Out of Darkness Into Loving Light

As most of you will know Helen my dear wife of nearly 44 years passed away on Christmas Day 2016 and what followed was six months of darkness, loneliness and absolute hell, poorly controlled by foreign travel to England, Malta, Morocco, France, Belgium and Italy.  Travel I thought might help and in a way it did but it was not a cure, more a temporary boost which reverted to status quo as soon as I returned to Boyle.

Then sometime before my Italian trip I met a woman.  Not just any woman, who wears a skirt and six inch heels and pays a coiffeur big bucks every few weeks and makes a take-over bid for the cosmetics counter every time she walks through an airport.  No, this woman thinks, has a mind to match anybody’s, a slim athletic body and a glorious limp caused by 40 years of triumph at beating men at their own game.  She is an academic, an athlete, a writer, a poet.  To all intents and purposes a polymath, although she thinks of herself as normal, mundane, incomplete, a person in a crowd of people.  Understated is her middle name.

I had hardly a chance to glow in her presence when I was whisked off to Italy to watch Madame Butterfly at the arena in Verona.  There were four of us, myself, Daughter No 2, Daughter No 4 and Son No 2.  The idea was to bask in luxury, think of departed Helen and watch and listen to one of her favourite operas.  We did this and more.

Our first night was in the finest B & B in Italy, Stile Libero, in a village adjacent to Bergamo Airport, whilst we awaited an African flight the following day.  Our journey had been car to Dublin, Dublin to Manchester, Manchester to Bergamo, courtesy mainly of Ryan Air.  The cheapest way we thought but has we waited for our anticipated flight the tannoy announced the arrival of a Ryan Air flight from Knock.  There is no accounting for the availability of Ryan Air.  The few bob saved was nothing compared to the high level logistics it had taken for us to arrive in northern Italy.  Cap off to Stile Libero and also Ryan Air for our realisation of how necessary proper research is needed in planning a trip.

That afternoon we drove on to Verona, that ancient Roman city on the Adije, staying close to the amphitheatre of music and adjacent to a 2500 year old gate to the historic town, in a 15th century town house called Suite Finardi, owned and managed by beautiful Italian women who had filled their rooms with antique luxury and 21st century comfort.

The opera was a sight to see.  An open air terraced space 30 metres high built originally for 30,000 Lombardistas, but now seats 20,000 internationalistas and constructed about 30 AD,  as Jesus was being crucified,  for more brilliant open air spectaculars.

The sight was perfect, booked into some of the best seats in the house.  Us in our scruffs and surrounded by European pedantry of dress.  Uncles with nieces, gentlemen with lovers, beautiful experienced women with young men straight off the dress walk, all in fabulous couture, all in expensive maquillage, men and women alike.  If the opera had been cancelled it was worth the seat just to watch these people far removed from my own existence.  However the opera was on and what a performance.  I came home satisfied and aware that with so much beauty on tap, the end of the world is far from nigh.  Three hours of total immersion in quality.

Home to luxurious bed, breakfast as usual in a little trattoria opposite our rooms.  Fruit, yoghurt and eggs a million ways..  As fine a repast as I ever hope to eat.

But now it is time to return Son No 2 to England to take up his necessary work and study, whilst we laze in lovely Bergamo.  A walk from the low town to the high town, historically and logistically set along a steep escarpment that nearly did for me.  Daughters No 2 and 4 skipped up like young lambs.  Oh for long banished youth.  I should have lived my life better.

An evening feast in a good restaurant, Enotica Zanini Osteria, conducted by a maitre d’ who knew his stuff and realised our interest in the local area and went beyond the call of duty to explain, display and advertise the regional goodies, bottles of wine came out not on the carte, little amuse bouche chivvied out of the chefs appeared on the table.  It was a thoroughly delightful and delicious couple of hours.

We took the funicular back to the low town but still had hills to climb.  Daughter No 4 with her fitness at peak levels walking up hills backwards, doing stretches as she waited for Daughter No 2 to arrive and wet her pants in laughter and then they both sat on a bench and had a little feast as I chugged up manfully some time later.

