THOMAS ARTHUR LALLY

As Voltaire lay dying, within days of his death he received two letters. One was from Abbe Gaultier urging him to confess and become reconciled to the Church. Following upon this letter two priests, threatening to refuse him Christian burial, attended his bedside, and when one of them asked the question: ‘Monsieur, do you recognise the divinity of Jesus Christ?’ Voltaire reached out and shoved him away saying: ‘Let me die in peace,’ and turned his back on the priests.

Thomas Arthur, Comte de Lally, Baron de Tollendal was a French general of Irish background. He was born in France, the son of Sir Gerald Lally, an Irish Jacobite from Tuam, Co Galway who married a woman of the French nobility from whom Thomas Lally inherited his titles. He entered the French army and served in the war of 1734 against Austria. In 1745 he commanded his own regiment in the famous Irish Brigade at Fontenoy, and was made a brigadier on the field by Louis XV. In the same year he accompanied Charles Edward Stuart, (Bonny Prince Charlie) to Scotland serving as his aide de camp at the battle of Falkirk. After the failure of the Jacobite rising in Scotland Lally escaped to France.

When war broke out with England in 1756 Lally was sent to India in command of an expedition to defend French interests against the British. He was a courageous man and an able general, but his arrogance meant that he was not popular with his officers and was hated by his men. He despised native Indians and readily violated their customs and traditions. Initially he had some minor military successes, but his manner and demeanour were against him. He was defeated by, and finally surrendered to a British force commanded by Sir Eyre Coote, an Irishman born in Kilmallock, Co. Limerick.

He was taken prisoner of war and transported to England. While there he learned that he was accused of treason in France for his military record in India and somehow secured his freedom to return to France to face trial. He was kept in prison for two years before he was brought to trial. Such delays were not uncommon in those days. Voltaire wrote at the time: ‘In France we always like to start by putting a man in prison for three or four years, and then we try him.’ Furthermore during his trial there were many unaccountable delays. Voltaire had met Lally when his friends the Argenson brothers (as Foreign Minister and Minister of War) were about to send Lally off to help Charles Edward Stuart in Scotland, and referred to him as ‘une diable de tête irlandaise,’ a mad Irishman.

Lally was found guilty of abusing his position and of betraying French interests in India, which amounted to treason. He immediately applied for royal pardon. He was informed three days later that pardon was refused and that he would be beheaded that day. He tried to take his own life using a geometric compass, but failed. He was taken to Place de Grève and on a hastily erected block the ‘diable de tête irlandaise,’ was beheaded at the second attempt.

One writer says: ‘Lally’s colourful, rather high-handed character had created many enemies, several of whom had testified against him. But being hateful was not a capital offence.’ Voltaire had made the same point when writing about the period of Louis XV. There the matter rested until, four years later, Lally’s son, Trophime, wrote to Voltaire to tell him that he intended to set in train procedures to have the guilty verdict reversed. He was unable to petition the King, but if he succeeded in clearing his father’s name he would secure the right to use his titles.

Three years later Lally’s son again wrote to Voltaire expressly asking him for help. Some years previously Voltaire had famously and successfully led a campaign to have the name of an executed Toulouse merchant, cleared. Although Voltaire was in poor health he began a pamphlet campaign and petitioned the authorities. The campaign was successful in that it replaced in the public mind the image of Lally as traitor with that of an innocent victim of injustice.

In ‘Candide’ Voltaire’s allegory of life and living, there is the account of the execution of a British naval officer on the charge of not killing enough of the enemy, based on the case of an Admiral Byng who was shot on such a charge. It is likely that the issue of execution for military failure had a particular abhorrence for Voltaire.

The second letter Voltaire received on his deathbed was from Lally’s son to say that the Royal Council had thrown out the sentence handed down by the Paris parlament on his father. Though barely alive he dictated to his secretary a short letter to Trophime Lally. ‘ The dying man revives on hearing this great news: he embraces M. Lally most tenderly; he sees that the King is a defender of justice: he will die happy.’ Voltaire died four days later

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MICHAEL SEMPLE, PEACEMAKING

PEACEMAKING

IN A COMPLEX WORLD

Friday, November 21st, 2014 @ 7.30 pm

Quaker Meeting House, Monkstown, Co Dublin

With

Michael Semple

Leading commentator on the Taliban Movement

QUB Visiting Research Professor, Institute for Study of Conflict Transformation and Social Justice

