Irish Papist

Irish Papist
Me and General Robert Lee

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Tales from the Darkside: Horror as Comfort Food

I invite you, dear reader, to have a look at this brief video, the opening sequence of the Tales from the Darkside TV horror anthology from the nineteen-eighties. I've been recording episodes off the television. The show itself is no great shakes, but I like the opening sequence.


Over a montage of ordinary, pastoral imagery, a gravelly voice intones these words:
 
Man lives in the sunlit world of what he believes to be reality. But, there is, unseen by most, an underworld —a place that is just as real, but not as brightly lit...a Darkside!

It's hard to describe how much comfort I take from a sequence such as this. It's like eating chocolate in a jacuzzi, for me.

First of all, I love the imagery that is chosen. As I have said, it's rather pastoral, but ordinary. Even "pastoral" might be putting it too strongly. It's the kind of landscape I like the most-- green, (but not "scenic"), and lived-in.

Secondly, I love the words "what he believes to be reality". I've always loved anything that calls into question the world around us-- its reality, its solidity, its very nature. This is why Prospero's "we are such things as dreams are made on" speech is possibly my favourite passage from Shakespeare. Indeed, I love anything that makes us look at the ordinary sights around us with a fresh eye-- it gives them a new dignity. I love books where the cover image has no obvious relevance to the subject-- for instance, my English-Irish dictionary, which shows the image of a rocky beach, through a purple filter.

Watching this montage makes me think of the importance of horror in my life. I've mentioned my horror club several times before. At our last meeting, we discussed how each of us became fans of the horror genre. In my case, I can't remember! I can't remember a time when I didn't love horror, when I didn't feel deliciously at home while watching horror movies, luxuriating in all the imagery and atmosphere of the genre. It feels like home. It feels mine.

I love darkness....and melancholy...and remoteness...and strangeness....and the uncanny...and mists....and shadows...and the whole atmosphere we associate with "horror". It does spook me, sometimes, but even the spookiness is comforting, reassuring.

I loved horror before I was a Catholic, before I was a conservative, before I fell in love with poetry, before I was an Irish nationalist, before pretty much anything else. Indeed, I could write a long post on how my love of horror contributed to all those other beliefs. To me, there is something primordial about lonely moors and ghostly figures and white mist and ominous pub names. It's home. It's in the blood.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Woman on the Bus Today

Copied and pasted from my diary this evening:

I walked to the Merrion Centre, and got a 4.

I went to the top deck and an insanely drunk woman was bloviating and complaining upstairs-- ridiculously loudly and belligerently, while ostentatiously drinking alcohol, and boasting about it. She was complaining about the unfriendly driver, ordering people to open windows, complaining about immigrants, wondering why they would want to come to Ireland, and complaining about people leaving bags on seats. Also complaining about people talking on their phones: "I wouldn't want to be sharing my thoughts with everybody, if I have a call to make I'll make it from the comfort of my home, they must be getting orgasms from this." She was quite well-spoken and mentioned she had worked for Bank of Ireland at one point. She moved up one seat at one point and so was sitting directly behind me.

Her husband was on the bus with her. He was intermittently telling her to shut up, ferociously. He even said he would punch her in the mouth at one point. She was complaining about his mother (in her eighties), whose illness had stopped them from going on holiday abroad. She was talking about a fellow who had (supposedly) an obsession with her, comparing him to Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction, saying she had done nothing to encourage him (her husband pointed out she hadn't deleted his number from her phone), and mocking her husband for his jealousy and his failure to protect her from this guy. Eventually he stormed off downstairs. After that she went silent for  a while.

Eventually, a Pole sat beside her. She started speaking very nicely to him (even though she had been complaining about Poles minutes before), asking him about Poland, and talking about her travels in other countries. She seemed obsessed with travel and called Ireland a "kip". She said her husband was an Elvis fanatic, that they had been to Graceland several times, that if he died of a heart attack she would sell all his Elvis memorabilia and give the money to a children's hospital. She said she was drinking because she had missed out on her holiday, and expected to recoup less than five hundred euro from a two thousand euro loss. When the Pole pointed out we were in O'Connell Street-- the conversation had started by her asking where the bus stopped in the city centre-- she said: "You're trying to get rid of me. I understand." She was suddenly very sweet and gracious and apologetic as she alighted from the bus-- she could be clearly heard from upstairs. But she was still cussing her husband.

