Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Inspirational Poem #2

The second poem that I've always found inspirational is If by Rudyard Kipling. I heard someplace that Kipling was a bit of a racist and certainly his roots lay in a very imperialistic Britain of the late 19th century. His reputation suffered unfairly partly because some of his works included a swastika. However according to the fountain of all
Knowledge that is wikipedia kipling's use of the symbol predates the Nazi adoption of it and was intended to represent An Indian sun symbol conferring luck and wellbeing.

Anyway, regardless of his political perspective, I still love the poem If. It has helped me both physically and emotionally. When I was 18 and working away from home in Cape Cod one summer I found myself working the night shift in a plastic factory. I was a scrawny city lad and completely unprepared for the physical demands of the job. Each night my goal was just to make it to the coffee break, and then to the lunch break. And the only thing that kept me going were the lines...

'If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve their turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in
Except the will which says to them hold on.'

Even now, 25 years later whenI hear those lines I can feel the ach in my back and the sense of achievement that came with not giving up. I have 2 sons and I think if they grow up with the values expressed in this poem
I'll be happy.
IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
' Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!

Monday, 22 August 2011

Inspirational Poems #1

With a definite nod to a recent blog entry by http://nakedgirlinadress.com/, I've decided to post a couple of poems that I have found inspirational. Number one on my list is Desiderata. This poem originated in the 1920's and I first came across it in my teens. It's stayed with me over the years, to be used like a lighthouse guiding me on the right path when I start to lose my way. I seem to remember someone having a hit song with it in the '70's but I could be imagining that. Anyway I've reproduced it below. Feel free to comment on this or let me know what poems have inspired you.

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant, they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love, for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is perennial as the grass.
Take kindly to the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.
Max Ehrmann c.1920

Thursday, 11 August 2011

How ‘Bout It by Tony Murphy

It was the beautiful symmetry to the whole scene that brought a smile to Julie’s lips, even as her eyes welled with tears. Her husband of thirteen years had just thrown his pitifully small suitcase in the boot of his black BMW and pulled out of their driveway for the last time. Though really it was her driveway now. She was going to have to start thinking in singular terms again. She had breathed out a huge sigh that seemed to deflate her like a balloon and slumped back in to the kitchen, the one room in the house that had always belonged solely to her.

She was feeling no emotion now, just an emptiness. The hurricane had come and gone, the anger and the tears raging through her world, battering her emotions and leaving her raw and exposed. But all that was gone now and what remained was the eerie stillness. The silence was oppressive, like a giant shadow brooding in the corner of the room, so Julie reached to her two best friends, the kettle and the radio. A strong black coffee and some inane DJ were what were needed now to make her feel human.

And then, as if to prove that God has a warped sense of humour, the first bars of Romeo and Juliet came taunting her from the radio. Sinking into the kitchen chair, she squeezed her hands tightly around the mug in her hands and began rocking gently in time with the music. She could feel the hysterical laughter bubbling up inside her, and knew that once it made its way to the surface she would sink under it and never re-surface. Fighting to push the emotions firmly back under whatever rock there had come from Julie took a deep breath and just tuned into the music, her mind journeying back to the heat and noise of the Salthill disco where Mike had proposed to her so many lifetimes ago.

They had joked about it so many times afterwards, the way he had proposed. In the darkest days she had even wondered if he had actually proposed at all, or if there was something else on his mind that night. The difference between romantic and sleazy is sometimes in the ear of the beholder. But she knew what he had meant that night, holding her close as they swayed to the music. He had stared in to her eyes, and the music and the lights and the rest of the world had faded in to the background as he uttered the immortal line…

‘You and me Babe..How ‘bout it?’

She had always wanted a Romeo and Juliet romance but if your marriage proposal comes from Mark Knopfler’s version rather than William Shakespeare’s original, you shouldn’t be too surprised if your marriage ends up in ‘Dire Straits’. Somehow the joke seemed to have lost all its humour now, as she sat alone and listened to the last bars of the song drift away, the melancholy mood being shattered by the upbeat voice of Larry Gogan looking for callers from Mayo to take part in the 60-Second Quiz. Normal life continuing with total disregard for all that she was going through.

The Salthill disco was replaced by her kitchen walls, and the reality of her situation cut her like a knife. Thirteen years was probably a pretty good innings these days, when marriage breakdown was simply a fact of life, but deep down she had always expected it to last forever. Even the thundering sermon from Fr Peter at their wedding had left her completely undeterred. He had spoken for ten minutes about the difficulties of lifelong commitment in the modern age when people lived into their eighties and nineties. Julie smiled to herself, remember the reaction of the congregation at the wedding. She could sense them smirking initially, and then begin to squirm uncomfortably as the rant continued. As his voiced raised in conclusion, informing them of the importance of being completely clear on the commitment they were making in the eyes of God and his witnesses here in the church, she was sure there were some people there waiting for herself or Mike to stand up and make a run for it. Of course anyone from the parish knew what to expect but for all the visitors it had been quite shocking.

