Thursday, September 30, 2010

THE AFTER-LIFE (IF YOU WANT TO STAY AWAKE !) and TONY CURTIS RIP




Mein Gott! Watched this movie tonight, NOT sitting on the edge of my seat, but pacing the living room, picking up cushions for comfort, then throwing them back down again, to hold on to the mantelpiece. I just CANNOT watch horror movies or films that involve the ill-treatment of children. However, sometimes a film comes along that wouldn't necessarily fit into either of those categories, that just absolutely freaks me out! This film is one of them! It stars Liam Neeson, Christina Ricci and Jason Long. Written by Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo, Paul Vosloo and Jakub Korolczuk and directed by Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo



A Short Summary of The Plot

After a horrific car accident, Anna (Ricci) wakes up to find the local funeral director Eliot Deacon (Neeson) preparing her body for her funeral. Confused, terrified and feeling still very much alive, Anna doesn't believe she's dead, despite the funeral director's reassurances that she is merely in transition to the afterlife. Eliot convinces her he has the ability to communicate with the dead and is the only one who can help her. Trapped inside the funeral home, with nobody to turn to except Eliot, Anna is forced to face her deepest fears and accept her own death. But Anna's grief-stricken boyfriend Paul (Long) still can't shake the nagging suspicion that Eliot isn't what he appears to be. As the funeral nears, Paul gets closer to unlocking the disturbing truth, but it could be too late; Anna may have already begun to cross over the other side.





Not for one moment, did this film let me take a breather from anxiety! Whilst there is no question, that this film is superbly crafted, with wonderful visual moments, it raises some very thought-provoking questions about the nature of life and death. It most certainly made me think about the question of LIVING ONE'S LIFE, as opposed to just EXISTING! On the other hand, perhaps a more instantly frightening question arose: 'When can we be certain that someone is really dead?' When the film finally ended, and I was able to sit down again, I thought about a baby that was pronounced dead a few weeks ago, and as its mother cradled it close to her heart for some hours, they discovered that the baby wasn't dead after all! There have been numerous tales of coffin lids, that have been scratched from the INSIDE! Buried ALIVE!!! Scares me to death! (excuse the pun)

I interrupted another blog I was writing, to write about my reaction to this movie, because I was so deeply disturbed by it ... STILL AM! I know I shall not sleep well tonight.

Better put on something like 'Some Like it Hot' (1959) starring Jack Lemmon, Marilyn Monroe and Tony Curtis, directed by Billy Wilder. It is with real sadness that I learnt of Tony Curtis's death today. All three of those wonderful actors are now dead! What a film! I don't know one person that doesn't like this lighthearted but nevertheless classic piece of cinema.





SLEEP TIGHT TONY !!!




Ciao for now

Friday, September 24, 2010

MR. W


 


By all means, you may pop over, Mr. W,
But don't expect me to smile right now.
You see, its in the knowing, not knowing, yet not knowing enough,
That confirms the knowing of what I know not.
Does that make sense Mr. W?


Oh, so its not a smile you sought at all, Mr. W,
Merely a crumb from my blueberry scone.
You see, if I could just freeze forever, the joy of that first glance,
I might avoid the prodding prongs of analysis.
Do you  know what I mean, Mr. W?


So, you thought you'd check out my perplexion, Mr W,
And, while you were at it, take a snack.
You see, if I could thin out the overcrowding, the slight touch of Stendhal,
I might remove ME from the brink of unkempt tears.
Are you with me so far, Mr W?


Oh I don't blame you, one scrap, for moving on, Mr. W,
Quite plainly, the chap next bench, has an apple.
You see, if I talked less, and watched ... listened more,
I just know, I'd know more about more!
You're nodding your head, aren't you, Mr. W?




Maureen Walsh   24 Sept. 2010  ©



Inspired by my visit to the 'Muraqqa Exhibition' in the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin, earlier today. The exhibition runs until October 3rd.


