Monday, May 31, 2010


The White Mountains

Back from Crete. Ah ... seven days of heaven! Will talk about Crete later. Took Franz Kafka's Metamorphosis and Other Stories, R.M.Liuzza's  translation of 'Beowulf', and a collection of Maggie O'Dwyer's poetry, 'Laughter Heard from the Road',  along for the ride. Bought Michael Hofmann's translation of Kafka's work about two years ago, because his name was popping up everywhere, but never seemed to have the time to read it . His name cropped up again alongside that of Karl Marx during a one act play that I saw in Charleville, just before going away. When it got to what books I should  take away with me... mmm ... I thought ...perhaps its 'Kafka time!'

Nothing could have prepared me for Kafka! An onslaught of outrageously supreme writing! In the introduction, the translator, Michael Hofmann says that most people miss Kafka's sense of humour, which, apparently, was very much in evidence, when the author read aloud, his own works. Well I certainly didn't find myself laughing out loud or even smiling ... I cried alright though! I knew nothing about him prior to reading some of these short stories. Returning from my hols, I checked him out on 'Wiki' and discovered that he died at 41 years old from TB. Like many writers, he didn't start out as one, his father, who from what I can gather was a bit of a bully, was a larger than life business man, and Kafka, himself was involved with an asbestos family business, that probably helped to kill him. At that time, there would have been no information about the ill-effects of asbestos. Kafka worked in various business ventures and it is very obvious from his writing that he had huge sympathy for the ordinary working man, and understood the weariness and drudgery of the lives of those taking orders, who earned very little money and even less respect. 'Metamorphosis' is quite the most horrific story I have ever read, but also the saddest. I am not going to give a synopsis ... just please read it. Man's inhumanity to mankind and nature is baffling, but when you find yourself understanding why ... that in itself is disturbing! Kept me awake all night! A person who abuses someone, has usually been the subject of abuse themselves and so on and so on. There is a huge sense of alienation and loneliness running throughout his work. In almost all the stories I read, the narrator is more often than not looking through a window out onto a street ... a life ... to which he feels he doesn't belong ... but longs to!

Franz Kafka 1883 - 1924
Whilst Kafka's writing disturbed me, it didn't depress me. In fact I was uplifted by the magical power of his imagination and sheer genius of his concise writing . George Steiner wrote upon the cover of this collection of Kafka, 'What Dante and Shakespeare were for their ages, Kafka is for ours.'  Like Crete, I am only beginning to scratch the surface of both. I found it quite hard to get into 'Beowulf' after Kafka and decided to dive, once again, into Maggie O'Dwyer's collection of poetry, 'Laughter Heard from the Road'

Lying under Beautiful Bourgainvillea

Maggie O'Dwyer graduated from art college in 1974 and her work has been exhibited widely and included in The Royal Hibernian Academy exhibitions. In 2000 she won a scholarship to the Eastern Washing University Writing Workshop and was awarded a place in the Poetry Ireland Introduction Series in 2007. Paula Meehan writes on the cover of Maggie's book, 'Maggie O'Dwyer brings her painter's eye and a gardener's understanding to poems that are at once beautifully wrought and chilling ... these poems will resonate out, create a stir and bring her the wide listenership she so richly deserves.' 

  'Eleni's' cafe in the village of Megala Chorafia


I simply devoured Maggie O'Dwyer's poetry. I love her mind; her love of colour, flowers and nature,  which rings reflecting, resounding bells. Here's just one poem from her wonderful collection to whet your appetites.                         


My mouth is full of music
and voices that live inside me
like ghosts. They plead in Arabic,
lay out their graves in sand.
A choir of women shakes
the blossoms from a pear tree
and in harmony my mother
waves goodbye, my father
sits beside me on that long drive
through the mountains.

All I can do is open my mouth
all I can hope for is that you hear me
and that somehow I can give you
the sound of a mist and forgiveness,
found in a line of trees at twilight.

 Cricket up close and personal in Palm Forest at Preveli!
.Chilling out!

