Hey tumblr! Did you know that if you suffer from depression / anxiety or any other mental illness, you can register your dog as an emotional support animal, making it illegal for a landlord to refuse to rent to you? That’s right. No breed restrictions, no weight restrictions, no matter what, they are not allowed to refuse.
When Seamus Heaney died last year, Gary Lightbody wrote in memoriam, about an invisible tribe – “people who act as creative touchstones. People of profound light, love and kindness that simply and maybe even without their knowledge make us and the world around them better”. Lightbody would make Heaney the chief of that invisible tribe.
BBC Arts Extra presenter and custodian of things cultural here, reading that tribute at the time, was deeply moved by the sentiments therein, in particular this concept of an invisible tribe that could connect us all through some elusive, mysterious and creative thread. Tasked with curating the On Home Ground Festival, she opened the evening ‘In Conversation’ by relaying how an email was sent via Lightbody’s management. A few days later, a reply received.
The ultimate and absolute professional, Ms Muir’s voice may have betrayed a minor crack of emotion as she told the audience how she read the reply over and over with tears in her eyes. The Snow Patrol and Tired Pony front-man had accepted the invitation to an evening, In Conversation, to honour his hero and muse.
And as they say, the rest is history, for here we are, under a marquee, in a garden like Eden, in Magherafelt. Of all the marquees in all the world, I’m glad I’m in this one. Sure, where else would you rather be on a Saturday evening, than sharing this experience with your own home-grown girl-child beside you?
I’m not certain, but I wondered if Lightbody’s spoken voice was cautioned with emotion, as he explained the impact of Heaney’s poetry on the young man at Campbell College, under the invoking tutelage of Mister McKee. (In fact, I may admit, to a minor onset of left eye leakage until I caught myself on). Mister McKee is in the audience – a shout out to Mister McKee to identify himself! Just lovely. What a thrill that must be, to know you’ve carved the artist’s psyche.
Poor Mister McKee, Lightbody explains, had to proof read and endure the fledgling writer’s awkward teenage-angst poetry. He would kindly edit and correct errant spelling when and where necessary. One poem left on teacher’s desk, titled ‘Pier Pressure’ was handed back with a line through the first word and ‘peer’ inserted instead. (I don’t know, but ‘Pier Pressure’ works for me).
‘In conversation’ is precisely how it is and how it should be. Relaxed, revealing, honest and oftentimes, funny. Marie-Louise Muir is perhaps my favourite voice on Radio Ulster. She interviews her guests always with a personal grace and dignity, because frankly, they are her guests. She gets the best from people, because she goes there, politely. Yet she’s not backwards in coming forwards, when it comes to digging deeper, for the good turf.
At one point, I am listening very carefully, and then, I know not when or why, all I hear is their voices – Marie Louise Muir’s perfectly rounded vowels and Lightbody’s North Down lilting intonation – an ebb and flow, a peculiar melody. Quite remarkable, unexpectedly hypnotic. I pull myself back into the seat.
Dear daughter is hanging on every word. This year she will compare and contrast Heaney’s ‘The Burial at Thebes’ with Shakespeare’s ‘King Lear’. Imagine that, the wheel has turned full circle.
Thirty odd years ago, I was pouring my heart out over these poems with Mister O’Kane, and later, on the top floor of Number 2 University Square, in what was, they said, Heaney’s old room. In those boxes, were his books. I always fancied a nosey, but didn’t dare.
I’m off on one again. I tune back in.
Marie Louise asks Lightbody if he has a view on the Scottish referendum. I suppose it’s topical, I suppose it would be remiss not to ask. Diplomatically, the question is side-stepped as it should. “Whatever you say, say nothing” springs to mind. Then, in my head, I hear the opening lines of ‘Act of Union’ – To-night, a first movement, a pulse. Funny, how these words stay tucked away, ingrained. I am reminded, that Heaney’s poetry spans every season, eventuality and emotion. It will ultimately overcome the tests of time.
The conversation flows back to the death of the naturalist (to where it all began with ‘Digging’) and his legacy.
In the garden earlier, I found ‘A Herbal’ – Heaney’s poem from ‘Human Chain’ that reminds us, starkly, of our mortality. ‘Human Chain’, Heaney’s twelfth and final collection, are poems of reflection and connection, linking the pain of separation with memory.
