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Monday, 15 December 2014

Following the muse to wherever



Over the last few years, as I labored on the Life & Times trilogy, I listened to the music of Madredeus. I like to write to music, particularly passionate music, because it sets the mood for inking in the nuance of character, etc. And, while much of the story deals with Danny Boyle, an Irishman, his growing up in Ireland, his move to Canada, and his trials and tribulations, I found Madredeus’s arrangements of Portuguese folk music set the perfect mood for what I intended to be a universal story.

And, as is often the case in life, this led to that and I found myself fascinated by a single word: Saudade. Over at Wikipedia they suggest that:

Saudade is a Portuguese or Galician word that has no direct translation in English. It describes a deep emotional state of nostalgic or profound melancholic longing for an absent something or someone that one loves. Moreover, it often carries a repressed knowledge that the object of longing may never return. A stronger form of saudade may be felt towards people and things whose whereabouts are unknown, such as a lost lover, or a family member who has gone missing, moved away, separated, or died.

But something else caught my ear in the aforementioned music, and in the hours of Fado that I have enjoyed. There was something ethereal that awoke a thread of the common memory I believe we all share, even if only subconsciously.

“Saudade is the recollection of feelings, experiences, places or events that once brought excitement, pleasure, well-being, which now triggers the senses and makes one live again. It can be described as an emptiness, like someone (e.g., one's children, parents, sibling, grandparents, friends, pets) or something (e.g., places, things one used to do in childhood, or other activities performed in the past) that should be there in a particular moment is missing, and the individual feels this absence. It brings sad and happy feelings all together, sadness for missing and happiness for having experienced the feeling.” 

So? You may ask. What has all of this got to do with an Irish writer living in exile?

Well I’ll tell you. I still have a bit of the wild Celt in me. I am, despite my best efforts to conform to the world around me, a nomad at heart and am about to head off into the great and wonderful world to go and look at the places that hold significant interest for me. I probably won’t get to see them all but I don’t worry about such things anymore.

And, as a Celt, I have always been drawn towards the edges of the world. Before the Romans, and Gothic kings, the edges of Iberia were populated by Celts. When the Romans encroached, as they were wont to do, many of them (the Milesians in particular) packed up their belongings and headed to Ireland.

Whether or not I am descended from them, I am drawn back and the pragmatic side of me agrees. After thirty-six Canadian winters, life in a warmer climate beckons. So, in the spring of next year, I am selling up all that I have and moving to Lisbon with my wife and my dog and very little else.

Now I am not a wealthy man despite the presumption that all published authors sleep on mattresses stuffed with hundred dollar bills. I am simply divesting myself and going back to what I was when I was young and foolish: a wander who followed his heart.

One of the things writing books has taught me is to learn to determine what is essential and what is padding. I am still learning this but when I looked up from my pages, I couldn’t help but look at my life that way—something that is compounded as I filter through all the stuff in the basement.

Now I do not discard my life in North America so lightly. I came here as a very troubled and disquieted young man, tormented by demons and looking for a fresh start. Unlike poor Danny Boyle, I found one and managed to put much that troubled me in the bottle and firmly cork it. I became a husband and a father here and, depending on who you talk to, not the worst of them!

I will always cherish the times I spent with my two boys when they were young and full of wonder. (They still are but they must follow their own guidance now—which is the way things are supposed to be.) They are both in the early twenties now and more than capable of finding what they want from life on their own. They are always welcome to come and visit but the parental phase of my life is over and I am moving on to the next adventure.

Writing Life & Times reminded me that life, no matter how it is lived, is always about phases and stages and that I was never the type to settle for meandering into dotage. There is still so much to see and do.

For my loving wife, too. She will have to manage the transition from mother back to woman, and that should be exciting.

Now the reason for sharing all of this with you is I am planning to write about all of this as it unfolds. Once I am settled in Lisbon, secure in a nice little place in Alfama, I intend to wander through what was once Al-Andalusia in search of all the was lost in the Reconquista.

Now before you start imagining me riding a stallion at the head of a horde of Berbers, I want you to know that I am going to see the places where science and medicine once blossomed at time when the rest of Europe was using leeches and slashing each other with swords.

