Posted in Posts and podcasts

Tape 1 – scene 2

Antique muzzle for donkey - with harness  Juan R. Lascorz
Antique muzzle for donkey – with harness
Juan R. Lascorz
“He’s not happy.”
“That’s an understatement.”
“He rang you?”
“Last night…”
“Said he’d dig up the dirt.”
“Who’d listen to him, only a go between. I wouldn’t worry.”
“What’s happening at your end?”
“It’s not pretty. ”
“Bet there’s a few running for cover.”
“No one’s making eye contact, if you know what I mean.”
“What’s next.”
“Nothing. We put a muzzle on it. Keep your head down and your mouth shut. It’ll blow over.”
“D’ya think?”
“They’ve no teeth. Just say nothin.”
“But the media…”
“Like I said, head down, mouth shut. Their hands are tied.”
“Who tied them?”
“That’d be telling!”
“Jeez you’re a fair man!”
“No flies on me, and if there are, they’re paying rent.”

Censorship is the suppression of speech or other public communication which may be considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or inconvenient as determined by a government, media outlet, or other controlling body. It can be done by governments and private organizations or by individuals. It occurs in a variety of different contexts for a variety of reasons. It may or may not be legal. Many countries provide strong protections against censorship by law, but none of these protections are absolute and it is frequently necessary to balance conflicting rights in order to determine what can and cannot be censored.
Corporate censorship is the process by which editors in corporate media outlets intervene to disrupt the publishing of information that portrays their business or business partners in a negative light, or intervene to prevent alternate offers from reaching public exposure.
Political censorship ccurs when governments hold back information from their citizens. This is often done to exert control over the populace and prevent free expression that might foment rebellion.

Posted in Posts and podcasts

Tape one – Scene 1 – Action


“How’d they get them?”
“You know f****in’ well what. Who handed them over?”
“I have no idea.”
“You little p***k. I made you. Do you hear me? I MADE you! You wouldn’t have a pot to piss in if it wasn’t for me. Who did it?”
“How the hell would I know?”
“Listen to me now, and listen carefully. I am NOT going down for this monumental f*** up. I am not taking the fall. All eyes are on me now but let me tell you I’ll take every last one of you with me. D’ya hear! D’YA HEAR ME?”
“F*** off for yourself you f***in’ egit. Didn’t cover your tracks, did you? The first rule of business – cover your arse. Don’t blame me for your stupidity.”
“I know where the bodies are buried. I’ll tell them everything.”
“I’d like to see you prove it.”
“I f****** will.”
“And how? Do you think I was stupid enough to leave a trail? You’re a joke. That’s what you are. You served your function. Bring it on and see what happens.”
“They’re camped outside my door. My wife can’t bring the kids to school! They-”
“Ask me do I care. You made your bed now f*** off and don’t call me again!
“I’ll end you. I WILL!”
“You’re all wind and piss like a young crow.”
“You P*****!”

Integrity is a concept of consistency of actions, values, methods, measures, principles, expectations, and outcomes. In ethics, integrity is regarded as the honesty and truthfulness or accuracy of one’s actions. Integrity can be regarded as the opposite of hypocrisy, in that integrity regards internal consistency as a virtue, and suggests that parties holding apparently conflicting values should account for the discrepancy or alter their beliefs.
The word “integrity” stems from the Latin adjective integer (whole, complete). In this context, integrity is the inner sense of “wholeness” deriving from qualities such as honesty and consistency of character. As such, one may judge that others “have integrity” to the extent that they act according to the values, beliefs and principles they claim to hold.
Honesty refers to a facet of moral character and connotes positive and virtuous attributes such as integrity, truthfulness and straightforwardness along with the absence of lying, cheating or theft. Honesty is revered in many cultures and religions. Honesty means being truthful, trustworthy, loyal, fair and sincere. Honesty also means straight forward conduct.(Wikipedia)

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The Truth, the whole truth…..

“We need seven billion.”
“Crap! that’s a lot of moolah. F***ing hell we only have €14 billion. You’re asking me to play silly buggers with regulations.”
“We’re already in breach… 7 billion isn’t a lot if you say it fast. We’ll call it bridging.”
“When will you pay it back?”
“Never you clown. Look! This isn’t rocket science. We want money, you have it, hand it over.”
“Because…just because.”
“Oh shut the f*** up you idiot.”
“I’ll have to borrow from overseas.”
“Ask me do I care.”

Jail Cell Andrew Bardwell
Jail Cell
Andrew Bardwell
Corruption is an abuse of a position of trust in order to gain an undue advantage.


Corruption is also defined as ‘the misuse of entrusted
power for private gain’. It can take many forms in the public and private sectors.
Public corruption involves the misuse of public office for private gain, while private
corruption is between individuals in the private sector, for example, organised
criminals extorting money from a local business.

Fraud can be defined as intentional deception made for personal gain or to cause
damage or loss to another person. It can take many forms and can be perpetrated
against individuals, p
rivate and public organisations and at local, national and
international levels.
WHITE PAPER ON CRIME – Discussion Document No. 3 – October 2010 p.16

Federal Bureau of Prisons Wikimedia commons
Federal Bureau of Prisons
Wikimedia commons
… the harm caused by major instances
of fraud can have more substantial long-term impacts on individuals and economies
than the offences of many street criminals (Weisburd and Waring 2001). p.37

Page 38 –The Criminal Evidence Act 1992 provides for the admissibility into
evidence of documents/uplifted material in circumstances where this material is
accompanied by a certificate. A number of statutes address the admissibility of
documentary evidence in prosecutions under those particular statutes, e.g., Company
Law Enforcement Act 2001, Competition Act 2002, and Companies Act 1990. p.38

A small number of very serious offences carry higher penalties.
Examples include fraudulent trading (carrying on a company’s business
knowing that its increasing debts will never be paid) and market abuse
(such as insider dealing of company shares that are listed on a stock

Page 4 – The High Court can make an individual personally liable for all of a
company’s debts in certain circumstances, including where they are
• to have known that they were involved in carrying on company
business either recklessly or with an intention to defraud someone;
not to have kept proper books of account in a company, which in
turn contributed to the company’s inability to pay its debts.