&

Former Harvard University Fellow, United Nations Political Officer and Deputy European Union Representative in Afghanistan

Click here to read The Guardian profile, and articles by Michael Semple

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RESPECTABILITY

RESPECTABILITY

To be respectable is to receive respect; to be worthy of respect for observing the perceived norms of civilised society. Religion in Irish society has, until recently, been the foundation of these norms. Respectability is a curse. It causes people to act according to norms at the expense of truth and love.  When respectability is at risk, it is often the case that to cover-up reprehensible behaviour people indulge in denial, lies and much more in order to maintain a respectable façade. Concealment, denial, lies and cover-up are also employed by institutions, including Churches, to maintain their respectability, their worthiness of respect.

                It is arguable that Churches and their members, especially their leaders, value respectability more than they value truth and love. This is contrary to the very tenets and teachings of Christianity itself. The Church established and ran institutions to remove from society women and girls who became pregnant outside marriage, considered them pariahs and treated them, as we have learned, disgracefully.

Why did the Churches not adhere to the essential teachings of Christianity? Why did they not give pastoral care to families to encourage them to keep the unmarried expectant mother in her home, surround her with the support and security a pregnant woman needs and welcome the baby into the world surrounded by care and love? Instead families behaved according to their early indoctrination with guilt and shame and asked for or agreed to the banishment of their pregnant daughters to be locked up in these institutions.

Surely love and care, rather than guilt and shame, were consistent with the teachings of Christ. Instead, in the name of Christ, women were banished to institutions, deprived of their freedom and treated as they were, then forced to give their babies for adoption concealing their identity so that they could never be traced. The Church at large and the people who ran these institutions were deluded when they believed that to adhere to the authority and control of the Church in this way was better than employing loving Christian principles. People were deluded into obeying the Church rather exercising common human decency.

Some defenders of the Church claim that families, society and the state were as concerned as the Church was to put away pregnant young women into institutions and the Church was doing them a service by taking them in. Who set the norm, and in fact dictated the behaviour, to families, society and the government to act in this way? The Church did and provided the personnel and facilities to do it. The power and control of the Church in society in those days, which was almost total, enabled them to do so. The families, the majority of the members of society and the members of governments were practising and faithful Church members and had been indoctrinated from early in their lives by the Church. They were under its influence if not under its control. The Church cannot mitigate its responsibility by blaming families for asking to have their pregnant daughters put into the institutions. The families were responding to their conditioning by the Church.

Brendan Corish, Tanaiste, and leader of the Labour Party in the 1960s famously said: ‘I am a Catholic first and an Irishman second.’ John Costello said something that implied the same at the time of the Noel Browne controversy about the Mother and Child scheme. If you are in any doubt about the fact that religion and the Church had primary responsibility for the beliefs and actions of people, society and the government itself, you must take account of, for example, the following:

After the first cabinet meeting of the Coalition Government that was formed in 1948, the Minister for External Affairs, Sean McBride, on behalf of the government, sent a telegram to the Pope affirming the willingness of the Government

‘to repose at the feet of Your Holiness the assurance of our filial loyalty and our devotion to Your August Person as well as our firm resolve to be guided in all our work by the teaching of Christ and to strive for the attainment of a social order in Ireland based on Christian principles.’

(McBride had sent an even more obsequious letter to Archbishop McQuaid on his own election to the Dail the previous year.)

Families of young women who became pregnant outside marriage, society in general and even the government came nowhere near to building ‘a social order in Ireland based on Christian principles.’ On the contrary the young women who became pregnant outside marriage and their families were all subservient to the Church and it was the Church who was ultimately responsible for the fact that these young women were put into these institutions and treated as they were.

Yes of course there were exceptions, there were some kind nuns, some kind clergy and some people who thought for themselves. The argument that some Church members use today that the Church was providing what families wanted in taking pregnant women into their institutions does not hold up. Families and government ought to be free to make their own decisions in such matters but in earlier times Church influence and respectability dictated that they were not.

