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Before Nones

Friday, 18 January, 2019

The Cistercian monks at Mount Melleray Abbey in Cappoquin, Co. Waterford, begin their day with Vigils at 4.30 am and end at 8.00 pm with Compline. At 2.15 pm, they celebrate Nones, also known as None, from the Latin Nona (“Ninth”, the Ninth Hour). Their prayers consist mainly of psalms.

Nones


He died

Thursday, 17 January, 2019

Originally published in 1942, Bowen’s Court describes the history of one Anglo-Irish family in County Cork from the Cromwellian Settlement of Ireland in 1650 until 1959, when Elizabeth Bowen was forced to sell the family house she loved. Each page contains a gem. The demise of Robert Bowen in 1828 is a case in point. Note: Bowen uses Roman numerals to distinguish the principal male heirs to the estate.

“At the cost of puzzles and disappointments, and perhaps of ordeals in his intimate life, Robert attains to a dignity that does not yet make him seem out of scale with death. By the end of ten years at Bowen’s Court he had come to attach himself to the place; he could lean back and look round — this was his home. But while Henry IV was still driving around Bath, when Henry V had been back from Trinity College for only a year or two — in fact in 1828 — Robert was once more called to face a change and a move. He died.”

It is hard to top the mordant wit there of “Robert was once more called to face a change and a move. He died.”

Elizabeth Bowen


Roger Scruton on religion and culture

Wednesday, 16 January, 2019

“Culture, I suggest, has a religious root and a religious meaning. This does not mean you have to be religious in order to be cultivated. But it does mean that the point of being cultivated cannot, in the end, be explained without reference to the nature and value of religion.” — Roger Scruton

Saint Matthew was one of the twelve apostles and one of the four Evangelists. He was a tax collector by profession and when Jesus found him sitting with the other tax collectors he said, “Follow me,” and Matthew got up and followed him. “The Calling of St Matthew” by Caravaggio depicts this moment. Painting from life, Caravaggio developed a technique called Tenebrism, which was marked by dramatic contrasts of light and shade. This led him to create art of great emotional intensity. “The Calling of St Matthew” was a sensation when it was first displayed in San Luigi dei Francesi in Rome and it remains one of the most famous of Caravaggio’s works.

Caravaggio


Brexit and backstop, Britain and Ireland

Tuesday, 15 January, 2019

“The misunderstandings are too many,” noted the Irish writer Frank O’Connor, and he was convinced of where the blame lay. “Ultimately, perhaps, all the misunderstandings can be traced to sixty miles of salt water which stretches between Britain and Ireland.”

O’Connor was writing in in Cork in 1940 and, one hundred years earlier, Mr and Mrs Samuel Hall embarked upon their three-volume opus Ireland, its Scenery, Character, etc. Their journey, as we say today, began with a purgatorial crossing to Cork, and their thoughts pre-echoed those of O’Connor:

“It was not alone the miserable paucity of accommodation and utter indifference to the comfort of the passengers that made the voyage an intolerable evil. It was once our lot to pass a month between the ports of Bristol and Cork; putting back, every now and then, to the wretched village of Pill, and not daring to leave it even for an hour, lest the wind should change and the packet weigh anchor.

Under such circumstances, it is not surprising that comparatively little intercourse existed between the two countries or that England and Ireland were almost as much strangers to each other as if the channel that divided them had been actually impassable.”

The “wretched village of Pill” mentioned by the Halls there is actually Pillgwenlly, which is now a parish in the Welsh city of Newport. And Wales, as we know, voted for Brexit. The misunderstandings are too many.


William Trevor: Last Stories

Monday, 14 January, 2019

January is a series of long nights and it’s an ideal month for reading some of those Christmas-present books. First up, from the house of the Donnellys, is William Trevor: Last Stories. The first of the last is titled The Piano Teacher’s Pupil and it contains all the wistfulness that marked Trevor’s storytelling. Snippet:

“Miss Nightingale’s other pupils came and went also, but among them only the boy never requested a different day, a different time. No note was ever brought by him, no excuse ever trotted out, no nuisance unrecognized for what it was. Graham talked about his pets to delay his unpractised piece. Diana wept. Corin’s fingers hurt, Angela gave up.”

The life of the lonely Miss Nightingale is coloured by loss and regret, but she loved and was loved once, and one great pupil compensates for so many disappointments.

The late William Trevor was born in 1928 in Mitchelstown, County Cork, Ireland, and his home could do with a decent coat of paint in 2019.

William Trevor


When snowfalls were a thing of the past

Sunday, 13 January, 2019

On Friday, the BBC reported: “Snow brings parts of Europe to standstill.” The item was replete with images and video of the horror. If we are to believe the media now, snow is very much a thing of the present, but back in March 2000, the same industry was telling us a very different story: “Snowfalls are now just a thing of the past.” That’s what The Independent declared in a piece authored by one Charles Onians.

Why is there no link to the story? Because The Independnt removed it from its website due to the persistent gaiety that resulted from this classic example of #FakeNews. Still, the internet never forgets and here’s a PDF (2.78MB) of the infamous prediction. And what became of Charles Onians? Why, he’s the Rome correspondent @AFP. Which proves once more that there’s no business like snow business, eh?