Company creditors and liquidators can make these Court applications.
Page 5 -Where misconduct arises in companies that cannot pay their debts, the
High Court may take other exceptional measures, including the arrest
of company officers and the seizure of personal property if the officers
are evading responsibility for some of the debt. Liquidators and the
ODCE can ask the Court to act in this way.

Page 6 –If anyone is prejudiced (negatively affected) by the conduct of a company or one of its officers or has concerns that the conduct of the
company or one of its officers may not be lawful, they should:
• take independent professional advice to find out what legal
remedies they may have;
report any breach of company law to the ODCE; or
report a breach of any other law to the Garda Síochána or the
responsible regulatory body.
From – Penalties for breaches of Company Law – A Quick Guide
The Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement

Click to access Penalties.pdf

Posted in Posts and podcasts

The Artist’s Eye
Art “…like morality, (it) consists of drawing the line somewhere”, G. K. Chesterton.

Reflections, refractions, repose – Student Lodging – the installation

Vincent van Gogh Self-portrait Detail from the Venus (Botticelli) Temple lion, Japanese porcelain Chokwesculpture
Vincent van Gogh Self-portrait
Detail from the Venus (Botticelli)
Temple lion, Japanese porcelain

Student lodging can seem like the ultimate unmade bed, and evoke strong responses by virtue of its laissez faire approach to everyday life. But that is its attraction – the power inherent in the image. It juxtaposes the desire to ignore with the horror of seeing – albeit accidentally. It is natural, organic. It is visceral. It is based on the immediate, the contradictory, a melding of the conscious with the unconscious, suggesting the possibilities and potentialities of its creator(s).

The result is an incredibly imaginative utilisation of everyday items. Items specifically chosen to highlight the charged environment in which they live and an expression of life lived on the fringe and on a budget. From your first step inside the hallway, to your circumnavigation of mop heads, bin lids and extraneous street signs in the back yard on departure, every cubic inch beckons, unfolds and informs. One visit is just not enough simply because highlights are hard to pick from such masterful crafting of chaos. Full immersion is vital to appreciate the whole experience and this can only be achieved through a series of visits. The viewer must commit themselves, totally and without reservation otherwise questions such as ‘Did I just see what I think I saw? Did that bag move? Is that even possible? Why?’ will forever remain unanswered. Like, dislike, accept, reject – it’s your choice – but you will question and analyse despite your best effort not to. Among the highlights……

‘Haven’t seen him for a week’ – Dirty sheets/beercans/ashtrays/dead insects/animal carcasses/marine life – anything goes and in some cases, nothing is spared.

‘Your turn’ – cigarette butts impaled on cocktail sticks, painted with tiny faces – adorning the tops of old milk cartons – life meets death – and smiles…

‘Good for the brain’ – Prawn shells spoon along sink/cooker and worktop – all paying homage to a large tuna head in a strategically placed basin (very short lived and quite smelly installation in the later stages – but worth the viewing)

‘RB & C’ – Empty toilet rolls neatly cut and covering every bannister of a stairwell. A felt tip pen provided for notes, dedications and reminesences from stairwell users.

‘Never again’ – Empty rolls 2 – tile/streak/stain and mould. All combine to express the visceral reality of an attempt to cleanse, to purify and restore the body corporeal – at the expense of all else..

Flesh fly, (Sarcophagidae), Austin's Ferry, Tasmania, Australia  JJ Harrison
Flesh fly, (Sarcophagidae), Austin’s Ferry, Tasmania, Australia
JJ Harrison

… and further down the hall – the void aka the hotpress – empty – untraversed and unexplored. This installation is supported by audio, soft scratchings, barely audible squeaks, a polarisation of neglect, destain and the transferral of responsibility denied by all. If you experience one of these installations, all else pales..Dead cows (standard in any butcher shop window until health regulations became more stringent), are passe. Dead butterflies, equally so (check your windowsill in Autumn for them, if you prefer bluebottles – check attic in winter). Dead sharks – absolutely banal in comparison to six fish fingers installed in the salad compartment of a fridge for nine weeks – menthol tissues recommended throughout viewing.

A large proportion of these installations inspire healthy competition among and between students. This occasionally results in refreshingly unique collaborations. At one of these installations I was particularly drawn to a faux Christmas tree decorated with toilet paper, bottle caps, a rolling pin and foil from takeaways, carefully manipulated and hung. To me they seemed a harmonious combination of belief, tradition and reality tinged with a pang of post Christmas regret. The party’s over – it left by the back door and got lost in the shed.

Mop Arnoldius

These works, though intriguing, rarely reach their full potential, purely through lack of funding. Grants are insufficient for students to do little more than exist. Others barely get by on part time employment. For the vast majority, parents are not an option – their minimalist lifestyle is unable to sustain – anything.