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AN INVITATION TO EVERYONE IN THE WORLD

YOU ARE INVITED TO THE LAUNCH

by

PATSY McGARRY

(‘Irish Times’ Journalist)

of

‘NATURE’S PLAYTHINGS’ A NOVEL (a sequel to ‘Transient Beings’)

‘After the events of “Transient Beings” the former rector finds that he is adrift in an unfamiliar world. We see him come to life after the pressures of his wife’s alcoholism and his own crisis of faith. As an older man he finally has the opportunity to find some contentment in his life and relationships.’

and

‘ANOTHER SLICE?’ A COLLECTION OF SHORT STORIES

‘This collection of short stories looks at the lives of those with an inability to take control of their circumstances. Their predicaments are portrayed with a wry sense of humour and an eye for detail.’

By Patrick Semple

at

THE QUAKER MEETING HOUSE, Pakenham Road, Monkstown

7.30 pm Wednesday, 10th September 2014

Books will be available at the launch and subsequently from the author and publisher:

PUBLISHER: Code Green Publishing

These are  ‘Print on Demand’ books also available from:

www.amazon.co.ukwww.amazon.comwww.codegreenpublishing.com

All good online bookstores: Blackwells, Waterstones, WH Smith, etc.

Also: www.thebookdepository.com

and from bookshops by order:

Give: Title, Author, Publisher and ISBN

‘Nature’s Playthings: ISBN 978-1-907215-23-0

Another Slice? ISBN 978-1-907215-24-7 

(Wholesalers: Ingrams, Bertrams, Gardners)

VENUE and Date: QUAKER MEETING HOUSE, CORNER OF PAKENHAM RD., MONKSTOWN. 7.30 pm WEDNESDAY 10TH SEPTEMBER 2014

Please tell anyone you know who might be interested to attend.

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POETRY, PROSE AND MUSIC

POETRY, PROSE AND MUSIC
FRIENDS YEARLY MEETING

The Kings Hospital, Saturday 26th April 2014

Music: Gillian Armstrong – Piano
Readings: Patrick Semple

To a Wild Rose – McDowell 

Albert
The Mountain
A Visit to His Grandparents

The Little Black Boy – Debussy and ‘Gymnopedie’ – Satie 

Peter
The Orchestra
Black African
War

Air from Suite in D – J.S.Bach and Brian Boru’s Marc (with flautist)

The Hunt Ball – Short Story

Rondo alla Turca – Mozart  and ‘Waltz in A flat’ – Chopin 

His Grace of Tuam
A Narrow Escape
Joe
The Stout Drinker

Solfeggietto – C.P.E.Bach and Fur Elise – Beethoven 

William – Short Story

Masquerade Waltz – Khachaturian (with flautist)

Cricket,
Jerome
The Rectory Dog

An hour and a half approximately

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POETRY AND MUSIC

QUAKER MEETING HOUSE, MONKSTOWN

9th April 2014, 7.30 pm

In aid of The Homeless and Hungry in Dun Laoghaire

Music: Solo Flute; Elizabeth Petcu (Ex RTE Concert Orchestra)
Poetry: Patrick Semple

PROGRAMME

Nigel Bell   INTRODUCTION: The Homeless in Dun Laoghaire.
Elizabeth Petcu   INTRODUCTION to the music for this evening.
Patrick Semple   INTRODUCTION to poetry.
——————————
MILTON: (1608–1674) ‘ON HIS BLINDNESS’
WORDSWORTH: (1770–1850) ‘UPON WESTMINSTER BRIDGE’
SHELLEY: (1792–1822) ‘OZYMANDIAS OF EGYPT’

Descant Recorder:   ‘Trotto’   Anon 14th Century

GOLDSMITH (1730–1774) ‘THE DESERTED VILLAGE’ (Extracts) ‘Ill fares the land ….’  ‘The schoolmaster’
TENNYSON (1809–1892) ‘THE LADY OF SHALOTT’ (Extracts) vv 1,3,6,9
T.S.ELIOT (1888–1965) ‘THE LOVESONG OF J ALFRED PRUFROCK’ (Extract) ‘CHORUS FROM “THE ROCK” (Extract)

Irish Flute:   ‘Danny Boy’    Traditional Air

JOHN BETJEMAN (1906-1984) ‘SUN AND FUN’
EUGENIO MONTALE (1896-1981) ‘THE LEMONS’
SEAMUS HEANEY (1939–2013) ‘DIGGING’

Flute:   ‘Waltz’    Karg Elert

RICHARD MURPHY: (1927-    ) ‘THE CLEGGAN DISASTER’ (Extracts)

Soprano Recorder:    ‘Largo from Concerto in C major’    Vivaldi

INTERVAL

PATRICK KAVANAGH: (1904-1967) ‘THE RICH TRAMP’
R. S. THOMAS: (1913-2000) ‘NIGHT AND MORNING’
MARY OLIVER: (1935-    ) ‘LINGERING IN HAPPINESS’,  ‘SUCH SINGING IN THE WILD BRANCHES’

Flute:   ‘Opening Cadenza from Le Merle Noir’    Messiaen.

