Thursday, September 21, 2006

Happy Birthday To Me

Well today is my birthday. There you go I am not old yet. Am I wiser than I was this time last year? Dunno!
I am a year older so what? I am a hell of a lot fitter. I have been training by swimming every day and doing some other sports from time to time. I am apparently 180cm and 81kg, which is okay by me. If you can't figure that out do a search online for weight conversions.
What's changed really for me in the last year?
Lot's of people have left the area with whom I was friendly. Some people back home are having a rough time. In fact it is a year ago to the day that I was made permanent in my job. That was a huge relief. I live in a different place. I have a good fun healthy relationship that is improving all the time.
I can finally see a way I might start writing again. I am more secure in myself around my son.
Physically this part of the world is beautiful.
Regardless of the type of year it has been, I always get a) nostalgic for old friends, b) concerned about the future and c) excited about the prospect of a celebration of the day I was born.
I celebrate because I don't believe in Bad experiences and perhaps not even good ones, only experiences. I learn, I grow, I live, I am alive, I have so much that is positive, and I celebrate it.
I celebrate because I am able to love people easily and those I have chosen to have as friends I do so because I can love them. (Yes even those of you not here) .
I celebrate for them and with them and because of them.
Today I bought flowers for everyone in the job. It cost not too much and it was nice to see the smiles on people’s faces in the street as I walked passed with 40 red roses. ;-) . It was nice to see the people I work with moved a little and now there are flowers in all the offices.
I know I am a softie. But today is this fighter’s birthday so I can do it if I want. :))

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Wind That Shakes the Barely.

I went to see this film about a forthnight ago. When it finished and the four of us, An Italian, A french couple and myself, were seated on the red velvet seats of the old fashioned cinema. Nobody moved. 'Oh well' I said, thinking that if I didn't move no one would. My companions were slow to rise up. Outside, I proposed going for a beer to talk about the film, the French lady said , 'What else is there to say?' They seemed deeply effected ( or is that affected?) by what they had seen. Even though it was a very familiar story, an no where near as violent as many films today, I was in a turmoil. It stayed with me and is still present. I am Irish because of my wonderful culture, my outlook, my history and the place I was born. But it does raise the question of identity that I have perhaps touched on in many of my posts. I am not like most Irish people I know. The story portrayed is an international one, not just an Irish one. My own civil war continues in my soul as I struggle with my nations history, dreams, and reality, and therefore too, my own.
I cannot do any justice to this film save showing you here an email I wrote to the company of the director of the film........

Hi Alistair,
I hope this email finds you keeping well. I wanted to write to Mr. Loach to tell him how I feel about his recent film. Le vent se leve, or The Wind That Shakes the Barley. I am a man from Ireland who now lives somewhat unwillingly, but not always, in the South of France.
I was born in 1967 and I remember well in the 1970's passing across the ' border ' to visit relatives in Dungannon or Coalisland, and the 7 of us(my mother and six children of whom I was the youngest) being made stand by the side of the road in the rain, as soldiers pulled our small Fiat 850 apart in search of bombs.
I was hoping to write a reveiw of the film on my blog but I haven't managed to as yet.
You see I have carried for a long time what many would call a chip on my shoulder. I hate the notion of a 700 year old chip, mine is or was the same age as myself and created by the society in which I grew up, and was incultured in. I am not even sure if it is right to call it a 'chip' as there was a good reason for it to be there.
I have spent my years trying to first of all explain to Irish people why they should be angry, and then to the many wonderful English people I have met, why I myself was so angry, perturbed, annoyed and angry again.
Many times my heart was broken by paramilitaries as I struggled with the wonderful notions of Connolly for an Ireland united and free, and witnessed, the struggle, the war, the fight, the hate, the loss and the general humanity and senselessness of it all.
Many times I have been involved in discussion groups, political groups, liturgical groups, psychological groups, all geared towards finding a solution no matter how futile it seemed. I never lost and always had tons of hope and vision. This alone prevented me from ever becomming bitter. Thank the Gods I never got bitter.
What I am trying to communicate is this. The film has now allowed me to let go in many ways that were just plain unthinkable before. I don't have to defend or explain or carry the chip anymore. I can just tell people who ask, go and see that film by Ken Loach, The Wind That Shakes the Barely.

