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3 Daily Disciplines

My wife Sally loves an Advent Calendar, preferring traditional ones to those that dispense chocolate, gin or expensive jewellery (phew) and her latest purchase, based on a picture of Edinburgh which she usually visits every December but cannot do this year, arrived yesterday... And It prompted me to think again about how I will be marking Advent this year... especially with it starting in lockdown. My life is largely dictated by my diary and when I couldn't get access to it for various reasons over the past couple of weeks, and when my PA was on furlough recently allowing me to slip back into my habits of diary-mismanagement, my life was little short of chaotic, event though I (like most other people) wasn't actually going anywhere!!!  Over the next few weeks in the run up to Christmas, despite the lockdown, my diary could once again spiral out of control... But to help me (and perhaps others) to be a bit more reflective I am actually, over the next few days, going to add three
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Walking the Dog

Today I have not been feeling great physically, perhaps, in no small part due to exhaustion... but yesterday it wasn't a matter of a physical malaise... No amount of busyness  Can ever build a wall To block out the growling  Of the big black dog. You must stop, eventually, To listen to yourself  And take the big beast out For a long, long walk. Shalom

Eden - Ivydene

Another unashamedly autobiographical piece - my brother Sam may disagree with my memory of a key event, and be nonplussed at this photo, taken on the front doorstep of our childhood home but he is, as in so many areas, simply wrong... As anyone who read my pieces on my family last year will perhaps remember, Ivydene was the name of our childhood home, a strange and somewhat overblown name for an un-ivied postwar semi in east Belfast. For anyone interested in further background information you can look back on my family history posts last year. Suburban paradise; A hedged Eden, Protected from The Troubled world beyond, Complete with apple tree And entrance guarded Not by a sword wielding angel  But Adam in dungarees With a sixteen pound  Sledgehammer; A man taken from the earth Working the earth, Tending the garden. Roses blossomed there, And Nasturtiums too, Irises and wallflowers, Flaming Corn, Sweet William. and Orange Lilies (of course). But his joy was in its produce; P

Three Thoughts on Related Subjects...

These three have been percolating for a while... There must be more to education  Than the mere transmission  Of examinable information. Arts cannot be reduced to A  Way to turn STEM into STEAM  Transforming Shakespeare and Sondheim  Into so much hot air. Science is not simply  A means of discovering  More ways to make money. Selah

Twilight on an Atlantic Shore

This started out as a rant, but then it took on a different character as I remembered an experience shortly after my 20th birthday and another last year.  Standing on the shore Facing, for the first time, The uninterrupted horizon Of the wide Atlantic Ocean. Watching the tide recede, Listening to the gravelly rattle That I would later recognise  as the rhythm of mortality, Whilst arced far above  the emerging stars Receded far faster, If they still existed. It was a twilight time Of endings, without, as yet, Any clear beginnings; A summer, but no longer  The Polaroid coloured Sunshiny summers Of childhood memory (that never were). Rain stopped play, At least on the beach. A cold wind blew And one foray into the sea Sucked the marrow  From my bones. The Canute-like confidence Of youth and faith  was beginning to ebb Though many more twilights Would follow before An acceptance of  My place and powers. Now I prefer to be A watcher on the shore. I am content in my smallness, My

4 Women, Looking Backwards

Yesterday, Friday the 13th, was a day of mixed fortunes. I got a lot done, but my computer has once again started playing up denying me access to some important pieces of work that are needed urgently... But just before that happened, in the afternoon I took a walk after a late lunch when I had been reading Robert Graves' treatment of Orpheus and Eurydice. Then, as I usually do when walking, I was listening to a couple of short podcasts, including one of   Pádraig Ó Tuama's superb "Poetry Unbound" podcasts where he was unpacking Natalie Diaz's poem "Of Course She Looked Back" about Lot's wife. But on "my loop", which took me down by the Lagan, I also caught sight of a woman rowing and had a fleeting encounter with another woman who had just had a prang on the Malone Road. In the hours that followed, as I became hypnotised by the rotating blue circle of doom on my computer, and then this morning, waking early aware of all that I still neede

Turn the Tap

This, as with many of my reflections has a prosaic origin, in this case a contaminated water butt thanks, we think, to some roofers. I finally decided to do something about it yesterday in the midst of a deluge.  But it also corresponds with a sense that I could do with a personal purge of contaminants and a good look at where the "run off" from others' issues is poisoning my own reservoirs. Sometimes  You simply have to Turn the tap And discard The contaminated accumulation  Having inhaled the Faint chemical scent  And noting that The rainbows dancing Over the shimmering surface Offer warning Not hope The dark depths tainted By unseen, unknown bane. But do not despair At the waste. That which is washed away Is swiftly absorbed In the encircling seas While that which is empty  (In this land at least) Swiftly gets refilled From above. And with the new day The flow stemmed We can begin again. Selah