A trip to Lake Como was planned.  We went and immediately came away.  Crowds and Italian McDonalds hastened our departure.  So up into the mountains we went on the Swiss/Italian border along roads last travelled by Hannibal and found a little brewery tucked into a fold in the hillside besides a cascade of water tumbling down the heights.  I stop here a minute while I describe the growth in Italian craft beers.  Like most European countries, Italy has cottoned on to the Belgian tradition and is now producing beers from centuries old recipes of absolutely wonderful quality.  Everywhere we went we had beers that tickled the palate, eased the throat in that marvellous climate.

This brewery produced four different beers of great quality using water from this gushing adjacent mountain stream.  But not only that  they had a kitchen pushing out rustic dishes of Swiss/Italian tradition and the people spoke in a fusion of language that was difficult for our in- house linguist to understand.  Antipasti was recommended and was huge.  One portion did the three of us.  I then had a dish called Stinko that eventually translated as Pig’s Leg.  It was superb.  We came away satisfied, with our chow having been washed down with pints of red and brown beer.  The whole was an experience.

It was time to leave Italy, its pleasantness, its welcomes, its food, its beer, its wines which we really enjoyed.   I arrived in Boyle in the early hours and to a welcome sleep, with the thoughts of this wonderful Galwegian woman residing in Sligo on my mind.  Thoughts that had never receded even when drowning in beauty and finesse of the Italian variety.

I dragged myself up and arranged to meet this fair maiden at my earliest opportunity.  We met at Lough Talt, a lovely spot halfway between Ballina and Tubbercurry, high in the Ox Mountains of North Mayo/South Sligo.  For those of you of geological disposition, a sister of the Appalachian chain in North Eastern America founded 480 million years ago before the Atlantic Ocean inconveniently separated the siblings.

We met there several times, the clear air and calm water encouraged our thoughts of each other and we have been inseparable since except of course when her athletic pursuits push us apart.  I hope fervently that this friendship endures.  A good man needs an even better woman.  I now sink into a glorious dream of a life so dark a few months ago which has metamorphosed into a loving light.  Into a lustrous autumn of 2017 and hopefully a sublime 2018 and wandering on into old age, an old age stretching for miles.  This lady has the lot including a propensity for fancy tea.  That does for me.

Fresh Lonely Air In Manchester – Part 4

My sojourn in Manchester is slowly coming to an end, two and a half days of authority induced mayhem whilst they arrest every man with a slight hue, give him a cup of tea, ask him how he is then release him.  It is musical chairs time in Manchester Police Stations.  There is lots of work building up for me in Boyle and I will be glad to get home but life here is so exciting in this working class capital of working class ideals.  For some a wonderful time to be active.  For a few a life that was not wasted.  These people will be remembered as much as the people of Peterloo.

Sunday morning dawns, a grey muggy Manchester morning.  There has been rain overnight.  This should suit the runners.  This is the day of the Manchester Run, 35,000 hell bent athletes aiming to decrease their life span by a few weeks over a 10km run for a charity and I think the biggest beneficiary will be the Lord Mayors Fund for victims of the bomb last week.  Hoping to see a few relatives later on when the roads are cleared because there will be more spectators than runners, but at the moment the roads of Manchester belong to the trotters.

Posters and tee shirts are being sold all over the town declaring the fact that the wearer and the shopkeeper all love Manchester.  “I (red heart) Manchester as become a bill board ensuring it drags customers into retail outlets to provide more and more profits for businesses.  Thoughts of the 22 dead are no more, profiting and propagandising Manchester ensuring customers and tourists spend more is the key.  A disgraceful turn of events.  Even Selfridges have got the slogan splashed all over their various doorways.  Printers, sign writers and tee shirt manufacturers are making hay while 22 funerals are being arranged.  Facebook have even set up a page dedicated to the modern and ridiculous fetish of people wanting to get involved in the ghastly narrative.  With the forthcoming  funerals I hope these glory seekers both amateur and professional will leave the grieved to grieve, will leave the various families to remember quietly their deceased loved ones and for the occasion to be remembered in silence and not in razzmatazz.