Lightbody has written five new songs for this evening that echo such sentiments – each a hankering back to hearth and home, to the people that matter most. A homage to childhood, these are songs of innocence and experience, linked expertly. The first song, is not new, but has only been played ‘live’ before on American radio. ‘Read Heaney to Me’ is a romantically warm and charming opening to the set. ‘I Think of Home’ recollects childhood train journeys from Bangor to Belfast, never-ending car trips to Derry to visit family. ‘The Church’ is a poignant and beautiful reflection on the death of his much-loved Derry granny.
The left eye is leaking again, for I’d a childhood split between detached East Belfast and steep-terraced Derry. Some secret portal in these songs takes me back to those endless drives – how many more miles mummy? Sibling elbows dig in ribs – Toome, Castledawson, Maghera, Dungiven, infinity and beyond, up steep icy hills I feared the car would slide back down and we’d all be drowned or done for.
This portrait of a granny who radiates light, love and laughter invokes mine own milk woman of human kindness, who’s eyes never lost their light, who’s devotion to what’s right was infectious, who’s mysterious skin never seemed to wrinkle or age. (I thought it must be because, she never said a bad word about anybody and went to mass every day. She said it was Oil of Ulay).
Lightbody’s linking anecdotes, delivered with likeable warmth and humour, acutely echo those Derry myths and legends my parent’s told us. These anecdotes are relevant. They paint the scene, they set the tone for his lyrical ballads. He recounts his father’s story of that special day, after the war, when bananas arrived in Derry. His dad, cycling home in glee from the shop (which was coincidentally owned by Snow Patrol’s Jonny McDaid’s grandfather – that’s Derry for you).
His dad peeled open the first ever yellow fruit, only for it to fall from the handle bars straight down a drain. This must have been a landmark day in Derry. I recall, vividly, my mum tales about the day bananas arrived in the Brandywell. Strange fruit, bananas. Until the age of reason, I was convinced my kin lived up a tree in Rosemount. Strange fruit, indeed.
There are knots in my gullet now, I wasn’t expecting this – to be taken back more decades than I dare, face to face with people and places and things. That’s the gift of the bard, to keep alive tradition, to invoke the memory of the tribe. ‘Like Golden Waves’ – a nod to the sun’s dying rays at the end of the day – sees Lightbody as small boy, senses wide open and over-awed, playing in the garden. Something here is more Blake than Heaney, “cause god is always in the trees”. (I am thinking now, of a non-authenticated anecdote about the small boy William Blake, seeing god in the trees, runs home to tell his God-fearing father, who gives him a scalping and says never to speak of such things again. That went well, clearly).
Lightbody’s introduction to the next song has the audience hooked and hungry. ‘It’s a Day Like That’ puts in song, a powerful memory of the day, near Lough Beg not far from where we sit, that the six year old and his dad were shot at long range, by some brute aiming at a low-flying duck. The imagery is spell-binding – the traumatised boy and the bloody face of a father. The song conveys the strong male presence of his father; firm but kind, the man who makes us who we are, the parent who may not shape our bones but shapes our being ever more. This is a song about the unbreakable bond, between father and child, and the role reversal, that somehow comes around.
It’s a love song, to paternity. Throughout the set, my eyes were drawn to that middle portrait of Heaney in later years, the larger than life physiognomy taking centre-stage. Maybe it’s just me, but the expression seems to change with the colours of the lights – pink, indigo, blue, green – those deep incisive eyes, seeing things – mesmerising, somehow, pleading. A fly lands on his high brow, it lingers there, then flees. The last song is a love song to Ireland and its encompassing beauty – a rose, that draws blood, a rose, by any other name.
That’s it – done. Didn’t know what to expect but hadn’t quite expected to be moved and have memories invoked like this. I was back on home ground, for one day only. Outside, I hear the sound of distant drums, down on Main Street. There’s a band parade coming. Grace notes linger. I do a nifty U-turn and get on the road, before it’s closed.