A large proportion of these students are absorbed into multinational companies on completion of their degrees – wouldn’t it be nice if these companies supported them more during their academic and artistic development?<

Most installations are seasonal. Access is rarely problematic if based on some form of relationship with a student or students (ie parent, brother, sisters, girlfriend/boyfriend etc). A generous donation may allow the uninitiated entry. The optimum time to visit is eight weeks after college has started as by that time all household rosters have been forgotten and resolutions abandoned.

Enough said.

Detail from "A Thousand Li of River and Mountains" (千里江山) hand scroll in ink and color on silk. 11.91 meters x 55.8 cm. (3d part) Located in Palace Museum, Beijing. Date 1096 - 1119 Wang Ximeng (王希孟)
Detail from “A Thousand Li of River and Mountains” (千里江山) hand scroll in ink and color on silk. 11.91 meters x 55.8 cm. (3d part) Located in Palace Museum, Beijing.
Date 1096 – 1119
Wang Ximeng (王希孟)
Posted in Posts and podcasts

Cross Country

I_COMM~1I was on the Galway to Dublin train, departing Ceannt Station at 7.30 am. Stopping at Athenry, Ballinasloe, Athlone, Tullamore, Portarlington, Sallins and finally, Heuston Station in Dublin.
I wasn’t happy. I had a nice week at home, met the girls, went out, slept late, did nothing. Got fed, fussed over and shown off.
And to think, seven short days ago I was beside myself with bad mind. I didn’t want to waste my holidays at home. I wanted to head somewhere, anywhere as long as it was hot – and not home. But I was broke as usual and I had to take the days. The boss told me to. Now I was sorry to leave.
“Oh, you’re back!” said Mrs Fallon when I went down for the milk.
“Well, look who’s here!” said Ger Collins when I popped in for some wool.
“Well, the dead arose and appeared to many,” said Elizabeth Ward. I only passed her on the street.
“How’s the big smoke treating you?” asked Mr Hynes at the corner.
I swear, you can’t escape notice, comment or question at home, but you know I wasn’t too put out. It was nice to be a name as well as a face. Now it was back to the big smoke.
IMG_8254There were only a couple of people on the train. T’was quiet thank God. I really wasn’t in the mood for anything. Didn’t go to bed until 3 am trying to stretch out my final hours. I got myself settled and watched the station walls meld into gravel, grass and farmland. The rhythm was nice. I counted the cars heading to work along the old Oranmore road. It would be nice to be closer to home. I’m tragic – imagine – only a week ago I was like a demon at the thought of being home.
They got on at Athenry. First stop. 7.44 am. Six of them all female. Three young girls. They were teenagers but different ages. One looked about thirteen, the other, fifteen, the third, eighteen? Nineteen? They couldn’t have been friends heading to Dublin for the day. Too much of an age gap there. Didn’t look like sisters either. The other three followed in their wake.  At first glance I knew the teenagers were cousins.  Cousins most definitely. Each of them resembled one of the older women and the three women resembled each other.  Those women had to be sisters. They had the look. IE_MK4Similar but different if you know what I mean. The tallest one was very smartly dressed. An expensive white shirt with some lovely detail around the collar. When she sat beside me I could see it was embroidered with a soft green vine that ran just around the rim. Her coat was beige. Her scarf was woven. A green thread amidst the beige background made the embroidered collar pop, co-ordinating the entire ensemble beautifully. Subtle and elegant. Naturally, when the coat came off the cardigan also matched.
The next one was glamorous. Shoulder length hair, perfect makeup, a long leather coat that billowed behind her purposeful walk. Her top was grey, cut on a bias, flowing, eye-catching. She smiled and nodded at me, as did her sister before her. I smiled back and pretended I was settling for a nap. Then came the third – the antithesis of the other two. Denim jeans, slightly too big, stripy shirt – slightly too big, matching cardigan – slightly too big, matching coat and scarf – slightly too big (the coat that is). The overall effect was slightly ruffled. Another grin, another returned.  The elegant one spoke first.

Julius Schorzman
Julius Schorzman

“Where are you sitting? Ladies.”  She swung round and gestured to the teens

“Sit back there will ye? All together. We’ll get something to eat when she comes with the food. I’d shoot my mother for a coffee?”
“Move your backside, I can’t get past”. The leather coat had an equally large and glamorous handbag.
“Maeve did you bring the cards?”  Her name was Maeve.
“I thought you had them Finola. Feck. Hold on I’ll check my bag.” The elegant one was Finola.
“We can’t go without cards. Who has the cards? Have ye the cards back there?”
“Mum, can I have my ipod?”
“Wait a minute, I haven’t even my coat off.”  The ruffled one was divesting herself with a flourish, heedless of Maeve who had to dodge the onslaught and sit at the same time.
“Jeez  Emer!  You nearly had my eye out. Will you hurry up and sit down before we get moving. You can take your coat off then.”Emer was the ruffled one.
“I have to do it now. I’m melting. Hot flush! Hot flush!”
” We’re moving,” said Finola.
” Sit, quick. Emer, you’ll survive ten more seconds for God’s sake.  Will you sit!”
The train lurched throwing Maeve and Emer together opposite me. Finola plopped down beside me, carefully.
“Hello again,” she smiled.
“Take no notice,” she nodded in the direction of the other two.
“They don’t get out often.”
“Speak for yourself!”
Maeve leant across and grinned.
“You poor thing, this could be the longest journey of your life!”
“Offer it up to the Holy Souls,” chirped Emer.
And off we went.

