I bitterly regret that I cannot be present for the predicted appearance of the Blessed Virgin at Knock today (3pm). There’s a scary video on YouTube that you can look for showing the last predicted appearance (Oct 11) when this eejit managed to convince 5000 people to show up.

I was going to title this post “Our Lady To Appear In Knock; Catholics Go Gaga” but there’s an awful lot of words between “Lady” and “Gaga” for yez all to get the reference.

I tried to convince my poor old mother last night that she should go. As it turned out, today she plans to visit my sister who lives not very far away from Knock. My mother is more of a practical nature than she is sensitive to the mockings of an ungrateful son, and she pointed out that this detour to Knock would necessitate taking the Derry bus instead, and then how would she get back? “Faith”, was my easy answer.

Over the past few months I’ve had my share of lovely ‘get well’ cards from Ireland, and there are lots of prayers being said for me. There’s a nun in the family too. I have it sorted.

Always one for the nostalgia anyway, inevitably this made me think about my upbringing and education iStBrendans_1956n the tender bosom of the Church. It was a coincidence that the local paper from my old town printed an old school photograph the day before yesterday – my old primary school but at least a decade or so before my time. So thankfully I’m not in it.

But I have to say that we didn’t look all that different to the boys in this photograph.

This was the time of course when we would get “Catholic School Lite” – the early years when you get taught by nuns and by the gentler form of sadist.

Even that is too much for some. Those soft indie rockers in Death Cab for Cutie couldn’t even handle that level of horror:

In Catholic school as vicious as Roman rule
I got my knuckles bruised by a lady in black
And I held my tongue as she told me
“Son fear is the heart of love”
So I never went back

“I Will Follow You Into The Dark” – Death Cab For Cutie

Here’s a gentler reinterpretation of that song:

Amy Millan – I Will Follow You Into The Dark

I see in the same edition of the Irish Times that “Irish at-risk patients to get two shots of swine flu vaccine”. That just begs for a re-run of the old 80s joke on the referendum for the criminalisation of abortion. Before, at-risk Irish people  might not have got Swine Flu at all, but now they won’t get Swine Flu at all at all.

Do you know why people say that? In Irish, there’s a phrase “ar bith”  which means “at all”, but there is also a stronger phrase “ar chor ar bith” and the only half-arsed translation of that into English is “at all at all”. It’s a very poor sort of a language, is the English. To be sure.

Living in Ireland wasn’t all bad. After we’d watched Robin Hood on the television we could go and re-enact the battles in our “own” castle. It’s an 16th century building that in those days was buried deep in a forest of Outsidepine and deciduous trees belonging to the Forestry Commission. It wasn’t locked up or blocked in any way. We could just walk in. There was a dungeon, a fantastic spiral stairway and battlements at the top. The chances of surviving if you fell from up there were slim, but that never stopped us. I believe it is padlocked today.

I found some good photographs on Flickr that are worth a look for more than just nostalgia. He has a good eye for shadow and the composition is good. Follow the link here.

For those of you that are too impatient to follow links and demand the instant gratification of an image, try imagining being ten or eleven years old and using this stairway as the backdrop for that to-the-deathInside struggle with the Sheriff of Nottingham’s henchmen. We weren’t too bothered (or aware) by the fact that we had the wrong history, in the wrong place. There weren’t many action series about Irish chieftains on the RTE.

“All the things one has forgotten scream for help in dreams” was the quote that all this nostalgia seemed to bring on. It comes from Elias Canetti (1905-1994), a Bulgarian-born writer of Jewish ancestry. He lived in England as a child and in middle age, and in Vienna as a young adult and old man. He wrote mostly in German, and won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1981. He is supposed to have been romantically involved with Iris Murdoch, but why you should care about that I have no clue.

I also like this quote of his very much:

“It doesn’t matter how new an idea is: what matters is how new it becomes.”