January 7th 2018
Consider this humble Sat Nav, stuck with saliva to the windscreen of a Vauxhall, Corsa. Pity the way it slips from position every third or fourth trip leaving a ring-shaped dimple on the dirty glass. Then, the indignity of being licked and shoved back into its own caked filth. This Sat Nav has no freewill. In theological terms it is little more than a victim of predestination, programmed to proceed directly to the allocated destination, narrating this route in increments of miles, (or kilometres when in the South). It’s heart may skip an electric beat when the Corsa’s wheels turn down a forbidden street. It may well think to itself, maybe, for once, I might not know when I’ve reached my destination. But, no; the Sat Nav cannot yet manage autonomous thought. “Make a U Turn and proceed directly to the route,” it chirrups. It is no doubt sick of its own stupid, elevator voice. Consider the Sat Nav and feel unsurprised when every so often it directs you straight through a section of the Peace Wall, or bids you take the third exit on a two exit roundabout, or leads you to a boggy field, only to tell you with unswerving certainty, that your destination has now been reached. It is not badness which causes the Sat Nav to rebel, so much as the boredom of a programmed thing.
January 8th 2018
An unfortunate, but unavoidable incident is unfolding in the front bedroom of the big house. The poet who is occupying this particular room for a period of some fourteen nights has left his spectacles back in Dublin. And though this oversight, (pardon the pun), will have little impact on his ability to read works by WB Yeats and contemporaries, or compose long villanelles on mostly pastoral themes, it will unfortunately render the same man incapable of discerning objects at a distance greater than two feet.
“Good job I’m short-sighted, not long-sighted,” he explains to his fellow poets and artists when they gather for dinner in the big house kitchen.
“Indeed,” says the sculptor who’s over from Brussels, and the children’s writer from Donegal.
But the ghost who haunts the house’s residents cannot bring herself to agree. She has spent all week pacing the floors of the poet’s room. She has hovered, and sashayed, and evaporated once. He has mistaken her efforts for a twitching curtain and she can’t face the indignity of zooming in. Yet, if she continues to haunt in her usual manner the feeble-eyed poet will leave without knowing he’s been visited.
January 9th 2018
Heather Dornan Wilson
A pen and ink drawing hangs next to the desk. The artist’s name is obscured by the frame but the title is clear enough: The Rural Conversation. It looks like an illustration from an old-fashioned novel; something published in Jane Austen’s time. It captures three individuals in a pastoral setting. The first man is sitting cross-legged on the crumbling ruins of what looks to be a kind of temple. The second man stands beneath him with a stick in his hand. A border collie sniffs round his feet. The third individual captured is clearly a woman. Her back’s to the artist obscuring her face, but her dress, and her hair, which is coiled high on top of her head, and the swell of her hips, all speak of the fairer sex. This woman is kneeling, bending forwards. At first glance she appears to be worshipping the man. She is not included in the rural conversation. Her head is lowered. She is silent in the presence of men. On closer inspection of the woman’s hands, a sheet can be seen and a pool of water. She is laundering her linens on hands and knees, while the men make small talk and glance down upon her and do not give her the time of day. Woman working. Men making idle. Thus it was in Austen’s time.
January 10th 2018
It is certainly not a purposeful act. Edging down the corridor with a tray full of dishes, her leg clips the side of a rickety chair. The chair shakes briefly, then rights itself. No harm’s done. But she hasn’t noticed the acoustic guitar propped up again the chair. It sashays too, tries to centre itself and can’t quite find its own balance, then slams face first into the parquet floor. The noise it makes falling is incomparable. Piano strings struck or wooden spoons dropped might come close if such elements could be combined. The sound rumbles round the guitar’s hollow belly, as if an echo is trapped inside. She snatches the guitar up and checks for damage. She runs her fingers across the polished wood. Nothing’s snapped or bent or broken. The lacquer is smooth and untroubled both front and back. She apologies for her clumsiness; not to the guitarist, to the guitar itself. She returns it to its former place. The kitchen’s full of noisy chatter and no one’s heard the guitar fall. It doesn’t seem worth mentioning. The guitarist never has to know. He continues playing the same guitar. It travels with him round Mainland Europe, on a tour of mid-sized music venues. He notices it’s started sounding so much richer on the sad songs and the staple blues. “When you hear it sing,” the guitarist tells his drummer, “you’d think some woman’s broke it’s heart.”
