Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Stuck in Singapore

by Nuala Murphy

I spent a day in Singapore recently while on my way back to Cork from Western Australia. 

The journey home was to be a bit of an endurance event, thirty-two hours in total, including an eight hour stop-over in Changi Aiport, Singapore.  Having arrived at Changi Airport, I registered for the free bus tours of Singapore which are offered by the airport to those with long stop-overs. With some time before the tour, I tucked into a nice bowl of braised pork and rice in an airport restaurant, followed by a Starbucks coffee and a donut from 'Dunkin donuts' for good measure!  

Fast forward an hour and I'm part of a posse passing through airport  immigration with a tour-guide, heading for the bus that will take us around Singapore. The tour-guide points out the toilets before we leave the airport saying that it is our last chance to visit ''the happy room''. The bus feels like the United Nations. There is a friendly Australian couple from Perth sitting behind me and a group of French people in front of me.    

The tour

The tour-guide introduces himself and the bus driver, then suddenly launches straight into a Ricky Martin song!!  He makes some whooping noises to stir up a bit of excitement on the tour bus. He gives us some background to Singapore as we head towards the city.  'Singa' means lion, and 'Pura' means town, so Singapore means Liontown. When Singapore was built, the aim was for a clean, green city. The climate is tropical, hot and wet at the same time and it is indeed a green city. The guide tells us that there are three seasons in Singapore, ''hot, hotter, and hottest''. We are fortunate to have arrived in just the ''hot'' season.  Singapore has a population of about 5 million. We hear that Singapore has changed from a third world country to a it's present thriving existence in the space of about fifty years.  With a loud ''Woohew'', our guide tells us that home-ownership in Singapore is at over 90% now.  Travelling into the city, he points out the high-rise apartment buildings, where you can buy an apartment of about 150-200 square metres for between one and two million Singapore dollars (roughly between 500,000 and 1 million euro).  With another loud ''woohew'', he tells us that unemployment is at approximately two percent in Singapore.  He points out that jobs have been created not only for Singaporeans but for a vast number of immigrants to the country. There are ten official religions in Singapore and three main languages. I gather that there are four main ethnicities. The aim in Singapore is for mutual respect and a spirit of inclusiveness.    

The information on Singapore is coming interspersed with regular cheers and ''woohews'' for all the positive points of the country.  The group of French people sitting in front of me don't have much English as far as I can tell, but they join the cheering enthusiastically.  

I sit, happy enough to just look out the window at the city.  We pass what our guide tells us is the highest swimming pool in the world.  It must be a few hundred metres up in the air.  We come to an icon of the Singaporean landscape, an enormous lion-shaped fountain which spits water into the harbour.  My nose is almost shaved off by the camera of an enthusiastic photographer jumping across the bus to get a better angle.  

After a ten minute stop near the harbour, we are back on the bus heading for the airport.  Singapore is very near the equator, and at about six o' clock, it is as if suddenly someone turned off the lights of the city.  It has got dark in a matter of minutes.  

Back at the airport there is a surprise in store for me.  The British Airways flight to London has been delayed until the following day due to a pilot in Sydney with food poisoning.  It looks like I'll be in Singapore for a little while longer! 

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Found Object

by AIDAN O'SHEA. © 07/11/2013

It is almost six years since you left this life.
I took a methodical approach with your things.
In the first month, clothes in black bags to charity shops, 
At Christmas, jewellery given to family members.

Your books, however, remained in place.
Counselling, Psychology, books to find the inner self.
I might have need of them in time to come.
I kept your watches wound to mark that time.

Within a year, I thought that I had grief corralled,
Being solitary, single, and a reasonable cook.
Company here, study there, words on a page.
Words to read, words to write, living for the day.

Last month, while tidying my wardrobe,
I found your fleece-lined waistcoat in dark green
There among my jackets. I slipped the waistcoat on. 
A perfect fit! It holds my heart in place.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Towards Ireland's Island Zoo

 by Anne Alcock © 2014

I love this journey! Five minutes on a shaky bridge above grimy house-backs of old red brick and the two-carriaged train has left the city behind. Now we seem to be gliding across a vast marshland lake, silver-sky reflected in the water to right and left, until another bridge sets us down on a small island.
"But why are you taking the train?" Friends ask, "When there's a perfectly good road and car-park?"
No! NO! Forget the car! If you relish the questing sense of being the first creature upon a landscape, you definitely take the train, and preferably the early morning one. Because just ten minutes from the initial electronic slam and squawk (as distinct from the old hiss, steam and shudder of olden trains) and you are that first creature. From one window-glance to the next, and the cluttered city river has almost magically widened into horizon-filling estuary, which, being tidal, always presents as new.
 This morning's shining lake will sink later into an ooze of chocolate mud, smudged with grey-green shapes of half-drowned hawthorn and bisected with the raised, metalled track, until another eel-rich tide rises to bring back the silver. Or, within minutes, it could suddenly be reflecting the brightest blue! "It's like Naples!" Visitors might say.
But it's Ireland, and we have arrived at "Fota" (Fod – "warm soil" in Irish).  Here is Cork's animal conservation area, with its arboretum and seventy-two acre wildlife park.  This last  has it's own tiny station, and, with delightful paradox, this means we arrive by the Back Way. Which, as so often, is also the Best Way; for here is that transitional moment when you step out of the train, into ….. Utter Silence. 
No cars, no traffic, only one short hoot from the disappearing train. It is just a moment to acknowledge arrival, where the journey was actually its own destination. You realise your inside silence is now meeting an outside silence (which is actually bursting full). No longer technology, but Nature is all around and all alive. Thousands of leaves are responding to the funnelled wind, and every invisible bird seems determined to prove its existence.  And are those squeaks and yelps really monkeys? Yes, you are here. You are earthed. Take a breath. The air is very fresh. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Moon Bathing

