Friday, 25 December 2009



Hello again to my follower. And a very happy christmas. This year you'll be relieved to hear I've gone a bit Zen.Not quite the full extent of a spanner waving mechanic , but who knows, in this bright new world.
Anyway back to Christmas. Its my birthday. In fact this accident may well have played a large part in my overbearing nature, for looking back, I have to say the second world war was well over before I was able to concede that the reason people were jolly on that day at least, had anything to do with any event other than me. Of course it could well have had some thing to do with booze too. Anyway there I was growing up in a small village in the west of Ireland while in the distant world a war was about to rage.1939 and all that.
For a child it didn't matter and it wasn't until a lot later that I began to realise how incredibly lucky the timing of my arrival was because the we were stuck, brigadoon like, in a period little changed for maybe 100 years. Most of rural Ireland was without electricity, women still drew water from wells - frequently a distance from the house,the level of poverty was still brutal unless you were frugal and very clever.
But one of my strongest memories and one which still lingers, is the pervading smell of sheep - or more accurately lanolin, clinging to the rough black tweed in which the Irish farmer came encased.His wife, seen only on high days, was also clad in wool but in her case this included a fine big shawl and a large capacious skirt. lanolin again. And since one of the few times the whole household would be out in public together was the run up to Christmas when there was business to be done.This was the farmer's wife's chance to make a bit of money on her geese and chickens. At this period turkeys were rare and exotic.Having sold the fowl at the big pre-christmas market, the family would buy provisions for most of the year with the proceeds. This big shop was light years away from a trip to supermarkets and had more in common with the sort of expedition frontier women in the wild west would have done. All food for the house was either grown at home or cooked at home.
So newly provided with money and provisions,before setting off for the badlands of Sonnach the old women would assemble in the back bar, and seated on firkins - barrels of beer, they'd sip hot port and brandy, or maybe a sweet sherry or two. In our bar, I remember my grandfather, Willie, a jovial man serving behind the bar and shedding goodwill about in the manner of a former politician, now retired from the fray.
But once again it was a smell of old wet wool, compounded by old dried sweat and old mature lanolin and the pungent smell of GUINNESS and hot toddy that brings it back as sharp and true as ever.
Today I'm 70 and I find it entirely incongruous. In my head I vary from maybe 12 , or 23 or absolutely unstoppably sexually alluring. the truth may have been other than I remember.
But still, when on a steroid high I'm still no more than a really good 50. Which of course bring me back to Zen and this year I am recommending it to all my friends.
Also high on the list of recommendations for the future is the brilliant idea my good and talented friend Aidan Hodgins had. In view of everything he suggests that everyone with a half-decent sized garden should plant five common ash trees. In our climate the ash will be ready to fell in five years and one well- grown tree will keep a house in fuel for a year. Eco friendly - economic and just great good sense.Do it.But remember to plant a new tree for every one you cut.
Which brings me finally to my latest great thought.
If in life you happen to say a bit too much and perhaps bruise some deep sensitivities, apologise, of course. But it would be a fool to think that would end the matter. And should you inflict pain on a mountainy man it won't be solved that easy. Therefore if you-re going to get on the wrong side of someone, make sure its someone who can really hold grudge. That way you have some comfort.
Joy to you all.