Art, Expression and Brexit

At one of the International Literature Festival events in Dublin last Friday, Margaret and I, along with similar looking and attired folk, filed into the upstairs bar of the Lord Edward pub next to Christchurch and scattered to the tables and stools. There, we were treated to a reading of Flan O’Brien’s drama, Thirst.

In Thirst, following the local sergeant’s arrival ‘after hours’ with his note pad, the audience is transported to a hot desert by Mr C who over a period of forty minutes described his war years as a duty bound soldier where the feet were caked in scalding hot sand so that the very skin peeled off, the throat was parched with arid dried sun and the water bottles had to be cast away because they were made of aluminium, the packs, guns, knives were the weight of elephants, the eyes were brimming with sand and dust, the sun was a furnace into which they travelled, indeed chased the enemy over dunes, and more (forty minutes more), all to convince the sergeant he needed a pint after hours, and indeed, we were all reaching for our glasses to quench our thirst. It was very funny, very Irish and a brilliant performance.

the thirst

I was less enthralled by Yianis Vouroufakis, though he is rather delightful on the eye and I am sure that if we were in one to one situation with a bottle of retsina (Ruth Ennals, are you reading), I would be totally charmed.

yianis varoufakis

He gave an absolutely devastating description of an EU which was undemocratic, unwieldy, in the hands of megalomaniac bureaucrats and indeed was set up as such a body from the very beginning. Yet after lambasting the mechanisms, behaviours, the corruption (he said that irrespective of the Greek decision to default, the EU paid the bankers and sent him the invoice), he believed that Britain should stay in. I couldn’t believe it. Yianis justified his view by saying you needed common standards, that the political loss would be huge and that the EU was already deteriorating because of its hubris. Speeding it up would create havoc. I wonder what propelled him to say this.

I have been alternating in my views about Brexit (although I don’t have a vote as I have lived more than 15 years in Ireland). My instinct and feeling is that the EU is a conglomerate of bankers and power elites which do not respect democracy and certainly put the interests of the rich and powerful first. However, I certainly do not want to be associated with UKIP, Gove and Boris Johnston who would appear to want to return to Little England, and have unpleasant and racist views about immigration and refugees. I believe firmly in human rights, international conventions, and the need to draw up fairer, equal policies in conjunction with the experience of other nations and countries. I believe we need to rethink what we want the EU to be. I am sure Mr Farage and others will not have in mind the kind of EU wide supports and network that I believe should be put in place.

Yianis described an unwieldy monster when he described the operation of the EU. And he was sceptical of its reform. He thought the Brits were damned if we did leave and damned if we didn’t. I think it is better to attempt change, and not fear it. Maybe the way to do this is to leave because at least it will change the status quo which at the moment is only providing people with unemployment, hysteria, right wing politicians and promulgating fear throughout society. Surely it is better to do something rather than nothing. Maybe this is the revolution, we just don’t know what revolution looks like any more.

Anyway, Yianis helped me think as did Lesley Courcof (an English friend of mine whom I met for lunch the next day before she left Dublin after seeing The Boss) and Margaret Barry with whom I went to the International Literature Festival events and who had to listen to my passionate ranting and ravings with a patience and a humour that only Margaret has. I thank them all.

My few days ended with a return to Cavan to see ‘Underneath’, a performance by Pat Kinevane at the Town Hall (to which, if you look back through my blogs, you will see previous references). ‘Underneath’ is about bullying, the power of the strong over the weak. He makes his point with sensitivity, humour, and his set is of the most beautiful, stark style. He is sinuous, sensual. His movements are graceful, his voice is huge. Performances like this is what we live for. Sadly, whether the EU exists or not, or Brexit happens or not, there will always be the weak and powerful. I just hope we will always have art and literature,  to help us reflect on our vulnerabilities and enable us to think, and listen. (Are you listening, Irish Government?)







Musing from London

I am back in London, sitting up in bed.  I am supposed to be working on a poem (my focus is on form and structure). I look out of the window into the rows of London gardens: brick walls covered in ivy and wisteria. The leaves on the gigantic tree opposite are on the turn: beautiful green, yellow and orange. At the end of one branch, gold burnishes. Every so often a leaf flutters down. I am also listening to a politician, Lord Carrington, I think it is,  on the radio discussing the problems of the ‘land issue’ when handing Rhodesia back to the Africans. I am on Facebook too.

So, can I be accused of procrastination? Actually, I think procrastination gets a bad name when in fact it is rather a delightful occupation. It is like the foreplay to sex. It builds up tension. Abstract, unfocused thinking leads to slow notions, and ideas. I often start scribbling when I have no idea of what is coming but , usually, the flow begins and the links emerge. (A caution here, when I say links, as my idea of links can be rather haphazard!)

