Percolate.

Going to bed at night, washing his teeth; standing in the fishmongers where fish, their weight, freshness and value is discussed; walking from the medical clinic and before that, sitting in …

Source: Percolate.

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The Speed of Light

71ec31b83f1a3d5c2fc62278664898f6Jimmy Joe was not exactly a young man though he would be much aggrieved if you honestly considered him to be old. The youngest of three sons he had lived at home all of his fifty years and now, with the passing of his father, the home place belonged to him. Although many who knew him never considered him to be “the sharpest knife in the box”, Jimmy Joe had done well for himself and was now a Clerk of Works for the Housing Executive of Northern Ireland. But, Jimmy Joe had been a Clerk of Works for the past eight years and it certainly appeared that he had risen through the ranks to the highest level he was ever going to achieve.
Now that his father was dead, Jimmy Joe was preparing to marry the love of his life, Nellie Maguire. She too was mature in age but still held some of the beauty that had first attracted Jimmy Joe almost thirty years ago. He could clearly recall the night that he plucked up the courage to ask Nellie for a dance at the weekly Ceilidh that was held in the local parish hall. It was something of a shock to the system when the popular Nellie Maguire agreed, not only to a dance but to allowing Jimmy Joe to escort her home when the Ceilidh ended.
Nellie was a natural blond with her long, yellow hair flowing over her shapely shoulders like corn-silk. Her skin was as smooth and unblemished as the finest of porcelain. Her hazel coloured eyes warm and inviting, like those of a movie actress. There was not a man in the Parish that had not lost his heart to Nellie at some stage. She, however, was a woman who knew what she wanted and, so far, only Jimmy Joe had been chosen from among the many. There were those who knew them both at this time and said that the relationship would not last. “Sure she will never go mad, that one. She’s never in the same mind long enough”, seemed to be the popular comment at the time. So far the relationship had lasted almost thirty years, and now they were getting married.
Jimmy Joe was the shy and quiet type of boy that didn’t quite know what to say in the company of women. But, after they had been dating eighteen months he took his courage in his hands and asked her to marry him. She was thrilled to be asked, of course, but there were several things that Nellie needed to clear up before she agreed to his proposal. Her main concern at the time was what the living arrangements would be. When Jimmy Joe told her that they would be living with his father in the home place, Nellie emphatically said, “No!”
It was not, however, a total rejection. Nellie told him that she would marry him but only when his father, Old “Joe Boy” Marley, had passed away. “Joe Boy” was a well known local character and not very much liked by anybody because of the way he treated others. There were those who said that he had worked his poor wife to death, and that he had made her life such a total misery that death was a blessing for her. She had died only a couple of years before Nellie and Jimmy Joe had got together, and her passing appeared only to encourage “Joe Boy’s” bad habits, bad language and rude behaviour. “If you think that I would live in the same house as that ill-mannered old man, lifting and laying for him every day, and listening to his foul mouth, then you have another thought coming!” Nellie told Jimmy Joe bluntly. “He is an ignorant, crude, drunkard of a man and I would not be caught dead in the same house as him.”
Jimmy Joe was neither shocked or annoyed when Nellie told him that they would marry only when “Joe Boy” was dead. After all, thought Jimmy Joe, the amount of alcohol his father drank was bound to kill him sooner rather than later. He did not expect that it would take twenty-eight years for the old man to die. Nevertheless, only a month after “Joe Boy’s” funeral the church was booked and the invitations sent out for the wedding. It was, of course, the talk of the entire parish.
“I wouldn’t think its a ‘shotgun wedding’!” laughed Mary Jane as she served the customer from behind the shop’s counter.
“Still, it is all a bit quick,” Sarah Gill remarked.

“Quick?” exclaimed Mary Jane, almost choking on the word. “It has been almost thirty years in the making! Not exactly the speed of light, is it?”

