Saturday, 28 June 2014

My new version of 'Candle In The Wind' for Jimmy Savile

There have been calls on the Irish government to investigate the work the late great Jimmy Savile did with the Central Remedial Clinic in Dublin. The tracksuited one was a regular visitor to the Dublin clinic and spearheaded many fundraising events for the facility. 

Here is Jimmy with then President of Ireland, Erskine Childers, and Lady Valerie Goulding. Jimmy is the one in the kilt.

Over the past couple of years Jimmy Savile has been much maligned. The BBC have cut his jib from all episodes of Top of The Pops 2, and other music nostalgia programmes, which must have taken many, many hours of editing; and, as well as being a disgraceful waste of licence payers money, is, in my view, approaching the issue the wrong way altogether. If I had my way, which is I admit unlikely ever to happen, in the aftermath of Jeremy Paxman I'd appoint as the new presenter of Newsnight, the corpse of Jimmy Savile. The BBC should just lie back and think of the viewing figures. But of course they haven't got the guts. Political correctness gone mad, and all that.

Earlier this year, as a special tribute to Jimmy, I re-wrote the lyrics of Elton John and Bernie Taupin's Candle In The Wind. The two previous versions of the song were addressed to Marilyn Monroe and Princess Diana respectively. Mine is addressed to Jimmy. You can read it here.

Meanwhile here's what Tuam's finest, Mr John Lydon, had to say about Jimmy in a 1978 interview which the BBC did not broadcast.

Irish Times to change its name

In a blog article just published Adrienne Corless accuses The Irish Times of misrepresenting her mother, Catherine Corless, in their reporting of the Tuam Babies scandal. Adrienne Corless's article goes into some forensic detail. Read it for yourself here.

The paper's Features Editor, Mr Conor Goodboy, has responded on Twitter, dutifully typing the words: "We stand over the article" and going on to entirely refute Adrienne Corless's detailed blog post in sixteen devastating syllables: "I've looked at Adrienne's post and can't accept her criticisms."  It's clear that Conor Goodboy is one of the great polemicists, up there with Edmund Burke and Labour TD for Dublin South West, Mr Eamonn Maloney.

Where others would have wasted their time doing a point by point refutation of Adrienne Corless's very detailed article, Conor Goodboy simply says that Ms Corless has it wrong and then goes on to refute not one of the points she makes.

On foot of this, it has been announced just now that the Irish Times is to change its name from this coming Monday to the Irish Daily Sport.
President Michael D. Higgins has issued a decree that, in acknowledgment of his contribution to Irish journalism, Conor Goodboy is to be wrapped from head to toe in old copies of The Irish Times and dropped from the top of Carrauntoohil, after first having had his buttocks worthily massaged by Dr Maureen Gaffney at an undisclosed location in Rathgar. 

And now an auld poem in which I mention The Irish Times

Friday, 20 June 2014

Be Careful Who You Marry

Your man in Tullamore whose name I've permanently forgotten has drawn an important fact to my attention: I am married to a dangerous political extremist, the militant pro abortionist Susan Millar DuMars”. The literary and political giant that is your man in Tullamore is unhappy at being dumped as an Anti-Austerity Alliance candidate for Offaly County Council on foot of an article on this here blog

I don't know what to do now. I've managed to make it to the untender age of 47 without ever once knowingly associating with political extremists. Now, it turns out I'm married to one. Here I am reading the poem I wrote the week of our wedding in 2005.  I understand that Susan will be blogging on this subject herself in the next few days. She has some serious explaining to do.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Speech by former Mayor of Enfield, Nadia Conway, at North London launch of 'The Ghost in the Lobby'

Finally getting the time to post this. It was good, back in April, to see again, after twenty years, my old comrades Brian O'Flynn, Eddie Connolly and Paul Renny at the North London launch of The Ghost in the Lobby at Haringey Irish Centre in Tottenham. The very fetching hat in the photograph belongs to Mr Paul Renny.

