Thursday, April 23, 2009

What a Surprise

After much persuasion I got a new cat last summer. He was a beautiful feral creature about four weeks old - rescued from a garden in Shankill. We called him Bosie after Wilde's nemesis - our other cat is called Oscar. I took him along to the vet for shots and he told me to bring him back in about six months so he could be neutered. We mollycoddled him ceaselessly and he soon grew domesticated. He would sleep in your lap as you watched TV and didn't show much interest in venturing outside at night. As he grew older we waited for signs of aberrant tomcat behaviour: such as spraying, fighting and wandering abroad. But none arrived so we let the six months pass without interfering with his manly apparatus.

Imagine my surprise then when I get an hysterical call from my daughter yesterday telling me that Bosie had just delivered a perfect little facsimile of himself on a duvet in her room. Our ostensibly male cat had just had a kitten.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa

Came to this novel late, but what a treat I had in store. There was so much to relish that I felt like starting it again immediately.

A Sicilian Prince (Fabrizio de Salina) is caught in a time where the old order is changing - Garibaldi is unifying Italy and a new democratic era is born.

But as well as being about the end of a way of life, it's a prolonged elegy for life, and love. About the useless pre-marriage abstinence of Tancredi and Angelica: "these overtures which outlive the forgotten operas they were intended for".

There's a wonderful death bed scene where Fabrizio does a reckoning of all the happiness he felt in his life: "2 weeks before the marriage and 6 weeks after, Bendico’s (his dog) delicious nonsense, the caressing paws of Pop the pointer...".

The lives are depicted vividly and humourously. "Then all found peace in a little heap of livid dust."

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

United Irishman

What a disgrace our politicans are. It's becoming clear as the current economic disaster unfolds that most of them have no talents whatsoever and are suited for nothing but mouthing airy platitudes. We just don't seem to get people with any intellectual heft, or heaven forfend any priciples, going into politics. And the level of philistinism dear is alarming to behold. I was watching a documentary on Ireland's most humourless sporting hero Roy Keane last week and it featured Bertie Ahern talking about Keane and Manchester United. Bertie is clearly a United fan. He repeatedly used the term "we" when referring to United. "We should have won that match", "We were disappointed to see him go" etc. It's the kind of thing you'd expect an adolescent boy to say but not a grown man, and certainly not our taoiseach.

Reflections - Cuba 2009 - Part 2

Cuba is expensive. The problem is that you can't participate in the local peso economy where everything is dirt cheap. You can only buy things with Cuban Convertibles (CCs) - the tourist currency - and the prices set for tourists make everything as expensive as if you were in the US. You will find yourself paying $3 dollars for a beer while the locals get it for around 80 cents.

For the Cubans themselves there are certain things they can only buy using the tourist currency, for example petrol and mobile phones. The advent of tourism has created a two-tier society in a country that prides itself on treating everyone equally. If you are a taxi driver, a restaurant owner, a black market trader in cigars, or even a hooker then you have access to the tourist currency and buying power beyond the dreams of ordinary Cubans - when these are converted into pesos. Thus a cigar factory worker gets the equivalent of $32 dollars a month whereas a taxi driver may get that for one fare, and a hooker can get three times that for an hour. It's no wonder that you have to fight off swarms of prostitutes whenever you go out in Havana.

Those outside the tourist circuit are being left behind. I was approached one day walking through Old Havana by a distinguished looking gentleman with long grey hair. He told me he was a history professor and asked could he give me a guided tour of the old town. I was busy and had to decline but it seemed that here was someone outside the tourist economy trying to break in.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Watching the Door by Kevin Myers

Not since Frank Harris's "My Life and Loves", or Walter's "My Secret Life" have I encountered such a shameless piece of sexual self-aggrandisment. True the book has its moments. There are colourful glimpses of of terrorists at play - some truly peculair drinking habits, the whole wretched mileu of Belfast and Derry during the Troubles is well depicted, and the various atrocities are recounted in visceral detail (often at first hand). But the real theme of this book is what a great lover Kevin Myers is. His conquests are never mundane. They include a virgin, a lesbian, a married woman having her first affair, a woman having a last fling before marriage, and the most beautiful prostitute in the history of hookers (rejected becasue he doesn't "pay for sex"). Then there are the Carry On antics with a senior republican's wife's and a balancing act with a well-known loyalist's wife etc. etc. And finally we even get Myers having sex with the person he loves most in the world - himself. But who could blame him for this, he being so handsome - we know this because he tells us so a number of times.

I've always thought that Myers was a very good news journalist - I remember some excellent pieces he did from the Lebanon for the Irish Times. A lot of the reportage in the book confirms this impression. His current opinion pieces in the Independent sound like the dyspeptic ramblings of a retired colonel from Leamington Spa. He needs to get out more.