Ciao for now!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Strawberry Fields Forever and Strawberry Moments



The Fab Four

Found myself looking through some old music last week, whilst looking for singing material for an up and coming concert I'm performing in, and rediscovered a battered old Beatles Song Collection Book, that I've had for almost forty years. Flicking through the pages and the songs, which included some of their greatest hits, Get Back JoJo, Something, Eleanor Rigby, Can't Buy Me Love, Michelle, Eight Days A Week and oodles more, the classic psychedelic Strawberry Fields Forever jumped out at me. 

At around the age of eighteen, I sang with a pop group called The Anteeks, and we gigged in Workingmens' Clubs around the Potteries, Birmingham, Blackpool and Manchester areas, filling gaps between  games of Bingo and excited exclamations of 'House' and 'Ee are!' It didn't matter to me that it wasn't the London Palladium, but a Conservative or Railwaymen's Club in the grime of the Potteries, there was a change of costume for each entrance. There were five of us in the band and our fee of £18 was divided accordingly between the 5 of us and the VAN, which amounted to the princely sum of £3 each. My day job netted me £12 per week, and almost every penny of that was spent on costumes and make-up for the gigs.


The bridge carried the railway track of the Potteries Loop Lane.
Brook Street (now Century Street) in Hanley, Staffordshire (Potteries area), UK c. 1890

During this trip down Memory Lane, I remembered that Strawberry Fields Forever had never been part of our 'Beatle Set', and I was therefore less familiar with its lyrics and its history. This piece has often been attributed to both Lennon and McCartney, but it was actually, written and composed in its entirety by John Lennon. Apparently, it was inspired by his memories of playing in the garden of a Salvation Army Children's Home called 'Strawberry Field' around the corner from his childhood home in Woolton, a suburb of Liverpool. It had been intended to feature on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart Club Band (1967), but was released as a double A-side with Paul McCartney's Penny Lane instead.


Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band Album Cover 1967

Whilst possessing psychedelic rock genre qualities, the lyrics are undoubtedly nostalgic. Lennon was going through a period of change and distraction in his life; his first marriage to Cynthia Powell was crumbling, and he was using an increasing amount of drugs, particularly LSD and Cannabis. Lennon said he felt different all his life. Shy and self-doubting, he was either high or low and said of this song, that it was psychoanalysis set to music. One of the most obviously nostalgic lines of the song is 'Nothing to get hung about!' which was directly inspired by Lennon's Aunt Mimi's strict orders not to play in the garden of Strawberry Field, to which Lennon replied,'They can't hang you for it!'


John Lennon and his 2nd wife Yoko Ono

From Strawberry Fields Forever and nostalgia, I got to thinking about Autumn... as you do! Well Autumn is a nostalgic time of the year, and its here, earlier than usual, just as I can still feel the chill of the snow and frost of last Winter! Whilst I loved living in a Christmas card world for a spell,  it now seems as if I fell asleep for a while and missed the last train to Summerville. However, the severity of last year's winter has apparently encouraged a bumper crop of fruit this year, Apples have been falling from the trees throughout August, almost as if the branches were too soft to take the weight of the burgeoning fruit. This problem has caused consternation for 'conker' sportsmen throughout the UK, as the fruit of the Horse Chestnut tree has been falling before realizing  the  maturity that serious 'conkering' competiton requires.


                 'Conquerors'


My brothers, Martin, Marcus and myself would head off, every Autumn, with wellie-ringed legs, jam sandwiches and water, to 'Joey the Swan', a magical woodland place of swamps, serpents and conkers, We fired missiles; branches, stones, whatever we could lay our hands on, to strike and bring down those lime-green alien sputniks into a soft spongy submission. Once through the protective spiny peel, and beyond the coolness of the white sticky pith, we would marvel at the pristine perfection of each and every  horse chestnut. Then the conker of all conkers would finally grace us us with its presence; the one we had been searching for all day, and holding it and our breath between filthy fingers and thumbs, we beheld this magnificent 'conqueror'; a supreme champion in waiting, that was more than adequately armoured for whatever opposition and combat happened to cross its path. It would soon be dangling dutifully defiant, from the end of a knotted bootlace, after being vinegared and baked; prepared to 'conker' to the death,  lesser specimens, one after the other, in the schoolyard, the following day, cheered on by a baying crowd of short pants.

