King Creosote & Jon Hopkins – Aurora Boring Alias

It’s been a sad couple of months in many ways. Lots of death haunts the house around here.

First it was the poor old cat.

Then it was the Father-in-law.

In both cases lived to a good age, had a very peaceful end, the way we’d all want to go, and similar sentiments.

The frank admission is that I miss the cat – he was a willing confidante when I was anxious about my cancer operation in 2009. We’d sit in the pale sun of a day and he’d be very patient with me pouring out my concerns, as long as I kept brushing his fur. He didn’t like you to fuss over him. Very independent and easy-going as long as things were going the way he wanted them. Liked his food and his comfort. There’s a beautiful King Creosote song called “Aurora Boring Alias” where he talks about a man, his cat and the man’s partner. How they neither of them (man and cat) like her fussing over them. How the cat is happier in a mad half-hour than in the half-life of his indoor basket world. And yes, he says, I’m aware it’s me I describe in code.

I made a suggestion that it would be nice to have a poem read in Irish at my father-in-law’s funeral. Despite a life spent in England he was very keen on keeping up the Irish connection. Avid reader of the Irish Post, followed the national side in sports, no friend of perfidious Albion, etc. A good idea on my part that would have been brilliant if I’d had even half a clue what poem I had in mind. “Great” came the reply to my suggestion,  “what poem were you thinking of?”

After a bit of a search I came across a poem called “Faoiseamh a Gheobhadsa” by Máirtín Ó Direáin. He had a very similar story to many Irish writers – came from the country, worked for the Civil Service in Dublin for his whole working life (roughly 1928 to his retirement in 1975), and wrote poetry on the side. The civil service was a reliable option that gave security. But living in Dublin gave him no joy, and the poem is about he longed to get back to the small island off the west coast that was his real home.

Faoiseamh” is a peculiar word in Irish. Mostly, the poem’s title is translated as “I Would Find Peace”. But the literal translation of peace is “síochána“, which is why the Irish police are guardians of the peace – Garda Síochána. You also see it translated as “A Rest I Will Get”, but again rest is “chuid“. if you wanted to say take your rest it could be “Tog do chuid“. If it was a break he wanted, then that would be “sos“. If he wanted some space, that would be “spás“. The closer translation of the word is probably “relief”, especially in the context of release from pain or anxiety. The verb isn’t all that straightforward either. My grammar knowledge is old history now, but I think they’d call this tense the conditional mood as in “I would get”.

I suppose it’s very similar to Yeats’ poem The Lake Isle of Innisfree in which he too wants to escape to a small island. Because: “And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow”. Peace comes dropping slow was a phrase often used by Jackie Leven around his music, and it’s a beautiful one.

I hope none of this makes me sound like I have a clue when it comes to the Irish. I’m more in touch with Kant than the Caint. I had a go at reading the poem aloud to see what my Irish pronunciation was like. Then I listened to a recording of O’Direain reading it himself. It makes me sound like a guy with an English accent trying to read a poem in Irish. But then it was like that even when I lived in Galway and the lads would be in from the Aran islands – they had an accent that was as thick as a bog hole in winter. We were very sophisticated altogether by comparison, don’cha know.

So this poem is about finding space/peace and a break from the milling crowds of the city. It’s not even a definite thing. If he had a go at doing it, then there’s a chance that he would get some relief.

That’s the human condition. I’ll take the mouser with me. He’d like that.