don’t be afraid

On the wall before me. A blazing neon sign bearing the final words of poet Seamus Heaney – guiding my way on the dark walk home on this November evening.

Noli timere – “Don’t be afraid”

Although I think they might have spelled it wrong. They should have used a Latin spellcheck on this before they committed it to neon tubing. Or maybe that last letter is actually a really fancy ‘e’

Now I’m Googling the phrase to see what the correct spelling in Latin is. This feels a bit Monty Python all of a sudden, as I look through Latin declensions.

Noli timere , Nolle timere. Oh there is dispute on how it is spelled. The plot thickens.

And my mind drifts to a rumour I heard that the building that sign sits upon is Paul McGuinness’ house. The guy who famously managed U2 to mega-stardom. Perhaps he wasn’t a Latin scholar but a fan of Irish poetry (aren’t we all?). Or maybe he just likes neon (don’t we all?)

I wonder if he considered a U2 lyric instead like “In dreams begin responsibilities” Which Bono might well have borrowed from somewhere else. And that inspires me to stick on the album Pop, which is secretly one of my favourite U2 albums. Poetic and melodic and unusual. U2 at their best cheeky arty version of themselves.

And just like that , the time has passed and I am nearly home. Mind buzzing, many miles from ever being afraid.

It worked.

Thanks famous Seamus.Noli timere indeed

A handful of haikus

Many years ago I received the wonderful book The Haiku Year as a gift. It is a collection of non-traditional haikus from 7 friends (including Michael Stipe of REM) all of whom decided to write a haiku every day for a year. It is a beautiful and sometimes surprising collection of short poems that I return to often. I was really taken with it at the time and embarked on the same challenge. I recently stumbled across my efforts in my own haiku year notebooks, where I found these little short poems, many of which still hold up quite well. There’s a bit of silliness in there, and also some slightly more serious, melancholy ones, and even an unfinished imperfection to others – but overall I still feel that they manage to capture something quite nicely in their terse short few lines. Little poetic windows to a specific time and place.

my laziness
was surpassed only by my
oh whatever

My life had finally
Reached the point
That it could be condensed into a haiku

with only enough money for chips and cans
we head off to Coney Island for the day
wide eyed and Irish

Just before I assumed the worst
I consumed the best
steak I’d ever had

all day
I dreamt about
the night before

My cheeks redden
At the thought
Of what I just implied

Try to open your mind
The same way you expect
Me to open mine

like wax
we poured the night
into our pockets

a treasure this great
does not deserve
to be kept a secret

the conversation credits
were starting
to run out

but all of this
is nothing without everything
that came before

Big Night – A tale of culinary creativity

Many moons ago, my dad and I watched a beautiful film called Big Night, which has this remarkable food dish called Timpano as it’s centrepiece. Essentially a massive multi-layered baked pasta drum. We were so taken with it, we tried to make it together one night back then with my friend Jakob, and it was moderately successful. But the experience of making it has stuck with me ever since.

So I had wanted to make it again for decades and this birthday felt like the perfect moment to bring beloved family and friends together to make it , and share in this experience. Myself, Jim, Doug and David spent hours laughing and cooking, as we created exquisite bubbling sauces and ragus, boiled eggs, grilled meats, rolled “polpette” meatballs, sliced salami, made and rolled out huge sheets of pasta dough. We made several feasts that would have fed a large percentage of Ireland. And then we layered all those myriad of feasts into not one, but three Timpanos — one veggie and two meaty.

Into the oven they went, and once baked, there was still an element of doubt that they would come out of the dish in one piece, and when slicing into it, if it retains it’s structural integrity, and comes out in a solid perfect layered slice. As you can see from the photos and videos below, they came out absolutely perfect – a moment of true joy.

Then it was time to taste. I can tell you, they were absolutely delicious. All of them. And on top of that the joy of sharing them with friends old and new over a glass of wine was the real treat.

We then chatted and sang songs till deep in the night. All seated around the gorgeous tables so artfully decorated with care by my brilliant wife, Jessica. She brings people together and draws the best out of them, and today was no different

Inevitably my mind drifted to those who could not be with us and the fire they carried into my life. I thought of my mother who was the same age as I am today when she passed away. She would have loved this , especially the meatball Timpano. I thought of my father who would have been in his element in the kitchen and spinning jazz records on the turntable. He would have loved this, especially the veggie Timpano.

It was a great day. A perfect day. Fun, family, friends. And fabulous food. Most of all, it was an experience I will treasure forever.

Today, I will definitely be eating lots of leftovers and as evening falls, we are going to stick on Big Night and watch it with the kids. They have to carry the fire now and I’m counting on them to make Timpano with me in a couple of years too.