Posted in Posts and podcasts


© Michael Greenhalgh /thessaloniki/museums/archaeological/neolithic/  With full permission, transmitted to
© Michael Greenhalgh
With full permission, transmitted to
Decades ago, I was a postgraduate archaeology student at a University in the Antipodes. In the mid nineties, a continent away, the Society for American Archaeology held a symposium and workshop in New Orleans on residue analysis. The powers that were and, more importantly, their funding bodies, wanted an update on the possibility of getting blood from a stone. The purpose of the conference was to assess progress in the extraction and identification of organic residues from stone tools. During the conference the general consensus was that some stone tools could also contain traces of ancient human blood, particularly if its user got a little overenthusiastic in the application of his or her weapon, scraper, spear or what have you and cut themselves. If they bled then, logically, human DNA sequences could be retrieved from their tool, ergo, blood from a stone. Disappointingly, there was unanimous agreement that it would be at least another five years before testing could be sufficiently refined to make this happen.


Wikimedia commons
Wikimedia commons

Back then residue analysis was just a fledgling science. Not only that, a considerable number of external influences seriously affected the accuracy of its findings. Artefacts were often affected by exposure, weathering, climatic conditions, post-depositional disturbance by human or animal or a combination of any and all of these factors.
If stone tools managed to survive that onslaught and still retain a skerrick of promising dirt they then had to endure occasionally questionable excavation procedures, post excavation handling and, the nemesis of all residue analysts; curation. Curation was that century’s old habit of washing, buffing and polishing artefacts, removing all visible and a huge proportion of microscopic residue in the process. The habit was hard to break.
Some of the more promising artefacts ended up in a laboratory for analysis. They were treated to 0.5cc of a 5% ammonium hydroxide cocktail to relax their molecules. This was followed by an invigorating ultrasonic clean, a darn good rotation and a quick spin. The subsequent ‘dishwater’ collected was then treated with a reverence bordering on idolatry. These dribbles were subjected to a plethora of mixes, applications, potions, procedures and shocks and DNA sequences began to expose themselves. As soon as they reared a barely distinguishable head we PCR’d the living daylights out of them.
Mind you, despite this trojan effort one still had to accept the possibility of cross-contamination of artefacts in the course of testing, flaws in the testing process or human error. As a result, if and when a result of any magnitude was achieved, the hopeful student had to clutch their hard earned results close to their heart and run the gauntlet of responses ranging from guarded opinion to doubt, disbelief or pure distain from supervisors, professors, scientific colleagues. That was the ultimate rite of passage.

Dante Gabriel Rosetti's Pandora
Dante Gabriel Rosetti’s Pandora

Nonetheless residue analysis became increasingly popular, and rightly so. It was the smoking gun of prehistory. Pregnant with promise it continued to attract serious and sustained attention from many over the years. We had a huge supply of artefacts to tinker with at the time. The mother lode lay in Upper Palaeolithic sites in the South of France. Abri Pataud, Pech Merle, Font de Gaume, La Madeleine, Laussel and of course Chauvet Cave. Serology Laboratories joined the cause, as did Departments of Forensic Sciences from Canada to Australia. Notes were traded, secrets shared and alliances made in corridors of academia on six continents.Under the microscopic ministrations of science tiny micro cracks in the tools begun to expose themselves. Weapons that had been curated to a fine sheen were also found to contain enough residues in these cracks to obtain DNA sequences. The stones surrendered their secrets, in detail. We learned that at some point in time many of those little and not so little stone tools had embedded themselves in sheep, bear, caribou, musk ox, and the ubiquitous woolly mammoth.
Besides impaling the hides of a wide range of species a number of these tools were found to have scratched, pierced or poked the hands that made them. We had ancient human DNA.
Progress continued, exponentially. It continued in tandem with developments in cloning. Long story short, we slowly opened Pandora’s Box. By 2030 we had out first fully fledged wooly mammoth. Then came the sabre tooth. That horrid business with the giant sloth is best forgotten.

Venus of Abri Pataud, carved 21,000 years ago.
Venus of Abri Pataud, carved 21,000 years ago.

Success came at a price, for me. During an excavation at Font de Gaume, Les Ezyies I slipped descending from the cave and whacked, walloped and bounced my way down the slope. I slashed my head open on a rock and ended up senseless at the feet of a hysterical tourist. The local guide was very decent particularly as I wasn’t part of his group. I was watered, bandaged hospitalised, released and returned to my hotel quicker than you could say litigation. Not that I would, though I did pinch a nerve in my spine which successfully hampered movement for the rest of my natural life.

Close up of "Sue" T-Rex replica skull at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, IL.  ScottRobertAnselmo
Close up of “Sue” T-Rex replica skull at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, IL.

I wasn’t as upset as I thought I would be. A University degree makes one very attractive to the Public Service, and vice versa I suppose (particularly if sitting seems the least painful way to spend a day). I learned that having Master’s increased my wages exponentially. A PhD meant an office with a view. I was glad to kiss goodbye to the world of archaeology. I spent the next twenty-five years shuffling between departments secure in the reliable arms of our glorious Government.

In hindsight, I should never have got involved in archaeology. What was I thinking? It had the lowest intake on campus, the scruffiest staff and a reputation for profound weirdness. Indiana Jones wasn’t re released until I was in second year. It was a golden oldie – it came out the year my mother was born. It hit cult status fast. In the blink of an eye we went from being University nerds to the coolest kids on campus. That was fun. Then came the remakes of Jurassic Park I, II, III and IV. Those made us demi-gods. Still, I should have walked away sooner, That fall at Font de Gaume..that fall… I came, I saw, I fell, I bled. Most importantly, I bled. When I fell at Font de Gaume, there was lots of sharp gravel. When I woke I was confused, like you are when you faint and wake up and wonder why you seem to be in a strange position. I was on my side, dazed. Someone had turned me while they waited for an ambulance. My head was cut. I remember the blood, seeping, onto the stone, into the stone. Into the cracks.