I cannot with all the years of film studies I have done, all the attempts at scripts, after the 1000's of films I have watched in my life actually reveiw the film. As a friend said when we finally walked outside, 'what else is there to say?'. The film says it all. Anything else is a verbal superflousity that would be inaccurate and wasted and not do justice to the work.

I would like to thank Ken for his time and his effort. I heard him say the other day he would like people to share the burden of the criticism or some such sentiment. I would say to him take it all and bathe in it. It is a true sign of having touched a truth that for many years even in modern times is all too well hidden.
Thank you for not dramatising hollywood style the violence. If I ever get to write my own film I hope it's half as good as this one. Not only should you have got the palme d'or but the Golden Lion and that small bauble the Hollywood set measure the value of their life work too.

I am not the one to heap plaudits on Mr Loach for his film or on his team, and having been both an actor and runner, and even a Loader in the past I do understand what it takes.
I just wanted to say thanks. I wanted to shake his hand give him a hug and maybe have the opportunity to chat sometime if our paths cross over a nice bottle of Muscat, or Rose or beer or Chianti or whatever his favourite tipple is.

Please please forward this to Mr Loach.

Respectfully yours,
PS even this email cannot touch the profound effect this film has had on me.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

At Swim Two Birds..........................NOT

God what a day. I have a maximum 2 hour lunch at work and I normally swim in the sea.
Everyday since the beginning of May I have made my way down to the beach at lunchtime. I swam 20 meters the first day, and almost drowned. These days I can get 300 to 400 meters if I am patient with myself. Actually I promised myself I would do an Iron Man one day and that's where it started.
Today it was raining. Hmmm there is a pool next to the office. Hmm need a swimming hat and a swimming suit that sticks. This might be embarassing. hmm
Right then, I had forgotten to reserve my lunch via email. So, I ran into the pool for information. The lady tells me 2 euros 30 cent to swim, last person in an hour before pool closes, need a 'bonnet'and a mollet maillot....swimsuit that sticks. (Corrrect my french please).
Hmm well I don't have any of that and hats are selling at the pool for 9euros. Pool closes at 2:30pm and it's 12.55pm now. That gives me 35 minutes to get my ass back here. I am starving.
I run off to buy my lunch. I have to queue.
I get what I want, run to the sports shop, can't find what I want, see a cheap swimsuit, my size, I pick it up. I can't find the bloody hats. Ah 4 euros a hat, great, no green? any colour but green? What you got something against the Irish have you?? (joking).
Anyway I queue up to pay, and hand over my fidelity card. It doesn't work. The ensuing process takes more than a few minutes as the Oh so friendly girl at the counter tries to render service to the idiot who didn't activate his card correctly and who seems a little perturbed that his card hasn't been registered.....(Yes almost dear, I am on lunch, in time frame, I understand how Oh so nice you are.....)...pardon? what? Oh right, another pause as I get confused with the difference in pronounciation of i and e in French and of course J and G, and ah yes, finally. Thank you. Off I run with a plethora of bags, feeling like a John Cleese sketch at this stage. I arrive again at the swiming complex. Hand over my money and run where? Oh down the stairs, thank you. Crusty but Benign Old guy at the bottom of the stairs greets me, 'Vous avez un peice d'un Euro?'why is he asking me for money. He explains, go back up stairs and get a 1 euro piece. You will need it for the locker. Right so. As I go back up the stairs, I hear more words uttered about money. I come down again take off my shoes, put them in a plastic bag and hand them over the counter. He ties the knot in the bag for me as it is my first day. I am given a plastic piece with the number 81 on it. I realise when he asks me if I have the bonnet, that the comment as I was going back up the stairs was about the bonnet and not the monnet.(bad joke I know, but there is more).
Go through the Orange door to the 'Vestiare'. I find the door and go through. There are many cubicles, some the doors don't close, and others have no locks. hmmm? I realise finally there is an ingenious method used. The seat folds back and you close the door, fold the seat forward again and the door is now locked. Great. I strip and pull on the swimming costume, it gets stuck just below my ass around my thighs.....OH SHIT. Not MY size, a size too small at least. I open the tie thread and pull, stuffing myself inside it. I now look like bread dough rising out of a tight plastic covering. I slip the silicon hat onto my head and instantly remind myself of a condom. I am sure I now know what my dick feels like personally when he is dressed in a condom.
Anyway out to the locker, in with the bag for my lunch, the bag with my purchases and of course the bag with my beach gear and clothes in it. It doesn't all fit. I put one bag into another and push hard and it fits....but the lock doesn't work. I change lockers and realise I still have the plastic 81 in my hand. I put it in the locker and take out the key. I strap it around my wrist eventually and ask the stunned guy next to me the way to the pool. He glances in a direction and mumbles something so I follow his gaze. I find the showers. Amazingly a guy I know is there, I tell him I swim in the sea and he says its too cold. I laugh and Lie that I will be in the sea all through winter. I get to the pool and realise I have no goggles. SHIT. Back through the showers, open the strap, open the locker, pull the bag I forgot to close, and everything flies everywhere, including my lunch. I am now so nervous I am shaking. That's a nice image isn't it, Wobbling bread dough in a condom?
I tidy up and finally get back to the pool where I promptly slip on my ass. I pick myself up as no one else bothers to do so. I ask the gaurd how deep the water is, as if it would make a difference. Finally I get in. The experience is unpleasant after the sea that I am used to, and after 100 meters I stop, I look outside the window and I think, things are so much easier in Nature.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Tribute To Croc Hunter