(An aside) This was a first for me! Never seen a cricket in such close proximity before. I love the sound they make, but for some reason, they were very quiet for the whole week that I was in Crete. Of course, the hotter it gets, the louder they rattle their wings, thereby creating the 'cricket's song' ( or so I'm told by the natives).  Perhaps that's their inbuilt cooling system. Whilst the days were sunshine-filled,  a gorgeous breeze blew the whole time. Kafka, if he were alive, might argue that even crickets need time off. However, I really missed their chorus! As another aside, below is a photo of Tony and Manolis taken in the village of Megala Chorafia outside Eleni's newly restored cafe (earlier photo of Eleni, whose response to my call for a photo, was, only if I could make her slimmer ... a retired head teacher who worked in nearby port, Chania ... a lovely lady, who made me delicious mountain tea made from herbs, that only grow in certain parts of the White Mountains at the behest of Manolis)..

Spot the Greek! Tony and Manolis.

Back to reading matter. When I had digested Maggie O'Dwyer's delightful collection, I headed into the bookshop in Kalyves to buy some books about the history and culture of Crete, and in particular, their resistance campaign against the German occupation during World War II. I had already dipped into Anthony Beevor's, 'Crete, The Battle and the Resistance', but I wanted something written from a Cretan viewpoint. I found it in the guise of 'Cretan Runner' written by George Psychoundakis, translated and introduced by Patrick Leigh Fermor.

The translator, Patrick Leigh Fermor was born in 1915 of English and Irish descent. He did not perform particularly well at school, and following a year and a half journey on foot to Constantinople, he lived and travelled in the Balkans and the Greek Archipelago. During that time he developed a deep interest in languages and remote places. He joined the Irish guards in 1939, becoming the liaison officer in Albania and fought in Greece and Crete, to which he returned three times during the German Occupation.

   (Crete) DeWit, Insula Candia, Amsterdam C 1680

               Patrick Leigh Fermor

(Re: Above map of Crete.) The emphasis on fortifications reflects contemporary events. Crete had been under the control of Venice from the 13th Century when it was purchased from the Marquis of Monferrat. Of both strategic and commercial importance, Crete was the site of many battles and one of the largest sieges ever recorded - the city of Candia from 1648 until its fall in 1669. Suda (shown in inset plan - now called Souda, a naval base town at the mouth of Souda Bay) was one of only 3 small ports retained by the Venetians until these ourposts, too, came under Turkish rule in 1718) I am becoming quite well-acquainted with this whole area, following four visits.

Fermor lived for over two years in the mountains, organizing the resistance, and describes the impact of one of his places of refuge, in the forward to his translation of George's book thus: ' There is one refuge not far below the birthplace of Zeus on Mount Ida, that I remember almost with homesickness, in spite of the snow and rain that blew into the cave's mouth, the stalactites that dripped on our heads, the smoke that reddened our damp eyes and the armies of vermin that manoeuvred in our torn and stinking clothes ....'   Fermor was awarded the DSO in 1944 and the OBE in 1943, and was Honorary Citizen of  Heraklion, capital of Crete. He is the author of many books and won a great number of prizes for his literature, including the 1978 W.H. Smith & Son Annual Literature Award for  Roumeli; A Time of Gifts. He lives in Greece in a house he designed and built. He is a visiting member of the Athens Academy and is a Hon. D.Litt. at the University of Kent.


George Psychoundakis 1920 - 2006

George Psychoundakis was born in Crete in the tiny hamlet of Asi Gonia in the prefecture of Rethymnon in 1920. After a brief period of schooling, he lived as a shepherd, supporting his family, until the beginning of the German occoupation in 1941, when he joined the Cretan Resistance as a runner. He was later awarded the BEM. I am only beginning to acquaint myself with his story, but he and others like him saved many lives. They were as sure-footed as their sheep and bore a fountain of  knowledge, which included the whereabouts of safe-house villages and mountain caves, which enabled them to deliver messages, strategic information, and secure allied forces in  hiding, quite often, until they could be safely evacuated. 

                   Residents of village Asi Gonia

Some of the soldiers that had been captured and imprisoned on the island, by the Germans during this time as prisoners of war, were executed just four days before the Allied Forces arrived to liberate Crete. The monastery at Preveli provided a sanctuary for a while for many such soldiers during the occupation. I took the photo below on the way back from the village of Plakia on the south coast. Didn't manage to get in that day, but part of the monastery is open to the public. (Hoping to get back in September, and as I become more acquainted with the geography of this island, places like Asi Gonia. Preveli, Maleme seem far more accessible.)

