Saturday, 13 January 2018

Welcome to my weekly blog,  SATURDAY SESSIONS!         
In this blog, for the perusal of all our students, past, present and future, I include an extract from our interactive presentation Course, Ireland and its Culture.

           WILLIAM BUTLER YEATS (1865 – 1939) 
           W.B. Yeats is now considered to be amongst the finest poets in the English language worldwide.  He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1923.
            He was born in Dublin into a Protestant family at a turning point in Irish history. His childhood was shadowed by a power-shift away from the minority Protestant privileged classes, as nationalism was growing and Catholics were becoming more prominent.
            This backdrop had a profound effect on his poetry which includes a great interest in Irish legends and mythology but also Irish politics, mysticism and spiritualism.
             He was in love with an Englishwoman named Maud Gonne, but the love was never returned.  Many of his early poems are about unrequited love.  Here is one of them:


WHEN you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;
How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim Soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;
And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Welcome to my weekly blog,  SATURDAY SESSIONS!
In this blog, for the perusal of all our students, past, present and future, I include an extract from our interactive presentation Course, Ireland and its Culture.
If you wish to ask me any question about the text, by the way, just send me an e-mail at

Log Twenty-nine, GEORGE BERNARD SHAW (1856-1950)

          Born in Dublin, Shaw was another household name in Britain and Ireland in the early twentieth century.  He was widely admired  for his sharpness of intellect and his wit and he wrote some engaging plays such as PYGMALION (later filmed as My Fair Lady).
          The prefaces to his plays are often better than the plays themselves, but nevertheless, Shaw was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1925.
          Like Wilde, he played a very important role in changing society through his plays. Victorian plays were usually sentimental and superficial. Shaw focused on the moral, political and economic issues of the time. Like Wilde, he was a superb essayist and a famous critic. 'My way of joking is to tell the truth. It's the funniest joke in the world.'
          Shaw was a committed  socialist and a vegetarian.  'Animals are my friends - and I don't eat my friends.'  He described schools as prisons, deadening to the spirit and stifling to the intellect.  'What we want to see is the child in pursuit of the knowledge, not the knowledge in pursuit of the child.'
          He was a member of a BBC radio panel set up to standardise the pronunciation of words in English - but the venture was a failure because the panellists could never agree!
          His political views, however (a fan of Stalin and Mussolini) and his appalling comments regarding eugenics and population control (not to mention his distasteful sense of self-importance), diminish his stature as a Nobel Laureate.

Some of Shaw's quotes:

1. Those who cannot change their minds, cannot change anything.
2. There are two tragedies in life. One is to lose your heart's desire. The other is to gain it.
3. Why should we take advice on sex from the pope?  If he knows anything about it, he    shouldn't.
4. The liar's punishment is not that he is not believed, but that he cannot believe anyone else.
5. Never wrestle with pigs. You both get dirty and the pig likes it.
6. 'I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play; bring a friend...if you have one.'  (Shaw to Churchill)   'Cannot possibly attend first night; will attend second...if there is one.' (Churchill to Shaw)
7. The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.
8. Success does not consist in never making mistakes but in never making the same one a second time.
9. War does not decide who is right but who is left.
10. He knows nothing, and he thinks he knows everything. That points clearly to a political career.
11. Dancing is a perpendicular expression of a horizontal desire.
12. You don't stop laughing when you grow old; you grow old when you stop laughing.
13. The trouble with her is that she lacks the power of conversation but not the power of speech.
14. Youth is wasted on the young.
15. If you teach a man anything, he will never learn.

P.S. Fintan O'Toole has just published a magnificently-produced book on Shaw; it would make a great Christmas present for anyone who's interested!