This morning I have it on good authority from high class butchers who supply the hotels and restauranteurs who feed the hungry that they were really expecting a turn down in business in the run up to the Bank Holiday weekend, but in fact business is up and soaring dealing with the mad influx of visitors and tourists gaping at the maudlin antics of the masses of Manchester displaying their total unawareness of tragedy.  At 8.30am in Chorlton in south Manchester this morning there was a queue 150 metres long outside a tattoo parlour waiting to have a bumble bee tattooed on various parts of their anatomy for £50 a throw.  The bumble bee for the unknowing is the symbol of Manchester, or so they tell us.  The young people of this town are going off their rockers trying to be as good if not better than the rest of their cohort.  Why this outpouring of madness, this insincerity, this unbelievable propulsion to be disfigured.  Why, because 22 innocents have died.  Madness is to mild a term for it.  Population dumb down, societal suicide, fraternal fuck up are more accurate terms.  People are far more stupid than I ever thought, certainly in Manchester, the place I once called home.

Richie Allen in his radio show broadcast out of Manchester said he was amazed at this generation of 20 something Mancunians honed on fancy mobile phones and social media for their lack of empathy for what has happened taking a totally narcissistic view of the proceedings.  All wanting to be part of a tragedy that they were not a  part of.  It shows up this generation and I suppose they could have come from any town, the first to be really subject to this digital influence.  It bodes ill for the future.

So enough of the gullibility of youth, my life has still to steer its course and so it is back to the party house for lunch, for a post party party, to scoff all the food and wine left over from yesterday.  We become vacuum cleaners.  So then on to see younger brother who has been down town for the Manchester Run.  He had a team of his students off in the second batch.  Because of the number of runners they were letting them off in batches of a thousand with a few minutes gap between batches.  I suppose it was to stop too many bottle necks.  With 35,000 runners there had to be some management.

We had a couple of pints together, I was on my favourite cider, Weston’s Old Rosie and at 7.2% proof, two pints were plenty.  We caught up with latest events in the family and had an enjoyable hour together.  It was then back to Daughter 3’s house for oriental stuffing of face.  She had been to the Farmer’s Market in the grounds of the local hospital.  There was a stall selling good quality mayonnaise of two varieties.  One called Theresamayonnaise and the other Jeremayonnaise.  At the side of the stall was a big swingometer showing who was buying what.  Theresa had hardly got out of her blocks while Jeremy was half a mile down the track.  Another example of how things political are not what they seem, certainly in Manchester, verging on snobby Cheshire.

Another early night was called for, in bed for 9.00pm and up at 4.45am with a long wait for people to rise on this Spring Bank Holiday morning.  I have just finished reading Hunter Davies’s autobiography up to 1960, “The Co-op’s Got Bananas”.  An excellent read through his first 24 years from impoverished Carlisle/Scottish family, through Durham University, to early journalism in Manchester to eventually the Sunday Times and marriage to his childhood sweetheart, Margaret Foster, a distinguished figure in her own right.  Who in the course of the book I fell in love with but she died also in 2016.  An unlucky year for both my ladies and especially for me.  The book is well worth reading with its voyage through the war years and the money-less 1940s and 50s to a bright awakening in the 1960s.

It is my last whole day in Manchester and it’s off back to Boyle tomorrow.  It has been an interesting, exciting and sadly tragic few days, although I doubt I could ever live here again but it is good to smell the air.  There is no doubt that Manchester owns itself and does not need to cow-tow to anybody, least of all to Tory government ensnared London.  If only Manchester would only halt a while in its rapid forward progress and let the city fathers throw a few quid into a pot to do up the roads of the city.  They are in a god awful mess with pot holes you could hide a mini in.  Besides their being a safety hazard, it is not good enough for a city trying to embrace the 21st century.

Whilst writing this my Son2 who was visiting showed me an article in the Daily Express, now it seems called the Express, about a missile being launched by the RAF at ISIS, with the words “Love from Manchester” written on the side of it in both English and Arabic showing that higher brains were at work other than the poor squaddie.  A poor, poor message to send to Johnny Foreigner.  The Express said it was a brilliant message from the UK.  God help us all and God help the poor bastard kids it was aimed at.

I went down to see Daughter 1 who had been forgotten in all this party going, and although the cordon had been lifted, the police were still lurking three days after the raid.  She was telling me of the wanton damage done to people’s property when Manchester’s might invaded Fallowfield gardens.  I hope they compensate those involved.

