Corracloona Times

The word written emerges unscathed directly from my mind, to be expressed in ink upon this page. Sunlight warms my front, as I face the gradually filling page… less empty with each sentence. If I were to write a column for the Corracloona Times, there would be bits from the hedges. A primrose, the first of three were offered to me. In exchange I offered conversation on the identity of trees.

Reading is hard to fit into the daily routine at the moment. The radio is silent. That is a help. Writing while reading what one is writing is really the type of reading that I am referring to. Reading with purpose, to enjoy the flamboyancy of one’s own turn of phrase.

Reading novels, I have delegated to Maria. I ask her to tell me the story of the novel and she obliges with a rundown on what has happened in the book. That type of spoken retained story of one’s reading is verging on a type of editing, and that is not the topic of this piece. Reading is. Selection of the bits of the story to paraphrase is fine as censorship when one keeps stum about a particular part of recent reading that one does not wish to raise openly for fear of digression. The story of Lorna Doone is, for example, an epic about a gang of outlaws that have sort of settled in Exmoor in the Devonshire and Somerset districts of South West England.

Reading what one is writing helps the flow of writing. Sometimes it does not and that is called writer’s block. That is not the phenomenon here. I write. I read. I read what I write, and judge not, for that would inflame my censorious editorial pique, a cultural reference to Mr. Murphy, the teacher in Corracloona National School who takes republican classes and all other classes including home economics – basket making, not that that happens in many households around here now.

Reading Mr. Murphy is like telling a story live in front of a camera to everyone in Ireland all at once, which is a national republican reading for the purposes of worrying the citizenry with trifles of governance. Now, now, we must be good readers and focus on our reading. Circular breathing and before the utterances are over, one makes sure that it comes out correctly.

Mr. Murphy, or the model I have for Mr. Murphy is the psychoanalysist, newsreader and poet, Mr. Murphy imagined as a schoolteacher in Corracloona National School in say 1963 when Henry and his son Fred Imshaugh are on their Caribbean adventures, after the Cuba Missile Crisis and the labour strikes om the wharf in Castries. Mr. Murphy is anything but not thorough. Mr Murphy the school teacher on the other hand plans ahead about an hour early in the morning so that he can keep one up on those Cullen’s, Dolan’s, McGowan’s, McGriskin’s and all those pupils of his, in the primary school, who arriving in on Primrose day, 3 March, 4 March, 5 March, take your pick. Imagining how to read like a schoolteacher who has had the experience of time travel through the world of television into the living rooms of the Cullen’s, Dolan’s, McGowan’s and McGriskin’s. And then there is the younger section of a well-known Kilty family of Rock’s. Back in 1963, there were Curlew all over Thur mountain. May I say their quaint whimbrelly call grace notes boomed over the moorland at the back of the school. So to the cast of characters in Corracloona National School, we need a few for a drama in which nothing much happens, followed by nothing much happening, followed by nothing happening at all, except… that when I was trying to calm the class down, didn’t a Curlew, no a Corncrake, appear, and kept me awake all night so the poor Mr Murphy was unprepared for school in the manner to which he had become accustomed in 1963.

Oberon squeals with my laughter. Writing and reading should be fun, and when I fart it ought not to be smelly. Prolonged seated writing and reading has the risk of blowing off, like any other risk, needs to be managed in Corracloona National School. The young Brian, a younger self in 1963 is off to make his name in America, or as we know it, Amerikaye. You cannot be serious. The orange light in the window is a reflection on the thermostat on the wall by the light switch. Maybe I am writing and reading upon empty, to use a fuel analogy. My Lamy is still flowing turquoise prose, but the sky is dimming over Corracloona this evening. Brian wakes all of a sudden and the young Cullen’s, Dolan’s, McGowan’s and that McGriskin lady lets rip in a burst of hilarity. Censor, Censor, tread carefully our reader, mind the verges.

Oberon leans rump forward when I cough, and back, when he is re-assured that I get over my spluttering. Mr Murphy is teaching reading, and today has no idea what is going on, not that he minds.

Yes, your hand writing is grand. Your composition however leaves a lot to be desired and a faint whiff of malodourous gas. Ammonia pipes up Cullen. Dimethyl sulphide, the seaweed gas. In order not to be diverted into reading about chemistry, he wants to bring the subject back to reading about reading.

And this is where it gets interesting. The writer gets nervous and is unsure what to write next. Get over it. You will be fine.

Oberon sighs, his writing does not smell too bad. Who let the Pseudomonas out, quickly changing topics to microbiology. Back to Mr Murphy, who changes into pajahamas and gets ready for bed at home. The composition is chaotic with regard to a timeline of events. Mr Murphy is tired and ready for bed. Oberon exhales and snores quietly from this moment on, until his slumber was disturbed by a more methanogenous emission. The school bench, elbow into the ribs, keeps the pen flowing, the Sligo light house desk lamp is perfect, art deco with some Robin guano near the switch and Andy’s dust from the plasterwork on the house and a FSC badger brush to tidy up for page 10.

Letting the tales emerge, Mr Murphy, is part of the magic of reading. In the 18th century, people who read, came out will well-formed sentences, as if my magic. Reading and writing and arithmetic are the staples of the school syllabus. Reading allows us to inform our imagination, Reading allows us to write, just as we have seen examples of. A lack of cogency we cannot, or can, fix, if we edit the text, leaving that for a better moment, like the present. Mr Murphy came from a long line of Mr Murphy’s that stretched into the future.

Imagining primary school again, for me is imagining two very different teachers. Miss Edith Taylor, and Miss Gloria Carter. Miss Taylor taught at the Cosby National School in Stradbally, before the village became of the Electric Picnic in County Laois.

