Jan 202017
 
Excerpt from What’s Wrong with the World  GK Chesterton, 1910

This excerpt was published in the fabulous Lapham’s Quarterly, Winter, 2017

gk


But of all the modern notions generated by mere wealth the worst is this: the notion that domesticity is dull and tame. Inside the home (they say) is dead decorum and routine; outside is adventure and variety. This is indeed a rich man’s opinion. The rich man knows that his own house moves on vast and soundless wheels of wealth, is run by regiments of servants, by a swift and silent ritual. On the other hand, every sort of vagabondage of romance is open to him in the streets outside. He has plenty of money and can afford to be a tramp. His wildest adventure will end in a restaurant, while the yokel’s tamest adventure may end in a police-court. If he smashes a window he can pay for it; if he smashes a man he can pension him. He can (like the millionaire in the story) buy an hotel to get a glass of gin. And because he, the luxurious man, dictates the tone of nearly all “advanced” and “progressive” thought, we have almost forgotten what a home really means to the overwhelming millions of mankind.

For the truth is, that to the moderately poor the home is the only place of liberty. Nay, it is the only place of anarchy. It is the only spot on the earth where a man can alter arrangements suddenly, make an experiment or indulge in a whim. Everywhere else he goes he must accept the strict rules of the shop, inn, club, or museum that he happens to enter. He can eat his meals on the floor in his own house if he likes. I often do it myself; it gives a curious, childish, poetic, picnic feeling. There would be considerable trouble if I tried to do it in an A.B.C. tea-shop. A man can wear a dressing gown and slippers in his house; while I am sure that this would not be permitted at the Savoy, though I never actually tested the point. If you go to a restaurant you must drink some of the wines on the wine list, all of them if you insist, but certainly some of them. But if you have a house and garden you can try to make hollyhock tea or convolvulus wine if you like. For a plain, hard-working man the home is not the one tame place in the world of adventure. It is the one wild place in the world of rules and set tasks. The home is the one place where he can put the carpet on the ceiling or the slates on the floor if he wants to. When a man spends every night staggering from bar to bar or from music-hall to music-hall, we say that he is living an irregular life. But he is not; he is living a highly regular life, under the dull, and often oppressive, laws of such places. Some times he is not allowed even to sit down in the bars; and frequently he is not allowed to sing in the music-halls. Hotels may be defined as places where you are forced to dress; and theaters may be defined as places where you are forbidden to smoke. A man can only picnic at home.

Now I take, as I have said, this small human omnipotence, this possession of a definite cell or chamber of liberty, as the working model for the present inquiry. Whether we can give every English man a free home of his own or not, at least we should desire it; and he desires it. For the moment we speak of what he wants, not of what he expects to get. He wants, far instance, a separate house; he does not want a semi-detached house. He may be forced in the commercial race to share one wall with another man. Similarly he might be forced in a three-legged race to share one leg with another man; but it is not so that he pictures himself in his dreams of elegance and liberty. Again, he does not desire a flat. He can eat and sleep and praise God in a flat; he can eat and sleep and praise God in a railway train. But a railway train is not a house, because it is a house on wheels. And a flat is not a house, because it is a house on stilts. An idea of earthy contact and foundation, as well as an idea of separation and independence, is a part of this instructive human picture.

I take, then, this one institution as a test. As every normal man desires a woman, and children born of a woman, every normal man desires a house of his own to put them into. He does not merely want a roof above him and a chair below him; he wants an objective and visible kingdom; a fire at which he can cook what food he likes, a door he can open to what friends he chooses. This is the normal appetite of men; I do not say there are not exceptions. There may be saints above the need and philanthropists below it. Opalstein, now he is a duke, may have got used to more than this; and when he was a convict may have got used to less. But the normality of the thing is enormous. To give nearly everybody ordinary houses would please nearly everybody; that is what I assert without apology.

 Posted by at 11:31 pm
Oct 182016
 

THE IMPOSSIBILITY OF KNOWING EVERYONE

A profiteer, a Priest of Nebt-het, from Heliopolis, and a Fool were
walking together one day, when they met the grim figure of War belching
flame and fury.

‘Who is that?’ asked the fool and the priest of each other, quickening
their pace. But the profiteer raised his hat, bowed humbly, and stayed
to chat for a few moments with the terrible figure, before rejoining his
companions.

Presently, they came upon Death, mumbling to himself by the roadside.
The fool and the profiteer raised their eyebrows, and passed on, but the
priest of Nebt-het touched his forehead and made certain strange signs
with his hands, to which Death replied in like manner.