Also in attendance were Nadia Conway, former Mayor of Enfield, and her husband David Conway, who was the (Conservative) Deputy Leader of Enfield Council back in the early 1990s, when I was Edmonton's answer to Tommy Sheridan (without the tight t-shirts or, generally speaking, the sex). 

The launch was covered in both the Enfield Advertiser and Enfield Independent. On this occasion I didn't make the front pages, as was the case in November 1990, when both papers ran screaming headlines about the local Labour Party's move to expel myself and Helen Redwood from the party. 

Back then David Conway used to regularly bait the Labour councillors at council meetings by making mention of "the egregious Mr Higgins". It took the Labour Party one year, three months and twelve days to expel me; the process was slowed down because a member of the committee the local party set up to find out if I was a member of the Militant Tendency publicly challenged me to a physical fight. This took place, I remember, at a General Committee meeting of Edmonton Labour Party. The individual in question was more than 70 years old. It did, though, land the Labour Party in potentially hot legal water because, to put it mildly, it raised the question of possible bias, and meant they had to re-do the entire 'investigation'. So I remained a member of the Labour Party for a further few months, during which Councillor David Conway got to throw a little more torment at the Labour Party by publicly reminding them of my continued existence within their ranks. Below is a poem from The Ghost in the Lobby. It's inspired by the contents of the carrier bag I used to always have with me back then, to assist me in my vital revolutionary work. I read it at the Haringey event.

I also treated those assembled to my elegy for the late Margaret Thatcher which you can read here.  

It's believed that several time serving middle of the table members of the Socialist Party - the Militant Tendency's successor organisation - were immediately overcome with ecstatic shock and had to be rushed to hospital when they heard that I had asked a former Conservative Mayor to launch the book. Unfortunately, it's believed they all made a fully recovery.

Below is what Nadia Conway said on the day. I hope she won't object to me saying that I now count her as a comrade, though of an admittedly very different sort. 

"Time carries out ironic revenges, and the sweep of years casts us in roles we would never have imagined for ourselves.

For myself, I was born in the military hospital at Prague Castle. Fifteen years after that I was, in swift order, a published poet, the President of the Slovak Communist Youth Movement, and a refugee in the then swinging London. And twenty years or more after that I was the Conservative Mayor of the Council of the London Borough of Enfield. You may boo now, if you wish.

In those distant days all political factions were deeply concerned with an innovation to reform local taxation. In retrospect it is difficult to understand either why one side thought the Poll Tax was so wonderful, or the other thought it so iniquitous; but as with many political arguments, the topic itself became rather less important than using it to beat opponents over the head.

What Margaret Thatcher can never have conceived, however, was that her flagship policy would have resulted in us all meeting together today at the Haringey Irish Centre.

For amongst those who roused themselves to battle this reform in local book-keeping was Kevin Higgins - or as he was dubbed by a Councillor (my husband in fact) 'the egregious Mr Higgins' - renowned throughout Edmonton and Ponders End as the leader of the local unit of the 'Anti-Poll Tax Union'. I haven't entirely fathomed Kevin's activities during this period, but they were doubtless such as to give him his present status, as he notes in one of his poems, as a name 'on the FBI's least wanted' list. But one important strategy was for him to heckle meetings of the Council.

You may not realise that the powers of Mayors of most London boroughs are almost insignificant; in fact just about the only ways they can exercise them relate to maintaining order at Council meetings. In general I used these powers to prevent my husband rabbiting on or raising obscure points of order; but Kevin's interventions gave me an opportunity for immortality. I expelled him from the Chamber - and when interviewed by the local press I made the world-weary comment, 'Eventually, Kevin will grow up.'

And that - I thought - was that, until a further fifteen years or so rolled by. Then we received in the post, out of the blue, a book with my comment on Kevin as its epigraph. It was in fact a very fine book of poetry, by the egregious Mr Higgins himself, showing not only a great feeling for language and imagery, but a wry compassion for our self-deceits; a wryness only occasionally extended to jaundice when looking at our greater hypocrisies, such as those we invoke in the name of society - but I forbear to cite Mrs Thatcher's comment on THAT topic. 

