Glencomeragh in August

Glencomeragh in August


báisteach, fearthainn, ceobhrán,brádán,ceathanna, múrtha, scrabhanna báistí, aimsir cheathach,aimsir spairniúil, craobhmhúr (agus neart eile) – Irish words for Irish rain

Often it is said that “Eskimos” have fifty, or a hundred, or hundreds, of words for snow. I had vaguely picked up that this was discredited … although it turns out that only the “strong version” of this is debunked.

A recent tweet by Peter Reason asked:

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>.<a href=””>@RobGMacfarlane</a&gt; and others, is there a word for that lovely soft sound the rain makes as it falls on vegetation? Not really a patter, not a hiss, not really a murmur. Or do words fail us here?</p>&mdash; Peter Reason (@peterreason) <a href=””>July 29, 2018</a></blockquote>

The twitter exchange that followed didn’t establish an English word, but it did lead me to this Irish Times letter from 2006:

A chara, – Although I enjoyed Frank McNally’s discussion of the Irish language and rainfall (An Irishman’s Diary, May 25th), I feel he seriously underestimates the accuracy with which Irish can reflect “meteorological reality”. He mentions that Eskimos may have up to 49 different words for snow and feels that the Irish should have accumulated a similar number of words or expressions describing rain from “centuries of sodden experience”.

A perusal of Ó Dónaill’s Foclóir Gaeilge-Béarla reveals that we Irish have no shortage of expressions when it comes to describing precipitation. Rain may simply be described as “báisteach” or “fearthainn” but the story does not end there. The words “ceobhrán” and “brádán”, of course, describe drizzle or misty rain and one might also say: “Tá sé ag draonán báistí” The expression “tá sé ag dríodarnach báistí”, although not contained in Ó Dónaill’s dictionary, also describes this type of light rain. “Ceathanna”, “múrtha” or “scrabhanna báistí” describe showers of rain while “aimsir cheathach” or “aimsir spairniúil” describes showery weather. The word “craobhmhúr” is also useful in describing scattered rain or a light shower.

“Breacbháisteach” describes occasional rain (presumably of the type that causes difficulties with windscreen wipers) while rain blown on the wind (of the type that gets your trousers wet no matter which way you point your umbrella) might be described by “seadbháisteach” and, come to think of it, “seadbhraonta” might also cause problems for those wipers.

Unfortunately, the type of rain described by “spréachbhraon fearthainne” (a sprinkle of rain) was not that experienced by most of the country during the past month and the following may be utilised instead to describe this heavy, torrential rain: “batharnach”, “clagairt”, “clagarnach”, “dallcairt”, “forlacht”, “gleidearnach”, “stealladh”, “tuile” or “tabhairt mhaith báistí”.

Or why not “péatar”, “liagarnach”, “ragáille or “bús báistí”? In Munster Irish “ag cur foirc agus sceana” corresponds to “raining cats and dogs”, while in Connemara this might be expressed as “ag cur sceana gréasaí”. “Ag cur balc báistí” might also be heard in Ulster. “Ag cáitheadh báistí”, “tuile liag”, “caidhleadh”, “clascairt” or “léidearnach báistí” would also useful here. It may in fact be the case that we more than match those Eskimos and their snow

Finally, although Ó Dónaill translates “báisteach leatromach” as “local rain” this is almost certainly the kind of rain “meant for the guy beside you at a football match but deflected on to you by his golf umbrella”.- Is mise,

BREANDÁN Ó CRÓINÍN, Roinn na Gaeilge, Coláiste Mhuire gan Smál, Ollscoil Luimnigh.


“A leader for whom silence was a virtue” Sudhir Hazareesingh on Charles De Gaulle

It seems a bit of a truism to describe Charles de Gaulle as an extraordinary figure, but truisms are no less true for being true. It is hard to know which episode of his political career was most compelling; his sheer bloody-mindedness in rising from relative obscurity and defying the contempt of his soi-disant allies to become the incarnation of Free France, or his approach to the Algerian Crisis. And it is often forgotten that the biggest demonstration in Paris of May 1968 was in support of de Gaulle.


