Staring out over Sliabh Beagh

Say Nothing

“So look up, lean back, be strong
You didn’t think you’d live this long
Be as one, hold on, steady stand
For as long as you think you can”

Rebecca Lucy Taylor ( Self Esteem )

Someone recently told me that if you don’t like reading back something you’ve written, there’s a very high likelihood that no one else will like it either. I wrote something last night, it was terrible, so I deleted it, and decided to sleep on it. Pasta came into our bedroom at 1.15 am looking to go out and frolic with the hedgerow cats…or murder tiny things. I went back into a deep sleep. Tuna, our less evil cat, came into our bedroom at some stage, but after a quiet miaow and a quick plucking of the carpet, settled down…and then got up again, hopped onto our bed, stealthily crept onto my pillow and bellowed into my ear. I was up and halfway down the stairs before I even realised what I was doing. I let her out to join Pasta in her frolicking and murder spree. It was now 5.10am.

I should have simply made myself a cup of tea and started on my blog then.

But I didn’t. I went back to bed.  

I sort of slept, dreampt, dozed and got up reluctantly at 7.30am and started , again to write something.

It proved even worse than what I’d written last night. It was a little whiny. And by a little, I mean a lot. It was truly awful, but it did help in that it got some bad thoughts out of my head onto a sheet of paper which is now deleted ….as are the bad thoughts.

Mam always told us “If you’ve nothing nice to say, say nothing.”




P.S. I’ve listened to Self Esteem’s ‘Prioritise Pleasure’ a LOT this week.

P.P.S. This is an old story I wrote and keep coming back to….

In The Margins  

He was rushing around making sure all of the machines were switched off in the school’s Computer Science room at the end of another Coder Dojo session. Most of the kids had left already and he was looking forward to redeeming a part of this Saturday to himself and getting out to Rossmore Park for a run when Joe popped his head around the corner , “The old bishop is here asking if anyone has a key to the old part of the school ?”. John was a former pupil here in St.Macartan’s College and was trusted with a set of keys in order to host the bi-weekly Coder sessions. “I’m not sure if they open the old locks, I’ll be out to him in a minute.”

He switched off the last computer and the lights before locking the door and went to the front hall in search of the bishop. He found him peering into a display case in the front hall where an old registry of students from 1848 was opened. Despite the glorious weather the bishop was dressed in a heavy black wool Crombie coat and carrying a black hat and a large parcel wrapped in brown wax paper and tied with string. As he raised his hand to greet the bishop he had a momentary panic attack as he’d forgotten how he should address him, “Your Excellency” sounded ridiculous in his head so he went with….”Good Afternoon ,Your Grace, how can I help ?”.

The old bishop smiled, as he manoeuvred the parcel under his hat carrying left arm to free his hand to shake John’s. “Yes, yes, simply glorious day. Are you a teacher here, do you have a key to let me in to the Library ?” This threw John a little, he stood to one side to show the bishop that the library was already open across the hall. The bishop understood his confusion. “I’m sorry,  I should have explained myself correctly. Do you have a key to the Clogher Historical Society Library in the old school ? It was known as the Big Dorm , or St.Macartan’s Dormitory in your day I imagine “. The school had indeed had a few remaining hungry boarders when John had attended in the Eighties.

“ Let’s go see”John offered. The bishop grabbed his arm and held the parcel out to him “If it’s alright with you, I’ll let you put this back for me. I don’t enjoy the three flights of stairs as much as I used to. Silly place to put a library if you ask me, but nobody does any more.” He smiled at John, nodded and left. Everyone else had left too, so he locked the front door of the ‘new school’ and made his way into the old, original building. The first door into the hallway beside the old study hall and the chapel opened with his key. He walked past the old reception rooms and down the long corridor to the wooden staircase and stood for a moment remembering the tuck shop and ‘The Grade’ classroom that at one brief time had been the centre of his life. He made his way up the stairs past the old TV room , the sick bay and the water tower room to the library on the third floor. Again the door yielded to his key.

The sun shone through the many windows on three sides of the enormous room revealing  row upon row of bookshelves full of leather bound old books and spirals of dust dancing in the sunbeams. He was unsure where the bishop had intended to place the parcel so he simply set it down on the nearest desk and wandered through the rows of bookcases marvelling at the ornate and beautiful old book bindings and covers. He’d always had a passing interest in history and simply loved old books .The typefaces, bindings, paper, etchings and the musty smell all added to his fascination and now here he was his senses overloaded and assailed from all sides. Heaven.

