“Like jazz on a summer’s day”

A year ago today – October 12, 2015 – my novelist uncle (and my godfather) died. Incredibly, my mother would follow her brother on October 26. It has not been a “good year.”

But my recent personal “trials” had actually begun a year and some earlier: on February 2, 2014. On that day we were told (while we were in America) that Kam, our friend of two decades, had died (in London) after several years of illness. Upon hearing the depressing news, I felt sadder and sicker than I had ever felt over a death before in my entire life. A few days later, I wrote about her here.

Naturally afterwards we others out here all have to live on, but being unexpectedly confronted with a reminder of a deceased loved one can be a harshly unpleasant and emotional moment that no one else quite comprehends. In this case, I was taken aback last weekend when I saw a late 2013 photo of her – only weeks before her death – in our Irish friends’ lounge. A little while ago, I ran it through the Prisma photo app, which in one format converted it into almost the otherworldly:

Prisma photo art app: "Tears". [Original photo, 2013.]
Prisma photo art app: “Tears”. [Original photo, 2013.]

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Weekend In Dublin

Ireland: the moment you arrive, you feel at home. Perhaps as an American that’s at least partly due to its familiarity. Like many Americans, some of my ancestors moved to America from there.

Yet ancestry is not one of the reasons I have been drawn to it. Frankly back in my teens it had never been somewhere that I had dreamed of visiting. In fact, quite the opposite.

I was never close with the Irish immigrants and their U.S.-born kids who were all on my dad’s side of the family. Indeed, Dad was mostly not fond of them (to be polite). That probably even negatively impacted my outlook about the country while growing up.

On the M1 motorway, outside Dublin, heading towards another city on the island of Ireland. [Photo by me, 2016.]
On the M1 motorway, outside Dublin, heading towards another city on the island of Ireland. [Photo by me, 2016.]

However, I suppose after seeing it in person the first time I came to appreciate it solely for what it is, uncolored by family prejudices wildly pro or nastily con.

That visit was in long ago 1998. I recall doing a “pub crawl” my first evening with my future wife and her long-time Irish girlfriend, who lived near Dublin city center with her husband.

I also remember by 11pm or so, the three of us sitting in a McDonalds.

And I also still recall the, uh, Mcbuilding seemed to be spinning. πŸ˜‰

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From Across The Irish Sea

Only minutes after I published yesterday’s post, my shaken mother-in-law phoned us with sad family news.

Excerpt from "Distances." Click to expand.
Excerpt from “Distances.” Click to expand.

My wife’s uncle-in-law, who was an inspiration for a gregarious, friendly Irish tourist in Rome in Distances, died at home in London early Sunday morning.

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“You can’t see me or touch me….”

This is the sort of social media that is indeed “social”: a sympathy message last night from an Irish friend – a longtime girlfriend of ours in Dublin, with whom we’d traveled to Florida in the summer of 2014.

The beach behind our Marathon, Florida holiday rental, with an iguana meandering across it. [Photo by me, 2014.]
The beach behind our Marathon, Florida holiday rental, with an iguana meandering across it.[Photo by me, 2014.]

Several years back, her parents passed away within a year of each other. She had also been thinking about our late girlfriend, Kam. She felt this might be helpful to me:

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Having Sat Out That War Is Not A Badge Of Celtic Honor (So Shut Up And Hope Everyone Else Forgets)

A very serious post to start the week. At a U.K. family get-together over the weekend, I witnessed (yet again) an ugly Irish chauvinism and excuse-making for Ireland’s “neutrality” during the Second World War. It had come up amidst chatter in “taking sides” during Saturday’s Rugby World Cup match between Wales and England, which was playing on the TV in the background.

Rooting for Wales, the London-born person of Irish descent declared snidely, “We’ve always fought the English.” That is the core position that underscores everything. If that was all, I could have lived with it.

It wasn’t. What followed was a descent into a Celtic supremacist blathering that drifted into bordering on pro-Nazi – in terms of Irish residents in England having been drafted to fight the Nazis when they were Irish not British…. and the British had been horrible to the Irish over the centuries (like no one knows that?), but the Germans, well….

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At The Irish Frontier

It happened again. Previously it was at Heathrow. This time, it was Dublin Airport.

Arriving on Saturday morning, my passport’s older stamps made it clear immediately to the Irish border agent that I travel to Ireland pretty regularly. After we cleared up that I live in the United Kingdom and not in the U.S.A., he asked me my occupation. They don’t always do that.

Free Stock Photo: Flag of Ireland.
Free Stock Photo: Flag of Ireland.

I chuckled inside: I knew my answer would get a reaction. Whenever over the years I’d said “university administration,” no one ever raised an eyebrow. However, saying you write novels will nearly always – after the surprise has worn off – lead to some good-natured conversation.

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Monasterboice, County Louth

Yesterday was the first time I’d seen this, which is off a quiet side road, north of Dublin. From where you park, you’d think it’s merely an old cemetery amidst the ruins of a couple of old churches. But it’s much more:

Photo by me, 2015.
Photo by me, 2015.

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Left Side Of The Shelf

We’re visiting our long-time friends in Dublin for the weekend. Flew over this morning from Bristol. Haven’t seen them in person since Florida, last summer.

Settling in, I stumbled on this. And, no, I’m not referring to Larsson or Mandela:

Guest room reading, Dublin. [Sneaky photo by me, 2015.]
Guest room reading, Dublin. [Sneaky photo by me, 2015.]

Oh! Dear! God!

That? In our girlfriend’s guest room? I may never recover from the shock! πŸ˜‰

The World’s Sexiest Nationality?

Previously, this blog has dutifully shared what we are informed are “the most attractive accents” in the world. Now this, as reported by a well-respected Irish media outlet. Understand, it is offered here purely for any “research and reference” purposes you may have:

Screen capture of the Irish Times.
Screen capture of the Irish Times.

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FΓ‘ilte / Welcome

I don’t keep close tabs on visitors. However, I have noticed over nearly the year this blog has existed that my “Top Five” countries of daily “regular visitors” clicking in through the web (as separate from those of you who arrive via the WordPress reader) have by now come pretty consistently to be ranked like this each day:

1) U.S.A. [almost always first]
2) U.K. [usually second, but there have been days they’ve outnumbered the U.S.]
3) Germany
4) France
5) Canada [in variations on that 3, 4, 5 order].

Visitors from Australia, Brazil, India, South Africa, Italy, the United Arab Emirates (yes, really), and Hong Kong, also drop by regularly. [He waves.] Although some days none from those countries appear at all. So this snapshot yesterday afternoon was odd, to say the least, which is why I screen grabbed it:

Interesting stats on Tuesday afternoon, U.K. time.
Interesting stats on Tuesday afternoon, U.K. time. [Screen capture by me.]

That was a real surprise. No, no, and I don’t mean it was because someone from Georgia popped by. Rather, notice that the Irish had clicked through in abnormally large numbers – and I’ve not a clue why.

I wake up ridiculously early. So, curious, I had a peek again just after five this morning, UK time. So this is from the first few hours of today obviously:


Interesting. Anyway, in that spirit I’ve posted this “ridiculously early” too. πŸ˜‰ Regardless of where you are reading this today (including you insomniacs – like me occasionally – the world over), “Hello!” πŸ™‚