                         Monastery at Preveli.          

George Psychoundakis was arrested as a deserter and all the papers and intelligence surrounding his great work during the occupation were mislaid and, inspite of his British decoration in 1945, he served terms of imprisonment in the jails of Piraeus and Macedonia. His files were found in the end and the matter was more or less straightened out, but after having had to do two more years' service in the Pindus mountains; a time of constant fighting in the fiercest period of the civil war against the communist insurgents of Markos and his successors, he returned to his village of Asi Gonia to find his family suffering extreme hardship and in dire poverty. He later told Patrick Leigh Fermor, who had played a huge part in the whole resistance operation himself, and to whom George had entrusted his five exercise books, his record of what happened during those days of resistance, to be compiled into a book, 'I was locked up in cells with brigands and communists and all the dregs of the mainland.' (It was during three days of this period of anger and misery that all his hair fell out.) George Psychoundakis went on to write other books. Much more reading to do about him and that whole period. Another famous Cretan:

Nikos Kazantzakis

I digress somewhat (but not really!) by introducing another great Cretan, Nikos Kazantzakis, who was responsible for the book Zorba, which led to the film, Zorba the Greek starring Anthony Quinn (Zorba)and Alan Bates (Nikos - based on the author himself), and the musical, Zorba, on which I worked as assistant director to Brian Merriman from Dublin and performed the role of the widow who is stoned to death on the village square, because she is having a love affair with Niko. (As one might expect Niko got away scot-free. Sure, wasn't he just a feeble-minded man, who was seduced by a woman in black weeds!) I was deeply affected by the part and the show as a whole. There is an immensely dramatic moment in the film, following the death of an aging, but nevertheless charming Frenchwoman, Hortense, (whom we gather was a courtesan, and, if we are to believe her wistfulness, had not only an intimate knowledge of Russian, Italian and British Admirals, but a very health sexual relationship with Zorba, himself) when the black-vestiged crones of the village enter 'la chambre de la mademoiselle' and strip absolutely everything from the room; the furniture, the boas, the frilly, lacy remnants of a bygone era. Within a few seconds, all that is left is a corpse and a bed. Quite chilling! A few years on, perhaps I'm not quite so horrified when I realize that, from a historical viewpoint, the women at that time, would have had nothing and I suppose ... what use were all those trappings to a woman like Hortense, once she was dead.   

Tropical Palm Forest at Preveli

During my book-buying spree, I picked up, The Last Temptation of Christ, written by ...surprise ... surprise ... Mr Kazantzakis himself, which was blacklisted by the Vatican, filmed by Martin Scorcese, has been labelled heretical, blasphemous, and also a masterpiece. He spent his whole life travelling, gliding from one school of thought to another, searching for truth and a handle upon the wonders and mystery of life. Etched upon his tombstone in Heraklion, are the words uttered by his wonderful Cretan character, Zorba: 'I hope for nothing. I fear nothing. I am free.' (What a wonderful way to live a life, methinks!) There is something about those words that resonates at the very heart of Crete. Even during conversations about recent disasterous economic revelations, they smile... not with a flippancy, (because they are fully aware that a possible increase in the retirement age will impact the employment of their children and grandchildren), but with an acceptance that eschews enormous strength of character and a serene belief in themselves.

Palm Forest Cooling Spot!

I took quite a few photographs in the Palm Tropical Forest at Preveli beach in Southern Crete, because it is so different from the rest of the island. Crete is 156 miles long from Sidero on the East to Grambousa in the west, and at its widest point the island measures 34 miles from north to south between the headlands of Stavros and Lithinon, while at the isthmus of Ierapetra it is just 12km, and almost equidistant from Europe, Asia and Africa. It has three large mountain ranges, separated by beautiful green valleys and numerous plains (the largest Mesara) covered in olive trees and vineyards. Bought another book by Theocharis E. Detorakis, Professor at University of Crete titled History of Crete. In 1985 he was awarded the 'Nikos Kazantzakis' award for his scholarly work and is an extremely well-known authority on Crete. The author sets about compiling a readily accessible history of Crete from pre-historic times up to and including the World War II. Am presently flitting from one to another of all these wonderful books.
An Alligator of a different Timbre in the Palm Forest!