 Presto from Fantasy in  G minor’     Telemann

ROBERT FROST: (1874–1963) ‘THE HIRED MAN’ (Extracts)

Treble Recorder:   ‘Rondeau’    Bach

PATRICK SEMPLE: (1939 –     ) ‘THE RECTORY DOG’
ROBERT FROST: (1874-1963) ‘STOPPING BY WOODS ON A SNOWY EVENING’
YEATS: (1865–1939): ‘HE WISHES FOR THE CLOTHS OF HEAVEN’,  ‘WHEN YOU ARE OLD AND GREY’

Flute:   ‘Minuet and Badinerie from Suite in B Minor’    Bach

Approximately 80 people attended this event and contributed € 1,745 to helping the homeless and hungry people of Dun Laoghaire. We thank them  for their support


 

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BOOK LAUNCH, GERMANY

Ireland in Germany Ireland in Berlin

Embassy of Ireland |Jägerstraße 51 |10117 Berlin |Tel: 030 220720 |Fax: 030 22072299 Please e-mail Berlin@dfa.ie if you would like to be added to our monthly circulation Follow the Embassy of Ireland, Berlin on Twitter at https://twitter.com/#!/IrlEmbberlin

Thursday, 27 March 2014: Book launch & Reading
To celebrate the release of Patrick Semple’s new book of short stories Slices of Life’ there will be a book launch and reading accompanied by German folk music on the evening of Thursday, 27 March 2014 at International House, Kempten, Bavaria. Some of the stories in ‘Slices of Life’:’Dinner Out’; A married woman on an evening out with an old flame reflects on what might have been.‘The Dinner Party’; A stunning surprise breaks up a post-economic crash dinner party.

‘Aunt Frances’; A woman going to live in France leads to an unlikely burial in the public cemetery of an Irish provincial town.

‘Breganmore’;  The second coming of Christ occurs in an Irish rural village.

For further information regarding the author or should you wish to purchase a copy of the book, please visit http://www.patricksemple.ie/short.php.Irland in Deutschland Irland in Berlin Botschaft von Irland |Jägerstraße 51 |10117 Berlin |Tel: 030 220720 |Fax: 030 22072299 Bitte senden Sie eine E-Mail an Berlin@dfa.ie, wenn Sie in unsere Verteilerliste aufgenommen werden möchten. Folgen Sie der Botschaft von Irland in Berlin auf Twitter unter https://twitter.com/#!/IrlEmbberlin

Donnerstag, 27. März 2014: Buchvorstellung und Lesung
Am Donnerstag, 27. März findet die Buchpräsentation mit anschließender Lesung von Patrick Semples neuem Buch ‚Slices of Life‘, im Haus International in Kempten statt. Die Veranstaltung wirt von deutscher Folk Musik begleitet. Einige Geschichten aus ‚Slices of Life’:‘Dinner Out’: Eine verheiratete Frau verbringt einen Abend mit ihrem alten Schwarm und überlegt, was hätte sein können.‘The Dinner Party’: Über eine im Nachgang der Wirtschaftskrise stattfindene Dinner Party bricht eine unglaubliche Überraschung herein‘AuntFrances’: Die Tatsache, dass eine Irin nach Frankreich auswandert, endet mit einem höchst unerwarteten Begräbnis auf einem öffentlichen Friedhof einer irischen Kleinstadt.

‘Breganmore’: Die zweite Wiederkunft Christi ereignet sich in einem ländlichen, irischen Dorf.

Weitere Informationen über den Autor sowie Informationen zu Buchbestellungen finden Sie unter http://www.patricksemple.ie/short.php
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THE RECTORY DOG

The rectory dog thinks theologically,
as you might expect.
Much more so than his master,
whose theology, the little bit he had,
has disappeared entirely.

Now as there are just two of them
the dog feels somewhat alone.
None the less
he’s glad of the rector for company.