Iargúlta

My "leisure reading" is once again devoted to Irish language material, and I mean to continue with this indefinitely.

Since my temper is both sceptical and romantic, I find myself in a bit of a quandary when it comes to the Irish language. The sceptical part of me insists that a language is a language is a language, that no language is any more or less poetic than any other, and that there's no justification for the idea (common amongst Irish language revivalists) that all sorts of spiritual and ancestral virtues would be unleashed if we managed to revive Irish.

In this regard, as in so many others, my romantic side comes out to play...but my sceptical side is allowed a veto, and always makes use of it.

Well, sometimes my romantic side gets out of control. Sometimes I really do fancy that the Irish language is especially poetic-- that there's something particularly soft and melodious about it.

One example is embarrassingly clichéd and touristy-- that is, the phrase Tir na nÓg, pronounced Tir na Nogue. Wikipedia describes Tir na nÓg as "a supernatural realm of everlasting youth, beauty, health, abundance and joy". It features most famously in the story of Ossian.

Well, I'd never been especially interested in the story, and the phrase's use is rather hackneyed-- there's a child-care centre with this name about three minutes walk from my back door. It was also the name of a café about five minutes walk from my back door (indeed, the café was almost as elusive as the real Tir na nÓg, since its opening hours were absurdly limited, and it closed down almost as soon as it opened.) Now, I've always been of the opinion that something being hackneyed doesn't necessarily make it bad, but it does make it (paradoxically) easy to overlook.

Anyway, I found myself pondering the name as I was wandering along, and suddenly I realized what a beautiful name it is-- it's very pleasing on the ear. I'd never really thought about it before. I just took it for granted.

And I also felt a sense of excitement that it was a genuine piece of folklore-- that, once upon a time, people who walked the same piece of ground I was walking would have used it all the time. Again, I somehow had never really thought about that before. It had simply seemed like a name in books (and on shop signs).

Then, today, I was reading a novel in Irish, and I came across an extended introspective passage in which one character ponders her place of origin, and whether it could fairly be termed "remote"-- or rather, iargúlta (pronounced eer-goolta). (A dictionary defines the word as "backward, remote, isolated".) The character is defensive about this accusation, and comes up with several reasons why her home should not be considered iargúlta.

I wouldn't share her defensiveness, though. Although I do have sentimental feelings for Dublin, it has nothing to do with Dublin being the capital of Ireland-- the "big smoke". I always thought it was very boring and obvious to live in the capital, or in any kind of central hub. The idea of living in a far-off, remote place seems much more poetic, much more exciting. (Tennyson wrote: "The words far, far away had always a strange charm for me.")

I love films such as Big Miracle and Whiskey Galore!, set in remote places.

But what a beautiful word it is! Iargúlta. It has a definite magic, and in my opinion expresses the poetry of its concept better than any English word. (I like hard g's, and I like "oo" sounds very much. The long "oo" sound seems to fit, since it emphasizes distance, length-- it even makes me think of the wolves howling outside Castle Dracula.)

This sort of reaction happens quite a lot. Quite often, I come across a particular word in my Irish reading, and my inner sceptic is overpowered for a moment. But very quickly regains the upper hand, and once again my inner romantic is kept in place. So shall it be always. Or shall it?

Interesting Comment on a Previous Post

I recently recorded the rude behaviour of some biddies in my parish, who are passive-aggressively protesting a Nigerian priest's homilies on Saturday mornings, since they think it makes Mass too long. A reader left a very interesting comment:

Traditional Catholics, outside of the British Isles of course, actually stereotype pious Irish Catholics as being willing to attend five Masses a day-Matt Talbot like-as long as they are only 20 minutes long and pious English Catholics as refusing to attend a weekday Mass unless there's incense and polyphony. There seems to be a grain of fact in this, our rector noticed a vast difference in the tastes of "republic" Irish, English, Scottish and even Northern Irish Catholics; strangely: (non-Irish/English) Traditional Catholics put it down as a legacy of the "Mass rock era", but why Irish people, descendants form the Mass Rock penal era would prefer shorter Masses to the English Catholics who are largely Irish descent or descendant from the priest hole penal era is confusing. Vespers is one point though. Even a lot of modern English Catholics like their sung vespers. I've never heard of vespers in connection with a Dublin church, but traditionally a lot had novenas of all sorts to fill the same gap, you might say.