The police have about 15 under lock and key but no doubt most will shortly be released.  It’s what happens on all these occasions.  A sign to the public that they are doing well and are on their toes and then they say the bomber was not part of a network and then let the arrested go.  A line of thought is going the rounds that most experts in these situations do not think that this was a false flag event.  It is thought that Salman Abedi, the so called bomber had doors opened for him.  The fact that he travelled to Libya, Tunis, Turkey and Germany in the days before the explosion suggests to some that the security forces would have been aware of his intent and opened the doors for him to walk through and carry out his ghastly deed.  There is some mileage in this theory but I doubt if we will ever know.  The true sadness is that 22 people died who did not expect to and through no fault of their own.  I feel for them and their families.  There will be a lot of hard times ahead for those and for the badly injured of whom, I understand, there are a lot.

My visit is more or less complete, it has been a different one than I imagined.  I must thank Daughter 1 and 3 and her extended family.  I am not the easiest of house guests but I have ate some good food, drank some good beer and marvelled at the cheapness of decent wine in England .  Where in Ireland would you get a bottle of Malbec, bottled in Mendoza for £4.  Our last meal was lamb marinated in spices, spuds and salad, but cooked with such finesse you would have paid £30 for it in a restaurant.  Full of middle eastern flavours, the potatoes roasted in garlic, rosemary and harissa until crisp, I could have eaten all day.  In our parting chat Son 2 explained how he is still having a hard time of it over his mother’s death but we explained that he was not alone, it affects us all and we all have to find our own way of dealing with it.  He went away hopefully in a decent state.

Up now on my parting day at 5.00am ready for my return journey in 10 hours time, although the airport is only a hop and a step from this house.  I like to be well prepared.  Goodbye Manchester, nice to have known you.  I am shortly off to France and Belgium.  Another step through tightly controlled security cordons.  It seems this is life these days.

Arriving at Manchester Airport I noticed how security had been tightened up.  Half the bags were being sidelined and opened and property confiscated with an extra hours delay for those people.  The airline had reduced the size of cabin bags and mine, which had been on hundreds of aircraft over the last ten years, did not fit.  I was ordered to pay£40 to put the bag in hold.  FlyBe was the carrier and I considered that to be an unfair practice.  The standard bag cost more than the ticket, the trick of a cheapskate.  I would ask you all to reconsider if you are thinking of flying FlyBe.  They have certainly lost one customer in me forever.  They are the only carrier to reduce the size of bags when the whole world have bought the standard bag.

Fresh Lonely Air In Manchester – Part 3

After the bomb in central Manchester interrupted my advent into the city of my birth, I have settled down to write.  What would have been a blog about finally coming to grips with my grief in the city where we courted and raised our family, is now an episodic story in many parts as I slowly try and come to terms with what happened this week in Manchester.

It is now 7.00am on a lovely warm sunny morning, the house is awakening from its slumbers.  One child already watching the early morning television designed for kids attention whilst hard working parents grab a bonus 30 minutes of sleep.  Coffee being made, children being clothed and breakfasted, showers working overtime as the house becomes vibrant and prepares for the day ahead.  It is my favourite time but unfortunately to my regret I missed most of this daily discipline during my working life as it was my duty to be up and at it before everybody awoke.  To this day I cannot eschew that habit.  I certainly see more 5.00ams than 10.00ams but on a morning like this, it is a pleasure.

The kids are roaring, the Grufaloe is on screen and they are quickly prepared for school and nursery by parents who are also preparing themselves for the outside world.  Some of us are off to the country to see rustic relations, others to work to put petrol in the tank.

I meet my aunt for the first time in six or seven years, slightly older, not as nimble on her feet but she is 89ish and she has the same indomitable spirit as always, honed in the agricultural male world where she was the only female.  Having lived with animals all her life, violence and killing was and still is on the tip of her tongue.  Photo albums come out showing groups of relations from the last 140 years and they all looked contemporaries.  Style changes very slowly in the farming world.  She used to milk 40 cows twice a day, do two milk rounds in Denton, tend a massive flock of hens, keep four breeding sows and their numerous off spring all with a crippled hand caused by tendons in her right hand being severed in an accident when she was 20.