The Fleadh

Martin continued to be among my best friends and we spent many days and nights in each other’s company throughout our youth. On quite a number of occasions we were joined by both Andy and Des (not their real names), especially on our trips to the cinema, dance halls, and on Sunday afternoon excursions to a popular seaside resort called Omeath. These were the days before night clubs and budget airlines, and even two car families. At this time the pubs were closed in Northern Ireland all day Sunday, though if you really wanted a drink there were certain doors that would be open to a select clientele. In fact almost everything but the churches were closed on a Sunday and we young men never found ourselves on any select list, which left us with a bus ride to Omeath where the pubs were open almost all day Sunday. The only real problem one would encounter was getting through the crowds of people to get a drink at the bar.
Omeath was a typically border seaside resort village. There was a set of “Esso” petrol pumps, a Protestant Church, a Catholic Church, two or three souvenir shops, two or three small grocers’ shops, a butcher shop and over a dozen pubs and hotels. For six days of any week the population of the village was around two hundred citizens. But on a Sunday this population would expand to two or three thousand thirsty souls brought to the place by buses from every major town in the southern half of Northern Ireland. For those northerners who felt they had a reputation to maintain and didn’t want to be associated with visiting Omeath on a Sunday there was always the day trip to Warrenpoint, where no pubs were open. But, from the stone covered beach at Warrenpoint a fleet of small “Red Flag” boats ferried passengers the short distance across Carlingford Lough to enjoy the pleasure palaces of Omeath. There are none who experienced this place on a Sunday who would not agree that it was an experience not to be missed.
It was probably in Omeath in the late 1960s that we, as a group of young men, came to appreciate traditional Irish folk music listening to the various songs and music played by the patrons in the busy bars. Your a feet could not stop tapping to the jigs and reels played by violin, bodhran, guitar, banjo and spoons. You would find it almost impossible to merrily sing along with the well-oiled patrons who eagerly chanted their songs, trying to emulate the great Irish tenors of the past. But, it was also in Omeath that we first encountered a “Fleadh Ceoil” (pronounced “Flah-Key-Oal”), or traditional Irish folk festival. We enjoyed the music and the Craic so much that we decided that we, as a group, would go Clones town to participate in the “Ulster Fleadh”, a major local festival. So when the time came we all set off for Clones, six young men each with a sleeping bag, a change of clothes, and a two-man tent that we intended would shelter all of us.
In the market-town of Clones bunting of all colours adorned the streets, strung from every available place to buildings and lampposts. A large field had been set aside for those wishing to camp the whole festival week-end, and the best part was that there was no cost. We pitched our two-man tent, packed away our sleeping bags and set off for the town to enjoy the excitement and music that we had been looking forward to so much. On every street corner there was some form of entertainment and every pub was filled with the sound of song and laughter. The strains of various songs filled the air and were accompanied by all sorts of musical instruments. In the town square there was a lorry trailer and upon this organised concerts and dancing exhibitions took place. All over town there were sessions; ordinary people of all ages and from all walks of life playing their instruments or singing songs on their own or in groups. It was a memory I will never forget.
The music and entertainment went on until dark and we strolled back to the campsite hungry, hoarse, full of good cheer and exhausted. Martin took charge and lit a small camp-fire after sending Andy and I to gather whatever dry wood we could find in the nearby trees, even as the night grew darker and clouds gathered in the moonless sky. Meanwhile, Des and Tommy managed to locate two tins of “Heinz Baked Beans” that could be heated for supper. Life was much simpler then. The difficulty came when we discovered that all we had was a blunt butter knife to attempt opening the tins. All six of us sat around the camp fire in an effort to keep warm in the growing chill of the night. It was Eddie who came up with the bright idea that the cans could be placed into the fire unopened and that the blunt knife would break through the tin easier when it was heated. So we waited and waited as our hunger increased. It was Tommy who first noticed the cans bulging and declared “They’re almost done.” The words had hardly left Tommy’s lips when there was an almighty explosion and into the darkness the two tins of baked beans burst open, showering their contents skyward like an orange rain storm. At the same time burning sticks of all shapes and sizes were flung skyward causing a burst of sparks like a million little red stars glowing in the darkness. Of course what goes up must eventually come down, and down it came with a vengeance. Hot beans and tomato sauce covered us all, hair, clothes, tent, everything. We had tried to move quickly out of the way to avoid the burning sticks, sparks and beans but we were too slow. One large firebrand landed on the tent, set it alight and despite our best efforts it was destroyed as was much of our bedding and clothes. It was a big loss that night for twenty minutes later it began to rain and we made our way back into town. Drenched, cold and still hungry all six of squeezed into the narrow front door area of a local bank, covered ourselves with what was left of one sleeping bag and tried to get some sleep