Those who place Kevin in the line of Jonathan Swift seem to me to have good reason. Where he has a target, he pulls his victims apart with laughter, but with a laughter which can often pierce the veins more accurately than a knife. And he is no more sparing of himself than he is of others; because for all of us it is true, as he writes in his poem 'Autobiography', 'I'm the things / they never found out about.' But his poetry is more than satire; because his smile, however bitter, also seems to contain compassion, albeit rueful, and a perspective which allows us to evaluate the judge as well as the condemned.

So here we are today the absurd but poetic inversion of our roles. I am retired from the public world, with only my imperialist bauble [MBE] as compensation; whilst Kevin is now a fully-fledged poet, and we know from Shelley that 'poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world'. It is a pleasure for me to acknowledge Kevin's ultimate triumph. In standing here to launch his collection 'The Ghost in the Lobby' I feel a bit like the fraud his his poem:

'When you need someone to recite your lines to,

I'll have somewhere else

To be. But when, crossing the road,

On your way to the Oscars,

You're knocked into a coma

By a passing fire truck

I'll be happy

To accept the award

On your behalf.'

Kevin - to quote another poet, Emily Dickinson, continue to 'see the world, but see it slant' - keep away from fire trucks, and collect many awards - you deserve them." Nadia Conway, April 20th, 2014. 

Saturday, 14 June 2014

15 Years Reviewing for The Galway Advertiser

My review of Hellkite, the recent short story collection by Geraldine  Mills, is published in this week's Galway Advertiser.

SINCE 2001, Geraldine Mills has published six books - each its own particular kind of gem - and yet she is much less famous than she should be.” You can read the review in full on The Galway Advertiser website. 

My first ever book review was published in The Galway Advertiser way back in June 1999, exactly fifteen years ago. The book reviewed was Kerry On My Mind, a collection of essays by Kerry poet Gabriel Fitzmaurice. You can read my first effort at literary criticism in Mentioning the War: Essays & Reviews (1999-2011), which was published a couple of years ago by Salmon

No one else has mentioned this anniversary, so I thought it only appropriate to send myself a card. 

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Toilet Paper

Just read Kevin Kiely's scabby and boring auld attack on Seamus Heaney's poetry in the current issue of Village magazine. The sourest grapes from one of the Eamon Dunphys of Irish poetry. Nothing to do with Heaney at all of course; it's all about the literary giant that isn't Kevin Kiely. 

The question, really, is why is it nearly always the left - to which side Village magazine leans politically- that gives final refuge to the cranks? 

While you're pondering that, I'm happy about one thing: we'll be buying one less roll of toilet paper in this house on Friday. Village magazine will do nicely. A bit on the shiny side. But fuck it, I've had worse.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

John Waters without the whiskers

This March we had some work done our house. At the outset, the builders had to dig up the front garden as they needed to ascertain what sort of ground the house was built on. When they had done so, I jokingly asked one of the builders if they had found the bodies yet?
If, say, a human skull, just the one, had been found under our front garden, the area would immediately have been cordoned off by Gardaí and a lot of unpleasantness would have ensued. 

I doubt that Tom McJerk or John Waters would have rushed onto the Vincent Browne Show to say that the finding of this skull needed to be viewed in the context of Irish society as it was when our house was built (1988). Back in 1988 it was common practice in the Newcastle area of Galway City to bury at least one human skull under every front garden, to ward of future Fine Gael - Labour coalition governments, or some such.

The fact that the land on which the former Mother and Baby Home in Tuam, County Galway stood is not, as I type, already surrounded by crime scene tape is proof that, despite all the jabber, the Holy Roman and Apostolic Catholic Church is still getting special treatment.

There is now little doubt that 796 children died at this home between 1925 and 1961. There is also not much doubt that some of their skeletons are in a disused septic tank on the site. It's also likely that there are other such burial sites, near former Mother and Baby Homes, around the country.