“And I, infinitesimal being,
drunk with the great starry
likeness, image of
I felt myself a pure part
of the abyss,
I wheeled with the stars,
my heart broke loose on the wind.”—Pablo Neruda (via man-of-prose)
“Make it a habit to tell people thank you. To express your appreciation, sincerely and without the expectation of anything in return. Truly appreciate those around you, and you’ll soon find many others around you. Truly appreciate life, and you’ll find that you have more of it.”—Ralph Marston (via happypositivity)
“But that’s the wonderful thing about foreign travel, suddenly you are five years old again. You can’t read anything, you have only the most basic sense of how things work, you can’t even reliably cross the street without endangering your life. Your whole existence becomes a series of interesting guesses.”—Bill Bryson, Neither Here Nor There: Travels in Europe (via universesbetweenus)
Your apple, your architect, your wonder, your wander.
Your hand that feeds, your mouth that swallows, your temptation, your tempt-in, your honey and almond, your honey and bitten lips, your bitter, your biter, your fists and your longing
Your five years down the line, your unsure and you’re unsure, and your milk, your mouth
Your alter, your ungodly church, your prayers,
your teeth, your snarl,
your eat and your eaten, your eat her out, your feast, your banquet, your unholy offering, and your sighs and her sighs,
your lion’s soft, your lion’s roar, your grumbles, your tender,
your thighs and your stretch marks,
your thighs and your cigarette burns,
your cage, your arms, your cage
your lick, your growl, your possession, your lover, your guilt, your ‘I won’t love you in the morning,’ your mistake, your love, your sweetness, your mine, you’re mine,
your leaver, your leave-her,
your temptation, your downfall
Your regret, your longing, your lover
your love-her”—Azra.T “The Hand That Feeds” after Jeanann Verlee’s ‘Almighty’ (via avvfvl)
Abusive Expectations - Makes impossible demands, requires constant attention, and constantly criticizes.
Aggressing - Name calling, accusing, blames, threatens or gives orders, and often disguised as a judgmental “I know best” or “helping” attitude.
Constant Chaos - Deliberately starts arguments with you or others. May treat you well in front of others, but changes when you’re alone.
Rejecting - Refusing to acknowledge a person’s value, worth or presence. Communicating that he or she is useless or inferior or devaluing his or her thoughts and feelings.
Denying - Denies personal needs (especially when need is greatest) with the intent of causing hurt or as punishment. Uses silent treatment as punishment. Denies certain events happened or things that were said. Denies your perceptions, memory and sanity by disallowing any viewpoints other than their own which causes self-doubt, confusion, and loss of self-esteem.
Degrading - Any behavior that diminishes the identity, worth or dignity of the person such as: name-calling, mocking, teasing, insulting, ridiculing,
Emotional Blackmail - Uses guilt, compassion, or fear to get what he or she wants.
Terrorizing - Inducing intense fear or terror in a person, by threats or coercion.
Invalidation - Attempts to distort your perception of the world by refusing to acknowledge your personal reality. Says that your emotions and perceptions aren’t real and shouldn’t be trusted.
Isolating - Reducing or restricting freedom and normal contact with others.
Corrupting - Convincing a person to accept and engage in illegal activities.
Exploiting - Using a person for advantage or profit.
Minimizing - A less extreme form of denial that trivializes something you’ve expressed as unimportant or inconsequential.
Unpredictable Responses - Gets angry and upset in a situation that would normally not warrant a response. You walk around on eggshells to avoid any unnecessary drama over innocent comments you make. Drastic mood swings and outbursts.
Gaslighting -A form of psychological abuse involving the manipulation of situations or events that cause a person to be confused or to doubt his perceptions and memories. Gaslighting causes victims to constantly second-guess themselves and wonder if they’re losing their minds.
Do you ever have that moment when a kid is looking at you and you realize that they’re looking at you as a grown up? Then its like no child im a children too, dont. Im sorry my outward appearance confuses you.
“You should be angry. You must not be bitter. Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. It doesn’t do anything to the object of its displeasure. So use that anger. You write it. You paint it. You dance it. You march it. You vote it. You do everything about it. You talk it. Never stop talking it.”—Maya Angelou (via theremixkid)
“The living tell the dying, “Do not leave.” And they do not listen. The dying tell us not to be sad for them and we do not listen. The dialogue between the living and the dead is full of misunderstanding and silence.”—Welcome to Night Vale (The Auction)