Residue analysis has come a long way. They can identify, isolate, retrieve, amplify almost anything. They can clone, and they can copy. Except, I don’t know who they are. I’m not myself. I can’t see properly, can’t hear properly. From time to time amorphous blobs drift across the blurred line of my vision. I try to speak but it’s like my head has melted yet, they are privy to my thoughts. Like now. They’re listening in. Taking notes. Forcing my reflections from me. I never thought that possible. Then again, no one thought residue analysis was possible once, or cloning. Seems I got the best of both worlds.
There’s no pain, no sensation at all really. Sometimes groups of blobs surround me and a vague feeling of pressure suggests I’m being moved. That used to hurt, badly, I remember.
Residue analysis.
Cloning. Cloning in parts at least.
Wonder what year it is?

Posted in Posts and podcasts


Where do your morals come from — your family? Your faith? Your philosophical worldview? How do you deal with those who don’t share them, or derive them from a different source?

Photo: Denis Barthel
Photo: Denis Barthel

The source – my Mother.

The means – a question and a comment.

The question -“How would you like it if someone did that to you?”

The comment – “When you start using your fists, you’ve stopped using your brain.”

Think about it.

I did.

It covers a multitude.

My Mother was a wise woman.

Posted in Posts and podcasts

Gwendolyn – part 2

Gwendolyn – part 2

She had been sausages..
She had been sausages..

Mother always said troubles come in threes and they certainly did for Daddy that night. He had the hiccups, he had the wrath of Mother visited upon him and he still had to feed Gwendolyn. That pig was a law unto herself .
Mother wouldn’t go within an asses roar of her every since the day Gwendolyn nearly upended her with the slop bucket in her haste to be fed. The poor woman hit her hip a fine wallop off the edge of the byre in the onslaught and she was limping for a week. If that pig was any bigger she’d had been sausages, that’s for sure.
Anyway, after Daddy got a good blistering for staying out so late and not feeding the pig, Mother released him into the yard. I could hear the slop buckets rattle as he lifted them. There was a pause, then another rattle. Then he said “Shite”. Then the buckets were deposited on the ground again. I reckoned a bit of the slop must have got him in the trousers. They were his good ones too. Daddy wasn’t doing himself any favours with Mother.
“For the honour and love of all that’s holy” comes Mother’s voice from the kitchen. The back door was opened again.
“Wait!” she snapped.
“Fine,” says Daddy. He sounded like me when I get in trouble. And then he waited. There wasn’t another squeak out of him, or the buckets, for that matter.

Caravaggio (1573–1610)  Medusa 1595-1596
I had a quick vision of Mother turning him to stone.
Caravaggio (1573–1610)

The back door slammed again.
Between the opening and the closing of that door I had a quick vision of Mother turning him to stone with a look. Like Medusa.
Then I her her tut. Gwendolyn must have heard her as well because she let out a particularly animated squeal.
Mother lit for the stairs and in seconds she was in beside my bed poking me on the head. T’was pure luck I was the chosen one. Me and Kate had the first room on the landing and I slept closest to the door. For effect, I pretended to be asleep. Kate was wide awake too. I could tell.  Mother hadn’t the time for that kind of messing.  She tapped me on the top of the head a second time.
“Joanie!” she snapped.
“Get up and hold the torch for your father ’til he feeds that animal. Wear your wellies”. She departed in a draught of cold air and the door slammed shut.
I was at Daddy’s heels in seconds with his special torch in my arms. This was mighty. I never got to get up after bedtime and I certainly never got to play with Daddy’s special torch. It was a huge, heavy thing completely encased in thick rubber, except for the lamp part of course. It was a miracle of modern technology. The thing would blind you with the light out of it. That light was hard come by too. You had to plug it in to charge it. The buttons on it were yellow and promising, the strap strong enough to swing out of.
“Fair play to you Gwendolyn!” thought I.
The back door slammed behind myself, Daddy, the torch and the slop buckets.
“Oh Joanie, pony puddin’ and pie”, warbled Daddy.
“Kicked the boys and made them cry,” says I.
“Shut up the pair of ye,” snapped Mother out the top of the kitchen window.
Myself and Daddy had a little smile between us. We were careful to keep our backs to Mother. Then off we went.

fir0002 |
fir0002 |

By gum, Gwendolyn was in fine tune. The second she heard Daddy’s footstep she sang for Ireland. Well, she squealed anyway.
I held the torch carefully to light every step of Daddy’s way. It really wasn’t too dark but I suppose Mother didn’t want him putting any more mess on his trousers than he had to.
We stopped at the door of the sty and let me tell you, it was rattling like a living thing. I got the impression that Gwendolyn and Mother were pretty much in the same mood.
“Oh,” hiccuped Daddy.
“Stand well back Joanie. I’m not having much luck with the girls tonight,” and he hiccups again.
Daddy put down the slop buckets.
I stood well back but I shone the torch exactly where the bolt was. I’m very good at torch holding – you can’t be wobbling it around, even if it’s heavy, or you might as well have no torch at all.
I learned a lot from Daddy. Even more that night about feeding hungry pigs.
Daddy gave a few shouts of “Get back! Get back! Feck off you cracked bitch! G’back! Back ya fecker! G’wan now! Back!”
It seemed to work. The door stopped rattling. Gwendolyn shut up and Daddy drew back the bolt.
“G’back! Hic! Back! Good girl!” says Daddy.
Then he picks up the buckets again.
Gwendolyn took that as her cue.