But just when you thought that truth might be about to force its way into the open, here comes Rosita Boland with an orticle in today's Oirish Times trying to muddy the water. Rosita makes it clear that she is against burying children in septic tanks; and that what happened is very terrible. The main point of her orticle though is to say that - all this long time ago terribleness duly acknowledged - there couldn't possibly be 796 skeletons in the particular septic tank which this week achieved world fame. 

When discussing the processing of human beings by the state - for this is what happened at that Tuam home - it is dodgy practice indeed to engage in such statistical quibbling. The Tuam Mother and Baby Home was not Treblinka or Vorkuta, no. But it was several stops along a similar train track. It's just that the nuns never engaged in systematic extermination. Some of them did, it's pretty clear, engage in a bit of ad hoc killing by, at the very least, allowing children to die. And no one any longer bothers to deny that slave labour by those interned there was central to the modus operandi of such homes, as was also the case with the Magdalene Laundries. Rosita is against all that; but she prefers to witter on about precisely how many are buried where. 

Boland's article will be jumped on by Catholic apologists - the Breda O'Briens, the David Quinns, all that crew - as evidence that the liberal media rushed to judgement on this matter. Rosita could have written about the how Nuns likely killed a few of the children who died at that home in Tuam. But no. 

Rosita Boland, when she writes about literary matters, is often a rather silly reactionary of the 'who let the rough necks into the parlour' variety. Now she appears to have morphed into John Waters without the whiskers, an untreatable condition which can lead, in chronic cases, to a column in The Irish Catholic.

Now, especially for Ms Boland, here is something from Tuam's finest.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

An Apology

Last year, during an interview with Mel Ulm for his Reading Lives website, I made the following comment: “I like the sound of the Five Star Movement in Italy, led by the comedian Beppe Grillo, which recently got a big vote in the general election there.

A little later in the same interview I said this: “I think there are many on the left who richly deserve to be handed over to the Argentinian Generals."

The full interview can be read here.
The dude on the right in white is Beppe Grillo. He is now considering an alliance in the European Parliament with the dude on the right with the teeth. See here

It seems many in Grillo's Five Star Movement are not as in love with Nigel Farráge as Beppe Grillo appears to be. However, I feel I must now issue this clarification: last year I would have voted for Beppe Grillo. Now, I think he should have this done to him. 
Grillo says his new buddy Nige is not a racist. Who knows? Perhaps, on a personal level, he isn't? Maybe Farrage's yacht club style rants about Romanians are just a ruse to get idiots in Thurrock and Rotherham and Billericay all hot and bothered. Perhaps he doesn't believe a word of it. Farrage has the turd gobbling grin of someone whose political career will likely end in scandal. Hopefully he'll be caught by a photographer from the Daily Express engaged in a threesome with the late Robert Kilroy Silk and an illegal immigrant from Tajikistan in a budget hotel near Brimsdown...In the meantime, Farrage is a toxic knob who shouldn't be encouraged.

Personally, I don't understand people bothered by immigration. Never have. I'd far rather live in a country which people were trying to get into than one from which they were forever trying to escape. I have an extended essay on this subject 'Unmasking the Real Enemy' in my book Mentioning the War.  The essay can also be read on the web archive of Red Banner magazine, where it first appeared in 2001. 

Since then my ideas have evolved very slightly. I now also believe that, far from clamping down on immigration, we should consider instead deporting some of the locals - those with entirely able bodies who spent the years before the crash passing wind into cushions bought for them by others, and writing complaining letters to the local rag. Give all of the genuinely useless a one way ticket to Madagascar or Belarus and free up some space for a few more immigrants who are in general altogether more charming and hardworking than the average UKIP whinger from Basildon or Doncaster.

Similarly, I also feel I need to clarify my comment about feeding some on the Left to the Argentinian Generals. 

 I think there are many on the left who richly deserve to be handed over to the Argentinian Generals.”

Obviously, this was a disgraceful comment. And I entirely stand by it.