Tempus fugit

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My knowledge about the life and times of Marilyn Monroe is basic at best. I know somewhat more about cryptic crosswords. Generally, my first task each morning involves downloading the Guardian puzzle. The crossword has a different setter every day, each with his/her own quirks and each trading under a nom-de-plume, often a story in itself. There is even one called ‘Brendan’. Last week, in the course of solving ‘Paul’ (who is actually John in real life; no, no Beatle allusion), one clue, which could only be solved by first working out a cross-reference, was ‘model, no more’ (6). As, by this stage, the cross-reference (megastar) had been solved, the answer was straightforward – Monroe.

Marilyn’s appearance in this particular crossword, I later found out, was because Sunday 5 August coincided with the 50th anniversary of her death. The intervening years have certainly solidified her status as a ‘megastar’, albeit one whose brightness shone only fleetingly. To this day, myriad references to her permeate popular culture, my small contribution to the iconography being the photograph I took on the Barcelona metro in 2006. Everyone who was anyone photographed her, including the Swiss Robert Frank, whose iconoclastic The Americans quite possibly did more than any other book to change for ever how we view photography.

Apres Salgado #2

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Having pestered others for twenty-plus years about the critical necessity of backup, I was a bit aghast when, in a feverish flu-ey state several years ago, I blithely deposited some two-years-worth of digital photographs in the trash. Then pressed empty. No backup. This was in the pre-Cloud universe. It did, ultimately, force me to reassess and instigate better practice.

Imagine my delight, therefore, when idly browsing the contents of an ancient, damaged, external disk drive to discover a host of photographs that I thought had gone forever. Treasure trove. It was like a joyous and unexpected meeting with a long-lost friend.

I share this one: taken on Parnell Place shortly after seeing the incredibly moving Salgado exhibition, Exodus, at the Lavitt’s Quay Gallery at the end of July 2005 when Cork was, for one brief starburst, European capital of culture. Exodus contained a body of work by a world-renowned photographer. The above photograph is a single image. Any tenuous connection between the two is purely a random act of synaptic imagination on my part. Make of it what you will.

The original post is here.

Even on South Mall

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As part of our ongoing customer service improvement programme, our local administration service has been centralised to a dedicated support team in our Dublin office

South Mall was, I would imagine, as good as it got in Cork. The vestiges remain – the solicitors, banks, financial offices, accountants et cetera. You know, at heart, that the ‘customer service improvement programme’ is exactly the opposite. Well, opposite for the customer, that is. We are deconstructing society, red brick by red brick – the ballast of ships bringing cargo from Holland to this once vibrant street. People once lived here – there may be the odd straggler still left, but not many I’d wager. The polished brass nameplates, now removed, proudly bore the name of a person not a nameless, faceless corporation and its ‘dedicated support team’. If we choose economy instead of community, put profits before people what society will we hand to our children, or grandchildren in my case.

Perhaps it is the abysmal summer weather that is subliminally influencing the tone of the writing, but a good friend commented that she loves the blog but would like something more uplifting. Well, Cork did offer some redemption on a wet Monday in July in the form of ‘Seán Keating: Contemporary Contexts’, curated by Dr Éimear O’Connor. It is a stimulating and challenging exhibition and, when time permits, I will be looking at ‘The Tipperary Hurler’ in more detail.

swallows and memories

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The townland is totally deserted now. Three houses – all empty. All three in various stages of decay or part repair. When Constable Michael Madden came on Tuesday 4 April 1911 to collect the census form there were three households then also, but with eleven, eight and six people respectively. All Catholic. When I walked there this evening, one hundred and one years later, only swallows and memories.

Old Kilcoe

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Graveyards are fertile places for the imagination and for image hunting. The picture (above) is from a burial place quite close to where I live, which, if one must be buried, is as beautiful and tranquil a spot as can be imagined. Skibbereen and its hinterland were one of the hardest hit by the Famine, 1847 being particularly destructive. One of Ireland’s foremost economic historians, Cormac Ó’Gráda, examines the disaster in his Black ’47 and Beyond.

This graveyard no doubt harbours many unmarked victims of that period. It is estimated that between 8,000 and 10,000 unidentified bodies are buried in Abbeystrewery graveyard closer to the town.

Petrol Pump #4

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I love nothing more than driving the back roads of Ireland, so, on a trip back from Limerick recently, we decided to go ‘off-map’, ending up in the picturesque village of Dromcolliher, Co. Limerick. While preparing the image above, that wonderful Peter Bogdanovich film, The Last Picture Show, sprang to mind for some incomprehensible reason, as I had not seen it since the ’70s.

Perhaps it is the kind of quiet, slightly down-at-heel air of the place, with the whole village at Mass on a Sunday morning, which reminded me of the film. If Ireland were not so wet, you could readily imagine tumbleweed drifting listlessly down sun-baked streets. Dream on.

However, in one of those strange serendipities, my son-out-law Michael, who is from nearby Freemount, reminded me of a terrible tragedy in 1926, in which forty-eight people died when a barn being used as a temporary cinema caught fire. While long before my time, I have heard that story, so perhaps that memory was somewhere at the back of my mind.

This was the only petrol pump at this garage; why it is mysteriously numbered ‘4’ is a question for another day.