The sheen of his good trousers.. Spodnie.svg
The sheen of his good trousers..

She lit out of the sty like a bat out of hell and made straight for Daddy. Sur’ the poor man had nowhere to go. Hadn’t he a bucket in each hand, his good trousers on and the hiccups to boot!
The challenge was lost before it began.
Gwendolyn ran straight between Daddys two legs and tore up the yard. Technically that wouldn’t have been a problem because we had the gate above bolted. She had nowhere to go really.
Only problem was that when she went between Daddy’s legs he slipped and landed straight onto the pig’s back.
The buckets seemed to balance him nicely too. He flew past me with a startled look on his face, a bucket in each hand and a pigs arse under his. All I could do was shine the torch in their wake.
It’s etched into my memory to this day. Daddy’s face in an orb of blinding light. His mouth an “O”. The sheen of his good trousers. The glow of the slop buckets. The soft pink of Gwendolyn’s arse. All travelling in the same direction, slowly being absorbed into the dusk of a late summer’s night.
T’was never meant to last though. They weren’t long out of my vision when I heard the crash.
Daddy’s did a lot of holding onto his backside over the following days.
His trousers never recovered. His hiccups were cured though.

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If I was a dog, I’d like to be one of those big ones, like a Saint Bernard, or a Doberman or something. Those lads are their own bosses. They might pretend to do what they’re told, but when push comes to shove they decide what direction to walk or what tree to piss on. They’re handsome too. The odd one can be afflicted with a bad hip or a bad back. That’s not cheap. You’d damn near have to mortgage the house to pay vet’s bills these days.
Josie Trainer’s Zebedee had a host of problems. He was a water dog, a Springer spaniel if memory serves. A lot of issues there. Brain damage was among them, I’m sure of that. Josie hadn’t a moment’s peace from the day she got him. She wore a track to the vets with the egit. The name Zebedee did him no favours either. What was she thinking? It only amplified his stupidity. The second I clapped eyes on him I told her straight up the creature hadn’t a brain to speak of, just an empty hollow. He wasn’t long filling it with food and fornication. That dog was a sex addict, and true to form, the gombeen wasn’t even normal when it came to that. No bitch in heat would ever turn his head. No. His forte was in pleasing himself.

All dogs lick themselves. That’s what they do. But Zebedee had a particular affinity for the activity. ‘Twas a wonder he didn’t lick his lad clean off. My God, he never stopped. It was his thing, his prime obsession. His modus operandi. He was gold medal standard at it. Not only was he a natural, he consistently honed his skill. He was a true professional, and like any professional Zebedee reached and attainted his remarkable standard through constant practice. He trained daily, damn near on the hour every hour. And, like all professional athletes he selected his training ground with due care and diligence. Mornings, he’d stroll to the primary school and work out while all the kids were being dropped off for the day. Half the mothers of the parish were scandalised, the other half said ’twas a shame their husbands wouldn’t take a leaf from Zebedee’s book. It might keep them quiet.
Evening times he chose the driveway of the convent when the nuns and the boarders were going for their evening walk. The nuns would nearly burst into flames from the shock while the girls would stare and giggle and discuss Zebedee’s remarkable attributes in the dorm that night. At weekends, when the primary school was closed Zebedee paid added attention to secondary school its, boarders and its nuns.  Peter Morgan
Peter Morgan

While those spots may have been perfect from the dog’s point of view they were entirely inappropriate from a human perspective. Josie was informed accordingly. She was visited by the Principal of the primary school and a deputation of nuns in as many days. Righteous indignation was taken on board; an apology proffered and promises made. There wasn’t time for tea and biscuits. Besides no one had the appetite for them, mostly because the perpetrator, Zebedee, sat to one side with his lad proudly displayed, as he watched the proceedings. Poor old Josie.
Apart from the embarrassment of it all, it cost her a pretty penny.
She had to get Mikey Collins from down the road to put up a new fence all around the house to keep Zebedee in. Then she had to buy strong new gates for it so she could get her bins out. Mikey was a fast worker, and a good one. He wasn’t cheap but the end result was great. An attractive solution to an inconvenient and antisocial problem, we both agreed. Indeed the back yard looked better than the house after a week of Zebedee. There wasn’t a cushion left that the clown hadn’t shredded or done worse to. Josie bleached and boil-washed to the point where she was rambling in her mind from the strength of the fumes. Finally, for the first time in nearly two weeks she was up for hosting me for a cup of tea. She had been coming to me up to that point as the sight of Zebedee and his lad would put anyone off their digestives. Anyway, I called around and brought the biscuits and we left the dirty article of a dog out in the yard to do whatever he wanted to do with himself. Lord save us, we hardly had the biscuits open when he had absconded. He dug clean under the fence in a matter of minutes and off he went like the clappers down the road.