The rector hasn’t time for theology;
Too busy in the parish,
which of course isn’t the case with the dog,
whose liturgical and pastoral responsibilities
are negligible.

To be truthful,
his liturgical functions are nil,
but pastorally he welcomes,
and puts at their ease,
even the most tormented souls
who arrive at the rectory.

When the bishop comes,
which isn’t very often,
and three dog collars
sit down to the fire,
the one on the mat is the only one
with a theological thought in his head.

The other two talk about
the weather, the garden, the Glebes Committee
and extensively about parochial finance,
but never about theology.

Meetings of the Select Vestry
are held in the drawing room,
and though not a member,
the rectory dog is always there.

He is careful to sit quietly,
but takes in everything.
So far no one has objected
that since he is not a member
his presence is unconstitutional.

But he is prepared that,
sooner or later someone will object,
and regretfully, he knows
he will have to go.

The rectory dog himself
knows nothing about parish finance.
It’s his canine opinion
that finance is for the parishioners,
and he is surprised that his master
is very knowledgeable on the subject.

He enjoys vestry meetings
and plays games to himself.
He tries to work out the theological bases
for vestry decisions,
and usually fails miserably.

At one meeting
there was some explicit mention of theology.
He turned over on the hearthrug,
put his head between his paws
and cocked his ears.

It was to do with putting a cross on the altar,
but he was sorely disappointed,
for much of what he heard
had a lot to do with other things,
but little of the matter
had anything to do with theology.

Despite much puzzlement,
the rectory dog
has the utmost confidence
in his master,
because he is always busy.

But he knows that
since he doesn’t meet
the dogs in the street,
he must wait for his next visit to the kennels
to continue his theological education.

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LA BOISSIERE

Hilary and I have just returned from a most relaxing holiday. Not having had a break since May we thought we ought to have one before the winter. We booked five days with Tish and Stuart Inglis at La Boissiere in the Dordogne. They have a campus of four houses, one of which they live in themselves and the other three are gîtes. Tish and Stuart are warm friendly people who were on hand to help, support and advise in order to make for us what turned out to be a memorable time.

The Pool

They both have years of experience in the holiday and hospitality industry and La Boissiére is their own pet project in which they, rightly, take great pride. They bought the property late last year and have renovated it to a very high standard. We stayed in the Boulangerie, a one-bedroom gîte with all ‘mod con’ including perhaps the most comfortable bed in which we have ever slept. Having morning coffee or sitting reading on the loggia of the Boulangerie we looked across verdant countryside to a range of wooded hills in the distance. The wood-burning stove created for us the atmosphere and the kind of warmth we needed for those October evenings and occasionally we had that distinctive scent of burning wood that whisked us back to earlier days.

   Bedroom

La Boissiére is situated in an area of France in which are the famous Caves Lascaux that have the seventeen thousand year old Palaeolithic wall drawings. There are particularly interesting Chateaux in the area, one of which, Chateau Puymartin, has been occupied by the same family since the seventeenth century. At this chateau there was a guide that not only told us about each room as we went around but to everybody’s amusement he enacted theatrically the family dramas including discharging an imaginary arquebus to illustrate their defence of the chateau during the sixteenth century French wars of religion.

Sitting Room

There are a number of delightful villages in the area, each distinctive in its own way, where we went for lunch. In one of them, on the day we were there, there was a typical French village market. Stuart told us that the region supplies some remarkable percentage, (I think it was over eighty per cent, I can never remember statistics), of the world’s walnuts.

Kitchen

La Boissiére is about a two hour drive from the airports of Bordeaux or Toulouse, and fifty minutes from Bergerac. Naturally how long it takes depends on how fast you drive and Stuart supplied clear instructions on how to find them. We drove from Bordeaux, a drive that was well worth it for a time-out-of-time, relaxing and memorable holiday.

The Hills and Boulangerie Loggia

CLICK HERE FOR:   http://www.maisons-la-boissiere.com

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‘SLICES OF LIFE’ LAUNCHED

Frank Kelly, ‘Father Jack’, launched Slices of Life, a collection of short stories on Wednesday 11th September. There was a wonderful atmosphere and great fun at the launch. Frank read one of the stories ‘William’. The author read the first half of ‘The Dinner Party’and told the audience that when they were home they could read the second half for themselves.

