Making Sense of the World

I’ve been making big maps the past week or two.

I think that it is an attempt to make sense of the world I live in, to nail something about it down so I can look at it and touch. Perhaps it makes me think I’ve some measure of control on it or something like that?

Today I was working on an A0 sized world map marked with musicians/bands from every country.


It is my favourite map so far…not because of anything I’ve done but simply because I’ve been listening to new music from every corner of the planet. Here are 5 tunes I’ve enjoyed listening too so far..

1 Pierre Akendengu (Gabon)

2 Hukwe Zawose (Tanzania)

3 Shoukichi Kina (Japan)

4 Huun-Huur-Tu (Tuva, part of Russian Federation)

5  Los Vikings (El Salvador)



Everybody Ought to Treat a Stranger Right

The wind is beating the trees behind the house and it’s raining.
Still I’m sitting in a nice warm living room in a house built from mortar and brick. My home hasn’t just been flattened by a digger thousands of miles away from the place that was truly home.

I was listening to Blind Willie Johnston singing this gospel song last week.
Blind Willie is preaching the gospel. Preach it Willie!

‘Well all of us down here are strangers,none of us have no home
Don’t ever hurt, oh, your brother and cause him to live all alone

Everybody ought to treat a stranger right, a long ways from home
Everybody ought to treat a strange right,a long way from home..’

big hands

wp-1452600683513.jpgI got a tablet for Christmas.
The last tablet, a Hudl 2  met an unfortunate end on Inis Oírr, bouncing on the laminate floor of Kieran’s house and cracking the screen.
It was a good tablet and I was waiting for Christmas to replace it. But Tesco stopped making them and a Lenovo Yoga 2 was bought instead.

It has an amazing battery but unusual shape.
But what I’ve noticed is that I’m writing less. The change of tapping buttons to screen means that I find it harder to get a flow of words going. In fact the fact that his blog is happening is because I happened to pick up the laptop for the first time in a month. If I was on the tablet I wouldn’t have bothered.

Tapping a screen is less intuitive for my Mars Bar fingers and means that I get frustrated more easily.
This makes me wonder if people with bigger hands have been writing less as technology and screens have become smaller and more a matter of typing?
Are big people less likely to blog or write emails or messages to friends as they are more likely to get tired of the whole process?
It is maybe less intuitive as you have to concentrate more on hitting the right buttons  as your hand gets bigger?

Also is quality of writing likely to suffer as you’re less likely to make the effort to change things?

On the other hand maybe it’s good that blog posts like this are less likely to appear when I’m on a tablet!

But When Shall I paint the Starry Heavens?

‘But when shall I paint the starry heavens?—that picture which is always in my mind? Ah, what the worthy Cyprian says in J. K. Huysmans’ “En’ Ménage,” is very true!—“The most beautiful pictures are those of which one dreams when one is smoking a pipe in bed but which one never paints.” And yet one must tackle such pictures, however incompetent one may feel in the presence of the inexpressible perfection and triumphant splendour of nature…’

Vincent van Gogh


World Cinema No.1, Algeria / The Battle of Algiers

(I am not really one for cinema or film. It has to be something I really want to watch before I commit to a couple of hours of sitting in the one spot.
Still, I’ve been thinking about setting myself the challenge of watching a film/documentary/Youtube clip from every country in the world during ’16. I’m not sure I’ve the will to pull it off but we’ll see how we get on..)



The Battle of Algiers is one of the toughest films I’ve sat through and watched. Filmed in black and white it is set in 1950’s Algeria and depicts the uprising against France.

It is relevant and I guess that is what makes it a tough watch.
Bombs going off in cafes while young people dance and have a good time, soldiers breaking down doors and torturing young men.
Death and violence spiralling out of control.

It reminded me uncomfortably about growing up in Northern Ireland and it reminded me of the recent terrorist attacks in Paris.

So while I found it challenging, engrossing and enjoyed the camera work the cruelty of men and women to each left me feeling a bit depressed.

The needy and the greedy…

This Morning in a hotel room somewhere in Sligo I was watching Jeremy Corbyn interviewed by Philip Schofield and Holly Willoughby about his trip to a refugee camp in Calais.

Someone texted in saying something like the NHS can’t cope with all these people and that they shouldn’t be allowed entry into the UK as it is overwhelmed and that we should look after our own first.

Thinking about it later I got angry.

I am angry that refugees get the blame for overwhelming services like the NHS instead of companies like Facebook, investment banks or Amazon that make vast profits from selling goods in the UK but pay minimal amounts of tax.

The revenue from taxes that could be used to fund social housing or the NHS is denied because companies can be slippery dicks and stick the profits from one country into another country and put it around in complicated (but all entirely legal ways) and suddenly we can’t let Syrian refugees in because we simply can’t cope with them.

So although a vast company like Facebook paid something like £4,500 in tax a year or two ago in the UK nothing much is said about how many lives are robbed of their full potential by individuals hoarding money and wealth.

Perhaps we need to start focusing more on those being greedy instead of the needy? (And that includes me)

The bread you do not use is the bread of the hungry. The garment hanging in your wardrobe is the garment of the person who is naked. The shoes you do not wear are the shoes of the one who is barefoot. The money you keep locked away is the money of the poor. ‘

Basil the Great


The Kernel

Being in Belfast today has brought back some memories of a conference I went to over 10 years that fundamentally alterered my view of church..and not in a good way.

Simply put it was because the men at that particular conference seemed to worship the Bible and venerate preaching and proclamation more than Jesus. It was all about being a Bible centred youth worker.
Looking back that seemed to push a scepticism button in my head that church was often a bit fake, more about traditions and techniques, manipulation and polishing the outside.It seemed to be that if the Bible could be mastered then God could be mastered and controlled as well.
Also the Apostle Paul.He seemed to be more important Jesus.

Today I overheard a group of men in a coffee shop talking and it took me straight back.It wasn’t what they said but more the way it was being said, the attitude, confidence that this way (their way) is the right way.

I know it is unfair to judge people like that but that was my reaction.

I don’t know what else makes Christianity something more than just one more man made religion other than Jesus. He is the only thing that seems capable of turning the world upside down.I don’t know about theological arguments, how the world of Sunday morning at 12am in church gels with contemporary Irish culture but it seems to me that unless Jesus is central then its just men and their churchiosity.

I read this today in some of Vincent van Gogh’s letters.

the Bible which depresses us so much, which rouses all our despair and all our deepest discontent, and whose narrow-mindedness and parlous folly tear our hearts in two, contains one piece of consolation like a soft kernel in a hard shell, a bitter core, and that is Christ.’


I can well understand that you were a trifle surprised to hear how little I liked the Bible, although I have often tried to study it more thoroughly. Only its kernel—Christ—seems to me, from an artistic point of view, to stand higher than, or at any rate to be somewhat different from Greek, Indian, Egyptian, and Persian antiquities, although these also stood on a very high plane. But, I repeat, this Christ is more of an artist than all artists—he worked in living spirits and bodies—he made men instead of statues.’