Thursday 29 August 2019

In Memoriam

This year, two of the members of Crichton Writers sadly passed away. Cathie Forbes and Isobel Gibson. As a fairly new member of the group , I had little contact with Cathie, but knew Isobel quite well.
We held a bring-and-share lunch retrospective in my garden in June. Sadly the weather did not provide the sunshine we had hoped for and so we ate and drank and read from their works indoors.  It also gave an opportunity for new members to get to know us and by all accounts it was a fitting and enjoyable occasion.

Food for all

Here  are 2 short pieces written by Cathie and Isobel.
 My Home. Cathie Forbes
 In winter the house fights the elements
 Bricks cold, rafters bare, floor naked
 In the breaking dawn the wind blows
 Windows creak in the icy morning
 They gleam and sparkle
 Inside, the stove is being lit
 Aromas of burning wood fill the air
 On the warming stove porridge burbling
 The house warms, heat flows into the freezing walls
  Pungent smells of bacon and egg
  Lure the cat and dog into the kitchen

  Bedraggled birds shiver and peck the sills
  Magically crumbs appear.

Memoir By a Whiskey Drinker. Isobel Gibson

When I was four I was ill with a bad cold and coughed and coughed. Cough mixture was not easily obtained in gatehouse of Fleet in 1944 because there was a war on. My mother diluted whisky and sugar in warm water.
She was sure I would dislike it. 'It's good for you,' she said nervously.
I was suspicious and sure it would taste nasty. One sip and I gulped down the rest of it.
'That's good,' I said and asked for more.
It was fourteen years before I tasted whisky again. My mother saw to that.

I wrote a short poem about Isobel

I always saw you dressed in blue,
soft cotton top echoed summer skies,
flowery, swirly skirt perfect for a polka
and sensible sandals.
Your hair band tried in vain to control abundant curls.
Never meek, you brought a joyous breeze
with a hint of mischief in your eyes.

We will miss both of you greatly.

#crichtonwriters  #retrospective  #amwriting  

Tuesday 27 August 2019

Book Review. Serious Sounds

Book Review  Serious Sounds by John Moriarty


I first came across John Moriarty when I heard him speak in an interview with Tommy Tiernan, which had been uploaded to YouTube. I was enthralled by his unique interpretation of existence and his lilting poetic speech.

His words resonated with me and I determined to find out more about this man.

I discovered he was a philosopher and a poet who had returned to Ireland after a career teaching in University in Canada, and had sought an isolated almost hermetic life for his remaining years. When he ran out of money, he would work as a grounds man in a nearby religious community. I was also saddened to realise that this extraordinary Irishman had never come to my attention before, and that he had died in 2007.

I made the decision to find one of his books and delve deeper into his works. There was very little of his writing available to buy but I managed to purchase a copy of ' Serious Sounds', first published in 2006. It was described as a telling of his childhood in rural Kerry and his upbringing within the Catholic faith.

The title 'Serious Sounds' related to the sound of water being poured into wine and the wafer thin bread being broken in the Eucharist. 'The most serious sounds in Christendom, I thought', stated Moriarty.

From the start of the book, which takes inspiration from Philip Larkin's poem 'Church Going', John analyses the meaning of the Christian journey and the ritual experience. He applies different interpretations to the well known words of church services, looking at Greek and Hebrew origins. He discusses aspects of morality and death. Though there is mention of people who had featured in his life, they are almost treated as an aside to his passionate discussion of religion.

I believe this book would be more understandable to someone immersed in religious dogma. To me, much of it was 'impenetrable', as Tommy Tiernan had described his experience of trying to read one of Moriarty's books. I had hoped for more description of Moriarty's childhood and I was disappointed in this. I had wanted to know more of his origins, and though I was aware that he was principally known for his philosophy, and should perhaps have anticipated his writing would be intellectually challenging, I didn't feel I knew or understood him by reading this. He remains for me an intriguing and beguiling complex character.

'You have to be plankton in an abyss of faith'. John Moriarty

Saturday 10 August 2019

Book Review. The Memory Box

The Memory Box by Margaret Forster


This novel is based around a simple concept; a found box with items left to a relative, the significance of which are not fully understood. Catherine, the protagonist, embarks on a search for their meaning and during this journey discovers information about the mother she never knew, who died when she was only six months old.  

Woven loosely around the main plot, other family members are somewhat shadowy and it is this part of the book that I found a little unsatisfactory.  Catherine's  ex- partner fades in and out of her life and her relationship with her cousin, who was the black sheep of the family, is the connecting link to her estranged relatives.   

The story unveils itself slowly but with a pleasing rhythm. Catherine, a strong- willed young woman in the early chapters of the book, develops a greater understanding of human nature as she delves into her mother's life. 

I wondered if Margaret Forster was an only child, and though I found nothing to refute this, I have not been able to confirm it either. It seems to me that the independent heroine of this novel projects  the particular status of an only child very well. Not only is Catherine very self centred, but her egotistical pursuit of her career to the detriment of her personal relationships is a sad reflection on modern values. We are led to believe that she has been somewhat damaged by her upbringing even though she clearly states that she had a very happy childhood with her step-mother. This and the fact that she feels compelled to explain to us that she never wants to have a child sit awkwardly in the narrative in my opinion.

The ending is a little weak and I wanted more. Catherine was clearly changed by the process of the search for meaning in her mother's artifacts, and though a number of threads were drawn together in the end, it still left me a little dissatisfied. The pace of the book gently slows and comes to a halt without any new disclosure, but overall it is a pleasurable read.

#bookreview #amwriting #amreading