Saturday, October 1, 2011

Static - for a while

This morning, for the first time since, almost three weeks ago, I was on the ferry to Venice, I am feeling sufficiently relaxed to essay a blog post. Since my landfall at Venice I have been more or less continually moving. This had not been my intention but, in my case at least, the circumstances of travel have been mind altering.  I had not expected the drive across Italy into France to be as easy as it happened to be.  Arriving in France early in the evening of my first day of travel towards Ireland encouraged me to abandon my original plan, to move gently north and west, in favour of a new plan; to reach my chosen objective, Ireland, as soon as possible.

Shortly after emerging from the Mont Blanc tunnel I turned of the main road and booked into the delightful Aiguille du Midi at Les Bossons near Chamonix.  Delightful in every respect but accordingly expensive, providing further encouragement to hurry on.

On the outskirts of Laon, a mediaeval town I have long wished to explore, I booked into an adequate if utilitarian hotel, equally expensive as the Aiguille du Midi but considerably less delightful.  I would have liked to stay at Laon for a while and may, one day, make a dedicated visit but this time I had resolved, with some regret, to press on.

Only four days after leaving home, at about two o’clock on 16th September, I drove out of the shuttle train into the bright and sunny Eurotunnel terminal at Folkestone.  Shortly after I was enjoying, in an old haunt of mine, the Rose and Crown at Elham, a delicious pint of Kentish ale.

Since the idea of making Ireland my ultimate destination first entered my head, I had intended to visit en-route my sister in Scotland, a diversion made easy for me by having family and friends living at strategic distances along the way.  An so it was that I broke my journey north at Canterbury, Boston and Glossop.

After spending four pleasant days with my sister I took a two hour catamaran ferry trip from Troon to Larne.
Ireland surprised me. I had expected it to be little different from Scotland, it is not, after all, so far away but it felt very different. Heading for the Giant’s Causeway I drove north along a beautiful coast road that snaked between the sea on my right and a patchwork of small, neat fields on the rolling hills on my left.  Near Bushmills I booked into Islandcorr Farm B&B, which should have been an ideal base from which to write, sketch, paint and dream but, tired and disinterested, I did none of these things. I did however get some much needed exercise. During the morning of what was reported to be the warmest day of the summer I walked north along the lower coast path at the Giant’s causeway to the point at which it has been closed.  In the afternoon I walked the whole of White Park beach, a huge stretch of tide washed sand on a part of which cattle were contentedly loitering; something I had never seen before.

From Antrim I headed, on a dreary and sometimes wet day, west and south through Derry, Donegal and Leitrim to Sligo where I loitered to pay my respects to Yeats.  From Sligo I drove on through Mayo and Galway arriving in the early evening of 29th September at the Burren, County Clare where I have taken for a while a small, very basic, but adequate cottage.
Needing adequate ‘gear’, a waterproof coat and hat, and a means internet connection here I spent my first full day at Ennis, Clare’s largest town where I found everything I needed.
Ennis, in common with every town I have driven through in the Free State, is a wonderfully colourful collection of small independent shops and bars.

This is not much of a post and is certainly not the kind of post I hope to be making while away on my search for whatever it is for which I am looking but I wanted to have it out of the way; to clear the way perhaps for the kind of introspective posts I had come here to Ireland in part to essay to make.


Barry Williamson said...



Throughout your blog, including the account of your recent hurried translation to Ireland, you write in the first person singular. Indeed, in a recent paragraph of average size, you use the personal pronoun ‘ I’ nine times. Apart from being somewhat repetitive, this gives rise to the impression that you live and travel alone.

However, you do have a partner, your companion in life, and not least she is with you in your current search to discover what it is you are searching for, in Ireland.

Perhaps the beginning of the process of becoming more open whilst being more introspective might lie in greater honesty. You may well need to confront the truth of who you are, how you live and what you wish for yourself in your remaining years. You might also begin to understand your need to create a mythical world in which you do not live, and why you do so in such a public arena as a blog.

There is also a problem with calling yourself a writer, albeit a writer with a block. Other people may call you a writer, if that is their opinion. It is a different matter to claim the title for yourself. Can you be a writer if you have no track record of recognised or published writing and with no access to informed criticism?

By definition, writers write best when not blocked. What interest can there be for others in essays about being blocked, when blocked?

One of several problems of ‘blogging’ is that it too easily gives the ‘blogger’ a false notion of their own ability to write, photograph, draw or paint. It is far too easy to present to the world a false persona. Where are the teachers, the tutors, the examiners, the critics? The whole blogging atmosphere is one of condoned, and shared, amateur ignorance, coupled with naive philosophy, non-contextualised quotes and attempts at stereotyped travel writing and photography.

John Foster said...

Thank you for your comment which has much to say that is both valid and illuminating.
If I have understood you correctly, a dangerous assumption perhaps, you are critical of my writing in the first person singular. My argument against your criticism, with no disrespect intended to Elisabeth, is that I do live and travel alone. Furthermore I believe
that, notwithstanding pleasant companionship along the way, from the beginning to the end of their life journey all humankind are essentially continually alone. Until it can be reasonably proved to me that there can be such a thing as synchronized and mutually communicative, interchangeable minds, I shall continue to believe in this state of aloneness.

You write of a blog being a public arena. Inasmuch as the material is available for anyone with an internet connection to find and read I can but agree with you that it is, but no one is obliged to do so. I
do not advertise my blog address. I have no cause to. To only family and a few close friends who have asked for it has my blog address been passed directly by me. I have no idea how other folk who have visited, and in some cases left comments, came to read my posts. I enjoy, of course, those comments that suggest the commenter has taken
some pleasure from my post but I also enjoy critical comments that may help me to write better and more interesting material.
And so to the inappropriate, in my case, if familiar paragraph in your e-mail; the one you used almost verbatim in your e-mail to the dog woman. It is inappropriate because I have never knowingly claimed to be a writer and agree wholeheartedly with your belief that no one who has not been published in a recognized form has the right to take on
the title. Oh, and by the way, I do not remember having claimed to be in any way ‘blocked’!

Finally, there is perhaps a grain of truth in your closing paragraph but what does it matter? I believe that anything any individual does that can be construed as creative will say something about them.
‘Publish and be damned’, an excellent phrase coined apparently by the Duke of Wellington, still holds good enough for me.

Sean Jeating said...

Ahem. It takes Barry Williamson Esq. many words to utter that – except of him – most if not all bloggers are [expletive deleted].
As Karl Popper might have thought with a sigh:
To attack a man for talking nonsense is like finding your mortal enemy drowning in a swamp and jumping in after him with a knife.

Having written above lines and by doing so proving (?) to be impolite, arrogant, nitpicking and unpleasant a contemporary, I am a writer, by the way. May be not good a writer, but anyway, a writer.

And now, with a big smile: Enjoy each moment, John. Just do it.

Andrew said...

Interesting... The post and indeed the comments. They make me want to ask things but I think I will desist. They certainly make me want to read on, and I will. We are all alone for all our lives John, I agree, as islands, but with little fragile and temporary bridges available to exchange some partial thoughts. I am glad you have allowed a few partial thoughts to cross to me on such a bridge.

Andrew said...

And cattle on a beach? Surely very unusual.

Claude said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John Foster said...

Thank you Claude. Do not be too concerned about adverse comments, they can be inspirational! I have known Barry for long enough to be aware of any foibles he might have and it will take rather more than his critical comments on any of my largely inconsequential blog posts to lessen the love and respect I have for the man.