You see, for me, as I look around the world today and see the new versions of the old hates, I long for a deeper understanding and a sense of peace. It is the view of Fr. Patrick Reilly, of Life & Times, that in many ways the world is no better, nor worse—that it still spins on its same old axis, sometimes wildly and sometimes gently. And, having written it, I have decided to go and see what was true and what was nothing more than a rationale for war and conquest.

Not that I am going to bore you all with a revision of the retellings of all the distortions of history. I am going to write about the lingering echoes of the really important things in life—the story of ordinary, everyday people still living in places that can still fill us with wonder. Places like Cordoba, Seville, Granada, the great wonder that is Alhambra, and of course the narrow, hilly little streets of Alfama.

The good folks at The Story Plant have kindly agreed to publish the accounts of this adventure as it unfolds so, if you are interested, check back for more.
(Originally posted at
http://thestoryplantblog.com/2014/12/15/peter-murphy-following-the-muse-to-wherever/

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Signin' on at Werburgh Street.




Gerry hated going to Werburgh Street and shuffling along for doleful pittances. He never got used to it. He was a working man at heart even if he'd no work for years. One of these days, he'd lead the muttering grumbling masses to Leinster House, to demand the striped-shirted Seamuses, give up at least, a tithe from their thievery – they'd all that European money flowing in, and in Dublin, all monies passed through the same greasy hands. But the masses knew no other way. Their remittance begrudged through barred wickets; all revolution bred out of them; they lingered at the mercy of remote corporations and Public representatives for aggrandisement. No one cared about them: never had and never would. He signed his cards and queued again for his few Pounds at the other end of the hall.

            “Have you been looking for work, Mr. Morrison?” the woman asked with disdain.

            “I have indeed, but no one wants to hire old fellas like me. It's a young man's . . .”

            “Have you considered getting retrained?”

            “I have, but I'm a bit old for that.”

            “You'll never get anywhere with an attitude like that.”

            They were giving everybody a hard time. It was how they got them to fuck-off to England; there was always work in England. “And where is it that I should be getting to?”