As this TLS review by Sudhir Hazareesingh of a new biography of  De Gaulle  states, his reputation has only grown until he is now “celebrated by the entire French political class”:

During his remarkable political career, he twice rescued his country from disaster: first through his bold leadership of the Resistance after France’s defeat by the Nazis in 1940, and later by his skilful handling of the crisis provoked by the Algerian war of national liberation. As the founder of the Fifth Republic in 1958, he redesigned France’s political system along presidential lines, and his shadow has loomed heavily over all his successors (on his official photograph, Emmanuel Macron’s most prominent talisman is an open copy of de Gaulle’s War Memoirs). Once reviled by liberals and progressives for his authoritarianism, and by the extreme Right for his anti-fascism and anti-colonialism, de Gaulle is now celebrated by the entire French political class. Indeed, le grand Charles has become the nation’s most revered historical figure, with thousands of streets, schools and public squares across France bearing his name. His vision of Frenchness has reshaped his compatriots’ sense of their collective self, and of their country’s rightful place in the world. To understand de Gaulle, in sum, is to appreciate what it means to be French, both intellectually and emotionally.

The most interesting part of this review is the next paragraph. It is hard to know how “a leader for whom silence was a virtue” would get on in the age of Twitter. Although perhaps it would be a highly effective approach to the babble of our time:

However, any attempt to reconstruct the Gaullian mindset is fraught with challenges, as Julian Jackson recognizes in this wonderfully poised, erudite and captivating work. This was a leader for whom silence was a virtue, and impenetrability a defining quality. He tended to keep his innermost thoughts to himself, and often made conflicting observations to members of his entourage – simply to gauge their reactions. He was an inveterate producer of myths, framing grand idealized narratives that distorted the French past, while systematically exaggerating his role and belittling that of his rivals and adversaries (many wartime documents of his Free French movement, and even his own collected speeches and notes, were later doctored). Moreover, as Jackson notes, de Gaulle was riddled with “extraordinary contradictions”. He veered between buoyant optimism and crippling melancholy, calcu­lating rationalism and ethereal mysticism, selfless abnegation and narcissistic egotism, shameless opportunism and obdurate inflex­ibility (fittingly, his surname was derived from the Flemish word for “wall”). To this list might be added his greatest paradox: he loved France, but was contemptuous of the French – a characteristic example of the Gallic intellectual preference for idealized abstraction over empirical reality.

Every gravestone tells a story: from Drangan, Co Tipperary

Every gravestone tells a story: from Drangan, Co Tipperary

Graveyards are full of stories. Thomas Grey’s Elegy in a Country Churchyard captured this decisively in poetic form – so much so that any subsequent poem seems a pale shadow.

In Drangan, Co Tipperary, in the Slieveardagh area -a village which like Cloneen has no Wikipedia presence –  I came across this:

It is irresistably poignant to read of this man whose parents died within days of each other in 1919 (?of the Influenza Pandemic) when he was one or less. And he himself died on the 71st anniversary of his mother.

There are other stones with stories there. I am wary of intruding on grief … but here is one with a rather jollier story to tell:

“But to simply withdraw does not provide the way forward, for we then take our hurt or tired self with us”

From ” “Dare to Journey–with Henri Nouwen (Designed for Influence)” by Charles Ringma”

