Other Stuff

Just recently, we’ve had three new priests come to our parish – new to us, not newly ordained.  I think this has taken place in many towns, and it’s not that we were horrible to them or anything. Today, in the middle of the Gospel, my sister leaned over to whisper “Wouldn’t he remind you of Seamus Heaney?”, (this is our new parish priest). He does resemble the great poet, but he’s taller (6’+), and much broader – American footballer type. So I started thinking about our beloved bard, and this popped into my head:

In Memoriam M.K.H. 1911-1984

When all the others were away at Mass
I was all hers as we peeled potatoes.
They broke the silence, let fall one by one
Like solder weeping off the soldering iron:
Cold comforts set between us, things to share
Gleaming in a bucket of clean water.
And again let fall. Little pleasant splashes
From each other’s work would bring us to our senses.
So while the parish priest at her bedside
Went hammer and tongs at the prayers for the dying
And some were responding and some crying
I remembered her head bent towards my head,
Her breath in mine, our fluent dipping knives-
Never closer the whole rest of our lives.

I’d forgotten how much I loved the ‘ordinary’ of Heaney’s writing, and the way he could turn the everyday into something so magical and comforting at the same time. What an absolute genius he was.



Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a cold creature – not, I might add, emotionally, but physically – I’m just always freezing. I dread winter every year because one of these years I believe that I will actually die of the cold – it happens, people do die of the cold! I have a favourite poem by the great Robert Service that I want you to read – it’s brilliantly funny, and here’s the wonderful Johnny Cash reading it:


I am afraid of Winter. I am afraid of the silent, furtive way it prowls, disguised in the busy whirl of rusted Autumn leaves, unseen until the day you feel the first sharp sting of it against your cheek, it leaves you dumbstruck, like harsh words from the lips of a lover. I am afraid of the skeletal hand that reaches inside and grips the heart like a vice, so the blood freezes and the bones hurt. I am afraid of the sepulchre that Winter makes of a life: reducing it to something which must be endured, but not enjoyed. I am afraid of the loneliness of Winter, where, in the bleakness of a sleeping landscape, it is a struggle to spare time, to laugh, to love. Winter is the thief of smiles. It creeps beneath the skin like a disease, drawing icy patterns as it goes, silver-white tattoos of apathy.


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