Postcard from the Edge of the Townland

This week, I met Brian, the writer.
I would never ever, ever, say this. Your text is past the point of rescue remedy. Complete Trollop’s. Never. Not ever. Always pour forth. You are getting there. I look forward to being a reader of your novel, printed and guillotined out of your mind, by Caesarian section, just in case the Manor Hamilton vet’s scan shows that there are two lambs in her uterus, Romulus and Remus. The Cotswold countryside is full of fecking fleecy sheep, Mr. Murphy.
The classroom, slow to react, was uncertain.
From Manor Hamilton mart, He continued, then sat down.
Is that paragraph good enough to pass your editor’s censorious picque.
Where the feck is the Cotswolds, again. The flautist piped up.
Let us pull out the map of Sasanach, and draw your fecking sheep on it, not on mine, your map, your hand drawn map, his teacher replied. Our understanding of their geography comes from the radio, the Cotswolds is silly mid-off when bowling from the Manchester end, wearing a woolly jumper on a scorching hot day. Overheated, he starts his run up at Hadrian’s wall. He is out, caught, by a snick to the first Cotswold. Mr Murphy the Irish Newsreader, is new to cricket commentating. He must have been left handed.
Republican lessons were going down a treat in the Corracloon School.
Brian had gone visiting over the weekend and had a new ally, receiving a book from an Alternative Ulster library on fungal taxonomy, the science of classification and the identification of the species from far flung country-sides from the Cotswolds to Barbuda.
The title of the fecking book, in a series of monographs on Humour Research had the bizarrely inappropriate title – A sence of humour. A thesis, read only once, by the poor author, so full of typos, which is so fecking funny, you cannot believe, I am serious, but I am.
Oberon, what is the problem. He is training to be the next dog in space.
Corracloona, we have a problem.
Oberon wants to go out for a space-walk.
Do not bother Mary or us.
Taxonomy is the great extinguisher of mirth, the next class, Mr. Murphy, thought ahead, almost for the first time in his life. Planning, scheming always, but thinking ahead. Never. In that stubborn, Ulster, blackberry bath of grey mould of a way, in a Penicillin prescription voice, that brings me on to Manor Hamilton, later on in the morning to return Library books, from that foetid stew that is his mind.
This week, I met Brian.
The bowl on his space ship is low in water and out of carrots, except there is a half, actually a smidgin less than a quarter of a carrot, still in his bowl, but there is no kibble.
I think we are getting there, closer to Corracloon.
The hermitage’s bedroom door is open. He puts his hand out and closes it.
The extraordinary happens.
Oberon pants vigorously after the aerobic exercise of barking continuously, while being ignored. Unlike Bran, he eats carrots quietly, in between barking.
He knows the story is not funny, and he is exhausted barking at me for offenses against the state of Oberon act. I read to him in my Richard Burton voice, as if it were Under Milk Wood. He sits by my side like a Manxian Panda, black and white with three and a half legs, settled, his gavel meeting out justice in camera in hermetic chambers. Oberon’s skill in justice extends to salami, which he found in a box of taxonomic collections left down to dry from Belmont’s picnic on Friday.
It is Monday. He looks to me to have the recess terminated, sitting, repositioned, back to the door.
‘Vivid Vivienne’s baskets from vimnalis in Vermont require Vermouth to soothe, explaining the benefit of the republic to the citizens of The States’ Mr. Murphy said. ‘The making of basket cases is our next class in Corracloon, Mr. Murphy continues. A class in home economics for your formation. ‘And Snowberry by the school yard grows native in Virginia, Symphytocarpus virginiana, continuing his taxonomy lesson, totally invasive, and unsuitable for making of baskets, but wreaths at Christmas perhaps, when it Snows on Killymanjaro.
Found your inner voice yet, Sir.
That is not funny.
Oberon, gnaws and licks in an attempt to soothe the itch of his underbelly mange, back to the door.
This week, I met Brian.
He is actually a writer. So much so, when he retired after his parents died and he bought an abandoned republican National School in Corracloon, to write in.

Corracloona,
Tuesday

Dear Brian,
Thank you for your hospitality in Corracloon on Saturday, and I trust you enjoyed your visit to our wee monastic hermitage in Corracloona by return, where our dogs eat carrots. Hope your dogs are well, especially the epileptic one. We enjoyed the homemade flapjacks and the black Earl Grey tea. Maria sends her Aubergine recipe from Manor Hamilton library.
Learning from you,
Regards,

Mr. Murphy.

800-850 words.