We need to resist making unhelpful distinctions where we play off one thing against another. Prayer, for example, is not opposed to work; and the search for solitude is not opposed to active involvement in our world. These seeming opposites belong together. Prayer leads to work, and work needs to be done prayerfully. Similarly, solitude is not simply a withdrawal from the world in order to be renewed and refreshed. It is also finding a new center of inner quietness and certitude from which we act in the midst of a busy and demanding world.
Nouwen expresses the seeming paradox in this way: “The movement from loneliness to solitude is not a movement of growing withdrawal, but is instead it movement toward a deeper engagement in the burning issues of our time. This seeming contradiction finds its resolution in the fact that we can lose ourselves in our much-doing but cannot find ourselves simply through withdrawal.
In our much-doing we lose perspective, lose our energy, and more importantly, lose our creativity and sense of humor. We thus begin to carry the world on our shoulders and soon become overwhelmed or disillusioned. But to simply withdraw does not provide the way forward, for we then take our hurt or tired self with us. Rather, the movement to solitude is to find a renewed self, and from the center of being loved and nourished we can again enter our world with purposeful engagement and joyful detachment.

The wisdom of silence

Adam de Ville has a particularly good post on Eastern Christian Books on Terry Eagleton’s book on sacrifice. This is an especially rich post covering a range of topics… but I will only quote a brief excerpt which echoed with this post inspired by a phrase of George Steiner’s from “The Portage to San Cristobal of A H”:

In addition to his work on Marx, Eagleton has also read Freud (and Lacan, inter alia) very perceptively, which most people today seem incapable of doing. This allows him to say–without, alas, developing it to the extent I wished–that the silence of the Father faced with His Son on the Cross “may be compared to the silence of the psychoanalyst who refuses the role of Big Other or transcendental guarantor” (41). (One thing it took me a long time on the couch to realize was that such silence was not neglect or lack of interest on the part of the remarkable woman who was my analyst. It was, rather, the very condition of freedom, and a very necessary reminder that the responsibility for the authorship of our lives must not mindlessly be handed over to others, tempting though that often is for many of us–cf. both Fromm and Winnicott on this point–as well as Adam Phillips.)

The lost world of Enno Aare

Continuing from my profiles of the work of Amity Cadet and Ana Olgica , I thought I would focus on another artist, once legendary, now only known by a fraction of their life’s work.
Unlike Amity Cadet, there exist some non-Spotify online traces of Aare’s existence, an interview in which he refutes the absurd and insulting thesis that he does not exist, that he is some kind of “fake artist.” Aare articulates a purist approach to a musical career in the age of streaming playlists:

So the excess trappings of the music industry are social media, websites, CDs, records, and live performances? You take a hard line on this.

EA: I see some of these guys at the farmer’s market selling CDs out of their cars, and I’m like, pfff, this guy is a sellout, a complete fraud. I knew this one guy in college who made a tape and spent, I don’t know, an hour designing a cover for it? With a band photograph and a logo? And he listed his email address on the back? Like, ooh, I’m so important I think people should email me. Man, I just shake my head. What a waste of energy.

CP: And so the only appropriate venue for music is a Spotify playlist?

EA: Basically. Yeah, when you get down to it. Put me on a playlist, and that’s all I need. That’s music in its purest form. I never even considered putting my music online anywhere, but these Spotify curators are just relentless in their pursuit of creating the best playlists. I was so stupid I didn’t even know you could “curate” music – I thought that was like an art thing. But when they told me my four songs could exist in a free-floating, context-less, non-corporeal environment for the benefit of people falling asleep with their earbuds in, I couldn’t say no. I told them, “This is what I’ve been waiting for. This is my moment. Sign me up.”

Unlike Amity Cadet, however, Enno Aare is represeneted on Spotify by not one, but four works. On YouTube we find three:

In my previous posts I showed how Amity Cadet and Ana Olgica were both profound, emblematic artists, whose presence on playlists entitled “Classical Chillout” and such may mask their visionary artistrry. A hint to the importance of Eeno Aare comes in the interview linked to above – the phrase “for the benefit of people falling asleep with their earbuds in.” For Eeno Aare was a psychonaut, a surfer of the extreme waves of human consciousness, whose surfboard was a piano, and whose Jaws was that most secret, most  private act, sleep. 