Afterwards it was off to leafy police soaked south Manchester for a pre-party party with in-laws celebrating their matriarch’s 90th birthday.  The proper formal do is tomorrow but it’s free and easy today drinking cider at their local bowling club in Didsbury.  Besides the normal POETS day crowd (ie. for the uncertain Piss Off Early, Tomorrow’s Saturday), a reporter, photographer, lighting, soundsman, director, producer of the BBC show Newsnight was there  interviewing pre-party goers, POETS crowd and general alcoholese on what they thought of Jeremy Corbyn’s latest electoral speech which amongst other things dealt with British foreign policy.

He was hoping to ask supposedly intelligent questions to hopefully unintelligent people.  He came to me and I gave him both barrels.  I said “the trouble with you fuckers is that you have your own agenda and whatever I say will turn out differently in your programme”. “No” he said “Some programmes do have a narrative, we don’t”  This is from the programme that pulled the disclosure of Jimmy Savile’s nefarious activities.  “Could I ask you a few questions” he said.  I assented and told him what I have just told you about Tony, George et al.  That to stop terrorist activity, if that is what it is, Britain has to change its policy, climb out of the 19th century approach to colonials.  Stop being the barbaric gangster and try being a humanist.  Blair, Brown, Cameron and May are the real terrorist etc, etc.

Afterwards I listened to three other people being interviewed and remarkably they came out with the same opinion as though we had got into a huddle beforehand.  But it made me appreciate I was not a lone rebel but there are lots of people with obviously the same opinion as mine.  On enquiry afterwards I found out that these other rebels were a school headmaster,  a lecturer in politics Manchester University and a local business man.  No duds certainly.  The whole country I think is not happy.

Hours later we huddled in front of the screen to watch our rebellion unfurl but except for a shot of the bowling green, they, the BBC Newsnight team who don’t have a “narrative”, pulled the item in the programme.  We are left unheard, unrecognised, unaccepted.  What harm!

Saturday morning and it is formal 90th birthday time, 40 honoured guests to be fed and entertained but first flowers to be bought, wine to be purchased, hair to be combed by those that have it.  And before we set off daughter 1 e-mails to say her road in Fallowfield has been closed off and the bomb disposal squad have introduced themselves.  We know no more.  The party cannot wait so we leave Daughter 1 at the mercy of the Bomb Squad.

The party was good, lots of old folk like me celebrating the life of an even older person with plenty of food and drink and I met some really decent if rebellious people.  This Manchester thing spreads through the ages and they have been known to be a little bolshie when faced by opposition.  Since Peterloo in 1814 when 1500 armed soldiers and cavalry charged into a 60,000 crowd of protesting unharmed Mancunians, killing 18 and badly wounding about 700 men women and children.  The people of this town can fight their own corner.

Everybody I have met this week have big hopes for Corbyn and they seem to want to pull Terry May’s underpants down and smack his/her arse.  The people I am talking to are elderly, middle class, affluent and normally devotees of conservatism that lost itself after that cricket loving leader took down the knickers of a Jewish Liverpool girl in a broom cupboard of the Houses of Parliament.  They are not happy with the way they see their sons and daughters having to deal with life’s problems that the Tories have sown.  The message is that Tories are boring disinterested Londoners who have not got a clue about what the rest of the country are thinking eg Brexit.

According to the YouGov poll issued today the Tories had a 22% lead over Labour three weeks ago when the election was announced but in those three weeks, because of social and economic gaffes, they have seen that lead reduce to five points.  Old Jeremy is working hard and five points could reduce quickly in the next two weeks.  Terry’s alarm bells are ringing and don’t I just love to see Tories wetting their knickers.  An even more alarming idea is doing the rounds that the Tories are trying to throw this election knowing the approbation to fall on the next government as it extricates itself out of Europe.

 

Fresh Lonely Air in England – Part 2

I landed at Manchester Airport expecting tight security but saw nothing, it was possibly all centered in central Manchester where the explosion had happened 24 hours earlier.  Thoughts of Helen had been overtaken by circumstances but Daughter 3 was dutifully awaiting as I walked out of the terminal to a very busy early evening rush hour.  Food and a glass of wine, a discussion about the events whilst the helicopters droned overhead.