A man called Steve Irwin died recently while shooting an underwater wildlife documentary. A certain well known news site has asked if it's public would watch the video of his death.
I responded as follows.
"How little we have progressed. I will make my argument on a purely human level I hope. Leaving aside the religious argument even the sacred or privacy arguments. I am shocked that neither person who wrote, deemed it worthwhile to mention a simple moral obligation. What have we become if all we want to do now is get turned on the pornography of death? Why would anybody find it appealing? Why would anyone risk bringing down the barriers of this taboo to a society that is perhaps not ready to deal with it in a healthy way. It is not enough to say ' Don't watch it if you don't want to'. Many of us have morbid curiosities and have no idea of the effects of witnessing something until we witness it. What happens soldiers who come back from battle after seeing people die? Dont get me wrong. My first job at the age of 18 was watching old men die, cleaning down their bodies and sending them off to the morgue. I have seen death. But I find it uneducated that we would even tease ourselves with this question. There are millions of peole dying in Iraq/Afganistan/Africa/Aisa, if you really want to watch someone die, give up the day job, go visit and try help them do it peacefully perhaps. But the reason for watching a guy die because he was famous, is no reason whatsoever. Do we want to see Elvis, Marlyn Monroe, Michael Hutchins (apologies if I have the name wrong) die? What ever happened to real news? Showing dead bodies blown apart or a guy dying slowly, doesn't change anything neither does it inform. It takes a moments reflection of what it means to die, to understand. Perhaps it is better if you ask what does it mean to live. Instead of showing his death, show his life's work. There are plenty of lessons there for us. I find this discussion somewhat depressing and adolescent.
[to the editor- I often reply to posts I see here, just this once I would like if possible that this one is published. Thank you.]"
So to the family of Steve Irwin. The Croc Hunter taught me a lot, I hope you are all bearing up under this current strain. ...................

I promise I will write the review of the Ken Loach film 'The Wind That Shakes the Barely Soon.' Cheers