And so to something lighter ... my birthday! I could do whatever I wanted ... after all it was my day! I wanted to cycle for the day on the Apokoronas peninsular, close to Chania, and perhaps as far as Kefalas, a village that we had driven through some years previously. I remembered it as being particularly beautiful. We headed off into the wind and an uphill battle!

Spectacular White Mountains and Tony looking windswept and interesting!

We had decided to breakfast along the way, and as is our wont, we were hungry after about four miles. Bikes are definitely the only way to travel. What adventurers we were! No real plan ... no picnic ... just enjoying the wonderful views, the smells, the colours. I thought I had died and gone to heaven! We decided to breakfast at a little taverna in Almyrida, a hotspot for water sports. Tony had the full Irish and I had honey, yoghurt and strawberries (no bananas!) Suitably stuffed, we set off again and managed to get lost (had purchased a small map by now and had more or less figured where Kefalas was.) Not to worry, we weren't in any hurry whatsoever! We soon got back on track after some very interesting interractions requesting directions from Cretan villagers, who hadn't a word of English. That of course, is where the dramatic training comes in handy. Tony just stands back and lets me off. Always works though. Where's there's a will ... there's a way to communicate and make one's self understood. Of course, a smile works wonders! We cycled through the divine villages of Kokkino Chorio and Paleloni, climbing higher and higher ... walking alongside the bikes more often than not ... chatting and laughing ... taking in the flowers (May is a great time for wild flowers in Crete) herds of sheep and goats complete with bells, the style of new apartments and villas, some traditionally conceived, some others quite garishly marring the landscape. (Thankfully the latter are in the minority)  Eventually, having been blasted by unusually strong May breezes, we rode into Kefalas like two outlaws from a spagetti western. It was quite stunning, and every bit as beautiful as I remembered. Tony didn't recall it at all, but then he was driving that day, and on the other side of the road. By now we were hungry and thirsty again. We stopped at this small taverna just off the main plakia (square)

Birthday Lunch Date

We stood our bikes outside and plonked ourselves down wearily. A young personable man approached and we asked for a menu. He had only just opened and was on his own, and explained, he could prepare a sandwich or an omelette for us. However, we settled for bread, feta cheese, olives, dips, a coke, a half litre of house red and bottle of  water. 

Birthday Lunch!

It was the food of kings and queens ... in idyllic surroundings! It was without doubt, one of the most delicious meals I have ever had. When we asked for the bill, the young man said 5 euros and 20 cents. Can you believe that! We gave him 10 euros ... but come on ... fantastic value for money!

A Break for Me and One for the Bike!

We wandered and cycled along the narrow white streets of Kefalas. The old village houses were festooned in pinks, blues and purples. Sleepy cats, dogs and old men graced the square. No tourists ...perhaps taking siestas. We met one Englishman, however (Mad ... perhaps... out in the mid-day sun!)  who showed us his lovingly-restored village house. Taking pity on us, he advocated a return cycle through Vamos, because it was all down hill. (Mmm... yes ...I thought... knowing how poor men's navigational skills can be ... oops sorry ... don't mean to generalize ... it has just been my experience!)

Kefalas Church

Some roaming later, we decided to give the well-intentioned ex-pat's suggestion a whirl! On the way out of Kefalas in the other direction, we came across a rather significant welcoming monument to Kefalas, that would put the 'Welcome To Tipperary (Tiobraid Arran)' sign to shame, and was filled at the other side with religious icons, relics,  lanterns etc. Bucketloads of eucalyptus trees on this peninsula. They were introduced into Georgiopoli from Australia, by another great Cretan man, whose name escapes me at present, believing they would help to dissuade malaria mosquitoes from the area, but in actual fact they provided an entirely different service... being severely thirsty critters, they helped to dry up the swampy marshlands of the area.

Another Break!

Its wonderfully refreshing that those items could be left behind the above monument of welcome and seemingly remain 'unhooliganized'. In fact, during night-time strolls, its quite fascinating, as a westerner, to see fridges and display cabinets containing relatively inexpensive items, left outside closed shops etc. and no-one touches them. In fact the Englishman, did know his onions. Apart from two or three small hillocks, we free-wheeled almost all the way back to Kalyves through Vamos, Tsivaras, Armenoi with an  accompanying wind that was reminiscent of a sound track from the TV drama set in Dartmoor's Lorna Doone. Bikes returned, we headed back to our garden apartment by the river and in front of the beach. The plan was to head into romantic Chania for dinner after an hour or two of chill out in the sun. However, even the best laid plans can fail!

