Tuesday, 22 December 2020

Homer under The Mistletoe.

 Better watch out, better beware, under panted homer is lurking out there. Just wanted to wish you all a Happy Christmas. Its been something of a difficult year and although I do not know who any of you are, I do think about you and wish you are well. Heres to a better 2021!

               We are all citizens of the future now.

                Must tell you, I was wearing the Homer tie and a man commented "Imagine that coming at you" (referring to my tie, not me. I hope.) and another woman replied "Ach, but Homer and Madge love each other.", rubbishing his negativity. She said this with such a sense of joy and absolute belief in the love shared by two fictional animated characters I was genuinely moved to smile and whole heartedly agree with her.

               So whether its under the mistletoe,or even King Kong's toe, its all about love.

               Homers no dozer! 

              Merry Christmas, chums.XOX..


Thursday, 17 December 2020

The Dolocher.

 And right at the end of this twisting turning year of our Lord Twenty Twenty I find one of the very best reads, for me anyway. I think the book has been around for about four years but I only just discovered it on a recent book haul. I was drawn to it by the very striking cover art and the dramatic blurb "Victorian London had Jack The Ripper, Georgian Dublin had the Dolocher." which is just about as swarthy and gaudy as a cover blurb should be and I am just shallow enough to fall for it, well, are'nt you? I think you might be or else you would find something better to do than read my old boobie-babble.

              It hits the ground running, opening in a filthy condemned cell, as a captured monster in human form sits contemplating his own impending end. If you are truly squeamish you may not even make it past this chapter. and that barely scratches the surface regarding the depths of some inhumane depravity. Hold firm, have courage and keep going because this book is worth it. 

              What a find this Caroline Barry, as she writes with such realistic brevity yet confidence. It is ballsy, er, so to speak, almost guttural at times but exudes a very humane and times poetical reverence for the frailty of the human condition in extremis. Filled with acts of cruelty from some absolute brutes and yet also brave decent and loving actions, I grew to love the central characters and found I did not want to leave their company (James Plunkett's strumpet City affected me this way when I read it years ago. Another book where the city of Dublin is an unspeaking central character.) You witness as a misanthropic group of very different individuals all come together to form a family of sorts as they try to survive savage circumstances.

              An old friend, Don Melia, rest his soul(Although he did not believe in an afterlife I cannot believe a spirit such as his will totally disapear from the world.) once explained to me back in the day, the heady eighties,the concept of pretend families. How those rejected by their families, mostly because of their sexuality, could come together to form new families based on the understanding and love and support any human being would appreciate. Standing together at the coal face of life, forming a pretend family that would eventually become real.In the case of The Dolocher it is mostly the unforgiving and merciless poverty which seeks to grind the human spirit into the dirty cobbles of old Dublin town.  They all struggle to find dignity  in a world where such a notion is a fairy castle aspiration, a notion cold and hungry children merely sneer at.

              Its strumpet city meets ripper Street, its From Hell with a dash of Penny Dreadful.

              Its a bloody marvel.


Redemption Road; Grieving On The Camino

I recently met an interesting fellow; Brendan Mc Manus, while helping him disperse an equally interesting  collection of books to the Oxfam Bookstore in Belfast city Center. Brendan's friend Pat, a fellow Jesuit priest had passed away leaving a nice collection of academic and spiritual books which they wished to pass on in the hope of them not only finding new homes but doing a little good along the way. While he was dropping the books off we got to talking and I discovered he had written a book and I became intrigued not only by Brendan himself and his thought processes but the subject matter also. 

               Brendan's younger brother had taken his own life and the book detailed Brendan's attempt to come to terms with this appalling tragedy, while walking a pilgrims way around Camino de Santiago, an 800-kilometre walk in Northern Spain A physical endurance test that marries faith and determination and which demands much of those taking part. Grief can overwhelm, it is often cruel and merciless, we know the destination we hope to reach we we embark on the rocky path to recovery but in so many ways the loss is irreconcilable. Grief can be like a bullet fired from a gun we know was not designed for the job. We hope the projectile will weave, twist and turn along the way and find that which we aimed for. A magic bullet fired from the human heart. 

