Sometimes the muse calls and you just have to answer. I was glancing through my famous purple notebook today, and I suddenly felt the urge-- the imperative urge-- to write the whole thing out in the form of a blog post. (Even though-- I add this later-- it took several posts to do so. I felt I couldn't attend to anything else until it was finished.)
(Futher note: As a matter of fact, it took a lot more words and effort than I'd expected. I was almost finished, but I just I got word that my colleague and friend Sonya had died-- a shock, though she was ill. I am going to leave off now out of respect to her. Please pray for her soul.)
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.
Then I lost it, and replaced it with a blue notebook, but with pretty much the same contents. In a later post, I journey deeper into the purple-then-blue notebook.
(Sadly, the cousin Billy mentioned in that post died last year, at a tragically young age. RIP.)
I subsequently lost the blue notebook, and found the original purple notebook, which has since been greatly expanded. Tonight I purpose to transcribe everything in it, except a few moral and motivational exhortations to myself. My descriptions are going to have to be savagely short this time, since I could expand each of them almost idefinitely. I might expand them in the future.
My infinitely indulgent readers have actually shown a surprising interest in the purple notebook. Someone even hoped I would revisit it! So maybe some people might find this post interesting. Either way, I feel a consuming need to write it up. Here goes, starting from where I left off:
N----'s star sign book: My sister had an illustrated astrology book when she was a teenager. The paintings in it captured my imagination, especially the air, fire, water and earth imagery, that symbolised the elements.
221B Baker Street. A Sherlock Holmes board game from my childhood, that my whole family played. From the happiest Christmas morning of my childhood. It had a very classy design, too.
Irish School of Motoring Sign. Childhood memory. Showed a cartoon outline of the map of Ireland, as a human being sitting at a steering wheel. Made the national cosy and personal.
Bed/duvet packaging with picture of woman. Childhood memory. The first women I fell in love with were models of housewives on various pieces of packaging. I fell in love with the idyll of domesticity as much as the women. The woman was lying in bed in this particular picture.
On Through the Night, train station. A billboard in a train station showing a woman in dark glasses at a party, while I waited to take a train with the rest of my class for a class trip. Delicious contrast of glamour and the mundane, making both more delicious.
Chick-Fil-A in shopping centre after having my watch fixed. My beloved wife Michelle bought me a good, manly, metal watch for my birthday-- after first confiscating the cheap pink wrist-watch I had been semi-ironically wearing before that. It made me feel very loved. We had to get the strap altered, and we had it done in a watch repair shop in a shopping centre in Richmond, Virginia. The fellow who did it was a cool, laid-back young guy who looked like Matt Damon and was reading a Stephen King novel. Then we went to Chick-Fil-A and had milkshakes. I had ice-cream and cookies flavour. I felt so happy.
Young Sherlock Holmes in cinema. My childhood was very lax in many ways. Me and my brothers were always playing truant from school. One schoolday, my mother brought us to town and actually took us to the cinema. Ha! We saw this movie, which is a fine movie, and I had been to the cinema so seldom that it really stirrred my imagination.
Night we bought Billy Liar again. Striker. Candyman. Billy Liar by Keith Waterhouse was a novel that me and my younger brother loved when we were kids. Then it went missing. This was the pre-internet age, when you couldn't just order something on Amazon. We couldn't find it anywhere, until one day we were in the city centre with my mother and found it in a bookshop. It felt like such an epoch. That evening, I remember us playing the soccer-themed computer game Striker! and watching the Clive Barker horror movie Candyman. And next day we were going on holiday! Life seemed all roses and everything was possible.
Buying Bailey's after finishing A Hundred Nightmares. I have published many of the horror stories from my unpublished collection A Hundred Nightmares here. The day I finished the epilogue, I bought a bottle of Bailey's Irish cream to celebrate. Actually, that very day I fell into a deep spiritual depression that lent great urgency to my journey to faith, and stopped me writing fiction at the breakneck pace I had been writing it (three novels before that book of short stories!). But this particular memory is very happy, especially with its sense of accomplishment.
The School of Athens. My favourite picture. It seems to glow with wonder.
How to Write Stories of Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy. Halloween. I always wanted to write. This was a book of advice to writers that I read in my late teens-- several times, as I enjoyed the book itself so much. And I read it at Halloween, so it has a Halloweeny atmosphere.
