the time you proof read your own work, your brain already knows the destination.” So writes Nick Stockton in “What’s Up With That: Why It’s So Hard to Catch Your Own Typos.” The reason it’s so hard to spot the errors, according to Stockton, “is because what we see on the screen is competing with the version that exists in our heads.” And that is what happened with the makers of this in-house publication in Aberdeen. Sometimes, we are unable to see what is before our eyes.Tweet
It’s been a year since the Irish poet Seamus Heaney died. His last text message to his wife was Noli timere — ‘Do not be afraid’. He made his publishing debut in 1966 with Death of a Naturalist, from which “Blackberry-Picking” is taken.
Late August, given heavy rain and sun
For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot
Among others, red, green, hard as a knot.
You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet
Like thickened wine: summer’s blood was in it
Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for
Picking. Then red ones inked up and that hunger
Sent us out with milk cans, pea tins, jam-pots
Where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.
Round hayfields, cornfields and potato-drills
We trekked and picked until the cans were full,
Until the tinkling bottom had been covered
With green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned
Like a plate of eyes. Our hands were peppered
With thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard’s.
We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre.
But when the bath was filled we found a fur,
A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache.
The juice was stinking too. Once off the bush
The fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour.
I always felt like crying. It wasn’t fair
That all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.
Each year I hoped they’d keep, knew they would not.
Seamus Heaney (1939 — 2013)
The complexities and the absurdities of the Middle East are such that the very admission of a relationship might terminate that same relationship. Consider this: “Kurds are apprehensive of the reaction of the Iraqi government and fellow Iraqi citizens who might label them as traitors while Israel is cautious not to embarrass them or to appear to be inciting Kurds against the Iraqi government. Practically speaking, both parties have been reluctant to admit the existence of any kind of relations.” So writes Ofra Bengio in the most recent issue of the Middle East Quarterly. Bengio is a senior research fellow at the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University and the author of The Kurds of Iraq: Building a State within a State. For the Kurds, the Islamic State (IS) is now an existential threat, but whether this will see the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) seeking public support from Israel depends on the region’s countless variables. Bengio writes:
“Looking to the near future, it appears that relations between Israel and the Kurds are doomed to continue in the shadows. However, should the KRG declare independence, this might change the picture on both sides. Jerusalem might be one of the first governments to recognize Kurdistan as it was with South Sudan. A Kurdish state would in turn like to have Israel’s support. After all, besides the affinity between the two nations, they have common interests in the continued existence of each other.”
Back in 2010, Julie Bindel was on the case. But people didn’t want to hear. Snippet:
“Often giving the girl a mobile telephone as a ‘gift’, the pimp is then able to track her every move by calls and texting, which eventually will be used by him to send instructions as to details of arrangements with punters. The men sell the girls on to contacts for around £200 a time or as currency for a business deal. ‘I was always asked why I kept going back to my pimp,’ says Sophie, ‘but they flatter you and make you think you are really loved. I thought he was my boyfriend until it was too late to get away.’ Another tactic of the pimp is getting the girl to despise and mistrust her own parents in order that he can achieve total control over her. The pimps routinely tell their victims that their parents are racist towards Asian people and that they disapprove of the relationships because the men are of Pakistani Muslim heritage, not because they are older. Some of the parents I met were racist, and some had developed almost a phobia against Asian men, fuelled by the misinformation and bigotry trotted out by racist groups in response to the pimping gangs.”
In the 1970s, a book titled Bungalow Bliss topped Ireland’s bestseller list and the country’s built landscape has never recovered, so devastating was its impact. Lincoln Allison, Emeritus Reader in Politics at the University of Warwick and Visiting Professor in sport and leisure at the University of Brighton, brought his inquiring mind to Ireland recently and in The Irish Free Variable he cast a cold eye on the bungalow blight. Snippet:
“Booms come and go, but the permanent and negative legacy of the Celtic Tiger can be seen in its littered landscape. There was rash of building unaffected by any notion of planning or of a proper demarcation between town and country. In England we had the 1935 Restriction of Ribbon Development Act to stop farmers selling the country land next to the road to developers. In Ireland there are ‘Modernised vernacular dwellings’ everywhere: naff bungalows, in other words. Right opposite Yeats Lake Isle of Innisfree: bungalows. On the slopes of Carrauntoohil, Ireland’s highest mountain (which I climbed — a tough one): bungalows. At the end of the Dingle Peninsula where the Atlantic breakers meet the land, which should be a wild place: bungalows. Bungalows from which nobody could possibly commute, or shop, or do anything much except at extreme cost to the planet’s resources. Bungalows with no pattern to them, like gigantic litter.”
Bush’s long time away from the stage has evidently left her determined to add something more than song performance to the live experience. A lighting rig amplified with the sounds of helicopter rotor blades soars over the audience belching more smoke, Bush’s drowned character appears in a drawing room theatrical scene as she and actors play out mimed exchanges harking back to her earliest dramatic roots. But at the heart of the artful contrivance and outlandish effects the assertion of the simple verities of love longing, domesticity and family life were given full reign. There was undoubtedly only one artist who would have had the bloody mindedness, nerve and beautifully skewed imagination to pull it off.
Basque fairy tales have a tendency to end with the formula “As they had lived well, they died well too.” Take the example of Beauty and the Beast. In this version, the beast is reptilian:
“There appears then an enormous serpent. Without intending it, the young lady could not help giving a little shudder. An instant after the serpent went away; and the young lady lived very happily, without lacking anything.”
Upon the death of Emily Dickinson in 1886, her family discovered forty hand-bound volumes containing nearly 1,800 poems. She had lived for all of her 55 years in her father’s house, most of them in almost total seclusion. Today, she is recognized as one of the greatest poets in the English language. This gem is appropriate on this brisk August day as one can sense the summer slipping away.
As imperceptibly as Grief
The Summer lapsed away —
Too imperceptible at last
To seem like Perfidy —
A Quietness distilled
As Twilight long begun,
Or Nature spending with herself
Sequestered Afternoon —
The Dusk drew earlier in —
The Morning foreign shone —
A courteous, yet harrowing Grace,
As Guest, that would be gone —
And thus, without a Wing
Or service of a Keel
Our Summer made her light escape
Into the Beautiful.
Emily Dickinson (1830 — 1886)
“Everybody has a song in them,” says Tom Rosenthal. And he adds, “If you’ve ever made breakfast, you’ve created something. If you’ve ever told a lie, you’ve created something. If you’ve ever dreamt at night, you’ve created something. To be alive is to be creative.” Rosenthal is an original and a creative songwriter.
After watching the situation in Ferguson making headlines in Spain’s El Pais, Portugal’s Publico, Denmark’s Politiken, France’s Liberation and Germany’s Der Tagespiegel, Die Tageszeitung and Die Welt, the writer of the Democracy in America blog at The Economist ponders the protests and declares that “the level of attention they are drawing in Europe is frankly bizarre.”
What’s behind the Ferguson fascination. The answer is as simple as it is revealing:
“Part of the attraction of the Ferguson story for Europeans may be a bit of Schadenfreude enjoyment of America’s racial woes. Europeans got tremendous political mileage out of America’s racial conflicts in the 1960s, using American racism as a negative pole to rally support for counter-American projects both on the Gaullist right and on the socialist left. In recent years it has been Europe that has struggled with anti-immigrant racism and an integration model that seems to work much worse than America’s. Europeans weary of criticism over rising xenophobia may be relieved to see that America still has its own troubles.”