Canadian Gosling ... Aah!

Just settling down nicely with book, coffee and cigarettes, when an awful tarrantara exploded from the direction of the river. There was a man on the opposite riverbank gesticulaing wildly and ducks and geese sqawking madly! All hell had broken loose! Eventually it became obvious that a large white duck had the small gosling of the above photo and was trying its best to drown it. He had the gosling pinned down in the water with his rather large webbed foot and was pecking the hell out of the gosling's head. The large white duck had two allies, another white duck and a male mallard. An adult canadian goose swam towards them, hissing etc., but to make matters worse, when he realized he was up against it, he turned round and fecked off. I was horrified! Anyway just as the gosling was going down like the Lusitania, we managed to fish him out. He did not look well at all ... the poor thing. I was furious with the ducks and we spent the next two hours warding them off and waiting for the owner of the apartment to return, to enquire about a vet. Time was passing, so I remembered I'd seen a pet shop in the village and set about making some enquiries. The amused owner of the pet shop pointed to the vet's clinic, which was still open for business. I walked into a state of the art clinic ... wide open... the till ... the animal foodstuffs ... the operating theatre ...the office. I waited for ten minutes ... no sign of anyone. Tried the taverna next door. No English. Pointed next door to the bookshop. The owner reasoned that if the premises were open, then the vet would be on soon, so I re-waited. Still no sign. Thought... he's closing at 8.30, better go get the gosling and bring him back in the car. Found a box on the walk back. The gosling took an instant dislike to the box, but was pacified, once he was in the darkness that the covering with a towel provided. The vet, now in residence, came out smoking a cigarette, smiling when he saw the gosling, who was by now waddling around outside the clinic. He advised putting him back into the river, didn't charge us and was more concerned about whether we were enjoying our holiday. A nice man! With some trepidation, we put the gosling back into the river, upstream from the scene of  battle. He promptly started to cry and whimper as we spotted a community of Canadian geese across on the opposite riverbank, and  I remembered the lambs back at home and how their mothers know their own, by their baas. We could do no more anyway and turned away. But we thought about him all night. We didn't get to Chania for a romantic meal that night. But it didn't matter, I'd had the most marvellous birthday and we'd probably saved the gosling's life. It wasn't as if it was an expedition to the North Pole, but nevertheless a day gift-wrapped in spontaneous abandon. The following morning, we spotted our little, somewhat battered gosling re-united with his cohorts. Sweet! More territorial battles later however, but tried not to get too emotionally involved, but seriously difficult!


This is what I got up to instead that night ... took weird photographs like the above. Looks like I'm dead. The light somehow contains like a coffin! Some writing also:

The Arrangement.