by  Madelaine Nerson Mac Namara, © 2014

For my friends Sharon, Tom and Ruby

Is it enough
to tour planets
tape-measure stars?
Who  still  remembers
the auspicious rules
for moon planting
moon bathing

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Lady from Death Row

 by   Cecily Lynch © 2014   

When I heard that a convicted murderer was going to give a talk, various images sprang into my mind.  Would she be a tough, hardened, American criminal or like somebody from the Sopranos?
An ordinary average middle-aged woman walked onto the stage. She adjusted her glasses and began.  There was just that little touch of steel in her voice to hold the audience's attention.
"I was 18 years on Death Row, in solitary confinement, for a crime I did not commit."
The audience gasped.  I craned my neck in order to see her better. She continued.
"How did I cope during those dreadful years, locked in a small cell, fearing that every day would be my last?" 
There was a pause.  Every eye in the room was riveted on her.
"I fought, I fought physically and mentally, I fought against the injustice with all my might."  She raised her head, her spectacles glinted, she touched her grey hair.  "My anger was red hot, it saved me because I would not give in to despair.  I raged and raged, and out of my anger came my huge effort to prove my innocence. I felt God would help me, for He knew I was innocent of the crime."
At this stage someone in the audience asked, "How was it that you were convicted?"
The lady lifted her head slowly and with emphasis declared, 
"I did not pull the trigger. I wept and wailed at first when I was locked up.  Then I rallied and fought like a cornered lioness.  I saw the prison director twice a day.  I mustered support from my friends who engaged extra lawyers.  But I was still locked up 23 hours out of the 24."
There were murmurs of sympathy from the audience. She continued: 
"I wrote and wrote.  I got a retrial, I was convicted again. I was sentenced to the electric chair. I read the bible. I worked out maths problems but my anger never left me. I did not pull the trigger.
Eventually one of the key witnesses confessed that he did not actually see me pull the trigger.  Some others followed suit after another court case.  It was deemed that there was a doubt about the testimony against me. I was released after 18 years." 
I left the hall in silence and ever since then, when accused unjustly, when bullied and scorned, when spat at and criticised, I repeat over and over, 'I did not pull the trigger'. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Big House

   by Sarah O'Mahony ©2014

Stolen and Lost
The big house stands there
Dark, mysterious, at cost.

I arrive at the entrance gates
They're solid yet carved intricately
Great greyish blue pillars of stone
Hi-tech automated
A key pad to admit one.

The drive way meanders like a river in its last breath
Curves widely and softly round
'Pastures of green';
Framed wooden rail fencing
Neatly raised yet doesn't take from the scene.

On I go into this open ancient book of lore
Its trees tell estate's age
Large mature yet foreign cedars stand solemnly above
As if leading the visitor to the master

I park in front of this historic mansion
Its columns of construction stately
Up the steps I go to a huge oaken front door
Its dusty green like from faraway lands of North Africa, Tunis;
I stand there three steps up and press the ashen bronze bell
It feels like miniature meeting a monster
Pray tell...

Tolkien, C.S. Lewis,
'The lion, the witch and the wardrobe',
Narnia all come to mind in a flash,

Oh my God I think, what childlike wonder this is,
I'm in a story book!
The door opens,
She smiles, a girl from the East,
Dark shiny hair tied back in a ponytail,
A hesitant smile reveals all,
"Come in, I'll show you around.

Sarah O'Mahony ©2014

Tuesday, July 1, 2014


© 2013 Madelaine Nerson Mac Namara,

(Moving House)

July, school over for ever
and we're moving house.
The sixth storey we leave
combines the grandiose views
of the Mont Valérien
beyond the Bois de Boulogne
with the sweeping searchlight
that tops the Eiffel Tower.

Mother's dream has come true.
On a tour, in her twenties
she had fallen in love
with the town of Menton
where pink and white laurels
lemon and orange trees line streets
where the Alps balustrade a border
among palms and olives.

City bred, my father turns
passionate gardener, amazed
by his own green fingers
the nine an old war has left him.  
He plants small mimosas
against a sea background.
In two years their shade
at midday is taller than me.

Autumn term in college
two hundred miles away
my dreams sniff the fragrance
of fluffy golden spheres.
But Mother claims her view
and he fells my totems.
The only thing ever
I've had to forgive them!