Friday, March 30, 2007

The Quality of Mercy


Though the word 'mercy' has a more comforting ring to it.
I was reading once again about the My Lai Massacre, the horrific murder of helpless women and children caught so cruelly in the Vietnam invasion. And I think of Darfur today and Rwanda and Iraq. All these innocents denied the chance of a life. And - if you believe as I believe that this is the only life we ever get and that Cloud God does not exist - that is a very serious thing. To lose one's only wild and precious life.

I got to thinking of the massacre of my forebears - my mother's forefathers and mothers. There was only one survivor - Philip O'Sullivan who was twelve years old and hid himself away on the Island of Dursey, the seat of the royal O'Sullivan Bearas. The story he told was appalling, all the little babies of the island were put on pikes and paraded throughout the island before their parents eyes and then everyone alive was butchered and thrown over the high cliffs to be dashed on the rocks below. My mother told me the story with passion and fire and always ended with "How can I ever forgive the British for slaughtering my family and for the terrible famine afterwards?"

Here's the story of Dursey:
Dursey Island lies at the south-west end of the Beara Peninsula. The island is separated from the mainland by a narrow stretch of water called Dursey Sound which has a very strong tidal activity. The water swirls in and is quite spectacular to watch. With only a few permanent winter time residents, the island is one of the quietest in Ireland area with no pubs, shops or restaurants. There is no accommodation on the island so unless you have prior arrangements or wish to camp, make it a day trip. Dursey Island, which is only 6.5km long and 1.5km wide, provides the tourist with some lovely walks and breathtaking views of the nearby West Cork coastline.

The island is about 15 miles from Castletownbere, but will take awhile to drive on the narrow roads. You’ll probably want to stop often to view the scenery along the way. Ireland’s only cable car was opened in 1969. It runs at about 250m above sea level, and the 250m trip takes about 6 minutes. The car can take up to six people at a time or one large animal. No cars allowed and you may have to share the ride with smaller animals. The cable car operates between 9 and 11am, 2:30 and 5:00pm, and 7 to 8pm. Different hours apply on alternate Sundays due to mass. Check locally for details.

The island appears to have been inhabited at least back to the bronze age judging from archaeological digs. Kilmichael church was built on the island built by monks from nearby Skellig, but little remains except stones now.
The inhabitants of the island suffered a massacre from the English under Queen Elizabeth in 1602 when many of the captured were thrown over the high cliffs on the island.

Dursey Island was home to Dermot O'Sullivan. He and his allies, the McSweenys, fought the English during the Desmond rebellion as well as the later Munster wars. Most of his sons were killed during the wars. He and his wife sought refuge in Coruna, Spain. He lived to be one hundred years old and he and his wife were buried at the Franciscan Monastary in Coruna.

Thirty years ago, after the collapse of the fishing industry, the government relocated the islanders to the mainland. The remains of the island's three villages can be explored, giving an insight into lives of the people at the time. The island is also well known for birdwatching and has many colonies of birds.

And I'm posting a picture too. A hallowed ground, much like Darfur and My Lai.
And we have to forgive, don't we? Otherwise it eats away at us and chews the very soul out of us. Even when it's a very personal story, like my family history or a more removed one like Darfur or Abu Ghraib. We are all affected by each act of cruelty. It tears the humanity away from us, if we let it.

Our higher selves must overcome the depravity of our lower. Mercy and forgiveness. Amen.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

You shoulda known me then, me boy

You shoulda known me then me boy
With hair so long and a voice so grand
And the bluest eyes and the greatest legs
And wearing the skirts up the to the skies.

And a laugh that would fill your belly
And a hold on the world like a graprefruit
Squeezing every last drop out of it.
And not wasting time with sleeping.

And I’d talk you awake and I’d talk you asleep.
Round the clock. And then again too.
And with a few whiskeys I’d stand on the bar.
And show off my legs and my voice too.

And I was ready for just about anything.
A misfit in a small world of priests and nuns.
I knew there was much more to life
Beyond the stolid walls around Ireland.

And I took my chances and my luggage
And jumped over them with my long legs.
And bit off more than I could chew.
But oh the taste that was in them bites.