Frank Kelly, Bairbre his wife and the Author

Some of the stories in ‘Slices of Life’:
‘Dinner Out’; A married woman on an evening out with an old flame reflects on what might have been.
‘Aunt Frances’; A woman going to live in France leads to an unlikely burial in the public cemetery of an Irish provincial town.
‘The Dinner Party’; A stunning surprise breaks up a post economic crash dinner party.
‘Breganmore’;  The second coming of Christ occurs in an Irish rural village.

You’ve never read such a diverse collection of Short Stories in your life.

The Author and Frank

A couple of days after the launch I received the following e-mail:

Dear Patrick
Congratulations on writing a very enjoyable book
I really enjoyed your book launch and love the book
Could I order 2 more copies for a birthday present ?
Only problem is the party is next Friday ?
Many thanks

For details of the book and to read the first story ‘Ted’ click on ‘Short Stories’ on the menu at the top of the Home Page’. 
You can order the book from the author at semple.patrick006@gmail.com the publishers:  info@codegreenpublishing.com , Amazon or the other online bookstores mentioned.        

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GOOD WITH TOMATOES

I know a widow woman
who bought a house in Dalkey,
found it wasn’t what she wanted,
sold it and bought a house in Harold’s Cross.
Would anyone with titter of wit
sell a house in Dalkey
and go to live in Harold’s Cross?
She was lonely living on her own
so she took in a lodger,
(that’s what you do with lodgers,
you ‘take them in’),
a foreman on a building site
up the road.
All was well until she woke one night
To find the lodger beside her in bed.
She told him to leave the bed immediately.
At breakfast she asked for his latchkey
and told him to pack his bags and go.
She had turned down a generous offer
for a gîte she had in France.
Then the crash.
Now she can’t sell it for half the price.
A long standing widow
She buried her husband in the wrong grave
over which she fell out with her sister-in-law
who later that year won the lottery.
She was however good at picking
the ripest firmest tomatoes in the supermarket.

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THE MAN WHO KNEW ALMOST EVERYTHING

I knew a man who knew damned well nearly everything.
He died,
and I’m almost certain
that now he knows damned well absolutely nothing.

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FONDO

We have some good friends – delightful company and above all sensible down to earth people. At least that was what their friends thought until they bought the ruin of a large house on top of a hill outside Sansepolcro in Tuscany. When I say ruin; it had been left to the mercy of the elements for many years. There were four walls and almost no roof. The internal floors had gone, a few rotten beams survived, windows and outside doors were no more, and the track of a herd of wild deer was worn through the debris on the subsoil of the ground floor. 

       The Ruin

    Mary and Terry planned to renovate this ruin and restore it to its former glory. With the help of an excellent local Italian builder and to the amazement of their friends they have wrought a miracle. It was a slow laborious miracle. So far it has taken five years and it is about seventy five percent finished.  It will be completed by summer 2014 in time for the wedding of their daughter Katie, and when the family is not using it they will let it.

The Deer Run that Became the Sitting Room

A picture is worth a thousand words, so I leave it to the accompanying pictures to tell the story of what they have achieved.

Dining Room

We stayed with Mary and Terry at Fodo on the hill in May 2013.  As I sat in the arched sitting room sipping a glass of Prosecco a wonderful feeling came over me; I felt a peace like I don’t remember ever having had before. I was conscious that down below was Sansepolcro, Italy and the world with all its cares and I was no part of them. It was an experience for me that must have been similar to that recorded in the bible when Peter didn’t want to come down from the Mount of Transfiguration and said: ‘It is good for us to be here.’

The Main Sitting Room that was a Deer Run

The restoration has been sensitively done turning the ruin into an amazing and distinctive villa. The original character of the building has been preserved and, remarkably, as you will see, its furnishings are entirely appropriate to its character. In all of its main rooms we saw only one item that was out of place – a Waterford glass table lamp. If you decide to go there you can put it into a drawer for the duration of your stay!

A Bedroom (Note the Lamp!)

However, kitchens, bathrooms and shower rooms have all been furnished to the very highest modern standards. There is a sophisticated central heating system, but there are in the main sitting rooms also wood burning stoves and there is an endless supply of logs to burn.

A Kitchen

We came down from the mountain after our visit to Mary and Terry refreshed, but mystified as to how they had created from a ruin this magical place. Originally when they showed us the ruin and told us of their plan we thought they were nuts. Now we don’t know why they don’t sell up at home and move to live permanently in Fondo.