The shutters, well and truly nailed down on the 'arrangement' ... he thinks, not listening to the woman with orange hair standing in front of him across the divide of counter, and if he could read her lips, she was probably complaining about bitterly-cold prevailing winds ... she waslike that. He hadn't wanted to miss anything about the 'arrangement'. Guillotined now, beheaded hopes and expectations roll away from him, aided by wincing winds. The orange woman continues to open and close her beak like a blue-tit chick ... in vain ... because no words are being fed.  Thoughts bang their heads against the walls of his brain, his stomach, his guts ... stuck in this cowardly cynical body of business ... street ... life ...  years of damming the sand. Eyes not covered yet, a little boy with brown hair and short navy trousers is holding the hand of his harrassed mother's hand across the river of the road. Looking up at his whole world, an angelic face, already houses hidden rebel. A pin-striped, moustached, grey-haired, tall, sad man steps out from the green doorway of the florist's with flowers, indifferently held. Flowers, given once, to surprise and delight, are now wrapped in resentful placation for  wife he no longer loves or  mistress who loves him too ...too ... ! The unhappy man, a legal money pusher of a fading financial empire was dressed 'to kill' yesterday in freshly-laundered pink shirt, cuff-linked in gold, and tied ... pink and black. "S ...s...s...sir, s...s...seriously, you are living way beyond your means...s...s...s. Our 'arrangement'!" Silence. "I don't to s...s...s...seem uns...s...s...s...sympathetic!" A rasp of freakish laughter issues from the shop-keeper's throat. Not a response to lisping whines, more a reaction to the dessert of sand about to choke him.  The manic laughter continues, as the man in grey in the partitioned office across the way from 'slaughterer' and 'slaughtered', looks up from the sports pages, nosing forward, he unglues his legs from his desk, and an expression of empathy about to be born, is cuckolded by a flinching grimace of  pain sustained from a soccer match he was too old to play. A woman in pink sits on a cold maroon faux leather chair holding a new-born baby in knitted blue. After three sons, she had wanted a girl to dress in pink like her. Disappointment trickles over  remembered hard-laboured cornerstones. An 'arrangement' outside ... the vicariousness of Nature. The laughing merchant stops. He sees again, the blood oozing from his finger that was trapped by a door that she slammed shut with combined force of wind and ocean. "Fuck off out of my life ... you pathetic yellow loser!" she screamed behind the dull lifeless door, purposeful in the flat dirty brown of conclusion. It's not so much  her ... it's the freckled head!. After all, hadn't the freckled head put a little hand into his big yellow loser's hand. He left behind orange hair and walked out to meet the redness of the sand. 'Arrangements' over.  

Maureen Walsh May 2010 ©

Manolis, Tony and Hector the Brave!


My mind meanders as I attempt to squeeze out a stubborn splinter that took up residence in the venus mount of my palm, next door to trowelled blisters ... wounds inflicted during pre-holiday battles with Autumn and Winters' thorny expansion and Spring's invasion of weeds. As I move sunbed, books, water and cigarettes (in fact the smallest bedsit I've ever lived in) to a new patch of sun, the man above us, issuing all the oo's, ah's and ow's is not, after all, having afternoon sex. He is, in fact losing lousily at cards. A single bourgainvillea florette floats out into the sea. Out of place, like the splinter in my hand, but all the more beautiful in its removed singularity. My eyes take a break from splinter, soaring towards a swallow. In my daydreams, he swoops and sweeping me from sand, he gathers and settles me safely amongst his feathers. No-one will notice I'm gone, because in a mere moment of earthly time, he will show me everything! A dove chants a benedictory vesperal psalm... familiar and cheerful. A lawnmower launches into a scherzo movement to 'prim and properize' spiky, resilient grass, not like the coniferous plastic 'never has to be cut' grass in the hotel next door. Meanwhile the splinter is still there ... festering ... fermenting ... cosy!

Maureen Walsh May 2010 ©


So where does the 'slut' bit come in? You never would have guessed it, would you! Well yes... I ... a ... 'slut', there is absolutely no doubting that fact. It's just one of those things I have to accept about myself. Whenever I go abroad, I'm afraid I'm simply unable to resist... foreign ... CIGARETTES! Liberated from the grow-bag of decency and allegiance, and not necessarily swayed by financial expediency, I find myself wooed by the exotic aromas of foreign tobacco, the different colours ... textures ... lengths ... thicknesses and ... strengths. I notice I hold them differently between my fingers, my facial expressions change accordingly, I cross my legs or ankles, sometimes just simply holding my knees together gently, my head might shift a little to the left or the right, I might jut my chin a little northwards. I'm a slave ... impervious to their subtle, yet blatant charm ... I surrender! I'm afraid I'm just an old-fashioned cigarette slut!

Home in my Garden

I had a terrific holiday in so many ways scratching the surface of  Cretan history and culture. It is so vast! Would love to learn the language, but that will only happen by ear I would imagine. Back to the grindstone ... school shows etc.. Went for an interview in Maynooth last Friday to do an MA in Dramatherapy. So keeping fingers crossed.

Hope I haven't bored... it is quite long. Wanted to get this blog finished by the end of May. Its three o'clock and the dawn has yet to come up on June lst., so I guess I just about managed it.

Ciao for now!

p.s. Apologies for the intensely irritating colour variations on this blog. Lost photographs that took almost an hour each to upload in the first place, but am I complaining or moaning?  I smile through gritted teeth. Landline connection in 2010 I ask you! The tiny little village in Megala Chorafia in the White Mountains has Broadband! It is now 4 am. and I've had it!