Oberon sounds suitable for the Angelus

He goes in the rushes. When he is done, he bursts through the tussocks, rustling back onto the path.
Come on, Obi!
He gets to the door first.
I look in the window passing, see Oberon up on the bed already, walk to the door and shutting it, the door clips home.
Oberon is now drinking in his room, lapping, a sound track suitable for the Angelus. He moved on and is now settled behind the kitchen door. His chin is on a floor mat, watching.
Five books are to go back to the Library, in the morning, to Manor Hamilton. They are laid out on the bed.
I cough and splutter. Moving, I sit on the bedside to continue writing.
Oberon repositions himself on the Leaba, watching the kitchen door, in more comfort.
I turn in, too, shedding my slippers, which might irritate him, into action.
Oberon resumes his watch, noticing my feet. He picks at the kibble spilled from the bed bound dish.
He looks over at Patricia Fitzgerald’s 2004 book From Pictures to Words, a guide to books for children, by a County Clare Librarian.
Oberon is wondering when Howard would write and illustrate a book to read to dogs at bedtime, especially for him.
He growls, now, as I type up this.
He gnaws at the duvet, grooming the sheets, a pelt satisfyingly mange free. He noses and tips the bowl and then, nose in, selects another kibble, with a deft sweep of his tongue.
My arm is like that of a right-handed swimmer, with the muscle on the back forearm, tightening with each progressing sentence.
Oberon sits. His ears follow the sound of the story on the radio, and the rubbing of my toes and feet together. Socks hang from the radiator.
Oberon descends from his perch, and I check on him, disturbing him in the process. He is nosing around my shoes and socks. He lies flat out on the tiled floor. He rises, checking on Maria sounds, emanating from the kitchen – pots moving between berths on the cooker’s ceramic rings.
Howard remembered that Mary said Jose called her a good cooker. Jose was a kid, brought over by a Spanish priest, who came to stay in Ballyanne. The priest of Rathgarogue, Father Frank had arranged for a Spanish exchange in the parish, and one of the kids in the group to stay with her, and be on his best behaviour, with his most trusted parishioner, Mary. In his gratitude, Hose’s innate Spanish humour, attempting to speak polite English, lives on in Mary’s mind.
Michael Murphy, the newsreader, another Spanish exile, writes poetry of emulating voices for the Beeb Four, with select vocabulary of perfectly pronounced language of Joanna Trollope, one could never find on Irish Radio at Montrose.
‘A Country Girl’ starts on the radio. Ah, the stage Irish …
Oberon began to breathe more regularly and dozes off. The radio reception tuning here North of Manor Hamilton leaves a lot to be desired, contrasted with kettle boiling noises … as the water temperature, and the steam pitch rises.
‘Howard’, she calls.
‘Yes’, he responds.
Maria lightly scrapes and thunks on some crockery on the cooker with a fork, as Howard imagines that she is plating up din-dins.
As the Beeb Four radio play proceeds, he ask ‘What is that tune?’
‘The Parting Glass’, she replies.
How interesting! Go on https://www.lichenfoxie.com; do the contemplation required, reflect on the meaning of …
din,
before and after din …
make a composition about din,
in a poetic mode of thought.
He awaits dinner … but cannot write for much longer.
That’s it, time is up. His arm feels that last surge to write.
Come on! She calls …
Coming …, coming …

Aubergines sliced and salted,
dabbed in cream flour,
as batter,
fried on a pan,
chilies for her,
none on his,
serving,
after swabbing in a dish …
of microwaved honey.

‘That’s the amazing thing about a recipe’, from a vegetarian cookbook from the Manor Hamilton Library, she began, ‘is that even if one might not have tried or tasted it before, when making dinner, recipes really work out, best’.
Mary’s daughter, Maria, is a good cooker.
Should we keep the cookbook out for another week, or bring it back, man yana?

736 words

Howard Fox
20th August 2019

Lughnadhsa

LIn the hall, the scribes quietly put pencil to paper.

The North West is one of those dark places in our landscape. The moor on Thur Mountain has to be traversed to get to Manor, as the crow flies from the Black Pig’s Dyke at a ford west of Upper Lough Mac Nean. The walkers, to this haven, have picked the day before the grouse shoot opens. Frochans are barely ripe, with a green powdery bloom on the berries. Sika Deer in the woods of Corracloona know these mountain trails well. The first part of this walk follows a burbling stream, up through hazel and beech with mushrooms, then into the eyrie Sitka Spruce. A fire had claimed some young trees, years before, and the desolation of charred Spruce made for a relatively easy traverse.

At the bridge, there is another bothar heading up Thur Mountain. We are aiming to the right, making sure we hit the pass for Manor. The weather is improving today, and the midges are not part of our irritations. Walking into the heather, Oisin picks some buds of Bog Myrtle and makes a lozenge from them. He will taste this, until he lunches on cais, a Queen Maeve’s hard version. The story goes that in battle Maeve was hit on the head with a hard cheese, was concussed and died. Not an easy way to go …

Howard Fox, 11 August 2019

Themes

A pool of landscape myths for
bringing to culture, renewed;
the Shannon sings her legends
for drinking cattle.
Her stories of place
assimilate Gaelic tales,
creating a mythology for
each part of our country;
bringing these threads,
from the enlightenment, to you;
a sense of belonging
to each place,
of ours.

Howard Fox, 11 August 2019

Themes and Lughnadhsa are two short pieces which emerged from a creative writing class run by Monica Corish, at the Glens Centre, Manorhamilton, County Leitrim on 11 August 2019. Many thanks.