              Brendan records his journey, an old school step by step pilgrimage that tests him in oh so many ways.It is not a journey where he must descend into the layers of hell, he does not leap Gustav Dore inspired pits of the burning dead with lakes of fire stoked by demons.  It is not just about the right footwear or the correct sponsorship, although both are essential, it is also about opening oneself to self inflicted hardship and frugality. You have to be willing to push forward when you just feel like laying down and yet somehow remain within your own limitations. It is a spiritual boot-camp, I suppose. No one arrives at a bootcamp a soldier, you only become one if you stick it out. Same with being a pilgrim, you have to stick it out, or else you are just a walker. You have to be able to open yourself to change and all the risks that implies. Sometimes regeneration is only possible from the wreckage of our lives. And as I said, The Camino does demand much from those who take part. There are Camino "rules", expectations that raise a walker to the status of a pilgrim, in the same way monkish rules make the difference between being a brother or a sister and a misanthrope. We are what we are but we can be so much more. And Brendan's pilgrim's path is certainly an exploration of these themes as he pushes the fourth wall of self realization. As he seeks the ear of a higher being, his strength like a candle flame remaining alight in a harsh and cutting wind that bites like a hungry dog. Whether you climb on the shoulders of giants or walk in the steps of saints, the peace of mind the grieving seek can be elusive. And you cannot fool yourself. It must be the real thing.

               Brendan is looking for the real thing. And one of the heaviest things he carries is a Barcelona FC tee-shirt he carries with him, one that belonged to the beloved brother he lost. He does this with a clear reason in mind, one solid fixed point in the shifting fog of grief. And the Camino teaches him how to carry these weights when we must and all importantly when not to, when to let go. That there is regeneration and renewal to be found in this world. The road to that state of being will be different for everyone and there are no guarantees, hostage as we are to our emotions. Its a wild hunt, human nature raw in tooth and claw and affordable footwear. And the resounding refrain of the human heart; Why do we value love so highly when it hurts so much?

               St Ignatius of Loyola offers a series of guidelines, ten pointers to help you negotiate the Pilgrim's Path, that may or may not, lead you to the answers you seek. The answers whose only validity may be judged by those who ask the questions.

               My mate Scratch once offered a guideline of his own.Just the one; God answers every prayer, he just mostly says no.

                I think I prefer what St Ignatious had to offer more.


Horror Of Fang Rock vinyl.

Just found out. A truly classic story in a truly classic format; crackly vinyl, with narration by the amazing Louise Jameson. its a perfect storm of a production set during a nightmarish store in a terrifying location. It is not out until next Febuary but at least Twenty Twenty one is looking up...


Alien Isolation.

A novelization of a game, now there s a modern creative conceit. One that the author manages to pull off with a degree of aplomb. Ellen Ripley's daughter Amanda has grown up missing her mother, haunted by a broken promise to see her again, in a future world where human beings are little more than units under the thumb of mega corporations. As she grows to adulthood she will learn that answers and truths can bring horrors of an unexpected kind that life does not prepare us for. Weyland-yutani have not forgotten the Ripley family, watching Amanda as she grows, drawing her into their a deadly web of chilling intent, with nothing benign in their plans for a family line which all but wrecked their plans and ambitions for the xenomorphic life form that in turn wiped out the lost crew of the Nostromo. 

             The whole nighmare is reborn when a salvage ship The Anesidora, led by a Captain Henry Marlow, lands on LV426, lured there by the mystterious beacon, pulsing away, warning the unwary off, actually serving to draw them in instead. The sequence in the game when the salvage ship touches down on the barren wind swept surface of the remote moon is one of my favorites in the whole alien mythos. They are a rough and ready small salvage team trying to eke an existance in salvage, against all the odds, and they just are in the wrong place, at the wrong time. i just thought they really did the work for this game, the unwelcoming enviroment of LV426, the Verne like space suits, the alluring spider web of the derelict, its all here. In a game!

              Keith Ra Decandido recreates the fall of the Anesidora  and takes us beyond that with the attention to detail the game deserves. Things go from back to worse for all who come into contact with this life form. in his hubris mankind believed itself at the top of the foot chain, even way out in the silent seas of the stars. When we should have been keeping our heads down, content with a modicum of comfort and safety we were instead poking around in places we should never have gone. 

              Alien Isolation is a warning to the curious.

              That there is a degree of safety in Isolation.


Strafford Boys.