In fact, this all seems a little trite, when we hear news of those innocent aid workers taking supplies intended for the suffering in the Gaza Strip ... shot down by Israeli Naval Forces in International waters recently. Oh dear ... where does it all end! Good night or should I say Good Morning!

     Dappled in Sunshine - Glen of Aherlow


Psychoundakis George, Trans. Fermor, Patrick Leigh, The Cretan Runner: Penguin Books Ltd. London, 2009
Kazantzakis Nikos, Trans. Bien P.A. The Last Temptation: Faber and Faber Ltd. London, 2003.
Detorakis Theocharis E., Trans. Davis John C. History of Crete: Geronymaki. Heraklion. 1994
Kafka Franz, Trans. Hofman Michael Metamorphosis and Other Stories: Penguin Books Ltd. London 
O'Dwyer Maggie, Laughter Heard from the Road: Templar Poetry. Derbyshire, 2009.
Beevoir, Anthony, Crete The Battle and the Resistance: John Murray (Publishers). Great Britain, 2005

Monday, May 10, 2010


Richard Harris and Vanessa Redgrave as King Arthur and Guinevere in film 'Camelot'

Those lyrics are from Lerner and Loewe's wonderful musical 'Camelot', which is based on Arthurian legend and in particular, the romantic triangle of King Arthur, Sir Lancelot and Guinevere. The song, 'It's May' is a frolicsome, wistful piece sung by Guinevere and company, set amongst woods, food and wine ... delighting in the sport of wooing and spooning. The very fastidious and very christian Lancelot, who has heard tell of King Arthur and his round table in his native land, France, sets sail for England to become one of Arthur's knights and join in his quest ...'Might for Right'. When this rather handsome but seriously earnest young man arrives at Camelot into the middle of all this merrymaking, he succeeds in distracting Arthur's attention away from the frivolity of May, which in turn annoys and irritates Guinevere, because she believes there has to be time for the sports and spoils of love, even if you are following a quest for truth and honour. Eventually, of course, she falls deeply, deeply in love with Lancelot... and I'm not going to say another word. Watch the movie, read the book! Both Limerick's own Richard Harris and Vanessa Redgrave give jaw-dropping performances.

Glorious Wisteria - Couldn't live without it!

May Day is also called International Labour Day, with its roots in the trade union movements across the globe; and is not just a celebration of the working classes and their contributions to the world economy, but a reminder that the working classes of this world require an equitable slice of the cake, so to speak. Throughout history, long before trade unions were established, festivals, and in particular, May Day was a holiday and an opportunity for those in the service of the 'big house folk', to partake in merry-making and abandonment, away from the irksome grind of everyday existence. Perhaps Mother Nature, listening to the needs of her children designed May with this in mind. May is a 'calming', but 'liberating' month. It acts like an overture or prelude, it previews what's to come in the rest of the opera or suite, the Summer; a quietness before the full glory of Summer; a preview of the promise of prime. The month of May is called after the Roman goddess Maia, daughter of Faunus and wife of Vulcan (his Greek counterpart, Hephaestus, who married Aphrodite.) Farmers were cautioned not to sow grain before the time of her setting, or conjunction with the sun, which has apparently shifted from April in early Roman times, due to the precession of the Earth's axis.

Bluebells - Two days ago!

As the Romans invaded Western Europe and Britain, much of the symbolism of the Floralia and Beltaine became entwined, eventually becoming the holiday we know as Mayday or Walpurgis. The customs of going 'a-maying', collecting flowers, greenery and the maypole survives virtually to this day, as do the balefires in Britain, Germany and other countries of Europe. The sexual aspect of the holiday, however, has become almost extinct in many countries. The festivities were viewed as sinful by some Christian leaders, and in 1644, the celebrations were banned by the Puritan-controlled Parliament in Britain. 

My Cherry Blossom!

Beltane, lst day of May and Summer, is the anglicization of the Irish 'Bealtaine' or Scottish 'Beatuinn'. While 'tene' clearly means 'fire, 'Bel' might refer to Belenus, a pastoral god of the Gauls or from 'Bel' meaning 'brilliant'.

My Japanese Maple - Taken lying on my back looking upwards and through!