Trio in the Park

It was a beautiful autumn morning and Maria was determined that she would get out into the park to enjoy the sunshine. She brushed her grey hair before she put her knitting needle, wool and half-finished red sweater into her “Bag-for-Life” shopping bag. Maria was almost ready and only needed to put on her brown jacket, which was hanging in the hall, before she left the house on her short excursion. She was glad that she had put the jacket on because although the sun was bright there was still freshness about the morning air, a remnant of the rain that had fallen over the last two days.
It was an absolute joy just to get out of the house and she was looking forward to sitting on her favourite park bench for an hour or two. In peace and quiet, Maria planned to sit, knit and watch the world go by. There was something therapeutic in knitting and Maria took special pleasure from the fact that the items she produced were donated to those who most needed them. The charity that she donated to was one that brought aid to seriously underfunded orphanages in Romania. Even as she knitted each stitch of this little red sweater she could almost visualise it being worn by some unfortunate child in that far-off country.
It wasn’t far to the bench in the park that Maria preferred to sit on. You could get a good all around view of the park from this bench, which sat in the shade of a large, spreading chestnut tree. At this time of the year the leaves on the tree, like so many other trees in the park, were changing colour; Beautiful autumn colours of brownish red, golden yellow, and orange. As Maria sat down on the bench, and took out her half completed sweater, several of the colourful leaves fluttered down from the branches to the ground.
Earlier that morning Lucy was in her own house alone and in a state of confusion. “This is a miracle,” she told herself. Of course she had hoped and prayed that one day she would become pregnant and hold a child of her own in her arms. But she had become used to the probability that this would not happen and was anxious about how Michael would react to the news. He was due back home at any moment and she knew she would have to “bite-the-bullet” and tell him what she had known for the last two days.
Lucy didn’t know why she hadn’t told Michael that she was pregnant. He wanted children and they had planned a family before their marriage, but that was ten years ago. They had tried and tried without success. The doctor had told them that there was no medical reason why Lucy couldn’t become pregnant but, much to her disappointment, she hadn’t. All talk of family had almost disappeared as had their hopes of having a child. “Would Michael accept the news?” she wondered. “How would he act?” she asked herself.
The front door opened and Michael walked directly into the kitchen, placing two cartons of milk on the table. “It’s a beautiful day outside”, he smiled at Lucy.
“Hopefully it will get better,” she replied.
“You think so?” asked Michael as he began removing his jacket. For the first time since returning home he looked at his wife and noticed the anxiety in her face and the nervous way she biting her lower lip. “What’s wrong?” he questioned and the concern was evident in his voice.
Lucy took a deep breath and told him, “We’re pregnant.”
At first Michael couldn’t quite take in what Lucy was telling him. He was in shock at the news and his mind paralysed with excitement. But, as his senses returned, his eyes opened wide and he cheered, “Hallelujah, I’m going to be a father!” The tears began to flow from his eyes as he held out his arms and took hold of his wife.
Together the happy couple embraced, each crying on the shoulder of the other. The happiness of the moment filled their body with a sort of electricity and they tingled. They laughed as they cried and the tears were those warm tears of joy felt when we receive an unexpected and beautiful surprise. Michael now swung his wife around and around, proclaiming his total love for her and he promised that neither Lucy nor their child would need for anything. The tears began to dry and the excitement subsided just enough to bring the overjoyed couple back to reality. “You know what we have to do now, of course?” Michael asked.
“Tell your Mother”, laughed Lucy, wiping another tear from her eye.
“Come on darling. Get your coat on and we will head over there now to tell her,” he told her.
Michael and Lucy walked through the park together, holding hands. They pass an old woman sitting on a bench. The old woman is knitting a small, red sweater. Michael began to cry – “Mam, your going to be  a granny,” he announced and the old woman looked up from her knitting and smiled.

The Visit

the-visitHe walked up toward the big double door made of pine-wood, one door of which was open to whoever wanted to enter. Joe walked through the open door and stepped into the small, but modern built church and went to the nearby water-font, into which he dipped his fingers. He blessed himself, “In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.” The holy water was cool to the touch and the drop on his forehead rolled down the bridge of Joe’s nose causing him to wipe it away.
All churches, new or old, have a unique smell about them. There is a scent of incense mixed with the aroma of melting beeswax coming from the many votive candles on the candle-stand near the altar, alight with flickering flames that people hope would carry their prayers upward to God in his heaven. Their fragrance mingled with the lavender bouquet that remained from the furniture polish that someone had used with to shine the lines of wooden pews. These caretakers also arranged the many flowers that stood in containers on the altar and at the feet of the many saints whose statues looked down upon the prayerful.
There was no need for lights on this day. The sunshine provided all the illumination that was needed, reflecting the many colours of the stained-glass windows that lined each side of the church. There was crimson red, flaming orange, golden yellow, subtle shades of green, various blues, and Lenten purple. But rather than being a confusion of colour it all added to the feeling of comfort that one had when they entered the building. Joe genuflected, feeling the pain of his arthritic knee that had just begun to flare-up again that morning. He tried to ignore its sharpness and moved into the pew that he and his family used every Sunday. On this occasion he chose not to kneel, afraid of aggravating the inflamed knee further, and he trusted God would understand.
Sitting on the wooden pew Joe rested his hands on his lap and closed his eyes and began to relax. He wanted to empty his mind of all the irrelevancies of the day because this was God’s time. Just as you would visit a friend and talk about what was going on in your life, the joys and the setbacks, Joe was visiting his friend; God. He just wanted some quiet time with his dearest friend and though there were others present, with the same idea, Joe “centred” his mind and was able to ignore them. At last, when he was ready, he began to talk to God and ensured that he would stop every now and then, to listen to what his “friend” had to say.