 Talk about yer 'orrible ,istories, why do'nt ye. Or do'nt, cause this was not horrible in the least, quite the opposite in fact. turns out Orange is imndeed the New black, or at the very least, as good as.for anyone who knows a hawk from a handsaw, so to speak; verily. the Plays the thing.
            Well, this little orange and balck coloured little book turned out to be a real treat. All the better for being an unexpected one. I came across it on a recent book trawl (one still can do so, even in this era of the pandemic.) when i found it among a small stack of horrible Histories. All of which had been donated to Oxfam, in one of their bookstores. I suppose the cover art allowed it to sit quite comfortably with them, which I suppose is no bad thing, as any of the horrible Histories I have seen on television have been quite smart and funny. Although, a bit one note for me, all grounded in a knowing irony, which gets a bit tedious. Everything is irony, nothing is valued beyond a tired "our ancestors were so daft,wink,wink," It makes forgiveness for past transgressions difficult to access, the weak and obvious punch lines more important than our ancestors attempts to improve their lot in life or the lives of their fellow beings. Yes, history was and is a brutal process, but enlightenment and evolution are things of beauty. 
               Actually, did not mean to get all soap boxey, the Horrible Histories crowd deserve better than that. some of their work has made me laugh out loud. and I have no wish to pit the quality of this lovely book against their lovely books. In it, a sixteen year old William Shakespeare, is working away in his father's glove making workshop but also finds himself putting together his first play, a Whitsun midsummer celebration for the people of his hometown; Stratford Upon Avon. With much hilarity, and a few bumps,bruises and black eyes, he sets about assembling a team of players from his fellow apprentices, local school boys and a motley of local labourers. All about to learn; The plays the thing. 
                Jan Mark brings these long gone and unheard voices back to life for the length of this perfectly formed little read.  It is such a funny book, with wonderfully relayed interactions between the naive performers as they attempt to put together a piece that will entertain and charm. Young Shakespeare in putting pen to paper must string together a story that not only must engage the tough local crowd but also make sense to those performing it. The various first time fledgling actors have their own varied expectations of what the play should be about and how it should be performed. Nearly all wish for meaty manly parts while nearly all also have no wish to play women. There are many a slip as young Will tries to pull together the various threads holding the story together so that the magic of theater may begin to exert itself. As I said, it is a funny book all right, so warmly realised. I actually found a smile on my lips as I read through it. Found myself wishing for all to be well while also enjoying the many mishaps sent to bedevil all involved.
               I for one was clapping by the end.
               Author, Author.

Blood Sucking Spide.

 I have this wee pocket book coming out some time in early 2021. If it is not presumed to be pure unfiltered hubris to talk about possible futures. Its a new comic about vampire Joyriders, among other things. Keep an eye open...For joyriders, vampire or otherwise.

The Ghosts Of Sleath.

 Had not read a James Herbert book in a while so I went looking in a pile for a copy of this which I knew was somewhere in the house. I knew it involved the character Ashe from the book of the same name, the last book by James Herbert I actually read. I had thought it was the book which introduced the character. Turns out I was  wrong. He first appeared in an earlier book; Haunted. But I had started this one so I decided to continue.

              Glad I did too, it was a fast and entertaining read. Hit the ground running with ghostly and ghastly goings on in the remote English village of Sleath. Tucked away and not easy to reach even with a map, its a local town full of local people doing local things, the full Roysten Vasey by Jingo. Yet scratch the surface and this picture postcard little sleepy village proves itself to be haunted on an increasingly dangerous curve. Bad things have happened, bad things are happening and things are about to get a lot worse. Unkempt but likeable physic sleuth Ashe arrives and provokes the restless spitits to bring forward their spooky agenda.

             The narrative switches between Emmerdale like day to day small village happenings to  a Lucio Fulci level of otherworldly horror. Its not for the faint hearted and some of the events are genuinely stomach turning....ugh, James Herbert thought of some really horrible things. People die awfully. Actually, some of them live awfully...

              The edition of  the book I have, which I picked up in a hospice store, is a compact nicely covered book club edition with a nice inner illustration of the village of Sleath. The sort of map one could expect to find in a tourist information office. Although this is not the sort of book which lends itself to the notion of sleepy eventless days dozing on a deckchair next to the duck pond on the village green. Not the suff of dreams, more the stuff of nightmares.

Grace Jones.


Ladies and Gentlemen. Allow me to introduce. Ms Grace Jones...well, a painting of her at least. I do sometimes scribble and draw and even paint inside books I have read or particularly enjoyed. Here is a bit I did inside the autobiography of Grace Jones. I think I may shown this before but tidying up(ho,ho, that is a good one, "tidying up"ho,ho...) Grace Jones is practically a force of nature.and if you need proof of that just take a look on line at one of her performances of Slave To The Rythmn. 
            What that amazing woman can do with a hula hoop is Olympian...
            In the God like sense of the word.

Kicking Through The Fallen Autumn Leaves.

                                                                 (From my notebook.)