Thursday 27 October 2016

Morality Play

If I could take only one book with me to a desert know the question?
People usually take the Bible or Shakespeare's Complete Works or Middlemarch, War and Peace...Harry Potter...the complete get the drift.
They are anticipating a long stay.

Foolish or not, I would opt for Barry Unsworth's novella Morality Play. 
Set in the late fourteenth century it tells the tale of a wandering group of players. Actors these days are a different species; they earn the biggest bucks, are highly esteemed  and enjoy global celebrity status. We perhaps too often live our lives vicariously through them...I speak for myself...
Their medieval predecessors were social pariahs, itinerant minstrels who trailed their few possessions from village to village, performed in makeshift sets and were often chased out of town. Biblical sketches, ie scenes from the bible and pageants, made up their staple repertoire.

In Morality Play a poor young scholar, a man in Holy Orders, and "well favoured though short of stature ...with nothing but Latin to recommend" him stumbles across such a motley crew. He is in a dire situation... having been caught in flagrante delicto by a husband's ill timed return.... He escapes through the cow shed leaving his good cloak behind him.

Luckily his Latin verses buy him a loaf of bread, a pigskin and a place in the company and he thereby escapes the wrath of a cuckolded husband.

Dwindling audiences and borderline penury prompt the players to introduce and improvise contemporary topics within their theatrical performances, and, happening upon a village where a young woman is accused of the murder of a boy... the players decide to enact the murder. Reconstruction of the murder scene, I think it's called these days.

But something snags, facts don't add up and the reenactment throws up reasonable doubts. Sherlock could learn a thing or too from this crew. Their theatrics point to a different suspect, to other possible victims and to a web of heinous abuse perpetrated by a man high authority.

This is nail biting stuff.

A  must read, must keep , must reread.

Monday 24 October 2016

Penguin Lessons

Am reading The Penguin Lessons. by Tom Michell - a lovely read  for these darkening days.
It transports the reader to Argentina where the author, a school teacher, purportedly and literally picks up a penguin.
The creature is washed up, expiring on a beach after a dumping exercise by an oil tanker in the nearby ocean.
Set in 1976 it depicts a country in crisis....political mayhem, high inflation and social/economic instability... while engaging you in the perambulations of the narrator and his rescued penguin, Juan Salvadora.
The penguin is integrated into a boys' boarding school environment, unlikely as that may seem.
You learn a lot about penguins; their feeding habits , their preening and grooming habits, their physical feats and attributes, their personality.
A charmingly told tale
A distinctive and engaging author's voice
A sense of humour
Highly recommended to pick up this penguin at a bookshop/library near you.


Friday 21 October 2016

Skellig Michael

Knitting rather than writing these days. But here's a lovely picture taken in Kerry from Lamb's Head
Peninsula where I go every year for at least a week..
Skellig Michael in the distance.
Caherdaniel as a holiday destination- magical...

Friday 7 October 2016

Are we nearly there?

The Rear View Mirror

Your eyes would meet in the rear view mirror.
He, strapped in his child seat,
Wearing his teenage mutant hero turtle costume
Leonardo or Donatello or Michelangelo
You can't remember which.
And he'd ask, "How far is it?"
And you'd pretend to know;
"Just around the bend or nearly there."

And years later, still back-seated
But wearing that teenage boy long lost look
Staring out the window at his dreams
Whizzing by and no longer asking,
Knowing your bends were hairpin,
And treble at that.

Now empty grey upholstered seats
And no queries about destination
Or time or speed or direction;
Just him up the road ahead of you
Waiting for you to catch up.

Copyright with Cathy Leonard 2016

Thursday 6 October 2016


I 'm beginning to forget things.

I look at the tiles, hoof-marked
and dog-haired, and say to myself:
"I did hoover that floor today?
 Didn't I?"

I did!

Then she made a dash
for the back hedge
beyond which lay
neighbour's garden shed-
door half-open
Pet rabbit's bob-tail
in the mix.

She came back
tail swinging
hips swaying
feet stamping imprints
on vacuumed tiles.

Or did she?

Or was that yesterday?
Or the day before?
Or last week?
I'm beginning to forget things...

Wednesday 5 October 2016


Orange is a colour that attracts me though I never can wear it!
Between the base chakra and the solar plexis, between red and yellow, survival issues and will. Centred on the reproductive organs it connotes creativity.
I once bought a house simply because it was terra cotta in colour.


It falls between
Sunrise and the beginning

It is transition at the heart
Of all matters changing

It is the letting come
And the letting go

The woman builds a house to contain it
But finds she cannot hold it

It is bliss and aspiration
Some call it flowing

It is that which draws us onwards
If we can let go to it

Tuesday 4 October 2016

The Art of Raising Yeast

I read a beautiful poem in the Irish Times Supplement- The Art of Making Macarons  by Deirdre Daly and it triggered the following poem for me.

The Art of Raising Yeast

Crumble fresh yeast
between thumb and forefinger
Add blood warm water
and a sprinkle of sugar
Cover with bone dry cloth
And wait

Go feed the chickens
Or plant bulbs for spring
Or take the dog for a walk
And watch the tree-top fringed sky
Suffused in its waking blush
That lightens to pink and then coral
Then gathers itself into a tight ball
Intense as a fire-coal, transfiguring
Chimney pots into Disney turrets
Lighting up a sun-bricked path
Through woods where you crunch
Fallen husks underfoot
Cup and stroke cool hard chestnuts
Surprise a squabbling crow
Beneath the Scots Pine
Then emerge from the woods
And scatter grazing gulls
That let fall white feathers as they rise
Brush these across your palm
And feel their oiled nylon tickle

By now the yeast should
Have fermented
And spread like foam
Thrown up by a Spring tide
It may look like freshly whipped cream

Resist - the urge to sample 

Copyright with Cathy Leonard 2016

Monday 3 October 2016

Belated Greetings

Birthdays have begun to straddle days rather than hours. 
This year I received a rendering of Happy Birthday the day before the actual event. 
And another one the day after. 
Cards have been delivered at various intervals.
The only well wisher certain to be punctual with their greeting is probably the phone company..... 
to which I take great personal affront!!
But...... Isn't it grand to allow the festive mood to peak earlier and linger longer


I had folded away my birthday
Face down in a small pile
When the rush
of black- tailed dog
eschewing hall carpet
howling at retreating footsteps
snouting parcel packaging
Declared –Post.
Addressed to me
My maiden name (in parenthesis)
Postmarked UK.

It was a copy of Jane Austen’s
Complete and unabridged
Ribbon- book- marked
Pages -gilt-edged 
Edition- illustrated
Straight from her cottage
parsonage in Chowton.

And inside it
Gold stars
from a wedding you gate-
crashed in Helsinki
and a promise
To email