Transferred from en.wikipedia; JohnnyMrNinja
Transferred from en.wikipedia; JohnnyMrNinja

“The curse of hell on him,” muttered Josie.
“And then some,” says I.
“I’ll rinse the cups while you get his lead,” says I. And I did.
I walked her as far as the end of the road and said my goodbyes as she headed for the primary school. I didn’t offer to join her and she didn’t expect me to. Who wants to be associated with that sort of behaviour? Josie had a fine chat with the school principal that evening.
The following day she called Mikey back. After some consultation under Zebedee’s watchful eye it was decided to dig down a foot or two all around the perimeter and fill the gaps with stone in the hope it would cramp his style. And so it came to pass, but only after ten days solid work. Shrubs had to be cut back, roots removed, topsoil taken, stones carted in and all of the above replaced, to varying extent. Indeed Mikey himself noted that it took the Good Lord less time to create the heavens and the earth.
Josie didn’t appreciate the observation.
For a while it seemed to work. We managed a couple of cups of tea the following week and Zebedee seemed to enjoy exploring his newly renovated surroundings.
“My poor feckin’ hydrangeas,” says Josie.
“They’ll never recover.”
“Ah why wouldn’t they?” says I.

Ziggy Photo: Norma Scheibe
Photo: Norma Scheibe

“Sure aren’t they plants? Give them a good feed of fertiliser and they’ll settle themselves in again”.
I lied.
Her lovely garden was shot to hell and back. I doubted if it would ever recover. But what can you do, it would be cruel to say otherwise.
Poor old Josie.
We had another cup of tea and talked about the tomato plants she had germinating in her sun room. Zebedee wasn’t mentioned, nor was there reason to mention him. Weren’t we all sick to the teeth of his foibles? Anyway, wouldn’t it be like drawing misfortune on yourself if you did? What do they say? Don’t mention the war.
In hindsight, you’d swear he’d planned to lull us into a false sense of security. Two days later Josie got a call from the school.
Zebedee was back.
Not only did he manage to circumnavigate the shaggin’ stones and the fence, he did do so in a careful and timely fashion, arriving at his designated post within school hours to continue sharing his hobby with adult and child alike. His visit coincided with the School Inspector doing his annual rounds, the Doctor, doing his immunisations and Alice Costello, the Public Health Nurse, there to assist. T’was high drama to say the least.
On the advice of the Doctor, fully supported by Principal, School Inspector and Alice, Josie took him to the vet to be neutered. It wasn’t an easy decision for her. She held that no one should mess with the Good Lord’s design, be it human or animal.
“I just feel so bad for the poor creature,” she says.
“But Josie,” says I.

Photo: Norma Scheibe
Photo: Norma Scheibe

“It might be an ease to him. Forget about the parish being scandalised, Zebedee must have himself driven demented at this stage. That level of enthusiasm is not natural at all not in any creature. I’ve never seen the like and I grew up on a farm”.
“I know, I know,” says Josie.
“I just wish there was another way. But in fairness I’m sick to the teeth of going up and down like a yoyo to that feckin’ school! I’ve seen more of it in the last six months than I did when I went there as a child, I swear!”
I convinced her by saying that it was quite likely the Good Lord might have had a bad day during Zebedee’s creation and he may have dropped the ball, no pun intended. I laboured the idea that it would be an ease to the poor creature, not least his back, as it would give him a break from himself. He’d have time to smell the roses as it were. And pee on them. Josie herself would be able to go to her clothes line again without being blinded by visions best left unsaid. She was convinced. And so Zebedee was hauled off to the vet.
When she went to collect him the following day the vet told her that Zebedee didn’t go quietly. The vet reckoned that the amount of tranquillers he had to put in him would have brought down an elephant and what’s more, the bauld Zebedee hardly stayed asleep long enough for the job to be done. The vet was seriously impressed.

Photo: Deirdre Johnston
Photo: Deirdre Johnston

Josie paid the bill and called me over for a cuppa and a post-mortem of the whole event.
“I have antibiotics for him just in case,” says Josie.
“Oh, isn’t he young and healthy Josie. He won’t have need for them,” says I.
“You’re probably right, but it’s no harm to have them anyway. I made sure they gave me the best painkillers going. You don’t want an animal to be in pain,” Josie nodded fervently at me. Zebedee sat at her side, a tad bewildered. No change there.
“Let me tell you now Josie,” says I.
“That is the luckiest dog in the parish, to have an owner like you”. And this time round, every word out of my mouth was God’s honest truth.
Zebedee was quiet for a few days. Surprisingly one of Josie’s Hydrangeas’s seemed to come round as well. The following Tuesday we were out her back yard examining them and discussing the possibility of taking cuttings when I had the misfortune to throw a glance Zebedee’s way. Jesus! I was nearly blinded by the vision. The bauld Zebedee, quite possibly through trial and error, had found out that the absence of his crown jewels had left him with more room to manoeuvre, as it were. The sight wasn’t for the faint hearted, let me tell you. Blinded by the sight myself and Josie fled inside, oblivious to the small quantity of rubble lying slightly to the left of her bedroom window. What we didn’t realise was that not only had Zebedee worked on enhancing his flexibility, he had spent his few spare moments looking for a way to escape. And he succeeded. Mikey Collins fortifications were not enough. By Wednesday morning Zebedee had cleared a new escape hatch under the fence.