It was the freedom of my own rebellion.
There was no stopping me then.
I crowned myself the queen of everything.
Until the whiskey caught in my gullet.

And I choked for years on the vomit
Of the world I’d left behind me
And the bitter bile I’d found on the other side.
Life looks like that from the bottom of a bottle.

Friday, March 09, 2007

A remaining smidgin of vanity

Today was hair colouring day, I keep putting it off and hoping:

(a) the multicoloured hair of my youth returns
(b) a marvellous curly grey starts bursting through my scalp
(c)A silky swirl of white cascades softly down my back ready to be swept up into an elegant chignon.

Alas, none of these options have transpired so I am stuck with colouring my hair about every eight weeks. I really dislike the grizzledy grey/brown/blonde that my hair has turned in the life I have over the fence of sixty. Still very thick, my mother always said we each had enough for two heads and it is true. The hair gene manifests mainly through the female line. My father and his mother and his sisters had skinny sad hair and in my father's case it had just about vanished into a thin white circle of tonsure at the end.

None of the salons surrounding me are familiar with a non-chemical dye which is a frightening comment on the hair industry. Hairstylists believe in stripping and blasting every bit of old colour from the hair then applying bleaches and toxic colours to what's left after the first assault.Frightening. Any research shows that this type of arsenal on the head seeps through the skin and can cause brain tumours.

I buy my colouring in the local health store and it does a fine job. I go lighter than my own shade and at the end of the few painstaking hours it takes with a toothbrush I'm left with colouring that is quite natural.At least my doddery old eyes tell me so and that is good enough.

My little vanity, I have a few. Don't we all.

But surely there is room for an all natural hair salon in a city the size of Toronto?

Sunday, March 04, 2007


God, I love movies, I always have. And write reviews on line and even published articles. And in the past couple of weeks I see clearly what some movies have become. Tripe masquerading as greatness, never more in evidence than in that gob-smacking win by Martin Scorcese for best picture for the regrettable and forgettable "The Departed". Awful bilge.

And then I watch The Diary of Anne Frank for the umpteenth time and it still holds true, nearly fifty years later and the effects of the viewing linger on for a few days. Like all good movies.

Why doesn't Martin aspire, yet again, to something as good as Goodfellas?

Saturday, March 03, 2007


What a lovely word. Evoking a woman so gorgeous that kings would give up their thrones. Wallis Simpson comes to mind. Madame Bouvary. Lillie Langtry. I was reminded of the word when I saw a picture of Victoria Beckham on the arm of her husband. These days it's a lot of work to be a successful courtesan. Victoria's breasts look like they are breastfeeding two bald headed midgets simultaneously. Guarded by a white picket satin fence. Her expression matches the supposition. And only she knows how often the surgeon's knife has inflated or deflated these mammaries. I ponder on the men who cop a feel of these sturdy units. They do not budge. Nailed to the rib cage, they stand erect even when she is horizontal. A man once told me he always knew the revolting feel of silicon and became instantly flaccid. And thought-shift, these over perked plastics could not perform their biological purpose of feeding an infant, could they?

Thoughts go to another famous courtesan. The Anna Nicole. Nailing herself a nonagenarian, billionaire wealthy of course. Courtesans are only for the wealthy (and sometimes for the huddled masses, see below) and are much admired and envied by the knuckle dragging portion of our society. (Question posed to Grade 8 students - both male and female - as to what they wanted to be when they grew up, answer: Famous).

You don't have to do anything you see, if you're an Anna Nicole or a Wallis or a Victoria. In the old days, skills were acquired in the Orient. Today, you just double d your breast size with the the help of a little money-grubbing plastic surgeon and reel in the catch. And sometimes, like Paris Hilton, you become a born-into-wealth courtesan to the afore-mentioned masses. The adulation of a mindless mannequin.

There is no one quite like the Christine Keeler of the sixties who brought down a government. And the art of good conversation evades our present day wannabes. One cringes to hear them interviewed on any topic. Unlike Marilyn Monroe, they will not be caught with a book or the hornrims with which to read it.

My all time favourite of this era is Camilla. For well over thirty years she kept the boy who will not be king entertained, flattered, sexed and nuzzling on her - real - breasts. And envying her tampax.

Now there's a courtesan.