Up early a game of football to relish this evening, Manchester United v A bunch of teenagers from Amsterdam.  No contest really but it will keep my mind off Helen as I view sites we had always viewed together.  On top of that there is a 50 over game against South Africa tomorrow.

It is now two and a half days since the Arena disaster and with nearly 21,000 kids in the audience that night two things have become obvious.  Firstly the diasporadic spread of the victims, from all over the north of England, one young girl from Barra in the Outer Hebrides and two , I think, from Poland.  Secondly because the explosion occurred in a public area outside of the main security cordon, it looks as though the waiting parents took the brunt of the blast.

As I sit here writing in this leafy suburb of south Manchester, it becomes really scary to see how appearances can deceive.  Houses are getting raided all round me.  Most of the arrests have taken place within half a mile from where I sit.  The Didsbury Mosque where lots of the Libyan community pray is only just through the trees.  However there seems to be repulsion in the Muslim community at this act and I am sure the security forces are picking up lots of intelligence about the disenchanted brethren that infiltrate these religious places.

At least the helicopters are grounded or have run out of fuel. that nuisance is finished albeit temporarily.  I have to ask what could they have done in an emergency.  It was a psychophantic idea as to what will sooth the tortured minds of Johnny Public.  However the authorities continue to close down and cordon off public areas.  Terminal 2 at Manchester Airport and various shopping centres in town bore the brunt today.  Do we not think they are doing a good job without them over-egging the pudding?

It now seems that the security forces knew the poor unbalanced man who is supposed to be the suicide bomber, recently returned from a trip to Libya and it is now suggested he also visited Syria and Germany, or so they tell us.  If so why were they not on his tail.  Why did they not pick him up in one piece before they started  picking him up in several pieces that were mingled with pieces of other poor innocents.  It is too dreadful a scene to be thinking of.  Will those responsible for this act of omission feel in any way responsible.  I doubt it.  Psychopaths with an agenda have no emotion.  Like the troops of war, the general public are nothing more than cannon fodder in the eyes of the “Security Forces”.

Tomorrow I go to see my aunt, the last survivor of my father’s family and as I write a helicopter is circling the skies above me.  Is it me they are looking for.  Is it me who has risen their ire.  Certainly in the last hour police presence in the area has increased.  If it is not me, their geese will certainly have flown.

And one last thought today on these terrible events.  Nowhere in the media, newspapers and banal television, have I seen or heard anybody posit the question why.  Why do these bereft Africans and Asians every now or then take up the idea that they have to rid the world of some good old white folk.  Or perhaps there is another question, do they.  However if we look back over the last twenty years or so and look at the damage us poor white folk have done to their countries, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen, we can begin to realise why.  When we let these poor disenchanted peoples so easily into our community, that this laissez faire attitude of refugee control enables the odd rogue male with a glint in his eye to want to start saying to himself “I’ll have some of that”.

Many people I have spoke to are considering that point of view but what if it is a worse scenario.  What if poor demented Salman Abedi was lured to that spot and the device was remotely detonated.  What if poor old Salman Abedi was not there, the authorities soon had him sorted within hours as though they had been days on his case.

Probably and its more than likely possible that the perpetrators of this Manchester atrocity were Tony Blair for his heroics in Iraq and Afghanistan, George Brown for following in Tony’s footprints, for David Cameron for his gung-ho attitude to Libya and Syria and even Teresa May for continuing the farce in Syria and for selling billions of pounds worth of armament to the demented Saudis so they canm at will continue to massacre women and children in the Yemen.  Whilst the ridiculous psychopaths of Westminster continue to aim their sights at the poor impoverished Muslim communities of Africa and Asia for reasons known only to themselves and their brainwashed acolytes in the services both civil and armed, we have to accept a bit of pay back time.

So stand up  Teresa, David, George and Tony and accept the resulting actions of a very grieved man or men.  It is you that set this explosive device off, it is you who looked down the barrel of the cannon which blew these poorpeople of Africa and Asia to kingdom come.

And so having retched that annoying lump of phlegm from my lungs, I am off to see my aunt who is approaching 90 years of age and has certainly seen better times than this before us today.  But before I go I would just like to thank Daughter 3 and her very patient husband who have boarded me up these last few days and allowed me to climb one more step in my journey of recovery.

 

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