Friday, 28 November 2014



Meet old Joan, one of my favourite characters


“Would you mind if I sat here?”
Janice blinked into the wrinkled face of an old woman in a large floral hat dripping raindrops. She flopped into the chair and began to tap on the table with the strange bird-like handle of her umbrella. “I must get a cup of tea into me. Who do you have to talk with to get a cup of tea around here?” the old woman repeated into the space behind her shoulder and, turning to Janice, added, “I'm parched and it's raining so much outside.”
She found this amusing and cackled. She continued to wave until someone brought her a teapot, a cup and saucer, milk and a bowl of sugar. She splashed tea across the table and into her cup. She fumbled with bony hands deep within her massive handbag until she found her pills. She rolled two of them onto her spoon, tipped it onto her tongue and swallowed a mouthful of hot tea. She burped silently and implored Janice’s pardon. She smiled between the cup and the spoon, still raised to her face that was impish despite the lines of age and lines of doubt and fear.
Janice was becoming interested, but for the longest time, the old woman sat there, tilting forward every now and then to take another sip of tea. Time passed and the old woman sat in the euphoria of her tea, turning at times to comment on the weather. At first, Janice thought she was trying to converse, but no matter what she said, the old woman didn't reply. Janice returned to her diary, but the old woman showed no sign of noticing. She continued to sip her tea and mutter about the weather. Janice smiled up at her every now and then, just to be polite, and as she was about to leave, the old woman raised her eyes and stared at her.
“What has you so frightened?”
Janice might have lied, but there was no point. “Too many strange things have happened since I came here.”
“Oh! That sounds exciting.”
Janice had to smile. Reluctantly at first, she began to speak, but as the words unfolded, she found comfort in her odd companion’s attention and, with a growing sense of release, told the whole story of her outing to Howth.
As the old woman listened, she started to nod her head and Janice felt more encouraged. She tried to make it sound whimsical, like she was more curious than alarmed. When she finished, she waited for the old woman to comment, but she was hunched forward, as if she was still listening.
“So?” She regretted saying so much. Now that it was out there, it sounded like madness.
“I see,” the old woman finally answered and returned to pottering among her thoughts.
“What do you see?” Janice blurted as impatience got the better of her. “Isn’t that the strangest thing you have ever heard?”
“Oh, no, not at all, the very same thing happened to me.”
“What do you mean?”
“The very same thing happened to me a long time ago, when I was a young woman. I was walking with my young man, just along from the very same pier. We used to like to walk along the cliffs, too, because, back then, we didn’t go to the cinema that often, and of course, there was no television, either. Not that I am a big fan of television, mind you. I prefer reading a nice bit of poetry every now and then. Do you like poetry, my dear?”
Janice nodded; she didn't want to break the silky threads that held the old woman’s gossamer thoughts together.
“Isn’t it wonderful when someone can write a poem that takes you somewhere, even if it's only for a moment or two? And I prefer the old style of poetry because it makes more sense. I can't understand why modern poets don’t learn to rhyme better, don’t you agree? But then again, you're young and you might like modern poetry, especially if it's written by a handsome young man who wants to take you for walks along Howth Head and wants to try to steal a kiss when nobody is looking.”
Janice nodded and wondered how much this crazy old woman could read from her face.
“You mustn’t let them do that, you know!”
“Do what?”
“You mustn’t let the young men kiss you. They're only after the one thing, even the good ones. But they're the ones who'll wait until you're married and appreciate you all the more for making them wait.”
The old woman lowered her head to her raised teacup and looked inside. “That's what I don’t like about television. People meet and start kissing each other all over the face and then start to take their clothes off, right there in front of everybody. I never watch after that because I don't want to see people committing sins. You're not like those people, are you? Are you?”
“Oh, no, of course not,” Janice answered, trying not to think of the night on all fours in her room, “I do like to kiss and cuddle a bit, but you're right, they appreciate it more when you make them wait. But tell me more about what happened to you at Howth.”
“Oh, yes, my dear, I was just about to tell you about that. It was very strange. It was like one of those things you read about in the poems by those English poets – you know the ones that took all that opium – like the fellow who wrote about Kubla Khan.”
“Coleridge.”
“Who, my dear?”
“Coleridge”, Janice repeated.
“Oh! No! I think that it was Coleridge who wrote that poem. But I'm often wrong. Sometimes I wonder if reading all about them and their adventures didn’t addle my brain a little. Have you ever tried opium?”
“No!”
“Good for you and neither have I. But I've heard of girls who have and then can't get enough and go running off to places like Constantinople and become white slaves to the Sultan. They take off all of their clothes, too, and let the Sultan use them carnally, if you can believe it – and all for opium. It's a shame. Someone should try to do something about it, don’t you think?”
“Yes, yes it's a terrible thing, but you were telling me about Howth. You used to walk there with your young man. Did he marry you?”
“Oh, no, he died years ago.”