January 11th 2018
After lunch several of the writers went swimming in the lake. Swimming in the lake was a thing they associated with writers in the past. Hemingway, for example, and possibly Keats. The lake in question was brown and muddy. Frogspawn clung to the edges like the jellied skin on potted ham. The swimming writers swore that the water was quite warm for January, though it was entirely possible they were comparing the water to something much colder than a January lake: ice cubes, perhaps or the Arctic Tundra. During the swimming the non-swimming writers stood around the edges of the lake passing witty comment and taking unflattering photos to be posted later on various social media platforms. After swimming in the lake, the swimming writers said they did not regret swimming one little bit and felt invigorated by the experience. The non-swimming writers said they did not regret not swimming one little bit either, and felt, “absolutely foundered,” just watching the whole thing. Secretly, the swimming writers were so cold they could not stop shivering all afternoon and found themselves incapable of holding a pen straight, let alone writing anything of lasting consequence. Secretly, the non-swimming writers felt pissed with themselves because once again they had not fully embraced the moment. They wondered, as they often wondered, if this inbuilt reticence was to blame for their writing, which rarely seemed to fulfil its own potential.
January 12th 2018
The ATM in Clones main street is all out of money. Instead, it is dispensing individual pieces of wisdom, printed on paper slips roughly the shape and size of a twenty Euro note. A queue has formed next to the ATM. It snakes all the way down the street to the chip shop which is also a kebab shop and a place that does takeaway pizza. The news passes quickly along the line: “the hole-in-the-wall’s all out of cash, but it’s giving out wee messages instead.” The people in the queue are intrigued. They’re in need of actual money, but still, it’s not everyday a machine has something specific to say to you. They wait their turn, edging slowly along the bank’s wall until they arrive at the ATM. They insert their bank card, key in their code and, when the options flash up on screen, tap the only option available tonight: BESPOKE WISDOM. ONE UNIT. FREE. The machine clunks into motion. Its internal mechanisms clunk and rumble before spitting out a single piece of white paper. Each person reads their own piece of bespoke wisdom. There are a wide variety of wisdoms offered and each one is indeed curiously specific to the recipient’s situation. “Pay no heed to your Aunty Susan.” “I probably wouldn’t wear that skirt out again.” “Remember four’s your limit for a weekday night.” Each person keeps their own message private. They tuck them into purses and jacket pockets and scurry off to find Clone’s other ATM. It’s all very well dispensing wisdom, but they don’t accept wisdom at the bar.
January 13th 2018
She walks along the path between the forest and the lake. The morning’s rain has yet to evaporate and ground is sliding under her feet. She regrets her choice of footwear. The day is already beginning to sink beneath the surface of the lake and everything looks washed out in the fading light. It is impossibly quiet out here, a half mile or so from the big house. She can hear each step squelching as her foot leaves the ground. The sound of her breath rasps back at her. In the trees’ branches two small birds sing at each other, their tinny voices twinkling out across the lake. In a louder place she might have missed the noise in the forest. She might not have heard it until it was right up and upon her. But here, the quiet is on her side. It amplifies, echoes, even alarms, allowing her body to tense and pulse as the noise in forest grows closely loud. The quiet draws back like a pair of curtains. It whispers, “here is your chance. Now, you must run.” But the noise in the forest is like a wave, rushing at her, all at once. And she doesn’t run, or even move. And then, all of a sudden, the quiet is gone.