At the reception Fr Peter was the main topic of conversation, and in a way Julie had been glad to let someone else be the focus of attention for a while. Later that night, after the music was all played out and the bar drunk dry, they lay in bed laughing about the day.  They held each other closely, enjoying the warmth of each others bodies and knowing that this was the way it would always be for them.

Julie shook her head and wondered how she had come from that night to this. From that warmth and comfort to the emptiness and loneliness of sitting alone in her kitchen only thirteen years later. She tried to picture him now, but somehow the image would not form in her mind. He would probably be parking the car now, taking his case from the car and rushing straight to the bed. She wanted to be with him but she knew that tonight someone else would talk to him and comfort him. Someone else would give him the love and care he needed.   

And tomorrow, at ten o’clock, he would be wheeled into an operating theatre for the surgery. Of course they had discussed the options. He could have taken drugs that would have seen him prolong his existence, but that would not have been a life. The doctors had explained that the surgery was a long shot, and that he was unlikely to survive the operation. But Mike knew what he wanted. He would say his goodbyes to her in their own home and then go and take his chances. She was less sure, but the man she loved had asked for her support.  She had smiled through her tears and nodded when he looked into her eyes and asked….

‘How ‘bout it?’

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

A little poem...

This is a poem I wrote a while back. Ireland is littered with the remnants of round towers which were mostly built by monks between the 9th and 12th centuries. They were used for protection from vikings and other unsavoury characters. The only access was half way up the wall and the ladder would be pulled up behind them. They would hide up there with their valuables until the attackers had given up and left.

Viking Dawn

Brick on brick build up the tower,
Brick on brick and higher and higher,
Quickly, quickly come invaders,
Bringing hate and fear and fire.

Round and round keep building building
Reaching reaching for the sky.
Onward onwards up towards safety,
In the tower the safety lies.

Now the tower lies lonely, empty.
All invaders long since gone
Only weeds and ghosts remaining,
Echoing that fiery dawn.

Friday, 5 August 2011

The After-Midnight Club by Tony Murphy


You think you know the score. When you marry someone famous I mean. You go through it all in your head beforehand. You know you love the person, but still wonder about spending the rest of your life with them. So you weigh up all the pros and cons, and try to create a picture of your future through a million questions.

How will you handle the late night showbiz parties? You picture yourself a few years down the line; at home surrounded by dirty dishes and wet nappies. Will you survive the gossip columns and the tabloids? How will you react when you hear he’s being linked with some stick insect with pert boobs and a “stage presence”? You know that you will go through all the normal ups and downs of married life with the whole world looking on, and wonder if love can ever survive such scrutiny. All these things go through your mind before you commit. But you do commit. In spite of it all, you do commit.

Because you love him. You love the real person, not just the radio persona. Everyone loves the voice that reaches into their homes and touches their lives every day. They hear the compassion and empathy in his voice and they think they know him. And maybe in a way they do know that part of him. But you know the whole person, not just the public facade. You know the bits he would prefer to keep hidden. We all have huge parts of our personality that we keep to ourselves, and it is so much worse when your every move is made in public eye.

But you’ve met his shadow side. And still you love him. You love the person who comes home after a bad show or a row with a producer and sits brooding with a can of beer while you try to keep the kids quiet. You love the person who gargles so loudly at an un-godly hour before heading out to do the morning show, oblivious of the fact that his slamming door has woken the baby again.

And you stand in his shadow, his biggest cheerleader when he makes the bold move to the new station. Prime morning slot. Picture on the side of buses all over the city. A cheesy grin that masked the terror he was going through at the prospect. You give him the encouragement he needs to go for it, because you know the confidence is the blood in his veins. You have been with him through the times when it was missing. The times when he cried before the show, convinced that he was worthless and an industry joke. And then you’ve marvelled at the upbeat breezy voice that came back from the radio at you, and wondered which was your true husband.

Of course, for all your married life you’ve had to share him. With the stations and the listeners. With the public who thought they owned at least a part of him. You’ve shared him in restaurants, as people ignore you completely while they interrupt your precious time together to ask for an autograph, or a request for a loved one. You’ve marvelled at the patience he shows on those occasions, and wondered how he managed to be polite in the face of bad manners and rudeness.

But of course you understand that this is just who he is, and if you are going to share his journey with him, then you must accept this as part of the package. So you accept it and you share him, and you smile politely at the autograph hunters and bite your tongue.

And then one day, you find yourself sitting in front of a computer. Alone.  Kids are gone, living their own lives. And you are sitting, listening to that voice you have lived with, argued with, loved for most of your life. And you wonder, how many of the people you have shared him with over the years are doing the same thing.

Now that the fuss has all died down, and his face is no longer appearing in the media. Now that he is gone and apparently forgotten, you wonder, does anyone else listen to the radio on the internet, tuning into shows that are two or three years old, just to hear his voice. The website has forty-four of his ‘After Midnight’ shows from over a three year period. God knows how they chose which ones to keep. They certainly were not chosen for the quality because some of it is bordering on the lower side of average. Funny but you would not even have dared to think such a thought a few months ago, let alone utter it aloud.