View from a Bedroom

View From Above

See: www.escape2tuscany.com

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SUMMER 1964

There are horses for courses and one course on which I found the going tough was a building site I worked on during a long hot summer when I was at university. It is not uncommon for students to work on building sites to earn money to keep themselves during their academic year. True. In my case however it would be strange that I should do so and survive intact for the best part of two months. Strange because, although perfectly healthy, I was not physically strong and would not survive for long the rigours of hard labour. I was employed, however, for a different kind of work that put me to the test.

I was an inspector for a firm consulting engineers responsible to the City of London, Ontario, Canada for work done by the building contractors who were erecting an administration building on the site of a large sewage disposal unit, Greenway, outside the city. Sewage from this city of over 400,000 people was treated here. Everything that went in, after it had been treated went out the chimney in smoke or flowed into the local river as pure, crystal clear water. Some years previously, at the official opening, the chief engineer drank a glass of this water to demonstrate how effective the process of purification was. Now an administration building was to be built in the middle of the site.

Greenway Polution Control Centre

I had little confidence that I was the man for the job, but the pay was good so I took it. I learned quickly. There were three components to my work. The first was to perform piezometer checks. I needn’t tell you I had never heard the word before and I had no idea what a piezometer was. I have just looked it up in order to be sure that I don’t mis-inform you. ‘A device used to measures liquid pressure in a system by measuring the height to which water rises against gravity, or a device which measures the pressure of groundwater.’ Like a lot of functions that sound complicated, when you come to do them they are not complicated at all so here’s how it worked.

There was a hole in the ground about 100 yards square and twenty feet deep in which the foundations and basement of the administration building were to be constructed. On the surface around the perimeter of this hole, I’m sure ‘excavation’ is a better word, there were about thirty points at which hydrodare piping had been sunk into the ground. These ran down to the subterranean water which was kept at bay by a system of pumps. I had a wooden spool about eighteen inches in diameter around which was wound rubber covered copper wire marked off in feet. The last three or four inches of the wire was bared, exposing the copper core. In the middle of the outside of the spool there was a dial with a needle which was connected to the other end of the wire that was also attached to a battery concealed in the axle of the spool. It was my job to feed the wire down the hydrodare piping and when the copper end hit the water the needle in the dial would jump. When this happened I recorded in my little book the reading in feet from the wire.

Having completed this process for all of the approximately thirty points around the excavation, I would return to the site hut and make a graph of the readings. Never in my wildest dreams when I learned to make graphs in school did I imagine that I would ever have reason to use one. Here I was making them twice a day to ensure that water did not flood a large excavation on a building site in the middle of a sewage disposal unit in Canada. Life is full of surprises. If you persist in order to hear about the rest of my job, don’t despair, it is much less technical and easier to follow.

The second component of my job was to measure and record structure checks. Since the excavation had been dug, cracks appeared in the walls of some buildings nearby. Dabs of red paint had been applied to the widest part of each crack and numbered. Every day I had to measure at this point the width of the cracks, in millimetres, and record them in order to have warning if the buildings were to become unstable or be in danger of collapsing! One of these buildings was a small single room that contained cylinders of poisonous gas. It was kept locked. There were notices in red ‘Danger. Poisonous Gas. Keep Out.’ I used to turn the key, take a deep breath, run in, measure the crack, out again, lock the door and breathe again. I was highly motivated to return home at the end of the summer to continue my studies.

From time to time there were days when concrete was poured. The mixers started to roll at about eight thirty in the morning. Before it was poured the consulting engineer’s inspectors had to ensure that the concrete was not too wet. If too much of it was wetter than it should be the whole pour might be stopped and all hell would break loose. The concrete was checked by means of slump cone tests. A sample of concrete taken from trucks at random was put into a cone on the ground that had the top six inches cut off. The cone was removed and if the concrete slumped more than a certain measurement it was too wet and the truck had to be sent back. This happened with one mixer I checked and the big Italian builder’s foreman shouted at me: ‘do it again, do it again’. I did and it slumped too much for a second time. He lost his reason and began to rant in Italian every second word of which began with ‘f’! I stood my ground. He shouted louder. Rod McDonald, the chief inspector heard the commotion and sauntered over. ‘Everything all right?’ he asked me. I explained. He looked at the small heap of concrete on the ground and then directly at the foreman. In quiet measured tones he said: ‘If Pat says that truck has to go back take it to hell out of her pronto.’ I was never more glad of someone’s support in my life. The foreman went away fuming; shouting and gesticulating as only an angry Italian can. As it transpired I was relieved that it was the only truck I had to reject that day.