This is interesting to me because I certainly recognize myself in it. Twenty minutes, to my tastes, is the ideal length for Mass. After that, my feelings of devotion flag. I know that St. Josemaria Escriva said: "The Mass seems long because your love is short". Well, it does seem long to me when it goes much over twenty minutes.

For this reason, as well as many others, I prefer daily Mass to Sunday Mass. I would happily attend daily Mass first thing in the morning every day. Well, I could do that now, but I'd have to get up absurdly early to make the 7:30 Mass in Our Lady Queen of Heaven in Merrion Road, before work. (Half-past five in the morning. I've tried in the past and I just ended up struggling to stay awake during the Mass.)

I prefer a Mass with no choir and no hymns (other than a recessional sung unaccompanied), but I like there to be a homily.

The very idea of High Mass makes me feel hot and bothered and tired. This is why, despite increasing irritation at abuses in the Ordinary Form, I'm reluctant to make the jump to Traditionalism. (Well, that and many other reasons.)

I generally like simplicity and understatement. A simple garden shed has always seemed the most beautiful of buildings to me. However, this isn't consistent. I like cinemas to be plush and cavernous, and I like movies to have the highest production values possible, and to make love to the eye.

The comment is also interesting to me because I like the idea of cultural heritage, cultural memory. I tend to be pessimistic about this, believing that a completely homogenized world is just around the corner. Rationally, I know this is alarmist, but I still think it's perfectly rational to resist globalization and homogenization, even if I exaggerate its extent, and even if I underestimate the tenacity of national and local character. A hypochondriac is not being irrational when he washes his hands and puts on sun cream.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Great Video from Millennial Woes on Traditional Morality and Nationalism

To be found here.

Standard disclaimer: Millennial Woes is an alt-right vlogger, but I do not agree with him about race and several other matters.

However, I really love his videos and think he's very wise. He has the Chestertonian trait of being five steps ahead of the posse; he's thought his way past all the obvious stuff already. And, like Chesterton, he tries to get things in perspective and proportion, to see a subject from every angle, to avoid mere debating points and deal with reality.

One of the jobs I've been doing this summer involves lots of work amidst the shelves with a laptop on a trolley. So I can listen to YouTube as I work. I've listened to loads and loads of MW's videos; I feel a bit guilty that I haven't tossed him a few quid (which I don't have). Maybe plugging him can compensate.

I especially like this video about nationalism. Of course, to me, nationalism is about culture rather than about race. But I like his general argument that nationalism has to be socially conservative. Ireland is a country with a strong (indeed, a dominant) tradition of left-wing liberal nationalism, one which never made much sense to me. I marvel that its adherents don't see its contradictions. I don't understand how republicans were willing to fight and die for a nation which, by their own ethos, might become a thing of the past within a few decades, through demographic and social change.

A benefit of nationalism that I think he leaves out; it promotes respect between the sexes, and between the generations. I'm not just talking about the nitty-gritty of procreation here. A nationalist tends to romanticize history and you can't romanticize history without respecting historic gender roles, and the contribution of both sexes to national history. Feminists are often offended that nations are usually spoken about and symbolized as feminine. I must admit that the disrespect in this practice is lost on me.

Also, nationalism tends to promote respect towards the elderly, since the elderly are the custodians of national memory and tradition. Even in our "pictures or it didn't happen" culture, lived memory is irreplaceable. Liberals and progressives may denounce ageism, and may do so in all sincerity, but their ideology itself doesn't have much to offer oldies, or give much reason to respect oldies.

Millennial Woes, I must admit, has been making me feel a bit dejected about this blog. My style is quite similar to his, in that I combine commentary on "big", public issues such as religion and culture with more idiosyncratic, introspective posts. So does he, but he's been much successful in a shorter time. Oh well.

