sketch pad

meine umwelt

avec moi, sans moi,

par moi

Ahh… and the tales I shall unfold

May blast comprehension if the truth be told

An ode to the masters, martyrs and whims

A satyr on life and sullied daydreams


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A Passage from an Autobiography

The air as I walked, that had challenged my nose as soon as the doors had opened, was as fresh a mile later, as it explained to me the beautiful vigour of everything I could see. It claimed its kinship with the Barrow that wandered lazily by my side and sometimes disappeared to explore some hidden realm; and it showed its intimacy with every nook and cranny around me in all the scents it held. I crossed the bridge and continued my four mile journey back down the other side, soon losing sight of the river, and thinking instead of my welcome.

Three figures left the gate and went up a few yards to the pole by the side of the low wall after I had turned the corner and crossed the road. One I recognised in its short, slightly stooped posture as the culmination of all the bubbles that had been promising to erupt. The second was familiar in its height and breadth and movement, but could not be possible in that place at the time, and the third was unknown to me. They were all engrossed in I knew not what.

I am too young to write my autobiography, having lived for what I hope to be only a fifth of the age I intend to reach. However, I do have a life story, don’t we all?

I was born and I have lived and I expect one day to die; and those are the main defining features of me, over which I have no control, and share with the rest of Earth’s life. I have a collage of memories lining the trace behind me, and I have my existence now, which is no more and no less than sitting in front of a computer, tapping keys, and completing a short exercise in preparation for a course I will start in a few months. Can I talk of the future in this essay, or is it inappropriate?

A number of years ago, I threw a dark tragic cloud over my childhood memories, and could define no distinct recollections in my mind. I was at that time wrapped up in a painful, small world whose boundaries extended no further than my immediate pain and incomprehension. Since then I have discovered little pockets of the past, my past, which are a part of me in so close and exquisite a manner, I could not think of trying to recount them any more than to describe a sensation.

I was born to a mother from a stiff, middle class, English nuclear family; and a father from a gregarious, now (respectably hard) working class Eireann family. I have only recently begun to associate this information with my own personal experience, and the particular tensions and conflicts I was surrounded by. My parents were truly in love, nothing else can explain to me what they put up with from each other, and the illusions they held so close, for so long a period of time. They broke up twenty-seven years, and four young children, after their first innocuous meeting - and I do not believe that anybody they meet in the future will ever mean as much to either of them as they will remain to each other, or come as close to their fiercely held, also illusory, ideals. My father though will find contentment, because he holds it inside himself; and my mother will not, because she doesn’t. This is the only pronouncement upon their fate I can proffer.

As for myself, I cannot say: I am contented because I know that I am as I am, and things are as they are; but I have a restless, ceaseless dissatisfaction in me like a perennial deep-sea plant whose flowers detach, surface and disturb and delight; and I do not know if it will be my making or my undoing, or simply become a forgotten fantasy within me.

I have a ninety-five year old great-grandfather who lives with my paternal grandparents in Kilkenny on the Wexford border. He was very ill a month ago, and as my mother let me down four days before we were supposed to fly to southern Spain together, I went back to the land of my childhood dreams, as I have done at least every summer since I was six years of age, to pay what I knew might be my last respects. I finished work at four-thirty on a Sunday afternoon in the middle of September, went home to collect my luggage, and left for Paddington at six-thirty that evening. I always travel by train and then by boat, as it would not feel like such as adventure if I hopped on a plane, and was there in a couple of hours. I arrived in Rosslare at seven the next morning after spending a fabulous hour or so staring out at a dawn covered sea, having given up on the idea of the hardly caught sleep I had indulged in all night. I hadn’t told my nanny I was coming, so there was no grandad waiting for me with a cheerful red car, and a bigger smile; just an unfamiliar coach stop area in a well-known car park. I didn’t have to wait long, and I fell asleep on the coach until I was within half an hour of old New Ross. I wondered dazily at first if I had gone too far, but there was something in the shape of the changing horizon, and the peculiar slopes of trees or fields, or a length of the road, that told me I was nearly there. The closer I came, the more eagerly my eyes ate up the hills I knew from a different perspective, the more bubbly became the sensations within me.

(8th Oct ‘96)