Two of my Inspector Colleagues Danny and Len

After a few weeks I was asked if I would work night shifts. Unused to the daytime heat of a Canadian summer, I was glad of the cooler nights. I had to make two rounds of piezometer checks and keep an eye on things in general. On nights following concrete pours I had to make sure that the contractor’s man on site hosed the concrete to ensure that it wasn’t drying too quickly.

Due in at twelve o’clock, I caught the last bus and arrived on the site at about twenty minutes to midnight. Joe, the contractor’s man, another Italian, rolled in about half past twelve or twenty to one. Immediately he arrived he would get into the back seat of his car and go asleep. If there was no sign of him by about half past one I would bang on the roof of his car. Joe would jump out uttering all kinds of excuses in perfectly understandable broken English and rush off to hose down the concrete or do whatever other work he was supposed to do.

Joe was above all affable. He and I had many a conversation over a cup of tea in the site hut on balmy summer nights. I learned a good deal from him about building sites, the local Italian community and Italy. He even taught me a few words of Italian: Ó capito che dici ‘I know what you’re saying’, a useful phrase for a naive English speaking inspector to know on a building site manned entirely by Italians – even though I didn’t know!

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KEMPTEN, BAVARIA

Just back from Kempten, a town in Bavaria about one hour and forty minutes by train south west of Munich in the beautiful district of the Allgau.
This is the fourth year that I have been invited to Kempten to meet adult English speaking groups and a senior English class at a gymnasium (secondary school in Germany), to give some readings. This all came about after I had had a short story ‘Ted’ broadcast on Lyric FM which had a Christmas theme. Horst and Linde Altstetter, retired teachers from the Allgäu, heard the story in their holiday cottage in Donegal and wrote to ask if they might have a copy of it to use at Christmas with the groups they tutored in English.

Horst & Linde with Donegal goats now naturalised German goats

The following year Horst and Linde invited me to Kempten to meet the groups and to read. There is a full account of all of this in Chapter 4 of ‘Being Published’.

Linde H and P

Each year in addition to meeting the groups I have been invited to give a public reading in International House in the town. This year I read the following:  three pieces ‘Peter’, ‘Jerome’ and ‘The Stout Drinker’ which you can find in ‘Archives’ June 2012 in this part of the website under ‘A Miscellany of Readings and Music’.

I then read an account from ‘Curious Cargo’ of the dramatic events on board a freighter in the Atlantic when Hilary and I, other passengers and crew prepared to abandon ship because of a fire in the engine room. The short story ‘The Archivist’, which you can read or listen to under ‘Short Stories’. When I had finished ‘The Archivist’ an elderly gentleman in the front row was heard to say to his neighbour in a stage whisper: ‘He was pushed’. After the interval I said that although I had written the story I had no idea if he fell or if he was pushed. See what you think.

Falkenstein: 4,189 feet up in the Allgäu Range

I then read the short story ‘The Mother’ (Short Stories), followed by some poems among which was ‘Golf, Golf, Bloody Golf’ , a poem that every golfer should read. You can find it under ‘Poetry’ ‘Other Poems’. At the end of the evening some people wanted a copy of this! I wonder why?

“Wildpoldsrieder Stubenmusik” provided music between readings.

As usual Hilary and I were entertained royally by Horst and Linde with whom we stayed. Also  by that spirited group of women ‘The Hard Tickets’ that Horst has been tutoring for over thirty years who brought us out for a meal.

The Hard Tickets with Horst H and P

By Eva and Martin with whom we had our usual lavish breakfast including white wine! By Dietlinde and Ludwig and their boys, Simon and Johannes, who entertained us to a delightful meal and evening in their home. By Jutta and Fritz who brought us to lunch, after a hair-raising drive, to a restaurant perched on top of a mountain at Falkenstein.

Restaurant Falkenstein, Fritz, Hilary and Jutta

By Claudia who brought us to Ottobeuren to an organ recital by Johannes Lang a talented young organist from Freiburg. We expected it would be in the famous Baroque Basilica there, but it had been relocated to the modern, plain Lutheren Church in the town.

Hilary in The Basilica, Ottobeuren

We came home for a holiday!

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