Eucharistic Amazement

Interesting article in The Catholic Herald describing an encounter between Patrick Madrid and a Mormon who doubts that Catholics really believe in the Real Presence, as they don't show suitable reverence:


The Mormon repeated his earlier remark, saying: “I’m not trying to be disrespectful or anything, but I just don’t think Catholics believe what you believe on this issue.” But what he said next was an even larger indictment: “If I believed what you believe… if I truly believed that it is really God himself and not just a symbol, I would fall flat on my face and be prostrate before it – him. I would be so overcome with awe and worship. And I’ve never seen any Catholic show that kind of respect. So… I guess they just don’t believe it.”

Madrid concludes that the Mormon “had spoken a terrible truth so clearly and with such devastating accuracy that it’s all I could think about for the rest of our discussion”. The “life lesson” he learned was that Catholics do not always edify and evangelise non-Catholics; indeed, “We can also dis-edify, discombobulate and de-evangelise them without ever trying… simply by dint of our sheer laziness and complacency and our lack of reverence for sacred things.”


I have to admit I'm disinclined to agree with both the Mormon and Patrick Madrid here, strange as that sounds.

First off, let me be clear; of course I think we should show respect to the Eucharist. We shouldn't chew gum, have our hands in our pockets, or check our mobile phones while going up to receive Communion. No argument there.

But can we ever show the Eucharist the respect, the "awe and worship", that it deserves? I'm inclined to believe that we can't, and we have to be realistic and sober about this.

I speak from experience. I'm always trying to cultivate the "Eucharistic amazement" that St. John Paul II urged us to cultivate, but I've stopped feeling guilty about my failure to do so. I don't think it's really within my control. Our imaginations are sluggish, limited, wayward. Trying to prod one's imagination into a greater response seems rather artificial to me

Surprise and amazement are transient emotions and they can't be prolonged indefinitely. I remember watching an interview with the Beatles in which the interviewer asked whether they were surprised by the level of their success, and added that they didn't look surprised at all. Paul McCartney replied that they were surprised-- but that it was impossible to go around looking surprised all the time. "You'd look mental", he said, pulling an exaggerated surprised expression. I think he's right.

I've often found myself thinking along these lines when I hear debates about the traditionalist liturgy vs. the ordinary liturgy. I agree that the traditionalist liturgy is more reverential, but surely the difference is infinitesimal when we compare it to the mystery that is being celebrated? Sure, it's better to kneel to receive, than to stand. But isn't the Mormon right, and wouldn't lying flat on our faces be even more reverential? Wouldn't it always be possible to come up with something more reverential, or to fault whatever liturgy exists as not sufficiently reverential?

That is why it seems to me that a decent, sober, calm reverence should be sufficient, and why the Ordinary Form seems perfectly fine when celebrated properly.

Some Wise Words from Bruce Charlton

"The importance of Fantasy is that the everyday modern world is one of lies and triviality; so people like myself almost need the Fantasy genre in order to 'exercise' the proper priorities and evaluations."

This reflection is prompted by his reading of the Wheel of Time novel cycle, most of which I've read, but which I'm never going to finish. I rather regret sinking as much of my life into it as I did. It certainly had its moments, but the longer it went on, the more I became disillusioned by Jordan's apparent determination to add plot development to plot development, layer upon layer, character after character-- just for the love of drawing the thing out, it seemed.

Don't get me wrong. I have nothing against long books. The Stand and It by Stephen King were amongst the best books I've ever read. And the sheer length of those books were part of the pleasure. But I felt that they were long for a reason-- their length was warranted. The plot never stalled, and I never felt the author was simply treading water. Everything added something to the story. (Well, almost everything. Let's not talk about the Trashcan Man sequences in the unedited version of The Stand.) The Wheel of Time just felt absurdly bloated to me.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Interest and the Lack of It

Some months ago I wrote a post entitled "What I Believe" and made it a featured post, thinking it would be a good ready reference for anyone who stumbled upon this blog. I can tell from my blog statistics that very few people actually look at it.

This surprises me. I'm always intensely interested in what people believe. It's the first thing I want to know about them, and it usually forms a huge part of how I view them. If I find myself visiting a strange blog, I look for such a credo myself.

But then again, I'm constantly surprised at what people find interesting and what people find boring. For instance, I generally like homilies at Mass. But other people seem to hate them. Some years ago the Nigerian priest in my local parish stopped giving a homily on a Saturday morning. I asked him why, and he said people had complained it made the Mass too long. I encouraged him to resume this practice.

