Thursday, 8 October 2020


                                                                ( From my Sketchbook.)

Faceache is just one of the greatest comic creations. His creator Ken Reid just one of the greatest writers and artists ever. Here Faceache paints one of his most hideous faces. Not for the faint hearted. Any attempt to physically replicate the horror can only result in terrible injury.

The Mirror And The Light.

I knew how it all had to end and in the end I knew it was the journey that would make all the difference. And what a journey. Such an impressive body of work, the saga of Thomas Cromwell as articulated by Hilary Mantel. I watched one of her talks, on Youtube, entitled I Met A Man Who Was Not There. And felt enriched with insights, all hers, as I approached this final novel in the series. I could say trilogy when describing the series but in truth it all feels like one big book to me, the book of a life which cannot speak for itself, not without it becoming a "Oh, that Cromwell" type conversation. His story is not one a person can be indifferent to, the weight and heft of history being what it is. C'mon in and let Hilary Mantel invite you to a meeting you will not quickly forget.
           It is a tale that by now has been translated into many different languages. None more slippery than English. A language made for cat dancing, all that is Orwellian working best in Anglo Saxon and its derivations. It can make poetry and song immortal as well as give an insult impressive shelf life. Yet can it throw a net wide enough to encircle and capture a life so full of Cromwell shaped gaps..Damn, she gives it a good try. Making imaginative use of the biographical married to the historical she weaves the threads of a tapestry as detailed as a Holbein but loose enough for an impressionistic take on matters we think we know all about. Its a literary hubris of course, look at the complete arse we make of recent events much less historical ones hundreds of years past. A dog's dinner pretending to be a Prince's feast.
I found myself not wanting chapters to end, pouring over words as though I were conversing with someone over a dinner table or in the corner of a smokey pub. The shadows thrown about the walls of the pub a shadow play of mirrors and light. Not a use for the title of the book Hilary Mantel intended but one that goes someway to articulating for me the shadows thrown by history and times past. 
           As I said, what a journey. To see the world through the eyes of Thomas Cromwell, or at least to piggy back that vision. By no means an easy journey but not as serpentine as taught history would lead one to believe. For me it was more Erasmus than Machiavelli, good grounded sense and pragmatism in the face of international intrigue and skullduggery ( Probably explains why I would not have only lasted minutes at the court of Henry.) I suppose all historical narration is bogged down in perspective, the varied perspectives of the long dead and their equally varied agendas. When I think about the tangled roots of recent political scandals, how difficult it is in the present to get to a truth, even with the weight of photographs, video recordings, taped confessions, now factor in four hundred years of history. Especially when even the notion of a recorded history could only be carried out by a select few, with the ability to read and write, and they were by no means partisan, shaping events to suit themselves. how does one know what to take as gospel, and what aloaded expression that is, and what would be considered political spin? you can perhaps read and learn as much as you can and view it all through the prism of what you consider to be the unvarnished truth. You can try....
              Hilary mantel is delicately aware of the complexities of the characters and times she has chosen to write about. And as such I believe she may possess the courageous hand s and eyes of the surgeon you might trust best to carry out an operation. She does not write people as good or bad, just as people capable of good and bad.Tudor England was a tough place to try getting by in, patriotism and fear walked hand in hand, with those closest to The King at most risk, with the occasional stumble from favor ending on the scaffold. Which off course was the fate of Thomas Cromwell, and when he stumbled he fell fast and hard.and even know ing this I found the moment quite shocking, perhaps having spent so much time in his company I hoped for a skewed circumstance, not to be off course. I actually found the humiliating assault upon his person quite harrowing, it was a crafted cruelty, a calculated attack where the stakes were as high as could be and those involved knew it had to be all or nothing. The Cromwell they assailed was not a man they knew would forgive and it took a cabal to bring it off. Considering this volume began with the visceral dispatch of Anne Boleyn, with her traumatised hand-maidens skidding in the gore as they attempt to afford the fallen queens body some dignity. Lacking a coffin they lifted it into a drawer intended for arrows, the placement of the head proving awkward. Yet the jackal like attack on Cromwell's person was terribly affecting.
                 Anyone reading this will have grown up in an era where it is suggested that with the right determination we can become anyone we wish to become, to climb to any height we may aspire to. As though reality is as fluid as intent. Yet Thomas Cromwell did climb , through a world where social mobility  was practically unthinkable. The caste systems immutable and any attempt to break free of its constraints was reckoned to be ungodly hubris, and punished accordingly. His mentor, Cardinal Woolsey, was also the off spring of a working man,both dared to bump elbows with their betters, neither of their tales ended well. 
              But then neither did Henry's, although his was a much more protracted and torturous decline, from Virtuous Prince to sickness ridden royal petrie dish, virtually rotting within a fleshy cage formed by years of indulgence. 
              All these big historical figures had their time, they lived their lives in the moment. Their positions, by virtue of circumstance and birth, affording them princely perspectives to the feast, shaping the worlds they lived in as opposed to being shaped by them. 
             It was their world, everyone else just lived in it. 
            Hilary Mantell has gifted literature a magnificent body of work. Hans Holbein gave us an eye to the past, that which may have been lost to us takes on a relative modernity when viewed, as does Hilary Mantell's entirely humane reimagining of of a wondrous strange time.


