Thursday, 1 September 2011

The Sky Over Leitrim

I know I haven't posted for ages but I've been working all hours, seven days a week and that's the truth. Recently, however I had a week off in our family house in North Leitrim which, for those of you who don't know it, is a lovely and largely unspoilt part of Ireland.

I say a week off but in fact a great deal of my time was spent doing things like standing on the top of a ladder which was itself perched precariously on a wooden bench, clutching a bucket and spoon as I ladled out from the guttering years of sediment which had coalesced into a thick black mass with the consistency of Christmas pudding from which innumerable tiny sycamore trees were attempting to colonise our roof.

However, the evenings were a different matter. Rosie and I sat in silence gazing out at the vast dome of the sky, something that you never see in London. We watched the great cloud masses, forming, dissolving and reforming, throwing up transitory images of animals and demons, boats and chariots, warriors and great grey-bearded giants, all the while descending through a parade of colours from buff, through pink, lilac and purple to inky black. I did not care if I never wrote another word. It was enough just to sit and stare.

We also caught up on a bit of reading and among the titles I devoured was Colm Tóibín's Brooklyn. It quite took my breath away. So rarely do I read something that seems to me to be absolutely perfect but Brooklyn is such a book.

I was reminded of Jane Austen which sounds ridiculous since Austen is so quintessentially English and Tóibín is so very Irish. But both writers concern themselves with the way society, particularly through the vehicle of the family, bears down on the emotional life of the individual; both use dialogue and detail to such cunning effect; and both dissect embarrassment with such forensic precision. My only complaint was that it had to end.

The same could be said for my week away. All too soon I found myself gazing at the heavily made-up and absurdly dressed stewardess as she informed passengers that in the event of an emergency oxygen masks would be released from the panels above our heads. And then before I could even locate the nearest emergency exit I was back in London where the skyline is strictly rationed, where allowances are decreasing daily and where my computer will tolerate no idleness.


Paul Lamb said...

Thanks for the post. I sounds like you had a blissful week off. (Apart from the gutter cleaning, of course, and I've cleaned a few gutters in my day as well).

Paul said...

I bought Brooklyn today at my local bookstore based on your post. Looking forward to reading it.

Brian Keaney said...

I hope you enjoy it, Paul.