Foucault documentary, coloured glass, white. I saw a documentary about the philosopher Michel Foucault when I was in college. Now I think he is a fraud, but back then I was captivated by the boldness of his ideas. There was one particular scene where a talking head was talking against a backdrop that was all coloured glass and antiseptic white. I found something very clinical and otherwordly about this.
Beaumount Hospital Chapel. My mother died in 2001 and she was in and out of hospital for years before that. Once, I was visiting her with my father, and we all went to the hospital chapel. It was a modernist chapel, the sort that most people hate (rightly, no doubt) but which I quite like. It was the first (and would be the only) time I had been in a place of worship with my parents solely for the purpose of worship, rather than for any rite of passage or social event. I had a very strong experience of the transcendent.
Daffodills banners in Ilac Centre. There were huge banners containing pictures of daffodills and lines from Wordsworth's poem in a city centre shopping centre, when I was too young to know much about poetry. I assumed 'The Daffodills' was THE greatest poem ever, if it got such an honour, and this stirred my imagination.
Movie-watching room in Scoil Caitriona. We watched 'inspirational' feature films as part of my religious education in a Catholic school. I have publicy disparaged the religious education we got, but the truth is that a part of me has remained in that screening room all my life. Because watching movies with a serious purpose makes them more than just movies.
Jesus tree decoration in Scoil Caitriona. Sometimes a memory is dim and vivid at once-- and vivid because it is dim. There was some stylized picture of a tree in my secondary school that illustrated some aspect of the Christian mystery. That's all I remember. But it still caught my imagination.
Christmas preparations in religious class. When I was fifteen, two teachers pooled their classes and embarked on quite an extensive preparation for the Christmas season, involving various charitable works and other projects. On the last day, one of the teachers said: "You've all done a lot of work and now you can enjoy Christmas." This notion of an earned recreation has appealed to me ever since-- everything in its place, and a place for beer and skittles too.
Snow and Star Trek. This refers to an evening that it started to snow very heavily and my younger brother was watching Star Trek. Star Trek and snow feature heavily in my happy memories. I had just emerged from a very difficult predicament and the sense of release was enormous. Snow is rare in Ireland. I love snow.
Snow and Surprised by Joy in Arts Café. A memory of reading C.S. Lewis's memoir in the café in UCD, while it snowed outside, in work one morning.
Van Helsing, Christmas tree. This was during my intensive fiction-writing phase. I was in the sitting room with my oldest brother. The Christmas tree was up and he was watching Van Helsing-- a film I hated in the cinema, but came to lie for its sheer eye candy. The light was off and the Christmas fairy lights were flashing. The moment appealed to me so much that it became a personal tradition to have this movie on the DVD player while I was writing!
Faith and Culture studio. Very cosy, comfy studio of an EWTN show. My ideal sitting-room.
Going to the South Dublin County Council interview. A public library job I went for before I started working in UCD. I didn't get in. It was a very dark morning as I went in. I've always found dark mornings exciting.
A drink on Christmas morning. My sister told me that, when she was a teenager, she would have a glass of some liqueur or other on Christmas morning. This seemed the most deliciously grown-up idea to me. I can't remember how old I was.
The coloured lights in bar beside Michelle's place. A ratskeller called Chiocca's. My favourite eatery in the world-- so cosy and down-to-earth-- but the coloured lights are gone.
Cake in the oven, flowers in the field. Two early childhood memories superimposed-- or maybe the second memory was just my imagination. Looking at cakes on a grill, seeing the flames underneath, and thinking of daffodills in a meadow. A dreamy, haunting memory that comes to me when I listen to slow classical music.
Matchstick men and women in credit-union type brochures. What it says. Domesticity idyll.
DCU sports club. I have never been athletic but I have always loved playing sports. One day in school we went to a local sports club. It seemed like heaven to me. Not only for its function but its bright colours and atmosphere-- a place devoted to play!
All Saints Mass, horrorthon. Somehow, watching several horror films in a row and then going to All Saints Day Mass seemed to go together perfectly. You don't know Halloween until you know All Saints Day.
Black Swan books. A classy bookshop in Richmond VA that plays jazz music and has very erudite volumes. I spent about an hour there once, with Michelle, and marvelled at the thought that every book was about something, a doorway into a different world. I felt I was standing in the centre of the universe.