He stopped in front of a column of shelves  between two large windows at the very back of the room which held what seemed to be a collection or series of books all bound in the same yellowing tan leather with a small rectangle of purple brocade on the top of each book spine. There was a different Roman numeral on each piece of brocade , sown in a dull gold thread. They all stood to attention on the shelf,   He thought it odd that although the books looked the same, appeared to be a single edition or collection and were all placed together, they weren’t in numerical order. He was drawn to the third book on the third shelf simply because it’s number had faded away and it looked slightly less loved than the others.  He gently edged it out of its place , rocking it from side to side until it was free of the shelf. He turned it over to reveal a completely plain cover with no markings or writing at all and as he opened it a sheet of paper came loose and wafted to the floor. “Crap !” he muttered to himself. “I’m only here two minutes and I’ve mutilated a priceless collection.” He knelt on the floor and placed the book carefully flat so that he caused no further damage. The loose sheet had come to rest on the floor in a pool of sunlight. As he went to pick it up he thought there was the shimmer of an image in the text. He gently picked it up. It looked battered and bruised and even had the appearance of being burnt around the frayed edges . The text looked to be hand drawn but he couldn’t determine what the language was , but it was ancient. There was no image though. He assumed it was a trick of the light.

He opened the book beside him on the floor and sighed with relief when he realised that the paper and text in the book was different to the loose sheaf, so he hadn’t damaged the book itself, someone had placed this loose page there for safekeeping, he assumed. He quickly determined to place the sheet back in the book again and return it to the shelf and head out for his run. Again when he picked up the loose page it caught in a sunbeam and this time he was sure he saw something change on the page. He stood up holding the delicate page between both hands. The image was gone again. He went to the window and placed the page flat against the glass. There seemed to be something faint written in the margin. As he leaned in closer to look the clouds broke and the full glare of the sun hit the window lighting up the page “It’s…..” he was smiling widely “…… a……” he was giddy “…. MAP !”. In the top right hand corner there was the now a clear fingerprint of a thumb. He felt an irresistible desire to place his own thumb on the page’s thumbprint . Everything went a painful screaming white, there was a deafening noise then….there wasn’t.

“My money was on the bishop” he heard a voice in the distance.

 “No, never. He was gradually giving up. I’d always thought when that Lovelace girl couldn’t get it, no one would”  that voice was different, a bit closer perhaps.

“What do you think this one will do ?” the first voice said again. It seemed closer now too.

“I’m not sure . Maybe when he stops pretending to be asleep he’ll tell us.” the second voice started to laugh.

He opened his eyes slowly, rubbing his temple which still throbbed.

He was sitting on the floor , his back propped up against the bookcase , facing two very old and bizarrely dressed people.The room was shockingly bright and he closed his eyes again. The old man spoke first “ Welcome young man, there is nothing to fear, the pain will soon pass. I’m dying to know how you worked out where it was. Did the bishop tell you ? Did he find the Book of Drumsnat ? How did he find out where Para Glas hid the reliquary ? “

“Enough, Aodh !” the old lady interrupted, she sounded older . “Give him a moment. We have all the time we need now.It has been a longer wait than we could have guessed, but there has been so, so much turmoil perhaps it was for the best. To think that after all these years the world will finally know.” She sighed happily. He opened his eyes again, she was kneeling beside him, her hand resting on his shoulder. “How did you work it out ?” she asked gently.

“Who…who are you ?” he stuttered.

“Brigit and Aodh ! Who else would it be ??” The old man answered, laughing.

“Who ?” he asked again.

The old couple looked at each other, puzzled, then returned their gaze to him.

“Maybe you bumped your head and are a little dizzy. You do know how you …”

“Wait , Hugh” she interrupted the old man again, although more gently this time, placing her hand on his arm.” Something is not right. He looks a little frightened and bewildered, not the attributes one would expect in someone who has just fulfilled a lifelong quest.”

She looked concerned as she spoke directly to him “What is the last thing you remember before you woke up here ?”

He sat a little straighter “I found a sheet of paper in an old book and I thought I saw something faded in the margin so I help it up to the light against the window and saw a map and a thumbprint and when I touched the thumbprint everything exploded white and then…….I started to hear you talking.”

“Oh no !” she put her hand up to her mouth “It’s not supposed to be him. He’s here by chance.”

“That can’t be, Brigit, he brought it. Look !” The old man motioned towards the desk near the door where John had left the brown paper bundle.

Brigit looked to the desk and then turned back to John saying quietly but hurriedly “ What is in the parcel ?”.

John blinked again opened his mouth to answer, closed it, blinked again and said “I’ve no idea, the old bishop asked me to leave it here.”

She stood up and grabbed Aodh by both arms trying to hold his gaze as he shook his head from side to side “ This can’t be right , the natural oil from his hand matched the thumbprint, and however he brought it here, it is here.”

“Aodh ! Aodh !” she shouted to get his attention and then in a gentler tone continued “ We do not have time now to work out why, but he is not meant to be here, he said he saw ‘a map’ , if he really knew  , he would have said ‘THE map’. We have to send him back before it’s too late. He is not who we are waiting for.”

They looked down and smiled sadly at John. He was dumbstruck.

Aodh lowered himself to one knee beside him and said quietly “ Well young man, in a moment you will be back in the library on your own. You then have a choice.  This can be a dream blamed on a migraine attack and you can simply leave . But if , when you wake, you unwrap that parcel……..Well, things will never be the same again. Understood ?”

John nodded and Aodh placed his hands gently on each cheek. Everything screamed white again.

He opened his eyes. He was sitting at the desk nearest the door, alone. He looked at the parcel.

He tugged the string.

Author: paul

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