The Plot Thickens.

                                                         (From my Sketchbook.)

Grimley Fiendish.

                                                                (From my Sketchbook.)

                               So much loved a character The Damned even wrote a song about him.


In 1995 Robert McCrum suffered a severe stroke and decided to write a book about the experience, a well received and highly regarded insight into the trauma of such an experience and how best one can come to terms with it on the most personal of levels.  this humane memory play was entitled My Year Off with suitably self-deprecating aplomb. Dealing with trauma with the wit and humour of a natural writer, able to aim target the microcosm of personal setback with wit and even forward thinking. For during his recovery he discovered the only words that made sense to him were snatches of his beloved Shakespeare. The First Folio became the prism through which he viewed the world and tried to make sense of the seemingly increasingly senseless times we are all living through, these times of disruption. 

             He attempts to unravel why this should be so, why the words of William Shakespeare still resonate with us four hundred years after he wrote them for our entertainment of the London mob.  And entertain them and us he has for centuries, through good times and bad, over and over again in a way no other writer possibly could, given the cultural conditions which allowed him to saturate the shared zeitgeist. Serving as a mirror to the then and the now, a reminder to all that no matter where we go, there we are. For so much of Shakespeare's work is about confronting ourselves, looking into the hearts of darkness and finding light in the most unlikely places.

Robert McCrum writes with a comfortable authority on the subject. He shapes what for him must feel like quite personal and heart felt insights into the bard into a broader discussion, throwing his net wide. i suspect he would have made a good teacher should he have embraced the notion of passing on what he had learned. There is nothing dry or tonally academically dull about his style of writing and it comes invested with great affection for the subject matter. 


Wednesday, 7 October 2020

The Doctor and Davros sat Under A Tree.

Picture the scene. Following a harrowing interrogation The Doctor sits in Davros science bunker on the war ravaged planet of Skaro,  talking to his great nemesis, not as enemies but "as men of science." Its one of the great moments in a truly classic story. 

The Doctor; Davros, if you had created a virus in your laboratory, something contagious and infectious that killed on contact. A virus that would destroy all other forms of life...would you allow its use?

Davros; An interesting conjecture.

The Doctor; Would you do it?

Davros; Yes. yes, to hold in my hand a capsule that contained such power. To know that life and death on such a scale was my choice. To know that the tiny pressure on my thumb, enough to break the glass, would end everything. Yes i would do it. That power would set me up above the Gods! And Through The Daleks I Will Have That Power!

The Doctor; Well in that case, Davros Old Sprout, no more jelly babies for you.

Well, all right, the last line was mine. Inspired by some new pics sent to me by the chameleon like Joanne Alexander, in her fourth Doctor costume. Just fantastique!You know what, Tom Baker himself would love these. They would remind him of the best days of his life..

              As they do for me.


Thursday, 1 October 2020

Hudson In Baltimore.

 I was saddened to hear that Hudson Flanagan, that Prince among Boxer dogs, has passed away. After a long and eventful life Hudson will be much missed by all who had the good fortune to know him. Hudson was a well read dog and he was very kind to comment positively about the two issues of Noe the Savage Boy which I wrote for Atomic Diner in Dublin. " Grunff, fworth" was , I believe, how he put it. High praise indeed. This is a picture of Hudson in Baltimore, Cork where Noe's story began, when him and his family, along with all their fellow residents, were abducted and sold into slavery by Barbary Pirates. Hudson was more than a fireside reader and liked to extend his reading into his life, so he decided to make the long journey from Coalisland to Cork to get a sense of the terrain. He is pictured with his pal Connor, the comic book artist, who he convinced to make the trip to the bottom end of Ireland in search of adventure. Like all artists, he does not get out enough, was, I believe, Hudson's thinking.

             Hudson may have believed in living in the moment but he was very much a dog for all times.

             RIP friend. Finest Kind.