She returned to her teacup as the settling sun hopscotched through holes in the clouds and through the fogged-up window. In the place between them, above the tea-stained table, dust and smoke particles gathered in the beams and were gone when the café moved beneath the clouds, but her silence remained.
“How did he die,” Janice asked as delicately as her curiosity would allow.
“Who died, my dear?”
“The young man you were telling me about.”
“Oh, yes, I must be getting addled. Well, let me tell you, he was walking along the cliffs one night and jumped into the sea and was never seen again.” She nodded in agreement with her own lingering statement and raised her cup again but didn't drink. “It was terrible, but I suppose in some ways it wasn’t so bad. He used to have seals come up to him, too, so I'm sure that they are good company for him now – but that might have been because he used to cut up fish.”
“Cut up fish?”
“Yes, dear, he worked in the fishmongers. He always brought a nice bit of plaice for my father when he called around. He used to bring mackerel, too. I'm very fond of mackerel.”
“You were saying that he jumped in?”
“Yes, he went mad for something or other and jumped in. He was mad surely because he was out walking alone on a bitter night in January. Perhaps he was taking opium.” And for a moment, the old woman nodded at the plausibility. “Of course, I had stopped seeing him before this on account of his going mad and all, but I heard stories from the other young women of the time. They told me that he went mad and jumped – right into the sea. I'm surprised he wasn’t broken open on the rocks on the way down, somebody was looking out for him that night.”
“But he did die?”
“Oh, yes, of course he died, he jumped off the cliff! But he died in one piece, and he was a fine handsome man. It would have been a shame if he had died all broken into pieces. There are some that say that he can still be seen out at Howth in January, but what kind of person would go out there then; they would have to be touched in the head, if you know what I mean. They never found his body, either. I think the seals took him down into their place under the water.”
“And why do you think they did that?”
“Because he smelled of fish, were you not listening to me at all?”
Janice sat back in her chair and looked this old woman over. Her hat was decorated with freshly plucked stems of fledgling flowers and her eye shadow was kingfisher-blue and her cheeks a smudged red. It would have made her look whorish if she wasn’t so old. She wore a slender silver chain around her neck, dangling a white gold cross on which hung the dying Jesus. She had her handbag on her lap and had folded her arms on top of it. She was about to ask for more tea when a middle-aged couple whispered together for a moment before walking straight to their table. He took the old woman by the hand and gently helped her to stand up. “Come on now, Aunt Joan, it’s time to get you back to the home.”
“Who are you and what do you want with me? Are you one of the Sultan’s eunuchs?”
“C’mon now, Joan,” he took her elbow firmly, but gently. “Let’s get you back to the home before the night.”
As they struggled to move her away the younger woman turned to Janice, “I hope she wasn’t bothering you, she's my husband’s aunt, and she gets a bit scattered sometimes. She forgets herself and gets a bit confused. I hope she wasn’t bothering you.”
“Oh, no,” Janice re-assured her, “No, actually she was lovely company.” And for reasons she didn't understand, Janice added, “She was just telling me about Howth.”
The other woman’s face changed and she exchanged a glance with her husband before she stepped closer to Janice and spoke softly. “Did she tell you what happened that poor young man? That’s when her mind snapped, watching him fall right before her eyes. Anyway, thanks, and I hope she wasn’t a bother.”
They ushered the old woman out the door to the waiting car and drove off as the rain started again, hesitantly at first, until it gained the courage to pelt the streets and windowpanes. The wind tore at overcoats and twisted passing umbrellas inside out.
Janice sat and stared at the street as the car rounded a corner.
What was that all about? Am I crazy – is she crazy – or is all of Dublin crazy?
She closed her journal and left as the evening rush began. The buses were crowded and crawled along, squealing and shuddering. She decided to walk and raised her umbrella against the teasing winds that rushed out from the passing side streets. She headed toward the Green. It was where the gentry strolled when they came to town for the season. She would find peace and collect herself among the whisperings of spring before the gates were locked.
Since the English departed, the Irish had raised statues among the trees and shrubs. But they weren't the trumpeting statues of heroes who had risen in resistance. These statues celebrated the poets and playwrights who had kept the spirit alive, writers who blended myth and martyrdom, fact and fancy, and even after a half-century of church-dominated self-rule, their words still hovered.
She stopped by the Yeats’ monument. Henry Moore had really got it right. She would have to paint it, the half-man, half-cross before a senate of mythology. When she squinted a little, it looked like one of the faces from Easter Island. From another side, it looked like a Spanish dancer, but from the front it was plain, the cross on a restless grave.
She tugged at her journal and settled down on the cold damp stone. She flicked through the first few pages. She had a done sketch, somewhere at the beginning, one of her early ones. Ah, she found it. She had captured it and added a few notes. But there was something else, something she hadn't remembered writing;
Until she came into the Land of Fairie,
Where nobody gets old and godly and grave,
Where nobody gets old and crafty and wise,
Where nobody gets old and bitter of tongue.
And she is still there, busied with a dance
Deep in the dewy shadow of a wood,
Or where stars walk upon a mountain-top.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