Then the three spied a beautiful woman who sat among the wildflowers. It
was Love, combing her hair and singing all the love-songs of the world.
‘That is a fine woman,’ said the profiteer, staring hard.

‘I do not know her,’ said the priest, somewhat sadly. But the fool ran
forward and caught her hands in his, and they laughed together. So the
priest and the profiteer walked on, but when they had gone a little way,
they turned round, and there was the fool sitting at her feet and
looking into her eyes as she sang and combed her hair.

‘The fool has all the luck,’ they grumbled.

From
BRIEF DIVERSIONS
being Tales Travesties and Epigrams by
J. B. PRIESTLEY
1922

 Posted by at 3:03 pm
Oct 082016
 
img_0049

There  are stone circles like this all over this part of Ireland. Maybe 3000 years old. Before the Celts arrived. Almost for sure to do with the equinoxes and such, but beyond that no one really knows. Mysterioso. This one is in a place called Kenmare. It is unusual in that it is actually inside the town, about 3 blocks from the town square. So everyone who has ever lived in Kenmare grew up with these things in the back yard, and there a generations of
sentiment/superstition/tradition, that is to say religion, attached to them.

There is a tree there where people attach
notes, mostly wishes, and other things.                                                                                  So, we made a wish.

img_0052
img_0051
 Posted by at 10:13 pm
Oct 072016
 

 

The dream was always the same. I’d be driving fast on a narrow winding road. I would realize that the steering wheel was gone, and there were no brakes. I would go careening along, unable to control the car. Miraculously, the inevitable crash never occurred, but the terror just went on and on. I have not had this dream for years, until today. Except today…. It was REAL.

 

img_0071
img_0069

 

 

Ireland has notoriously narrow roads. Marion has driven here before, so she drove as we headed out to Killarney National Forest. Another similarity to the US: park roads are the worst.  So, I got to sit where the steering wheel is supposed to be, in sheer terror as she narrowly missed stone walls, ditches, other vehicles and the occasional crazy person on a bicycle.

Ultimately, I decided that it would be less scary to be driving, and would not be dissuaded.

 

 

 

I did not get a mile, or even a kilometer. Several meters, maybe, before hitting a big rock.

Marion, reasonably expecting me to be a big dumb jerk, headed for the hills while I dealt with it. To my surprise, I enjoyed changing the tire. I’ve changed lots and lots of tires in my time. I’m good at it. Its the only time all day I felt in the least bit in control of anything automotive.  Put me in a good mood. The guys who mounted the new tire for us were great, and I cracked them up by saying I’d rather fix a flat than drive on the left. Marion drives from now on.

img_0045
img_0041

 

 

Here are the hills.

 Posted by at 11:44 pm
Oct 062016
 

This means something different from Seattle. Its just a regular pharmacy

img_0011
img_0012

We are staying in the nicest place I have ever slept. Its the Caherne House Hotel. The original estate dates back to the 1600’s, but the building is new, 1877.

img_0014
img_0016

We are talking real deal manor house here.

img_0018
img_0019

These are Red Deer. They just hang out in the field next door

 Posted by at 8:33 pm
Oct 052016
 
st-pats

We went to St Patrick’s Cathedral for Evensong. To our shock, its not Roman Catholic, but Anglican! really uncomfortable kneelers.

 

 

 

Here’s a selfie of us at the Cathedral

selfie-stpats
st-pats-well-stone

 

 

This was the coolest thing in the place. Its probably from the 9th Century and was found capping a well believed to have been used by St. Pat himself for baptisms.

 Posted by at 8:03 pm
Oct 052016
 
liffey

Dublin was founded by Vikings who sailed up the River Liffey in the 10th Century AD

kells

We went to Trinity College and saw the Book of Kells

 

harp

And the oldest harp in Ireland

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

selfie

We took a Selfie at St. Stephen’s Green, a site of one of the events of the 1916 Easter Rebellion.

20161004_130817

We went to the Archeological Museum. This is the floor, which is all mosaic

god-xopy

And this is God, according to some Medieval artist

20161003_141902-1

This is just some random building

20161004_215426

This is not graffiti, these nonsense poems, by Edward Lear it turns out, are all over the toilet area in a very nice restaurant we ate at. Lear was English, but the poem seems characteristically Irish to me. They call them “Toilets”, not bathrooms.

 Posted by at 9:09 am