My God but he cursed when he was given that slot. Called them all the names under the sun. Who did they think he was, sending him from a prime-time slot in the early afternoon to the middle of the bloody night when the only people listening were insomniacs, taxi-drivers and weirdoes?

And yet in the end, when he looked back, they were the people he remembered most; those late night odd-balls. It was almost as though he was freed to be himself when he thought those were the only people listening. He was more real, and they loved him for it. They were his little club. The After-Midnight Club. There were lots of them that he knew well, or at least he felt he knew them, probably in much the same way that they thought they knew him. The emailed him, and texted him on a nightly basis, sharing the ups and downs of their lives with him.

Not that it happened straight away. It took him a while to find his feet, to adapt from his upbeat afternoon tempo and to get to know his audience. It took a while for them to get to know him too.

Tune in to some of those early shows now and you can sometimes hear the emotion in his voice. The anger and frustration that he thought he was masking. Of course he probably was masking it from everyone except you. If you listen to each show in sequence, you can probably hear the change in his voice, as he moved from frustration, to resignation, to acceptance, to contentment. But it’s nicer to dip in to different shows at different times.

In the later shows you know what to expect. The voice became more mellow, as did the music. And the texts became more and more of a feature. You got to know the rest of the After-Midnighters, and hear bits of their story. The truckers, driving through the night, playing requests for their wives or girlfriends. The under-the-covers listeners, who played requests for lovers far away. The night-shift workers who texted in with requests for each other and the occasional joke. The friendly banter about football, especially when his beloved Ipswich Town had a bad result.

Of course this was not the most successful period of his career, but it was definitely the most rewarding. Through all the heady success days, when he had been all over the papers and when there had been talk of a TV contract; through it all, he had never seemed as content as he was with the After-Midnight slot. He did not have to be bright and breezy. He did not have to play the latest hits. He was given pretty much a free rein, and he loved it. And they loved him.

Gradually you have come to understand that these were the closet friends he had. Certainly more loyal than the pals in the industry who came to the funeral to see and be seen, sobbing gently so as not to smudge the make-up. The After-Midnight club were different. Even though they had never met face to face, they had become his genuine friends, so that when they approached or wrote after the funeral, it did not seem strange at all.

And yet now, a few months later they have all gotten on with their lives, and you are left here, living in a time warp. Now that he is gone you finally get to have him all to yourself. You share evenings together at last; free of interruption and intrusion, listening to different shows depending on the mood you are in. Tuning in to show from the 28th of November 2006 most nights. It’s almost at the stage where you could recite the entire show. All the cosy chat, every text, the news on the hour. There was nothing special about that date, and yet it remains your favourite. Perhaps because there was nothing special going on. The very normality of it all is its appeal. 

You listen to it as you lie in bed at night, something you never did when he was alive. But now he’s not there, you would do anything to hear his voice. And in the morning, when you’ve gotten over the shock of his absence, you might tune in to one of the earlier shows, maybe May 2004, when he had just started the show.

The only show to be avoided is the one from May 15th 2007, the day he found out about the cancer. He had been upset going on, and it came through on the show. Not that he had shared the news with the listeners. But still, they knew something was up. There were a few texts, which he did not have to read out but did anyway, asking if he was ok. There was more music than usual, and none of it as mellow as usual. Something was up, but only two people knew what it was.

And now, now that he has gone, that is a comfort. A strange comfort, but still, a comfort. That at that stage, when he was at his lowest, he chose to share it only with you. And now, as you sit and listen to him again, there is a part of him that does not belong to anyone else. It is a sad part. A dark part. But it is the one part that he kept for you. And that makes it precious.

Story Bud?

One of the teachers we had in St Aidan's CBS in Whitehall, Dublin was Mr Welsh. He was one of those teachers who made the class a bit of craic, (of the Irish 'fun' variety as opposed to the US 'cocaine' variety).

Wally had a number of little sayings he would trot out on a regular basis, one of which was used when someone gave an incorrect answer to a question posed. In a long drawn out, and slightly nasal-ly voice the contribution would be described as...'The ravings of a lunatic...the wanderings of a  de-ranged mind'

Over a quarter of a century later, I have decided to begin a blog to record some of my writings. I've spent a lot of the intervening years scribbling poems and passages, and if I had finished all, (or even any), of the novels I've enthusiastically embarked on well who knows where I'd be now. Because of course once the books are finished my main challenge will be trying to control the queue of publishers and agents jostling for position outside my front door!!!

So, inspired by a few different people who I've come across recently in Twitterville and other places, I've decided to come clean. My name is Tony Murphy and I want to be an author. I will re-produce some short stories here and if you like them tell your friends. Feel free to comment and any constructive advice would be much appreciated.

It feels a bit like diving in the deep end and wondering, just as your feet leave the safety of the ground, whether you've really figured out the whole swimming thing. But here goes...