The final scene of Sean O’Casey’s play Juno and the Paycock, set in the time of Ireland’s Civil War, involves “Captain” Jack Boyle, a man whose officer sobriquet derived from his short career as a merchant seaman. Jack spends all his time and money at the pub with his good for nothing buddy Joxer Daly rather than looking for a job, and this despite his family’s poverty. He stumbles home one evening and collapses after an evening at the pub with Joxer, completely inebriated, unaware that his son is dead or that his wife and daughter have left him. After a short conversation, Jack accidentally drops his last sixpence on the floor and he drunkenly mourns that “the whole world is in a terrible state o’ chassis” before passing out. The chassis to which Captain Jack was referring had nothing to do with automobiles but rather to this sotted Dubliner’s perception of the chaos into which the world had sunk, viewed from a Dublin tenement in 1922, just after the outbreak of the Irish Civil War.
In a way, what with a truck bring driven at 80 km/h to kill tens of people and maim even more along the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, a machete massacre on a train in Germany, other mass murders in Belgium, France and Germany and the United States and who knows where next the world is going through a difficult period. Add to this the Republican Party’s candidate for the presidency of the United States (which is still the world’s most powerful state) calling on the President of the Russian Federation to intervene in the American Presidential campaign, Captain Jack had a point. As did my grandmother, who would bemoan the state of the world with the Yiddish words “די וועלט גייט אונטער” (In German exactly the same thing: Die Welt geht unter).
The month of August used to be nicknamed the “silly season”. It is when ordinary people and their children, politicians and other [kinds of] celebrities take off for somewhere else; anywhere other than the usual for a couple of weeks or longer. Israelis head for “abroad”, meaning any place that’s not Israel (though I can’t imagine too many are heading for Turkey these days even though a month ago, Turkey seemed to be back on the map for Israelis). Many Brits head off to “the Continent”, i.e., Europe (a dirty word these days) and so forth.
Contrasting with this phenomenon of getting away from it all, newspapers and other media outlets don’t take holidays. Daily newspapers have to be published daily and the news still has to be reported on radio and TV, even if there’s little real news to report. So we hear stories about the longevity of the sibling clones of Dolly, the sheep cloned two decades ago in Edinburgh, and which aged more quickly than normal, suffering from osteoarthritis in her knees and hips and who died aged six and a half. Her siblings, it appears, are doing fine.
Actually, I’ve never had much faith in daily newspapers and even less in watching news “as it happens”. Long ago, I learned that if a journalist is committed to write 1,000 words by, say, an 11 p.m. deadline and has nothing to write, then s/he can’t write nothing (that’s not permitted) so s/he fills up the space with 1,000 words that mean nothing — or something like that. Rather like this blog sometimes, except that I’m under no contractual obligation to do it
As well as Dolly, there is also a lot in the news about Donald … not Duck but Trump. Not that there’s all that much difference between them except that one is pretend and one is real, one is dangerous and other is benign although I admit that I’m not quite sure which is which. One is famous for his semi-intelligible speech and his temperamental personality whereas the other is famous for his semi-intelligible speech and his temperamental personality.
And now that referring to the referendum in the UK has become passé and there’s a new Prime Minister and a new Government in place, all seems to have gone quite quiet. Presumably, many have taken off for their holiday homes somewhere in Europe to contemplate what to do with that contentious continent, Europe. I hope that their conscientious contemplation yields some fruit. As a result of the change of government, the satirical newspaper Private Eye has marked the transformation by renaming its column The Cameron Free School. Until the next change of Prime Minister, it is to be known as: St. Theresa’s State Grammar School for Girls (and Boys), which prompted a comment from an old friend that the nearest St. Theresa’s School to where he lives is a school for the blind and that he hoped that this one wouldn’t repeat. Some hope!
Anyway, time for some photographs. Interesting as the political events of the past month have been, for peace of mind, I managed to get out with the camera several times recently.
The other day, on my way back home after some grocery shopping, sans camera, I noticed the large, open flower on the tree in the house next door, which overhangs the footpath in the street. It wasn’t just the flower that caught my eye but the busyness of a plethora of bees inside it. I hastened inside, deposited the groceries, grabbed the camera, affixing the right lens and was downstairs again within a couple of minutes — and this is what resulted. And it was just as well that I did what I did because by the following day, the flower had changed colour and had been deserted by the bees and a day after that, it was gone.
Yesterday afternoon, having walked the length of England’s Lane looking for the wine shop that had been there for years and discovering that it was now a branch of The American Dry Cleaning Company, I hopped on a bus that happened to be at the bus stop just as I passed and took it three stops to the next nearest wine shop for a bottle of white plonk (which turned out to be a Marlborough wine from New Zealand, based on a new grape varietal, Sauvignon Gris. It was fruity with a wonderful flkavour, too). The bus stopped at the traffic lights for a minute or so before turning left to Haverstock Hill when I noticed something that bothered me. When I write (and when I used to review journal articles and book manuscripts), I hate inconsistencies. And on either side of the bus was an inconsistency, par excellence.
The day before yesterday, again sitting on a bus and again without the camera, I noticed something which appealed to my love of the unusual and which I hadn’t seen before although I must have passed it dozens of times. This was a sign above a shop advertising horse-drawn funerals and I wondered whether the Dublin Jewish Holy Burial Society would have approved. I also noticed that when I was growing up, such establishments were referred to as “Undertakers”. Today, they are “Funeral Directors & Memorial Consultants”, part of an organization called Dignity, which offers “Caring Funeral Services”, which I would have hoped they always were anyway. So, yesterday, I took the camera and did what I should have done the day before.
On the way home from the horse-drawn funerals, using “Shanks’s Pony”, (on one’s legs, on foot), I came across what must be a joke displayed on a street sign. Less than 50m away on the footpath were signs that many, many, many of this protected species had been well fed and had dropped their deposits on buildings, pavements and street furniture (i.e., those benches usually inhabited by males (and sometimes females) beer cans in hand). A £2,500 fine??? Yes, it just has to be some sort of joke, indeed.
Finally, summer has arrived in London, even if only temporarily. And when that large yellow ball in the sky makes one of its rare appearances, Londoners take full advantage. They stroll and loll, turn pink, red, and purple, the “lucky” ones tan and the tanned ones turn a darker shade yet and the rest eat ice cream. And some just sit on a park bench and read the newspaper to find out what state o’ chassis the world is really in!