So while listening to the discussion of Rhodesia/Zimbabwe’s experience of growing independence,  I hear about the multilayered issues, the local politics, the  economics and personal enmities involved while also reading a FB comment about what happens to your Facebook stream if you ‘like’ posts. As I listen to the radio, what strikes me (again) is how we so easily make judgments, form opinions without fully understanding the whole equation (independence for Africa). I suppose, it is essential we do this, for if we knew the whole picture, understood the intricacy, it would inhibit us from action. Passion is necessary for action.

Back to FB. One of my ‘friends’ (well, more of a colleague than a friend, you know FB) informs me that a friend of hers was testing the benefits of ‘liking’ on Facebook. Apparently,  not ‘liking’ improves your FB experience. It seems the algorithm that Facebook uses doesn’t discriminate between showing us the sweet kitties we ‘like’ and the cruel torture of cats we don’t, and sends us pictures of everything feline. I don’t really understand how FB works, I thought I simply received material shared by my ‘friends’. (Isn’t it strange how many inverted quotation marks need to be used when referring to FB). So, the ‘study’ carried out indicates that it is much better to comment. Comments are not part of the algorithm and therefore don’t attract ads. Comments make your FB experience more meaningful. An article on the experience of ‘not liking’ was posted. Apparently, it had been difficult not to ‘like’. The author felt guilty she wasn’t ‘supporting’ her friends and even that by not ‘liking’, she was expressing disapproval. Then she read an article about someone who had done the opposite and liked everything and his feed had become a terror ridden, and tense, full of horror and gore.

It was the feeling of guilt when she didn’t ‘like’ that interested me. It is absurd, but I know what she means. Our ‘liking’ something on FB  is pretty meaningless, but it is seductive as it shows we support people without having  do anything. What bliss! But I’ve decided I’m going to reduce my ‘liking’ and comment or share instead.

What has this to do with Rhodesia/Zimbabwe? I don’t know except that maybe those ‘inverted quotation marks’ reflect on how little we all understand or really know what is going on in our world – despite the communication – whatever the time frame. I like FB.  I enjoy reading which ten books have impacted on FB ‘friends’. I like knowing what people are up to  (particularly Lesley who travels the world). I like putting pictures and comments about my AT The Edge, Cavan literary nights and poetry workshops (next one starts Wednesday 17 Sept). I feel FB keeps me in contact. It reminds me that ‘friends’ are out there, and that they are, or have been, a part of my life! All a little superficial? Probably, but that’s okay. However, from now on, I will ‘comment’ rather than ‘like’ so if I don’t ‘like’ your postings, don’t be offended and I’ll try not to be if you don’t ‘like’ mine. You can comment instead!

kate 001There drops another golden leaf in the garden…


Going Off ….

ImageI have just had a wonderful week and I am excited about the month ahead. I am back in my bed after a week in Galway with my lovely friend who is now swanning about with other friends in Tipp. It is a Sunday morning of a bank holiday weekend and I feel the day stretches ahead in that luxurious, Judy Garland sort of way. Outside,  I hear birdsong. I think the chirrup of the Robin is the lead, but the trills of the Finches and notes of the Blackbird are clear in the chorus. The sky is glowing pink in the East. I feel content and there is the crux of the matter. If I am happy, I tend to be ‘off doing’, not writing. A conundrum: I love to write and I love to be ‘off doing’ and the two do not entwine well.

Every morning last week, I would wake to the trills of friend, alongside the cries of the gulls, and immediately I would join in. There is nothing better first thing, after opening your eyes, than continuing the conversation of the night before, unless it is starting a new one. So, I might say, ‘Good morning, friend, what did you think of the President’s visit to England?’ And friend will regale me with views and opinions and soon we will be laughing our way into the day. It was absolute pleasure. But it meant I didn’t write. I talked and laughed instead. We also shopped, walked, ate cakes, and climbed Diamond Hill in Letterfrack on the most amazing morning, the sort of morning that only exists on Diamond Hill in Letterfrack, Connemara.

This coming week is very exciting too. There is the first night of my AT The Edge, Cavan (thanks to the wee bit of support from the Cavan Arts Office) which I am very excited and nervous about. I am doing a three day training course in facilitative leadership and I am going to a formal party where I have to dress up and look my best. This means I have to buy new sandals because Poppins, our new puppy, chewed up my pair from last year . This means a shopping expedition, where ‘I absolutely have to‘ buy shoes. I will feel I am a proper woman. And then, after that, I am going to Spain with  friend: Malaga, Granada, Sierra Nevada, Alicante. There is no time to write. I am  excited and this makes me very sad for, as every writer knows, the only true driving force for creative brilliance is misery, mayhem, and melancholia.

Ah well, I’ll try… but now I simply have to get up and go off and do…later, my friends, later.