Thursday, August 26, 2010


Warning: Do not be fooled by the title of this blog! Its content is not remotely connected to orthodox surgery or medicine!

Last Monday week, I decided to take a rather arduous walk up to Lake Muskery in the Galtee Mountains, armed with friend, Nancy, camera, picnic lunch, and a new pair of walking boots. Apart from a shepherd calling to his three obedient sheep dogs, we heard nothing except the wind swirling and swooping in and around the various peaks and crevasses.


It had been some time since I had done this particular walk and I had forgotten just how hard it is on the lungs! After a while however, I sloped into a comfortable rhythm of breathing and stopped wishing I'd stayed at home to finish the dreaded ironing. The purpleness of the heather heaved around us and we repeated ourselves in declarations of its wild, unqualified beauty, even stopping to test its 'bedworthiness'!

                       Me taking time out!

As a retired secondary school teacher of English and Geography, Nancy plied me with extremely interesting information about rock formation etc. Eventually, we arrived at the lake and found shelter to feast on apricots, cheese, crackers, chocolate, coffee and cigarettes. (An almost healthy lunch!) Had camped at the lakeside, one night several years ago, and swam in it, in the darkness, after several 'slippery nipples' (A fairly robust cocktail...The mad old days!)

                  A Pensive Nancy

We took the easiest option for our descent, along a rough dirt track, which enabled more breath for discourse. Our conversation sprawled out across the subjects of Spirituality, Catholicism, Islam, our work in drama and theatre, the chaos of the Irish government; indeed the chaos of the planet ....! My car came into view again after three and a half hours, and as we trudged closer, I could see broken glass next to the passenger/driver side. My worst fears were realized. The window had been smashed and my handbag had been snatched from the boot. A surgical removal of sorts ... no key required in this instance! The peaceful high invoked by the walk was flattened somewhat at the thought of having to cancel all my credit cards, the loss of my driving licence and mobile phone with all my contact numbers. However, a more balanced perspective returned, when I learned that same evening, that a very dear friend of mine was on a life-support machine. 

Teaching drama and directing musical theatre is very much a seasonal and quite spasmodic occupation, and because of the present recession, summer workshops had not been an option this year unlike previous years. I decided therefore to take myself off in the van armed with tea towels, mens jocks and socks, reading glasses, and various other bits of rather unexciting merchandise to sell at markets around the area. Whilst I have not yet made my first million, nor even my first two hundred euros, I have met some of the canniest, most caring and comical people over the summer. I ran my own shop for almost twelve years on the Main Street in Tipperary town, but the market business is an absolutely different ball game. For one thing, there is something quite liberating about trading in the open air, rather like eating al fresco, which is infinitely more pleasurable, once the elements are on your side.

                    Camden Market, London.

(Visited this market during recent trip to UK.)

Last Thursday, Emma and myself had just set up the market stall when the heavens opened. I blamed Jim, my neighbouring marketeer for the rain, because he started singing. Jim, a sprightly man, from Co. Limerick, who has won both our hearts, is one of the most genuinely cheerful people I have ever met. Its quite difficult to put an age on him but I guess he must be in his seventies; a batchelor, who took care of his mother until she died a few years ago. Jim's nephews work alongside him, and their respect for him is hugely evident. We covered the merchandise and sat back into the van, hoping that the grey clouds would roll by towards Limerick. Two hours later, the rain stopped, but only for half an hour, in which, we took in the princely sum of 20 euros. The rain came back this time with a vengeance. Time to pack up. As we were about to head home, we realized that we had somehow managed to lock the keys, which I'd placed securely into my newly-purchased handbag, inside the van! Damsels in distress!

Almost two hours later, and following a suggestion from Jim, that we were insured and should therefore break the window (not a good idea considering the break-in of a few days earlier, I thought!), a local garage owner was performing a key retrieval operation par excellence, surrounded by Jim and two other marketeers, in unrelenting rain. Having pushed the window outwards with two cushion 'yokes', the 'surgeon' used the gap to insert two strong wires with differently-angled hooks attached; one that fished my bag towards the driver seat, and the other to fish out the keys from the bag. The 'key' supporters cheered him on. Jim uttered such words as 'You're fishing well!' and 'You have it in the back of the net!' causing Emma to double up with laughter, and because I couldn't bear to watch the delicate operation, lest I should put a 'hex' on the procedure, given my luck of that week, I hid behind the van with my fingers crossed.


The quest was victorious and my marketeer heroes brought  the keys to me as if they were bringing home the 'Golden Fleece' itself. Whoever said the age of courage and chivalry in the face of adversity is dead!!!

Discovered afterwards that I could have called out the AA. Might have saved myself a few bob, but would hate to have missed out on this unexpected experience of 'ceoil agus craic'.

We drove home as if we had sold hundreds of euros-worth of stock with the new catch-phrase of the moment, 'You're fishing well!' in a broad Limerick accent on our lips. Two lots of breaking, entering and extraction within the space of four days!