An Irishman’s perspective on the Accursed Land


 

One of the things about the Israel/Palestine conflict is that you cannot really get to discuss it in rational terms. Many of my efforts to do so have ended in rancour and hostility. I have been smeared and called all kinds of terrible things; Nazi, dupe, Commie, idiot, Terrorist and anti-Semitic—even by those who advocate against Arabs. I might be guilty of some of those, some of the time, but not all of them. I do, however, admit to being Irish and while that might make me suspect in some eyes, it does grant me a certain perspective.

Many people have found similarities between the Irish and the Jewish people—in their suffering and their endurance. Recently, I read that at least some of the Irish may be descended from the lost tribe of Israel. The Tuatha Dé Danann are usually referred to as the people of the Goddess Danu but now some educated class of individual is professing that they might in fact be the tribe of Dan who, we have been told, vanished from the pages of history. Regardless, the Tuatha Dé Danann are listed in our ancient Leabhar Gabhála – The Book of Invasions which chronicles all the tribes that came over and subjugated Ireland and the decent savages that lived there before them, only to be subjugated in turn by newer arrivals – not unlike the Middle East.

I hope for the sake of Jewish people everywhere that it is not true because the Irish can be the most foolish race on the face of the Earth. Even after a millennium of occupation, oppression, being sold off as slaves and finally being starved off a land that was overflowing with food; we turned around and put ourselves in the hands of sleveens and gombeens who demanded our unquestioning allegiance to the good, Catholic State that our sacrifices, great and small, had paid for.

Not for us was it to ponder on the fact that it was the pope himself—albeit an English one—who had signed us over, lock, stock and barrel. Nor was it for us to listen to the likes of James Connolly who warned us that the real fight would begin when the English were gone. No, the possibility that our ancient quest for freedom, and a place to call our own, might be finally over left us dumb and blind and, as the great bank robbery of a few years ago—and the revelation that some of our clergy had been buggering us, literally and figuratively, for years—suggests, subjugated to a new breed of masters.

A clever bunch they were too. They called-out dissenters from the pulpits and derided them in front of their friends and neighbours. Questioning the actions of Church or State was not tolerated as the two institutions were now firmly hand-in-glove. And when it was time to declare ourselves a Republic, guided by the wishes of the people, didn’t our own President send our sacred Constitution off to the Vatican for vetting, even before the people got to accept it.

Hand in glove they were, guiding us like sheep and keeping our little country good and Catholic against all the evils of the world. And those who fell by the wayside; the unmarried mothers; the victims of buggery and abuse; those infected with Socialism and any who dared to question, were shipped off to England.

For what died the son of Roisin then? You may well ask. Only don’t be expecting to get the answer from our political leaders—or the media. What after Assange and Snowden? Who in their right mind can believe a single thing that governments and media say? Who, indeed, you might ask.

Well, it seems that there are lots of us still bound by the prejudices that we learned as children; still believing that by virtue of our history that we will always have right on our side, still willing to huddle under the wings of those who want us to see enemies in any that don’t agree with us.

In Ireland, we learned to ‘litanize’ all the terrible things that were done to us. We learned to idolize our martyrs and to not question those that had picked up the sputtering torch of freedom from their dying hands. And when the fighting flared up again in the North, when the descendants of those who were sent as settlers refused to acknowledge the legal right of the indigenous and let loose their mobs on the Civil Rights marchers and called in the old enemy, the Boys struck back killing and maiming people in the shops and the bars. We shook our heads and blessed ourselves. “Tis the only way,” we told ourselves. “It’s the only language they understand.” But when the other side struck back and killed some of ours, we counted them out on our rosary beads and wrote songs and swore vengeance for each and every one. Martyrs, they were, martyrs for the cause. Didn’t we have the weight of history behind us? Hadn’t the other side let loose their convicts and savages to murder and pillage and burn our homes around us? And then have the gall to call us the terrorists. But after a millennium, even the Irish grow tired of fighting and an uneasy peace has lingered far longer than many a betting man would have wagered. It’s not perfect but it will have to do. At the very least we have stopped murdering each other—for the most part.

What has all of this got to do with what’s going on in the ‘Accursed Land?’ Well, being Irish, I can understand the importance of a homeland to the Jewish people. But also by virtue of being Irish, I can understand the Palestinian point of view. Being overrun and occupied can induce even the most docile into resistance. I can understand both points of view. I can understand them but I cannot agree with what passes for the ‘narrative.’ You see, just like in Ireland, the past is awful murky—something I began to glimpse when I realised that my parents’ families had been on opposite sides during our civil war. (Now that was an interesting turn of events when our own government used arms supplied by our former oppressor to defeat those who opposed the partition of the country.) And we still haven’t gotten to the bottom of what was true and what were the lies of State. Even talking about it could still get you nearly-killed in some parts of the country, not unlike if you go poking you nose into the pages of recent history when those who sought to create a Jewish homeland may have had reason to sit and talk with one of the most dreadful regimes the world has seen.

The older I get the more I realise that we, the ordinary people, have far more in common with those that our masters would have us call enemies. This, I believe, is a reason to hope that we might yet avoid the great catastrophe that some of our ancient texts predicted.
And let’s hope that the Jewish people can avoid the trap the Irish fell into.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Along the road to Rio



I admit it, instead of working on the end of my trilogy; I have been watching the World Cup. I have to. I have watched every one since 1966 and for me; it is the perfect window on the state of the world and its people.
The World Cup has it all; heroism and sacrifice, craft and guile, grit and determination, and of course; xenophobia, racism, tribalism and every form of cheating. It is the world as it truly is: noble in intent but very, very flawed.