Monday, September 04, 2006

The Boy and I

So the boy was here all weekend. It was hilarious. Sometimes we struggle with each other because of the time span. Sometimes we knock the crack out of each other so much we are sick laughing. The weekend was moreso the second.
Much of our laughter comes from things where you have to be there to understand the funniness (is that a word?) of the situation.
All three of us spent the weekend traveling 300km round trip to get even more bits and pieces for the appartment. Yes, I know, nine months and we still haven't got it together. So shoot me. I have bills to pay, so does Aqua and we will get there when we get there. Anyway Sunday morning was spent assembling various bits and pieces, refixing the fan to the ceiling, that still hadn't fallen on our legs, despite my not fixing it to the ceiling right the first time.
I had an image of us both 'getting jiggy with it' and a spining fan falling out of the ceiling and slicing bacon of my ass before it hit the floor with a thud. But Aqua's encouragement and boys eagerness to anything Bricoler centred (DIY), drove me on to get back up the ladder and battle the vertigo. To be honest vertigo would be more preferable to bacon slicing. In the morning I gave him his ceral in the kitchen and he decided to look behind himself, at me, as he left the room. A sharp shout of 'DOOR' managed to prevent him smacking against the open door and a quick grab managed to save the bowl of ceral (and floor) as he turned quickly, stopped dead, his nose one centimeter from the edge of the door, and started to convulse in laughter.
Then at the beach later when all was assembled and we had met up with friends, had lunch, I had swam my one kilometer, which was probably only 300 meters but it felt like a good mile, and boy was insisting I throw him in the air and let go,.... he surfaced from a large wave coughing and spluttering, 'J'ai avalé un poison' ( I swallowed a fish), he said wiping his mouth and grinning, at which we both fell under the next wave in fits of laughter. Later I was treated like a climbing frame as his lithe musclar frame, kicked, pushed,punished and punched me into having a bagarre with him. (fight). It is difficult to resist but I tell myself it's good for my overall figure :) .
Finally home, and I did one of those things that intelligent stupid people do all the time. You will know what I mean when I explain. We were telling our friends about the line of palm trees on top of the mountain. I explained it was the water treatment plant for the area. Because of it, we had great water pressure, so strong in fact that sometimes the tap fixing explodes if I turn on the tap full blast. They doubted, but 10 seconds and 5 soaked people later, plus a broken tap fixing, convinced them I was telling the truth. Boy nearly choked himself laughing.
Then it was back to his mam for an early night. The first day in big school is arriving. Now there will be home work and soon there will be classes in English where he will wipe the floor with the other kids. ( he is competitive already). I miss many of these firsts and sometimes I don't laugh about it.
I wonder how he will turn out as a Man, my Boy. Will he look to his father for advice? Will we still be able to knock the crack out of each other when he is 30 and I am 64? Yes, the song asks the questions that are true not just for lovers, but for parents too. Will he stop at the age of 16 decide his father is an idiot, like a lot of men, and then not get past that, like a lot of men? Or will he know how hard it was for me to stay? Will he know how glad I am that I did?

Friday, September 01, 2006

Don't say I should have, say I did it

God I am so proud, I didn't do anything but God I am proud. My brother and his wife are one of the most amazing couples I know. As I write this they have just completed a 3 week sailing race across the Atlantic Ocean, in the Challenge Transit 2006.
They know little of sailing but their motto is ' Don't say I should have, say I did'. The link is in the side bar for those of you interested.
Here are some extracts from the last log posted.

"The conditions we've experienced have been extreme, from 40 knots to nothing. We've surfed down waves in total darkness at over 20 knots, swam across the foredeck doing sail changes and also sat going backwards in the current with absolutely no wind."
"Sometimes we've spent whole watches working solidly through the sail wardrobe, no one has complained, hesitated or even questioned what may have seemed on occasions dubious decisions."

Yes people who do this sort of thing are nuts that's right. But I would rather be crazy and active, than sane. Imagine being able to look back over your life and not be able to say, 'damn it to hell, I did something'.

I understand not everyone has this urge to leave some mark, some statement. Those of you who don't, I would ask why?
Is it really that you feel that this sort of thing is too unimportant? Is it that perhaps you feel your place is to pay the bills, raise the kids, get the retirement, play golf, and then die? Or is the real truth you are scared shitless to stand outside what you know and feel the thrill of the drop as you hurtle over the parapet of a new experience?

Whatever about the Merits of voting, about the merits of not staying quiet and speaking out against injustice, there is one thing I beg you all not to do.
Don't accept what you have and believe that it is all you are entitled to. Accept it, yes, be proud of who you are, yes, but don't stagnate. Grow. Explore yourself and your limits. Why? why the hell not? Because you don't want to be old, with no friends, no memories and regrets. Just be old whatever way it comes but for sure, for absolute certain, don't be old with regrets, with the I should have done, I could have done, but it got away from me.

So Team Pindar the boat my Brother and Sister in Law were on have crossed the Line first and I am very very proud.

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