Well, he did, but some of the parishioners (on Saturday mornings) have been practicing a particularly petty form of silent protest against it. When he asks everyone to sit down after the Gospel reading, these elderly ladies remain standing. Last week, he had to ask them to sit down twice.

Not only shockingly rude, but baffling. These same old ladies will sit through any amount of post-Mass devotions.

On the other side of things, the most popular tourist attraction in Dublin is the Guinness brewery. I have no idea why anyone would want to see Guinness being brewed. True, i can't stand the stuff, but that's beside the point. I love brandy, but I have no great interest in seeing that made, either. I'm not boasting about this-- intellectual curiosity is always a good thing, no doubt-- I'm just saying that it baffles me.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

In Praise of Folly

I have a recurring fantasy of taking a cross-- perhaps a large, cardboard cross, reaching above my shoulder-- and carrying it through the suburbs of Dublin, or perhaps even further afield. I wouldn't just stick to the important thoroughfares, the busy city streets. I would drag that cross through every sort of residential area, industrial estate, and shopping centre in the greater Dublin area.

I really think I might do this one day. It might not be a cross. It might be a sign bearing a verse from Scripture.

I wouldn't say anything, unless people approached me. Then I would tell them the purpose of the sign, and try to evangelize them.

I love this idea. Perhaps I would chicken out of doing it, when it came to the crunch. I'm not sure. Do you remember my Kung Fu Buffet song of some months back? I eventually decided to visit that distinguished establishment, accompanied by a friend. I'd aired the possibility of reading my lyrics out loud to the staff. When it came down to it, I kept them in my pocket. I told my friend I'd decided against it, and he said: "Yeah, I knew you would." I didn't know I would. 

So maybe I wouldn't really follow up on my "fool for Christ" idea. But I love the idea.

I've always liked playing the fool, and been very drawn to it. When I was in school, I would go out of my way to cultivate a reputation for eccentricity. When I was about ten or eleven, I would write the word "Homestead" all over my class mates' copy books. Homestead were a brand of economy Irish groceries. Another time, I heard a family member describe how his friend had started eating a paper bag in a bookshop (the bag he was given for the book). I immediately felt I had to top this, and so I went out to a shop with clothes-pegs in my hair.

This wasn't just to get attention. Actually, I don't think it was about looking for attention at all. I wanted to make the world more interesting.

The funny thing is that I'm intensely self-conscious and prone to embarrassment about ordinary things-- such as walking through the wrong door, or pushing a door that pulls open. But when it comes to things that are "off the scale", I rarely feel self-conscious at all, and even relish whatever derision is involved. This is especially true if it has anything to do with beliefs or convictions. I never feel happier than when I'm arguing with a whole room in favour of some unfashionable opinion, or even being laughed at by the whole room. A few months ago, almost everyone in a television studio was laughing at me because I said the Catholic Church has apologized too much. This sort of thing just energizes me.

I like the idea of being a fool for Christ for several reasons:

1) Paradoxically, I think the world only takes something seriously if it sees people are willing to behave foolishly for it, to lose their heads for it. Or, to put it from the opposite perspective, we have an intuition that any given belief system is only vibrant when it produces its share of crackpots.

2) Eccentric behaviour adds to the poetry and colour of life.

3) I would like to add something to the folklore of Dublin, to the city's distinctiveness. 

4) If you are willing to play the fool, you become immune to criticism. It's always best to get the moment of crisis over with as soon as possible. In the same spirit, I always tell new colleagues that I'm a "right-wing nutcase" soon after meeting them for the first time, to get it out of the way, and spare them any shock when I don't agree with their liberal bromides.

But it's more than this, that attracts me to the "fool for Christ" idea. It's hard to describe what I'm trying to get at here.

The big winners in the recent British election were the Democratic Unionist Party. As my non-Irish readers may not know, they are a party founded by Ian Paisley, a rabble-rousing Presbyterian who never apologized for mixing politics with religion. Many years ago, my brother described to me a series of speeches made by DUP leaders, after a similarly impressive election showing. He told me that the first speech was as fiery and impassioned as anyone could ask for; that the second speech took it up a notch or ten; and that he then found himself wondering, as Ian Paisley made his way to the platform, how this living legend could possibly top the two previous speakers. But Paisley didn't say a word; instead, he launched into a hymn without a word of preamble.