Back when it started, in 1930, it was about each participating country bringing their own brand of the world’s game. In the relative obscurity of a pre-television world, teams were unknown to each other for the most part. In a time when nationalism was about to send us all to hell, we saw everything in those terms. Football teams were seen as representative of their country’s national characteristics.

Even now, after years of cross-pollination, and the fact that most of the players involved play in the same top leagues, this persists in the minds of the fans and is part of the media hype.
Sometimes it has credence and other times it is total bunk. For example, the USA, home to all that is glitzed and over-hyped, produces teams that are diligent and honest to the point of admiration while the Greeks field a side that is so well-marshalled and works at a rate that would ensure economic prosperity if it was a true indication of national characteristic.

The Italians, who know how to enjoy life better than most, usually serve up a brand of football that is often dour, cynical, and pragmatic to the point of tedium. Recently, however, the inclusion of Mario Balotelli has made them far more interesting for a number of reasons.
The French . . . well the French can play some of the most majestic football, but always with one hand on the self-destruct button.

The Germans often remind me of Prussian-trained ballerinas. They play with style, skill, iron-willed discipline and determination up to and including the last second and are not above political pragmatism when it suits them.
The Portuguese, often gifted with some of the greatest players of the time; Ronaldo, Figo and the truly great Eusebio, strut their stuff like peacocks until cruel conspiracies contrive against them.

The English, who take the credit for inventing the game, suffer from illusions of grandeur but play like the emotionally constipated twits in a Jane Austen novel.
The Spanish, who served up years of tika-taka, a tedious form of play where you keep the ball for such long periods of the game that the opposition fall asleep, have been and gone and may now return to the classic underachievers they have shown themselves to be for years.

Then we have The Dutch! Back in the 1970s, the Dutch made the game beautiful but lost in the finals of ’74 and ’78. They lost again in the finals of 2010 and this year’s squad, gifted and talented as they may be, must wake in terror from dreams of coral dresses.
The Asians, Japan and South Korea, are heading home with mixed emotions. Their newness has faded and all their huffing and puffing could not disguise that fact that they are still some way from the top of the class.

Australia probably came with the one goal—do better than the Kiwis who drew all three of their games in the last World Cup and went out as the only undefeated team that year. Sadly, and despite the heroics of Tim Cahill, it wasn’t to be.
Likewise, Iran, who had their moment in the spotlight the year the beat their ‘Great Satan,’ are gone but maybe it is just as well. Their kits were shrinking in the wash and there are some aspects of Iran that the world is not yet ready to see.

Many years ago, the great Pele predicted that an African team would soon win the cup.
We are still waiting and I believe we will for some time. Ghana, Cameroon, Ivory Coast and Nigeria are all blessed with world class players who are the essential parts of the various clubs they play for. Drogba, Yaya Toure, Muntari, Eto’o, Essien . . . the list goes on and on, as does the wait. African teams still have not found the way to become the sum of all their parts.

Though the Algerians were a pleasant surprise and, as young team, might just be one for the future . . . they just might.
Costa Rica are proving to be a huge surprise and should make it to the quarter finals. But beyond that? Assuming they see off the Greeks, they will play the winner of Mexico and Holland and that should be a bridge too far. The Mexican might be for real this time, but that has been said so many times before. Some of the giants of the game will stand between them and the cup.

Argentina have Messi who is, for many people, one of the greatest players the game has ever seen. Diminutive to point of being overlooked, Messi is the type of player who can carry a lack-lustre team a long way. Unlike his greatest rival, Portugal’s Ronaldo, Messi has, despite the showing so far, a superior supporting cast who can only get better. Perhaps in time to win it all?
Brazil will have their say even if the current version is the poorest team they have fielded in years. Yes, Neymar is an idol to soccer tourists, but the rest of the squad are weak. In their opening game, they struggled to overcome a dull Croatia and had to rely on a very dubious penalty.