Snow scam

Meanwhile, from our own correspondent in Munich, snow lodging on tables.

Snow in Munich 2019


Huawei: China’s 5G Fifth Column

Saturday, 12 January, 2019

“He spoke great Polish. He was a really well-known Chinese guy in Poland and was always around.” The headline on the Wall Street Journal article is, “Chinese Huawei Executive Is Charged With Espionage in Poland.” Snippet:

“For years, Washington has labeled Huawei a national security threat, saying it could be forced by China to use its knowledge of the telecommunications equipment it sells around the world to tap into, or disable, foreign communications networks. Huawei has denied that forcefully through the years. Part of its defense has been that it hadn’t been implicated in overseas spying allegations.

Officers of Poland’s counterintelligence agency this week searched the local Huawei office, leaving with documents and electronic data, as well as the home of the Chinese national, said Stanislaw Zaryn, a spokesman for Poland’s security coordination office. The Chinese individual wasn’t named, but was identified by Polish state television as a graduate of one of China’s top intelligence schools, as well as a former employee of the Chinese consulate in the port city of Gdansk.

People familiar with the matter identified him as Weijing Wang. He is known in Poland as Stanislaw Wang, according to these people and a public LinkedIn page that matches his biographical details.

A person who knew Mr. Wang described him as a well-known figure in local business circles, often spotted at events sponsored by Huawei in Poland. ‘He spoke great Polish,’ this person said. ‘He was a really well-known Chinese guy in Poland and was always around.'”

China is determined to destroy the West. It’s time to close the door on its stalking horses, starting with Huawei.

 ChiSpy


Scopus

Friday, 11 January, 2019

Scopus is the abstract and citation database operated by Elsevier. It features 36,377 titles from 11,678 publishers, of which 34,346 are peer-reviewed journals in the life sciences, social sciences, physical sciences and health sciences. Cancer, clearly, is big news.

Scopus


Limerick 2020

Thursday, 10 January, 2019

The so-called European Capitals of Culture for the year 2020 are Rijeka in Croatia and Galway in Ireland. One of the cities that didn’t make the final cut was Limerick, which made a valiant but unsuccessful attempt to become a European capital of culture.

“He knows how it is to leave Ireland, did it himself and never got over it. You live in Los Angeles with sun and palm trees day in day out and you ask God if there’s any chance He could give you one soft rainy Limerick day.” — Frank McCourt, Angela’s Ashes

Limerick2020


Sérotonine sells

Wednesday, 9 January, 2019

On average, a French novel sells around 5,000 copies. In comparison, Sérotonine, the latest work by Michel Houellebecq, sold 90,332 hardback copies in its first three days, according to L’Observateur.

Houellebecq’s publisher, Flammarion, took a calculated gamble with an initial print run of 320,000 copies but it looks as if it’s going to pay off handsomely. Sérotonine is being published in German, Spanish and Italian this week and it will appear in English in September. «Mes croyances sont limitées, mais elles sont violentes. Je crois à la possibilité du royaume restreint. Je crois à l’amour.» — Michel Houellebecq.

Michel Houellebecq


Houellebecq on farming in Ireland and France

Tuesday, 8 January, 2019

After a publicity tour for his novel Platforme, which was published in 2001, Michel Houellebecq was taken to court in France for inciting racial hatred, so he moved to Ireland for several years and lived on Bere Island off the west coast of Cork. The rugged landscape there has much in common with rural Normandy, the backdrop to Sérotonine, his latest novel.

The protagonist of Sérotonine is Florent-Claude Labrouste, a European Union agronomist. Coincidentally, Houellebecq worked as an agronomist before he took up novel writing and this fact gives substance to his observations of rural life. Although he lives in Paris, Labrouste spends considerable time in the countryside and, while he sympathizes with farmers, he knows he’s powerless to halt the decline of their traditional way of life. “Where there are now slightly more than 60,000 dairy farmers,” he notes, “there will be in 15 years 20,000. In short, what is taking place with French agriculture is a vast redundancy plan, but one that is secret and invisible, where people disappear one by one, on their plots of land, without ever being noticed.”

As with the farmers on Ireland’s smallholdings, the farmers of Normandy are caught between the rock of agribusiness and the hard place of the European Union, with its unending regulations that make their miserable lives even more miserable. In a Satanic Mills description of a modern poultry farm, Labrouste notes that the “300,000 or so inmates, plucked and emaciated, struggled to live among the decomposing cadavers of their fellow chickens.” On entering these vast white-meat factories, the first thing the visitor notices is the birds with their “look of panic and incomprehension, who don’t understand the conditions into which they’ve been dragged.” The link in this section of Sérotonine between the luckless chickens and France’s farmers, despised by Brussels bureaucrats and uncared for by the urban elites who demand premier Calvados and the urban masses who demand cheap food, is obvious. Struggling, panicked and desperate, the small farmers of France have nothing to lose when they don those gilets jaunes.

More Sérotonine here tomorrow.