The Druids and their successors lit fires on the hilltops at Beltane to bring the sun's light down to earth. In Scotland every household fire was extinguished and hill top fires were kindled 3 times by 3 men using wood from 9 sacred trees. (3's crop up everywhere in mythology. Dante was also fond of number 3). People thrust brands into the roaring flames, whirling them around their heads in imitation of the circling of the sun. As the fires sunk low, girls jumped across them to procure husbands and pregnant women stepped through the ashes  to ensure easier births.

A variegated version - Taken the same way. Like the contrast between leaf and branch!

Beltane was a time of fertility and unbridled merry-making, when young and old would spend the night making love in the Greenwood. In the morning, they would return home to the village bearing budding branches of hawthorn (the May Tree) and other spring flowers to decorate themselves, their families and their homes.


In every village, the maypole, usually a birch or ash pole, would be raised, and the dancing and feasting began, led by the May Queen, her consort, the King, sometimes called 'Jack-in-the-Green' or the 'Green Man', the old god of the wildwood. They were drawn in a cart, covered in flowers and enthroned in a leafy arbour as the divine couple that symbolized the sacred marriage of earth and sun.

On my back again!

I have been minding a friend's dogs for the last week or so. The ten mile drive over there has produced so many gasps and whoops of delight, as I witness glorious sunsets, bouncing lambs, clumsy calves, leggy foals,  and rabbits bobbing here and there, peaking out from behind tufts of grass, and I drive ever so slowly by to get a look at soft brown eyes, yearning to be seen as friend not foe, and fields of flax wearing, 'an almost painful yellow'. As a youngster, I always dressed up for May Day, calling to houses, singing a few songs, collecting a few pennies for sweets. One year, I can remember dressing up my brother, Martin as an Indian, complete with turban, daubing some of my mother's dark brown foundation (at least I think that's what it was!) onto his face, placing him out in front, because he looked so cute! I wonder does he remember ... probably not! 

Some things that I am going to do next May Day:

Arise at dawn and wash in the morning dew: the woman who washes her face in it will be beautiful; the man who washes his hands will be skilled with knots and nets.

If you live near water, make a garland or posy of spring flowers and cast it into stream, lake or river to bless the water spirits.

Prepare a May basket by filling it with flowers and goodwill, then give it to one in need of caring, such as an elderly friend.

Beltaine is one of the three "spirit-nights" of the year when the faeries can be seen. At dusk, twist a rowan sprig into a ring and look through it, and you may see them.

Make a wish as you jump a bonfire or candle flame for good luck—but make sure you tie up long skirts first!

Make a May bowl —wine or punch in which the flowers of sweet woodruff or other fragrant blossoms are soaked—and drink with the one you love.try out next May Day:

Enjoy the rest of May ... its special! My love for May is rooted in the lime-green of newness, the 'hum' of 'may'bes, an excuse to idle ... anticipate the arrival of the May Fly alongside an expectant, rising nation of salmon, the onslaught of heady, aphrodisiac scents of lilac, hawthorn, viburnum and wisteria, in veils of mauve, white and puple. Anyway, I'm off to a favourite spot of mine, Crete, later this week for a few days, and will celebrate my birthday there! How lucky am I! I get to smell majoram, oregano and rosemary growing wild, taste Cretan honey, bananas and yogurt, listen to Cretan music, touch the soil of Zeus's homeland, and see the smiles of the Cretan people, and in particular, my friend, Manolis. A feast for all my senses! Crete in May! 

Nelson Eddy and Jeanette McDonald -  Film 'Maytime'

Ciao for now!

Painfully Beautiful Flax Field in Orchardstown!



O Radiant bride that kissed
With flames of love
The frenzied day ....
Her bridegroom.
Flee not from his lips
To those of another
Unseen ... Unfamiliar
Only imagined.

Unswayed by earthly plea,
She slides into the Other's bed.
Echoes of her beauty
Soaked up by passing clouds ... 
Pink-sugared promises.
Then final...
Glorious punishment.

Scrap of scarlet skirt,
Caught upon thorn of disappointment:
Tantalizing ...
Triumphant ...
Trailing ...


Maureen Walsh 2010©  

Inspired by last evening's breathtaking sunset!!

Ciao for now!