I call these memories of childhood, 'Strawberry Moments', simply because, to sink our young teeth into a strawberry, at that time, was a rare occasion, and one to be savoured.


      A 'Strawberry Moment' in Lahinch two weeks ago


NO STRAWBERRIES TODAY


Love at fifteen......

Love at thirty......

Love at forty.....

Today, no deuced fraises*......

Only game, set ..... and tears.




Maureen Walsh  June 2010 ©


fraises - French word for Strawberries


And from 'Strawberry Moments' to Strawberries and Wimbledon. You wouldn't need to be a member of MENSA to cop that this 'snatch' of poetry was more than likely written in or around the most famous tennis tournament of them all. It somehow sets the tone of Summer for me, not that I get to watch it as I did before I entered into the institution of marital bliss, which more or less coincided with the start of my 35 year love affair/sleep-over with Ireland. I somehow just fell out of the 'Must Watch Wimbledon' and 'Must listen to the comedic antics of cricket commentators on BBC Radio 4' psyche when I floated into an Irish lifestyle.


           Major Walter Clapton Wingfield

Major Walter Clapton Wingfield, a British army major is credited with inventing the game of tennis in 1873. He patented the game under the name of Sphairistike in 1874, basing the name on sphairistike techne which is Greek for the "art of playing ball". It is believed that Wingfield adapted the popular English indoor games such as badminton, squash rackets and court tennis for outdoor suitability. Although the game was known widely for some time under Wingfields patented name, players gradually started using the terms Tennis-on-the-lawn or lawn tennis.




      Ladies Singles Championship 1908 - Wimbledon


Up to 27,000 kilos of strawberries and 7,000 litres of cream are eaten at Wimbledon during every tournament.

Strawberries are a variety of the rose family called Fragaria. They are short plants that grow sideways spreading out runners. The ends of the plant stems swell up and redden after the flowers have been pollinated. The actual fruit is the tiny seed embedded in the fleshy strawberry. Apparently therefore, strawberries are not berries. The word strawberry comes from the Old English streowberie or streawbelige. This is probably a combination of the words 'strewed ' and 'berry'. Straw could have referred to the straw that was used (strewn) to keep the strawberries fertile and dry. Animal dung was often mixed in with the straw. The Romans were the first to cultivate the crop, as early as 200BC while the 14th century saw a popularity of growing strawberries in the gardens of French palaces. They were a luxury and poor children would pick them to sell to the rich. Strawberries were considered to be an aphrodisiac; blended into a soup with borage and soured cream they were served to newly-weds at their wedding breakfast.


                       Wimbledon Strawberries


During Shakespeare's time the playwright George Peele in his play The Old Wives Tale, wrote a song linking strawberries with summer and delight.

"When as the rye reach to the chin,


And chopcherry, chopcherry, ripe within,


Strawberries swimming in the cream,


And schoolboys playing in the stream..."


In 1874 sugar tax was abolished and consequently sugar became cheaper. This saw a huge increase in boiling strawberries with sugar to make jam and by the 20th century there was widespread strawberry cultivation in Kent to supply the markets of London.


Strawberries are a source of natural sugar and provide good quantities of vitamin C as well as potassium, which is a mineral essential in our diet. Unfortunately, strawberries rapidly lose their vitamin C after picking.






By mythological association, strawberries were considered sacred to the Roman Goddess of Love Venus, and the Greek equivalent, Aphrodite, as well as the Virgin Mary. The second wife of Henry VIII, Queen Anne Boleyn (1507-36), was reputed to have a strawberry-shaped birthmark on her neck, which some claimed, proved she was a witch.