Photo: Deirdre Johnston
Photo: Deirdre Johnston

Within minutes he was gone to share his old skills and his new found flexibility with the education system.
Words were said, fingers again pointed. This time round there was no more room for apologies. The principal stressed in no uncertain terms that as the school had no intention of relocating, Zebedee had to go. Repeat performances would henceforth not be tolerated, under any circumstances. The dog pound was mentioned.
God help Josie, the only choice she was left with was keep Zebedee inside the house or on a chain outside when she wasn’t walking him. In theory that sounded like an amicable solution. Practice proved otherwise.
Zebedee repaid her by filling the few spare moments he had left in his life with incessant barking, and he had a bark that could crack concrete. The neighbours formed another deputation. There was a new baby two doors down and the mother, already with two others under three, appeared at the door screaming like a banshee about her nerves. The lad on the other side worked night shifts and he quietly informed Josie that if the banshee didn’t end Zebedee, he would. Josie was suitably horrified, but that didn’t matter to Zebedee. Deprived of his outings and his captive audiences barking was all he had left, the neighbours could go to hell. He would only quiet when Josie walked him and when it came to walking, quite surprisingly and despite his ministrations; Zebedee had a lot of latent energy. Not only could he go for miles, it was a power-walk every step of the way. There was no hope of slowing the pace because anything other than a slow jog gave the fecker time and opportunity to set to with his willy. You’d have to admire his dedication, and Josie’s. She must have lost two stone on her patrols. That was all well and good but the poor woman couldn’t afford to lose a

Photo: Deirdre Johnston
Photo: Deirdre Johnston

pound. She was as thin as a lat to begin with. By July she had the physique of a Ugandan marathon runner. Her legs were nearly worn to stumps too with the distances involved. You’d see her pelting past the window, ramrod straight, tilted slightly off the perpendicular as she tried to counter Zebedee’s forward projection and speed. I could never see himself, my wall being too high, just Josie and a bit of the lead. But as she sped by she looked for the entire world like one of those carved figures rising from the prow of a ship as it sliced its way through high seas. I told her she had the cut of your one in the Titanic movie about her. All she needed was the dress and a young lad swinging at her rear. In fact, she could set up a business for herself as she walked. We could hang a few sheets off her and they’d be dry by the time she came back from her gallop. We had a laugh about that.
Hard as it was, the walking worked. After a few weeks without drama it finally seemed that the tide was turning in Josie’s favour. She was in great form too. Fit as a fiddle, with a pair of legs on her Michael Flatley would have been proud of. I told her I was jealous of the fine legs she had acquired. Then didn’t she offer me Zebedee for a walk.
“Feck that, a girleen,” says I.
“I’m not walking that lunatic. I’d never keep up. Either tie him to a sled or buy me a pair of skates. Otherwise, I’ll stick with my saggy arse, thank you very much!”
We all began to relax, except for Zebedee.
He did it again.
The fecker lulled us all into a false sense of security and then made yet another dash for freedom, to express himself, as it were.

Photo; Deirdre Johnston
Photo; Deirdre Johnston

Well, that great escape proved to be his final one.
It was a fine Sunday morning in August. Due credit to him, it was a grand hurrah indeed, worthy of a dog who had the town persecuted with his perversion. He went out with a bang.
It was his own fault really, because for the first time in his life, Zebedee varied his routine. That in itself was the result of a series of unfortunate events.
Zebedee had escaped on Sundays before, and on every other day of the week for that matter. But he quickly learned that escaping Sundays had its limitations. For one, the primary school is always closed. His audience was dispersed. Now any thespian will tell you that you can’t have a performance without an audience. Where’s the challenge in that? Why would you even bother to rehearse? Zebedee was of the same mind, but he was a smart dog. After a little research the empty school proved a minor inconvenience. In fact, it hardly fazed him. As soon as he saw the school was empty, onward he would bound with renewed vigour. He had the nuns and boarders on standby and the nuns were mighty walkers at the weekends. Indeed, Zebedee or no Zebedee, the nuns had little choice in the matter. Who in their right mind would confine fifty young girls with rampant hormones in a confined space for two days straight? Those girleens had to be walked, and well walked; otherwise all hell could break loose in the dorm at night. Zebedee’s audience was assured, until that fateful day.
mayo deirNot only was it Sunday, it was August. August is smack in the middle of school holidays. This, of course, meant no boarders and as there were only a handful of nuns, his audience was critically compromised. Not only that, with no boarders to fracture their nerves, the nuns were completely unreliable when it came leaving the convent at all. He could be there for the day waiting for them to pop out, with no success.
Other options had to be considered and consider them he did.
So on that particular Sunday, Zedebee, the auld clown decided to test a new venue.
He chose it well.
It had light, space, room for movement and, most importantly, a captive audience. Though the setting could be described as sectarian in nature, Zebedee compensated for this shortfall by ensuring that all genders and age groups were catered
for. Music was even provided.
His appearance was close to miraculous because, to get where he got to without being spotted or caught required strategy worthy of Churchill. He had to pass a dozen young lads clustered by the door, and another shower of latchicos hanging at the back wall who spent every waking moment minding everybody’s business but their own. Then there were the kids, scattered all over the place like confetti, bored, twitchy, not known for sitting still or looking straight. Not even the choir, perched under the roof in the optimum position to survey the landscape was aware of Zebedee’s entrance. These facts I know. I know because they were outlined, discussed and analysed in considerable detail after the incident. That dog had skills of ninja-like proportions. Among a crowd of a hundred and fifty souls not one person saw that dog until he performed his grand swansong.

Zebedee’s last stand was beside the communion rail in St Joseph’s during Sunday mass; in full view of the entire congregation, including Josie and myself.

There wasn’t a prayer said in church that day, we were all too busy laughing into our missals. I felt particularly sorry for the altar boys, they nearly had to have their surplus and soutan surgically removed from their gullets after mass, so far down their throat they’d shoved them in an effort to stifle their laughter. Fr McCarthy was scandalised in the extreme.

Come Monday, Zebedee had been dispatched to doggie heaven. No one saw sign or light of Josie either for at least a month. She went to mass in the next parish.