The Brazilian team of 1970 was the greatest team of all time and subsequent versions have never come close to matching them, despite some very generous refereeing decisions down the years. They are the host team and as such must be heavy favourites. But then there is the matter of the final of 1950, Brazil vs. Uruguay. So confident were the home fans that their newspapers crowned them champions before the game which they lost, 2-1.
And that brings me to Luis Suarez. This is the third time we have video images of him sinking his teeth into an opponent. Add to that his racist taunting of an opponent and you get the picture of a very disturbed man. But there is more. This man is gifted with such footballing abilities that he has an army of supporters who will hear no wrong about him.

This is why the World Cup is the perfect place to watch the world. Here, as in everywhere, right and wrong are so subjective. ‘Our guy’ can do no wrong and ‘your guy’ is an animal that should be locked up. But at the end of the day, the world, like the ball, is round.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

BORN AND BRED — a novel by Peter Murphy


 
Date: June 13, 2014 Author: BrendanLanders

This is a timely book, set as it is in the Dublin in the 1970s, a pivotal decade in Irish history when, thanks to access to television and affordable travel abroad, the nation’s young people got a taste of what life was like beyond Paddy’s green shamrock shore, and it began to dawn on them that they didn’t have to put up with the stultifying, priest-ridden, Soviet-like drabness in which the country had been mired since the forces of conservatism prevailed in the counter-revolution that followed the War of Independence, when the Free State that constituted 26 of Ireland’s 32 counties won its independence from the United Kingdom.
It is in this milieu where Danny Boyle, the protagonist of Born and Bred, comes of age. Recently uncovered scandals are evidence of the sordid underbelly of the authoritarian zeitgeist against which young people like Danny (and, I suspect, the book’s author) instinctively rebelled – a rebellion which found voice in Banana Republic, a chart-topping song written by Bob Geldoff and recorded by The Boomtown Rats.
The 1970s was also the decade in which the Troubles erupted in Northern Ireland and brought the gun back to Irish politics. It was the decade when the Irish drug trade, which heretofore was dominated by a few longhairs tripping home from Amsterdam or Marrakesh with a bit of weed to flog to their peers, was taken over by organised crime and heroin became a deathly plague that ravaged the poor of Dublin’s inner city. And it was the decade when the criminal underworld, where gangsters and subversives interfaced in occasionally common purpose, burgeoned into a thriving enterprise at the heart of a corrupt and sick society.
This is the world that is masterly evoked in this book, the first book in a trilogy recounting the Boyle family saga, and it is in this world where Danny finds himself entangled in a sequence of events wrought by the confluence of sinister forces. He is a typical young man of the period – outwardly cocky and capable while inwardly awkward and lost. He comes from what the Irish used to call “good stock”, his late grandfather having been a senior operative in the War of Independence and, subsequently, a government minister, so the family name still carries some weight in political and republican circles. Danny’s parents have their demons to fight, his dad, Jerry, being an alcoholic and his mother, Jacinta, suffering from a debilitating psychological condition; so he has been mostly reared by his grandmother, Nora, a devout Catholic, canny matriarch and shrewd operator who dotes on him and devotes all her energies and guile to ensuring his welfare.
Mightily unsure of himself and struggling to find a foothold on life, Danny makes a sketchy living by busking in the Dandelion Market (Dublin’s tame equivalent to Haight-Ashbury) and selling dope for the local dealer, Anto Flanagan. But trouble is brewing between Anto and the Republican gunmen with whom he does business and on top of this there is internecine squabbling afoot in the subversive camp. As is the way with hapless dupes, Danny gets caught in the middle of these nefarious dealings and layered betrayals. Set up as a patsy, his life is on the line.
But he’s not without his allies. Deirdre, the girl he loves, loves him back despite the disapproval of her father, a self-appointed pillar of the community and defender of the status quo. Danny’s father, Jerry, may be an alcoholic but he is not a lost cause and not without his own resources. Father Martin, his mother’s brother, is an idealistic young priest who endeavours to do the right thing despite the dogmatic prejudices of his superiors – and who struggles to choose between his vocation and his feelings for a former nun. And last but not least there’s Nora, his devoted grandma whose ghost continues to look out for him after Nora has left this mortal coil.
Born and Bred is part historical fiction, part political thriller and part social commentary. With a bit of magical realism thrown into the mix it makes for a commanding read and a compulsive page-turner. Will the forces of good prevail? Will Danny live to fight another day. Will he and Deirdre find a way to make their love work? Will Jerry and Jacinta master their demons?
The answers are all in this great book. Read them and weep.
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