She was a slight woman, who lived with her sister at the top of the town, and she would wander back up the street after school. She was always engaging, with a smile or a chuckle when she was listening to a child explain what they understood by something.

What am I doing, imagining myself a Mr Murphy, in the school in Corracloona in 1963, when the Imshaugh’s were exploring the lesser Antilles and their lichen biota. Something interesting is going on here in your imagination as a writer and as a reader of your own writing, you are becoming absorbed in composing of a piece of writing about reading writing. At this interlude Mr Murphy takes the badger brush and dusts the Sligo lighthouse desk lamp near the switch, and sees the orange lamp in the distance, just one at the thermostat.

The mechanics of writing and reading are a dance a dynamic parody of fun and nervousness, all rolled into one.

Andy has his home compositions and he is studying for a course of a Monday evening with a tutor in and of Puerto Rico. I have Harris’s Puerto Rico lichen keys here in Corracloona, a solitary bit of American and Puerto Rican culture in the house, apart from a conference abstract book on fungi which sits here too. Following the mushrooms and lichens in Puerto Rico, there are a few references cited in our Saint Lucia studies of 2014. Puerto Rico is warm, pleasantly warm, still in post Hurricane mode, whereas Corracloona is cool, not that I am not warm enough here.

Brian the writer may not be that well, and may have had a few difficult times over the winter. This outburst, to take a Portlaoise analogy, may allow me to centre as a writer to understand the mechanics of writing, reading and may I even dare to say it, reflection, not of the Thermostat lights, but rather of something rather more Puerto Rican. The streets of San Juan and shopping for groceries during the fungus conference. Meeting mycologists at street corners and falling into step to explore the downtown. So where does that leave Corracloona National School grounds, the souterrain of the ancestors, on the upper road in the farmyard where there have outhouses but few sheds. Typing pool calls. End it soon. Both the inside and the outside of the glass pane reflect the orange light of the thermostat. The two orange eyes are of the Corracloona tiger in the woods above Paddy McGowan’s. Nothing much happens in Corracloona, when one is walking from Clancy’s. The emigrant returns, step off the bus and sets forth towards Glenfarne chapel and to the gates of the wood to the shore road around the lake through Carrickreevagh, Meenagh and now the Corracloona link, where the orange eyes of the tiger dance upon the glass pane.

Oberon paws the couch, resettles on it in a rather uncomfortable looking way. This is writing. Resettling on my bench, I feel comfortable. A kiltorcan fossil sits on a green box of slides. The Kiltorcan Monkey Puzzle Pot with its peppercorns deserve an intervention. The tiger now a Malagasy tiger. Peppercorns crack and the taste fills towards my tongue and buccal cavity lining. The tiger in the forest stares back at me, Sarea resinae eyes of the larch in Paddy’s; two points of an ellipsis … Typing pool, darkness. Dusting the lamp makes it gleam, a writer’s studio. Nothing like Brian’s, a school house surrounded by a dynamic set of antiques. This calls for Fillet of Cheddar and peppercorns at three, in the morning, or a Leonard Cohen tune for an hour later. Typing pool, or continue with Tiger? He waits and no tiger fender erupts. The thermostat went off. No tiger eyes in the forest, now, eh… A click, and the tiger eyes are back …

I feel good. My artefacts are nest on the desk, maybe a peppercorn would destroy the humour. Tiny one or a few. After some, typing pool gets my votes… a confident change in activity. Corlea. Seating with back support required. Elbow’s in. Director’s Chair. Some alternative tactile activity, pencil topping, resume in three… Reverie or sleep… Ink or to pencil… Typing pool or sleep… Reading or writing … I glance up at “No tiger eyes”.

Fred used to take Maalox to counter stomach ulcers. Since found to be caused by a spiral bacterial vibrio infection, a spiral microbial plaque that in the mouth Bonjella would soothe. Each choice is a reference point back to my beginnings. Ink pens, Lamy, Waterman and Parker, Christmas presents in the 1980s. For ever getting nibs out of floorboards. Working out all the little cures, from snooker in Carlow, various autobiographical features. A gra to a residence in Annaghmakerrig. Packed and ready in a whisker, of a cat. The tiger is asleep. Fine fire grates, Irish Writers Centre subscription, reminds me of a reading, octagonal table legs. Just need a shoulder massage, another hair combing, armpit pressing into the matins of a Sunday. Zeit fur slapfen.

Typing pool, too long his worry said in a Pranomesque Chantaranothai kind of hiss. Cut to 1989, Mainstreet, Kinlough, cattle wander down the middle of the road heading North, Sunday too, and an excursion to show Pranom about. Not very different from Thailand, Chang Mei, Ireland, J.F.G. Kerr, Irish botanist in Thailand. Another taxonomist story not widely known here in Leitrim, which brings me, to hereby offer to compose a new piece on the Kinlough botanist to the Leitrim Guardian for 2022. Zeit fur tasse gron tee bitte.

Heinrich, How, did he weather the Covid storm. Typing pool. Dead Poet’s Society. American thriller actor Clint Eastwood, Dirty Harry, Cassablanca. Too many film references. The engineer was correct.

Rubbing shoulders with Jeremy … You are a tall chap, he called, as we fell into step heading down the stairs together, he actually rubbed shoulders with me … a pleasure one of those quintessential moments a star understands. Share. Shave. You will feel better. Flustered ambassador of West Cork crafts. Brideshead revisited. Charisma. The Mission. Stories of the Jesuits. Zoilomastix of Philip O’Sullivan Beare. The stories of Mike Pollard. Spectacles of Samuel Jackson. Typing pool.

Howard Fox

2236 words

05 to 16 March 2021

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