Irish Papist

Irish Papist
Me and General Robert Lee

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Complete Purple Notebook, Part Five

 What is my purple notebook? A notebook of inspiring memories, of various kinds. I describe it here, and list the first few entries, explaining what they mean to me.

 Robert Picardo tweets. The only Twitter account I follow is the Twitter account of Robert Picardo, the actor who played the holographic doctor in Star Trek: Voyager. I like the character-- a holograph who is learning how to be human, which is how I often feel-- and I like the actor. I like his face-- a genial, avuncular face. I like the slightly tongue-in-cheek way he plays the role, a twinkle in his eye. It's very confident. He's a Catholic too! And a funny guy.

The Lion and the Unicorn, king in a bath. There was once a cartoon in a Sunday paper called The Lion and the Unicorn-- it featured a literal lion and a unicorn, who served a king. I may only have ever read it once. But there was one strip where, on the first panel, the King is sitting in a bath-tub and says to the Lion, "Put some more coals under the fire. It's a cold day." So cosy! I always think comfort and discomfort are interlinked, even imaginatively. As in this poem.

Dormitory, Slógadh, posters. There is an Irish language drama and music competition for schools called the Slogadh (pronounced slow-ga). My school entered it every year, and often won it. Once we were staying overnight in the town where it was being held. We stayed in a convent school and slept in a girl's dormitory. I was twelve. This had a profound impression on me on many levels, only one of which was erotic. (There you go.)

I wrote an article about this memory on the Philip Larkin website, of all places. It's connected to a Larkin poem. It appeared in print, I think, in the Larkin Society magazine, but I don't have a copy. I'd have to buy a back-issue and I don't want to do that.

Shakespeare series, dark background. I've never been able to get into Shakespeare's plays, though I love the speeches. But I've always loved the idea of Shakespeare. When I was a kid, my father was watching a season of Shakespeare productions on BBC. My only memory is of an actor speaking against a completely dark background. Even at that age, I got the idea of a drama that went to the very essence of  the human condition. I felt the Shakespeare legend in all its force-- and the augustness and tragedy of the human condition, as Shakespeare is held to delineate-- though I've never been able to enjoy the plays.

RDS, Groovejet. In 2001, when I was in a government library training course, we had a vist to a job and training courses convention (since we were all unemployed). The chorus from a hit song of the time, Groovejet by Sophie Ellis Bextor ("If this ain't love, why does it feel so good") was playing over...and over...and over in the conference hall. It has imprinted itself on my memory. I wasn't very happy in that hall, since I wondered what job I could possibly get, and yet it's a happy memory somehow. Maybe because I stepped back from my life and looked at it, and this is always a distinctive memory.

Gorsky, Winter, TNG. TNG is Star Trek: The Next Generation. I was in my late teens and watching a lot of Star Trek: The Next Generation. It was a very cold spell, and I was reading a memoir of childhood by the Soviet writer Maxim Gorsky. I was also very worried about something, and it made the world around me seem very vivid and precious-- as often happens.

Mini-company party in school. When I was sixteen, I was part of the first generation that did a 'transition year' in school-- a year more focused on personal development, and work experience, and trying new things, than examinations. One of the 'modules' that we did was a 'mini-company'-- we actually started a limited company that sold candles and soap. I designed the logo for it. On the last day, we had a little party to celebrate-- which I found embarrassing at the time, since it was thought it was too small a thing to make a fuss over. But, deep inside, I liked the idea of fuss and ceremony for everything, and marking rites of passage and endings and transitions.

Teachers' line dance. In my last year of school, at Christmas (I think), when a line-dancing craze was sweeping Ireland, some of my teachers dressed up in cowboy get-up and performed a line-dance for the benefit of the students. I may have cringed at the time, but-- once again, in my heart-- I loved that they had done something so gratuitous, one-off, and just-for-the-sake-of-it. I love such things so much. I even think they are an echo of God's gratuitous love and creation.

Glacious gazebo. The cosiest picture I've ever seen. See above.

Bats. Limerick. Salem's Lot. Each summer, myself and my mother and my little brother and (in the early years) my elder brother used to visit my aunt Kitty in Limerick. One particular time, I remember looking at bats fluttering in the sky at twilight-- which I consider a beautiful sight, and strangely bound up with summer and anticipation and growing up. The memory is attached to watching the TV series of the Stephen King novel Salem's Lot, a vampire-themed series. One particular scene-- of a vampire boy floating outside a window-- is rightly celebrated. Somehow it seemed creepier-- and more haunting-- in the loneliness of the countryside. But, along with the bats, it shared a Gothic beauty.

Get Them What They Really Want This Christmas. I got my library assistant job in UCD in 2001, after having been on the panel for library assistants, from which vacancies were filled as they arose, for months and months. So I was looking forward to working in UCD for months before it happened. I expected it to be a disappointment, but it was great. My first experience, close to my mid-twenties, of having a paid job! I couldn't believe anyone wanted to give me money. I still can't.

The commute was long, and I used to get up very early-- dark mornings always spark my sense of wonder. At the time, there was a bus ad for a mobile phone company that showed a very attractive blonde girl holding a power drill, looking bewildered. The caption was: "Get them what they really want this Christmas". The sitting room was the kind of tidy, comfortable sitting room of which I'd never had much personal experience. The girl seemed like a symbol of the ecstasy of ordinary life, which we so seldom see It's hard to say why, exactly.

David Copperfield, snow. I was reading David Copperfield in my teens and one evening it snowed. There was a kind of warm-hearted, somewhat ironic wordliness about David Copperfield that seemed to throw its atmosphere over the time I read it. I remember looking at light snow falling on the Georgian houses of Dublin and somehow the eighteenth century houses seemed to harmonise with this atmosphere. I think this is an atmosphere that appeals to a male teenager because, at heart, you realize your angst and posturing is silly.

Ballymun News, snow. My eldest brother is an artist. He would sometimes illustrate my father's community magazine The Ballymun News. One particularly cover showed snowflakes, in close-up, falling against the Ballymun apartments. The contrast of inky black and snowy white was excellent. I remember watching him draw it and being very impressed, really getting drawn into the atmosphere.

Parents buying globe. We never had much money. One year, towards the end of my schooling, I asked my parents for a globe of the world. Which they bought me. I felt loved.

Sign on M----'s door, party. When I was a kid, my aunt M---- had a sign on her bathroom door showing a cherubic boy peeing into a decorating pot. It was done in a mock-classical style and I thought it was amazingly classy and elegant. And I saw it at a party-- I think-- and I loved the atmosphere of parties, when celebration was the whole point.

Chagall exhibition. I went to a Marc Chagall exhibition in Geneva, with Michelle, when we were attending my niece's wedding. We watched a video about Chagall that was on a continuous loop. Michelle fell asleep and leaned against me. I sat through two screening because I liked her leaning against me so much. The whole exhibition is a happy, happy memory. Michelle seemed very absorbed in it.

Friends Thanksgiving Memories. There is an episode of Friends called 'The One with all the Thanksgiving Memories'. You've probably seen it. All the friends are describing their worst Thanksgiving memories. I remember the first time I watched it, I was feeling afflicted with the briefness and uncertainty of life. Somehow, watching it gave me a feeling of comfort. Life may be brief and uncertain-- but it's long enough that people pass the same landmarks in time over and over and over. And it's certain enough that you can be sure most people have experienced certain holidays, rites of passage, places etc. I love the past imperfect.

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