Achy Dancing Feet

We glided round the floor
Until the stair clock signaled two
When the band packed up and left
Stayed a little longer too

The moon had made our rendezvous
We were pre-arranged to meet
I’ll recall you by your blue eyes
And my achy dancing feet

The party was forgotten
Friends all faded into blue
There was only swirling music
And amazing smiling you

And now the dawn has broken
And I’m standing in the street
With my heart strings all a-tremble
And my achy dancing feet

((from a tweet by @MissPinks))

Memories of Innisfree

Pretty soon now, Leonard Cohen will arrive in my home county of Sligo to play two concerts in the grounds of Lissadell House.

This is the same Lissadell House where Sligo’s beloved poet W B Yeats spent so much time and became so enchanted with the area.  So enchanted that he effectively wrote his own epitaph, in a poem which set out where his final resting place should be and exactly what words should be cut into his headstone:

“Under bare Ben Bulben's head
In Drumcliff churchyard Yeats is laid.
An ancestor was rector there
Long years ago, a church stands near,
By the road an ancient cross.
No marble, no conventional phrase;
On limestone quarried near the spot
By his command these words are cut:
Cast a cold eye
On life, on death.
Horseman, pass by”

And these last three enigmatic lines are indeed cut into limestone ‘quarried near the spot’.  The poem is like a treasure map and Yeats' grave is there to be found at the end of it, exactly as one would expect.

So it seems likely to me that the great poetic soul of Leonard Cohen will be drawn the few miles up the road from Lissadell House to visit this much-visited place.

I bet he will.

But what I also wonder is whether he will be tempted to seek out the island on Lough Gill made famous by a much earlier Yeats Poem.  Will he, too, “Arise and go now, go to Innisfree”?

If you are, indeed, thinking that way, Leonard my lad, (yes, I know you read this) well, let me give you the inside scoop on Innisfree.

Because I know Lough Gill.  I grew up beside the Garavogue river and I fished on the lake for salmon with my brothers on freezing New Years Days where you wouldn’t send a dog outside.  I’ve sat in placid bays of an spring evening among the dark spent mayflies and watched the trout suck them down, without hardly causing a ripple on the water.

I was never the fisherman my brothers or, of course, my Dad was but I knew a little about the lake all the same.

So let me tell you about Innisfree.

There are boats and buses that will take you to Innisfree and they are completely honest and well-meaning, for the island they will show you is indeed called Innisfree.  And you will probably be bewildered and a little disappointed because all you will see is a tiny tree-laden island not far off the shore with no room for docks or moorings let alone beehives or wattle huts.

For this is Innisfree… but it is not Yeats’ Innisfree.

Yeats’ Innisfree is out on the lake and is harder to get to and it is bigger and more sprawling and more baffling.  It is called Church Island.  This is Yeats’ Innisfree.

Back in those days when we went fishing, we would often pull into a sheltered bay on Church Island for the ‘Tea’.  We would light a small fire with twigs and would boil a black crusty kettle with no lid.  We would have white bread sandwiches and, more often than not, watch the rain plant circles out on the lake.  And the smells that haunt us from those times are not of the island or the lake but rather they are of the things we brought  there ourselves and the things we did there ourselves. The wet wood we caused to smoke in the fire, the petrol that dripped from the Seagull ‘Forty Plus’ outboard motors that stained the water with wide flat rainbows.

And what of Yeats?  Well he had been here long before us.  Yes here, not on some tiny tree-ridden rock a stone’s throw from the shore. Here, lost on this island.  He took the name from the other little island and put it here for his literary purposes.  Why would he not?  He was a Poet, it was what he did.

You can look this up on the internet, you can check it out.  But, unless you look quite hard, you won’t find anything of what I am telling you here.  Perhaps I am just making it up, I can’t say who told it to me because I don’t really know. 

But the final proof is out there, on Church Island, because Peace is indeed there, still, and it still comes dropping slow. It really does.

You may think this is all rubbish, that’s okay.  I know in my heart that I’m right.

And if you go there, Leonard – or any of you – then you will know it too.

Sunny in The Drive

This old life is pretty tricky
at the same time good and bad.
Monstrous but righteous
wonderful but sad.

All that I can say for sure
is I’m glad to be alive
while it’s rainin’ in the garden
and sunny in the drive

You gotta know your blessings
count them one by one
'cos your curses are all lined up
and they’ll wait to have their fun

You’re living life and lovin’ it.
You’re struggling to survive.
It’s rainin’ in your garden
and sunny in your drive

No one said it would be easy.
No one said it would be hard.
No one said it could be raining
while it’s sunny in the yard

Just do the best you can do.
Keep yourself alive
when the rain’s out in the garden
and the sun’s out in the drive

© Ken Armstrong 2011 (after a Warren Bennett Tweet)

Two Movies I Think You Would Like, If You Hadn’t Already Seen Them

Here’s a little post about two films I have seen only recently.  I enjoyed both of them immensely and I think that you might too.