Enno Aare, born in Estonia in 1960, emigrated from the Soviet Union to Israel with his parents in 1975 . They were in Israel only a few months before relocated to Rochester, New York. There Aare’s parents took up roles in The University of Rochester’s Medical School; his mother as a clinical lecturer in anaesthetics, his father as an associate professor in physiology. The Aares both had an academic interest in sleep. They associated themselves with the radical sleep researcher Pietro Corriola. Corriola is one of those figures ignored by the internet , who were highly influential in their day.


Corriola, born in Ravenna, was based in the Northeast Ohio Medical University   Here he devoted himself to whole-hearted opposition to the work of William C Dement and his creation, The American Sleep Disorders Association. Corriola was implacably opposed to Dement’s focus on REM and classifying sleep stages with electroencephalography.  Corriola was not opposed to the physical investigation of sleep per se. Indeed, he proudly identified himself as one of the “Moruzzi school of physiology”. , having trained under the Italian neurophysiologist who connected sleep and wakefulness to the reticular activating system



Despite this, for Corriola,sleep was to be considered metaphysiocally as much as physiologically. Sleep was not to be considered some kind of pathological deviation from normality, but an arena in which the mind floated free of the tyranny of wakefulness. Corriola was horrified by the reductionist approach to dreams and dreaming. For him, the prevalence of sleep disorders was a mass revolt against the medicalisation of sleep.

The Aares enthusiastically took up this cause. In a series of pamphlets, papers, monographs, letters to journals and book chapters they argued for a metaphysical science of sleep which would move beyond a merely neuroscientific paradigm. Corriola, following years of intellectual isolation in the USA (although his ideas had a warmer reception in Europe) was delighted with this sudden upsurge in interest. AS the 1980s dawned, and Corriola’s career entered its twilight, it seemed his legacy was secure. On a April 23rd 1980, this changed.

That day’s edition of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle revealed that the Aare parents were not in fact doctors of either medicine or physiology. It was implied that their credentials were Soviet forgeries, and the possibility of KGB infiltration was left hanging unspoken

This was officially discounted, although questions were also asked about the rapidity of the Aare’s move from Israel to the USA. In any case, their careers at Rochester were over. Suddenly, 21 year old Enno, freshly graduated Eastman School of Music, was the provider for his parents. He played piano in hotel bars, in wine bars, in cocktail bars, in piano bars, in leather bars, in singles bars, in racetrack bars. He played piano in what non-bar venues he could find work in. He did some work as a session musician. He played on jingles and on children’s TV shows. He played weddings, funerals, Bar Mitzvahs and any other ceremony in which a pianist could conceivably be required.

The 1980s wore on. Enno Aare played piano every day of every week, with no break. He began to despise the world of music, the so called “industry” but also the so called “art.” He began to despise the egotism, the narcissism, the celebration of the self. He recalled his parents’ lofty, idealistic work on sleep – the entry into a purer world, one without the stifling, corroding influence of the ego.

He despised the studio, despised the production of physical recorded music. He dreamt of a way his music could be untethered from the apparatus of the logistics of the industry he despised. He also began working with his parents on ways of using music to ease the passage into the blissful world of sleep. His parents were now spending 20 to 23 hours asleep a day, waking only for some nutrition, hydration, and relief of bodily functions. In a few snatched moments he would show them his music, written in a notation of the family’s own devising, for their approval.

When, years later, the MP3 file ruptured the link between a piece of music and a definite, physical object, Aare took note. This was not quite his dream, as there still was a physical infrastructure required for the file, to be “downloaded” and “shared”, words which captured the inherent physical nature of the file. But it was a start.

It could not be said that Spotify is the complete realisation of Aare’s dream of a pure music untethered by any physical reality, lulling the listener into the world of sleep. For one thing, a physical instrument is still required, and physical apparatus still required to stream the song. It was, however, a significant advance. And, sadly, the day Spotify was launched in Sweden – 23rd April 2006, the twenty-sixth anniversary of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle story which changed their lives for ever – Eeno Aare’s parents died in their sleep.