Three more notes from the ET's logbook:


a pinpoint of light
in the depth of the darkness
the Earth


the bend in the railtracks
on the platform at the station


rubber on gravel
the crunch of departure
the wake of the sound

Saturday, 4 November 2017


Oscar died in poverty in Paris. He had contracted meningitis which was related to an injury to his ear-drum during hard labour in prison.
          It is said that his last words were (in reference to the wallpaper he hated in the room where he stayed): “One of us had to go.”
          From a long letter he wrote while in prison:
        When first I was put into prison, some people advised me to try and forget who I was. It was ruinous advice. It is only by realising what I am that I have found comfort of any kind. Now I am advised by others to try on my release to forget that I have ever been in a prison at all. I know that would be equally fatal. It would mean that I would always be haunted by an intolerable sense of disgrace, and that those things that are meant for me as much as for anybody else – the beauty of the sun and moon, the pageant of the seasons, the music of daybreak and the silence of great nights, the rain falling through the leaves, or the dew creeping over the grass and making it silver – would all be tainted for me, and lose their healing power, and their power of communicating joy. To regret one's own experiences is to arrest one's own development. To deny one's own experiences is to put a lie into the lips of one's own life. It is no less than a denial of the soul.
from De Profundis

Here are some of Oscar Wilde's epigrams:

1.Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much.
2.Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter.
3.I am not young enough to know everything.
4.The only thing to do with good advice is to pass it on. It is never of any use to oneself.
5.The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.
6.The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible.
7.Whenever people agree with me, I always feel I must be wrong.
8.Work is the curse of the drinking classes.
9.I can resist anything but temptation.
10.Experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes.
11.Only the shallow know themselves.
12.The truth is rarely pure and never simple.
13.All art is useless.
14.Nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.
15.Dull people are always brilliant at breakfast.

16. Punctuality is the thief of time.

Friday, 3 November 2017


The ET's logbook has resurfaced with some more noun-based observations of Earth & Earthlings


after the attack, the silence
terror in the garden
the lawnmower


the opening of eyelashes
the daisy


children in the sunshine
even in Syria

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Welcome to my weekly blog,  SATURDAY SESSIONS!
In this blog, for the perusal of all our students, past, present and future, I include an extract from our interactive presentation Course, Ireland and its Culture.
If you wish to ask me any question about the text, by the way, just send me an e-mail at


OSCAR WILDE (1854 - 1900)

Born near Merrion Square in Dublin, Oscar Wilde was raised in the house which is currently the American College in Merrion Square, directly opposite his famous statue in the park itself.
          At the height of his success as a playwright, Oscar was a household name in Victorian England where he lived most of his life. However, up to the 1960s, the Catholic Irish never dared speak his name - because he was gay!
          All of his satirical plays are still very funny, particularly The Importance of Being Earnest.
          His plays were about 'illegitimate' births, mistaken identities, late revelations and the hypocrisy of Victorian society - but his Victorian audiences loved them! 
          He irritated Victorian society by wearing long hair and having an aesthetic outlook on life: 'I find it harder and harder every day to live up to my blue china.' 
          He often wore a green carnation to remind everybody that he was Irish.
          He then shocked society when he published the famous, The Picture of Dorian Gray, in 1890. This was a Gothic Horror story about a young man who made a Faustian pact that allowed him to keep his youth and live a decadent  life; only the painting would grow old and show the effects of his corruption.
          Wilde was a great essayist and social commentator. In this, he was also ahead of his time, revealing the deep influence of Taoist philosophy in his work.
          Then, one day, Oscar made the tragic mistake of defending himself in court against an accusation relating to his homosexuality.    
          He discovered that he was bisexual later on in life; he had married Constance and they'd had two children. 
          He lost the court case and ended up again in court, this time not as plaintiff, but as defendant.
          Oscar lost the case and was sent to jail to do hard labour for two years. The experience broke his spirit and made him ill. He contracted an untreated infection to his ear-drum in prison which eventually led to meningitis.
          The British public promptly forgot him.  When he was being transferred from a very harsh prison (Pentonville) to Reading Gaol (jail) in London, the people on the railway station platform jeered and spat at him.  That unexpected incident was heart-breaking for him.
          Wilde wrote of his experience of hearing child prisoners crying.  22 children were imprisoned in Reading, including a seven-year-old, sentenced to one month’s imprisonment for setting fire to a hay stack, an 11-year-old who stole a paintbrush, and a 10-year-old who killed a duck. Wilde wanted to commit suicide but the prisoners helped him to stay alive. Indeed, he wrote a famous poem for one of them who was hanged for murder, The Ballad of Reading Gaol.
          After prison, he changed his name, left England and went to France.


Friday, 6 October 2017


dream of the memories
memories of the dream

(for jj)

in flight with the seagulls
on wheels at the seaside
the baby


the abandon of childhood
in the silence of the night
a playground