The strawberry is recognized as representing absolute perfection in the Victorian language of flowers.
Medieval stonemasons carved strawberry designs on altars and around the tops of pillars in churches and cathedrals, symbolizing perfection and righteousness.


Whilst I have never been to Wimbledon, I have had many 'Strawberry Moments' during what seems like a very short Summer! Here's just a few of them.


Giant Swiss Rolls




Space yet Connection




Really like that joke Buffy!





       What happened to your hair Charlie?





        Tai's guardian angel - her mummy!





                  You can't get us up here!




Oh Mum .... For heaven's sake!!!!





                    Do you mind? We're eating!




 'I Love you'!




Could it get any better than this?



And .....FREEZE!!!






                                  Sisterly Love





STRAWBERRY FIELDS FOREVER - JOHN LENNON




No one I think is in my tree, I mean it must be high or low.



That is you can't you know tune in but it's all right.


That is I think it's not too bad.






Let me take you down, 'cause I'm going to Strawberry Fields.


Nothing is real and nothing to get hung about.


Strawberry Fields forever.






Living is easy with eyes closed, misunderstanding all you see.


It's getting hard to be someone but it all works out.


It doesn't matter much to me.






Let me take you down, 'cause I'm going to Strawberry Fields.


Nothing is real and nothing to get hung about.


Strawberry Fields forever.






Always know sometimes think it's me, but you know I know and it's a dream.


I think I know of thee, ah yes, but it's all wrong.


That is I think I disagree.






Let me take you down, 'cause I'm going to Strawberry Fields.


Nothing is real and nothing to get hung about.


Strawberry Fields forever.


Strawberry Fields forever.


Strawberry Fields forever.







If we can somehow remain connected to the child within ourselves, 'Strawberry Moments' might continue through adulthood, well into the 'second childhood' of old age, and who knows ... perhaps even beyond death itself!



Paddy getting by, with a 'little help from his friend!'

Ever eaten a double strawberry? Legend holds that if you break it in half and share it with a member of the opposite sex, you will soon fall in love with each other.






Ciao for now!

Friday, September 10, 2010

THE VISITOR




A petal fades, and flutters through a rusty sword of sunlight. It lands; butterfly wing on pretty pink table. He hadn't come. Her father's dark clock out in the cold hallway strikes four, then quarter past. Its relentless dependability reminds of his carping condemnations, that should have stopped at the grave. She rustles across wasting carpet, to draw back lace curtain from lattice window; and for the tenth time, the only visitor is the breeze that April brings. In the scantest of moments, Hope slides into Helplessness, forcing her towards the glow of the fireplace. She leans across coolness of marble and reacting to the reflection of white disappointment, she takes the roundness of cheek between finger and thumb; a pinch in place of rouge, providing proof of life within ... and without.




Turning away, and smoothing black taffetta skirt as if soothing a crying child, her eyes are captured by a gleaming silver teapot, on a tray, gilded with broken promises. She unleashes herself from its glaze of smugness, and perches on the edge of a straight-backed chair in the corner, by the window, where dreams were once stitched. A rebellious curl is swept away from coal black eye; red on creamy fingers. The thundering announcement of half past the hour crushes the indifference of trickling expectancy; causing one last searching of eyes, beyond the honeyed columbine, towards a winding road, that leads nowhere. No horse straining at the bit. No man waving smile of surrender. Curtain replaced, she steps away to collect the untouched refreshments and notices a faded, but compelling presence, nestling in the shade of silver's arrogance. The woman in black takes the petal to her lips, for they are sisters in their singularity and in their secret. Unable to fly heavenwards; trapped by murderers' curse; they are echoes of butterflies' wings. 

A petal fades, and floating through a rusty sword of sunlight, it lands; butterfly wing on a pretty pink table. He hadn't come!






Maureen Walsh September 2010 ©




Doll photograph by courtesy of Rebbekah Guoleifsdottir Photography






Ciao for now!