My mind took a turn off the main highway, and I got to thinking about my fascination with doors, keyholes and what lies behind them; my love of the story 'The Secret Garden' for example.... the door being a symbol of making choices, changes. Then the thoughts drifted to the FEAR of opening those doors, and decisions not to walk through them being made, lest they should slam behind, leaving us stranded in unchartered waters, unable to return to the tried and tested of familiarity.

I believe that a fear of change; a fear of turning the key and walking through the portal  into another chapter, might eventually cause us to lose the colour that makes us who we are. Life might become dull, boring and GREY! We could find ourselves locked OUTSIDE the business of LIFE! The Keyhole Man, a siren-like figure is a metaphor for that fear!


Have you seen the Keyhole Man?
That lurks in the hollows and shadows.
And like legendary Charon of Hades,
Ferries souls from colour to Nothing.

If you meet the Keyhole Man,
Whose smouldering eyes transfix.
Revoke with scorn his pseudo-passion,
Designed with skill to draw you in.

If you kiss the Keyhole Man,
Gutters will choke on chunks of you,
Spat out by this demon of decaying grey.
Colour-blinded  in Nothing ... your remains with him.

Maureen Walsh. August, 2010 ©

          Keyhole Surgery of another kind!

My friend is recovering ... thank God!

Ciao for now!

Thursday, August 12, 2010


Pope Benedict's Non-Acceptance of Irish Bishops' Resignations
(Blog published purposely in blue to represent the colour of 'banging one's head off the wall!')

Pope Benedict

I don't exactly know where my head has been this week, but it was brought crashing back to planet Earth via a truckload of outrage and horror today, as I learned of the Pope's refusal to accept the resignations of Irish Bishops Eamonn Walsh and Raymond Field, submitted in December 2009, following the findings of the Murphy Report into Clerical Abuse, and after they found themselves without the support of the Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin. Fr. Federico Lombardi, spokesman of the Vatican, has stated that it is not the policy of the Vatican to comment on resignations that have not been accepted. (Yeah right....I wonder why!) The fact that the resignations of Bishops Donal Murray and Jim Moriarty have been accepted and that Bishop Martin Brennan of Galway and Archbishop of Armagh, Cardinal Sean Brady, who was involved with an investigation into the activities of eventually-convicted paedophile ex-Fr. Brendan Smyth, have both refused to resign, and haven't been asked to relinquish their clerical posts is, and quite likely to remain, a complete mystery.

                   Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone

I am not going into a whole legal debate about claims and counter-claims of 'guilt by association' and all the rest of that TWADDLE. I'll leave that to the 'so-called' experts. As far as I'm concerned, the whole thing STINKS! There is something rotten in the state of the Vatican! One only has to think back to the comments of the Vatican's No. 2, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone during a trip to Chile last April, where he said, that according to psychological reports that he had in his possession, child sexual abuse is more likely to be linked to homosexuality rather than celibacy. Gay activist groups have had a 'ball' with that one ... and why not? 

                  Archbishop Diarmuid Martin

I do feel somewhat sorry for Archbishop Diarmuid Martin in all of this, whom I believe has genuinely tried to get the Catholic Church, here in Ireland, back up on its feet and into a position of faith again, by attempting  to rid the barrel of its rotten apples. The Pope's refusal to accept these resignations serves a huge blow to his authority and a serious undermining of his integrity.

                          Richard Dawkins

Pope Benedict is visting the UK from 16th - 19th September to beatify Cardinal John Henry Newman, the 19th-century theologian. Richard Dawkins, atheist campaigner and Christopher Hitchens, the atheist author, are planning to have the Pope arrested for 'crimes against humanity', exploiting the same legal principle used to arrest Augusto Pinochet, the late Chilean dictator, when he visited Britain in 1998. Dawkins and Hitchens believe the Pope will not be able to claim diplomatic immunity from arrest, because although the visit is a state visit, he is not the head of a state, recognized by the United Nations. They have commissioned barrister Geoffrey Robertson and Mark Stephens to present a justification to the Crown Prosecution Service for legal action.

            Augusto Pinochet - Chilean Dictator

I sincerely hope that Pope Benedict is arrested! Not that I believe for one moment, he will ever be proven guilty for any crime; 'guilty by assoication' or otherwise.. But there would be some sort of poetic justice to see him reeling on a witness stand; being interrogated;  his activities scrutinized by prosecuting council or tribunal legal eagles; feeling threatened; feeling vulnerable!  Of course he will be shown every possible respect and his human rights will be upheld, UNLIKE the physically and sexually abused children of this nation and others, who have been made to grovel and squirm, as if they were the scum of this planet. Who was looking after their human rights?

“Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” - “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
(Last words of Jesus Christ on the cross)

2009 was a sad, sad year for the victims of child sexual abuse, and for all of us that live and breathe the air of this island. Even after the revelations of both the Ryan Report and the Murphy Report, which are both damning indictments of both religious and government institutions of this country, we are left with hierarchies, that have up to now, for the most part, only half-heartedly accepted their responsiblity towards the thousands that were abused, whilst in their care, and with a Church, that is  totally out of touch with its followers. However, the Pope's refusal to accept the resignations of these two power-hungry bishops is, I firmly believe, another huge nail in the coffin of the Church in this country. There will be no need for priests before very long, because the diminshing numbers, with any iota of faith still intact, will shortly expire and the Church as we know it, is bound to die alongside them, unless it is radically reformed. I don't believe The Church, the Vatican, the Pope, are behaving any differently today than they did during the  'Medici Years' in Italy, that we read about in history books. Technological advancements, however, allow us to see and hear what's going on around the globe, as it happens, not decades or centuries later. An 'Instant History'

Jonathan Kelly, of the  Survivors of Child Abuse support group said, 'There is a cancer in the Church, and the only person who can remove that cancer is the Pope. And he is refusing to do it.' I would say that the Pope is part of THAT CANCER! He is not the SURGEON. The people are the SURGEON! Until we, the people, say; 'Screw you!'  alongside and in alliance with those who have suffered not only the ordeal of their abuse and torment, but have also had to contend with being ignored and belittled for decades, we will ALL continue to be SCREWED OVER ... AGAIN AND AGAIN .... AND YET AGAIN! I would like to think that the Pope could be arrested just like anyone else under suspicion of 'crimes against humanity, and sincerely hope that the streets throughout the UK throb resoundingly with peaceful, but massive protest. Enough is enough for God's sake!

Pete Seeger's lyrics come to mind: 'When will they ever learn ....When will they ever learn?

Ciao for now!

Saturday, August 7, 2010


As a painter, and therefore an alchemist, he re-arranged people, souls and things, in the spirit of Zosimos of Panopolis; sometimes taking them to pieces bit by bit, and with magical twists of colour and light, they were re-invented or re-worked.  The artist lived in a thatched cottage, that smoked ... at the edge of the sea, where he fished for ... inspiration ... in the waters of Allihies. Curious creative mind of morning traces rippling rockpools, re-filled with tidal gifts bequeathed from the depths of Ballydonegan's night-time waters. Brown toes kiss glinting salt, abandoned on rested, undulating sand. Hessian hair, glistening in the early sun, hides knowing sapphire eyes, that see the familiar, for the first time ... every time.

On that morning after the festival,  the artist was distracted from his investigation of a dying crab, by the waking cries of nearby seagulls. Standing up and shielding his eyes to follow their whereabouts, he became aware of a woman, walking ahead of him, along the edge of the sea. She was barefoot, and as she held her skirt between her knees, he swore he could hear her talking. His stride was longer than hers and was soon by her side and into her rhythm. He sensed her embarrassment and then her caution, as he wished her good morning. She had come for the fair ... to sell jewellery, and had decided to stay on, for the morning, for the thrill of walking on a deserted, early morning beach. He caught the irony in her voice and smiled. She returned his smile. They walked; heads nodding in conversation; hands gesticulated as he told her of Cluin, Cod's Head and the history of Copper mining of that area.

Two hours later, they were sitting on a bench outside his cottage looking at the line where the sea meets the sky, drinking coffee that he had made on a tired stove. She followed behind him eagerly, as he showed her his paintings, his books, his vegetable garden. She swam in his blues, his greens, his yellows ... the colours of his alchemic laboratory. As the evening shadows crept in,  he cooked for her, read poetry for her, and after red wine was sipped by the hearth, they danced. She danced for him. As he walked her to her car, he asked for her permission to paint her. They embraced each other warmly and knowingly in the darkness.

The woman returned several times, over several years. Each time he had another painting, another version of her to exhibit. By this time, she shared the cooking, but never the poetry. It was the music of his words, she wanted to remember in the silence that sprawled between visits, inspite of an understanding that their friendship would never go beyond an intellectual coupling of mind and spirit. One candle-lit evening after a stroll along the beach, he announced that he was leaving Allihies for France, because he needed to experiment with different colours, different light, different climate. He asked her to go with him as he walked her to her car that night in the darkness. They never saw each other again.

She heard of the artist's death, ravaged by searching and alcoholism, eighteen years later. (There is a scientific theory that if Alchemy is stopped in the process of deconstructing, the object will be destroyed.)When the woman returned to walk along that beach on a deserted early morning, she talked to the sea once more. The Alchemist of Allihies, had not only separated her and joined her in his paintings, he deconstructed her mind and her spirit. He had given her a panacea ... an elixir of life ... a love of life! She smiled with a hint of irony, as she spotted a man and his son digging for worms ... to fish for ... inspiration ... in the waters of Allihies.

Maureen Walsh August 2010 ©

Ciao for Now!