The problems with my doing little occasional posts like this are twofold:

Firstly, I rarely get to see movies when they first come out.  DVD releases are where I usually catch up and sometimes it’s even much later than that.  These days, my first sight of a film might even be on television.  So I’m not rolling in with anything new or exciting and the likelihood is that you’ve already seen what I’ve seen and probably even written your own bloody good review of it.

Ho Hum.

Secondly, I hate doing spoilers.  Thus the information I tend to give about these movies that I like is severely limited.  I won’t even bother giving a synopsis of the plot because what is that if not a spoiler?

So, this’ll be a cracking post, right?


The first film I want you to be sure that you have seen is called ‘Let The Right One In’.  It’s a Swedish film from a few years ago and, yes, it’s sub-titled (get over it).  Avoid dubbed versions which I hear are available and see this version before Hollywood brings out theirs, perhaps as soon as later this year.

I taped this one off telly a few weeks back and saved it up to watch.  I was looking forward to it and wanted a nice quiet late night time where Trish and I could enjoy it.

So, what can I tell you?  It’s about a lonely, slightly awkward, thirteen year old boy who slowly befriends his new neighbour… who only really comes out at night.

This is a dark, beautifully atmospheric film with real believable characters despite the fantastical central premise.  Be warned, it’s a bit bloody and a bit graphic and there’s a rather silly bit with… well, there is.

Having said all that, and despite it being two years old, I think this is my current film of the year.

Give it a go.

Second up is ‘Moon’.  A man is alone on the moon, supervising mining operations for his bosses back at Earth.

Something happens to him…

Don’t let anyone tell you any more than that.  It’s easy for someone to tell you much about this film by the use of just one word.  “Oh, yeah," they'll say, "that’s the one that’s all about…”.

Try not to let them do that.

Both these movies are slow and dark and atmospheric and both, in my outdated opinion, are very very good.

Keep them in mind, when browsing the DVD shop shelves and let me know what you think of them.

That Mysterious Book I Sometimes Read Just Before Sleep

‘Can’t sleep without reading a book.   ‘Can’t do it.

Even if I tumble in the door at four in the morning (a comparatively rare event, you must agree), I would still have to hit the current book and read for a while before sleep might come.

Usually it happens that I read for awhile and then I start to feel tired and so I put the book away, turn out the light and go to sleep.  That’s probably the normal chain-of events for most book-reading-people-of-the-bed, nothing unusual there.

But there’s another way things sometimes go and I wonder if I’m the only one it happens to.  Usually it happens when a book is so good that you just don’t want to stop reading, it’s too interesting/exciting, you just want to read on…

But sleep will come, it will not be cheated of its prey.  That’s when the odd thing happens – to me at least.

Sleep creeps into the text of the book and/or the text of the book creeps into sleep and suddenly the text I am reading is not the text of the book I am holding but some crazy pre-dream-state literary concoction.

If this just happened for a split second, I could let it pass.  But it seems that this can go on for quite some time.  I find myself reading, enjoying the words, when suddenly some remnant of consciousness says, “wait, this isn’t the book you’re reading, this is something else.”  And, indeed it is something else.  Some story with a logic and a sensibility all of its own but not from any printed document that ever existed.

Does this sound mad or do you know what I mean?

It would be much easier to discuss if I could remember anything -  anything at all - of this strange text that my book morphs into just as sleep descends.  But I can’t.  I guess the story is sprinkled with a little of whatever dust gets shaken onto dreams, that gradual but irrevocable self-destruct powder.

And, of course, I may tell you that this mysterious text goes on for quite some time but what do I really know about it?  Dream time is amorphic and tenuous at the best of times.  This thing I think lasts for minutes may only be a split second aberration of the shutting-down mind.

So, effectively, I’m posting about something I know nothing about.

Not exactly a first, no.

What bugs me about it, what makes me think on it now, is that this phantom text which appears in my book as sleep comes…

…well, it’s quite good, I think.

Maybe it's some book of my creation that it sitting inside my head, one I just haven't written yet.  Maybe my mind is giving me a sneak preview as a subliminal encouragement to get on with it.

Maybe I'll never get it written and will only ever see self-destructing passages as consciousness ebbs away.

Maybe I’ll be allowed to read all of it, as I die.