It must be at least fifteen years since I heard that story, but I've always remembered it as an example of the phenomenon I'm describing in this post. Because, although I laughed, my reaction was not: "These guys are buffoons". My reaction was: "These guys are serious."

It's still more than that, though...this thing I am trying to describe...

This entire post came out of a train of thought some hours ago. I was thinking about Ireland retaining its Irishness, and whether we really had a national character any more.

And an image came into my mind. An image of a man-- not a particular man, but a composite picture. He was a middle-aged man with fuzzy red hair, and a long fuzzy red beard. He's wearing an Aran sweater, or some other thick and colourful sweater. He's also wearing enormous jam-jar glasses, and staring into the camera with a toothy smile. He's either in a pub, or at some kind of public meeting or book launch. He speaks Gaelic, listens to traditional Irish music, and is willing to launch into a long earnest speech on our national heritage at the drop of a hat. He's a walking cliché, a walking joke, and while he lives Irish Ireland is safe. Alas, I have not seen so much of a photograph of such a man in many many years.  

Friday, June 23, 2017

One Year Since Brexit

Today is the anniversary of Britain's vote to leave the EU.

I think it's no exaggeration to say that this was the public event that brought me the most joy, in my entire life. I can remember the Berlin Wall falling, but I didn't really understand what was happening. I can't actually remember the fall of the Soviet Union.

I'm too tired to write a post commemorating it properly. But it was a watershed moment for me, for two reasons:

1) For the first time in my life, my implicit belief in historical inevitability was shaken. For all my reading of Chesterton, who constantly poured scorn on this idea, I really did believe in historical inevitability. I would have denied such a belief, but I still believed it. I thought that, perhaps, things had changed since Chesterton's day. The juggernaut of ever-greater European integration seemed unstoppable.

2) The reaction of many of my Facebook friends shocked me. They didn't just disagree; they sneered. The British people were idiots. They didn't know what they were doing. They'd regret it immediately. It was unbelievable, apocalyptic. It provoked the same reaction in my workplace. It seemed to me like a reaction conditioned by years of globalist propaganda.

Because I had some EU nerds amongst my Facebook friends, who could write at great length about fisheries and the Treaty of Rome and so forth, I was nervous about getting into a debate about this. At one point, I was so irritated at the sneer-fest that I did post something. However, I blocked quite a lot of people from seeing it, and I kept it very much on a philosophical level. I was surprised and heartened at how many people "liked" it-- quite often, people I never would have expected to sympathise with me on this subject.

I was certainly pushed to the right by the general reaction to Brexit. One reader warned me I had drifted to the "hard right". I guess I have.

Nobody who has followed this blog for any length of time will need me to explain why I was so happy. It had nothing to do with economics and everything to do with national identity, national sovereignty. I am too tired to go into it now, but I have to admit that, in terms of public events, the day of the Brexit result was probably the happiest of my entire life.

Enough

Well, that's enough of Fanny Burney. Borrowing the third volume in anticipation of the weekend, I saw that I was on volume II of the early journals. There are twelve volumes of the main sequence-- and we are missing some of them, anyway.

I think it is the end of my diary reading, too. My own diary is enough.

Back to reading Irish language books, then. My reading life is far too whimsical and wayward. And yet-- it has to be, to some extent. That's what reading is all about. You have to explore and leave the beaten track.

(I've meant to write a blog post on reading habits for some time.)

More on Diaries and the Everyday

I'm still reading Fanny Burney's diaries. They're fascinating. Already I've read her account of a masquerade (I did not realize participants were expected to remain in character, as well as wear the costume), a carriage accident, a storm at sea on a boating excursion (in a town where the women did all the manual labour while their husbands are away at sea, for months at a time), and any number of balls and dinner parties. Even in the 1770s, Fanny Burney was disdainful of Spanish bull-fighting, and expressed surprise it had not been abolished. However, she was also disapproving of Oliver Goldsmith's argument that capital punishment should be abolished for every crime except murder-- and Burney was noted for her humanitarianism.

But I'm not principally interested in the diary as a "window onto the past", or for its record of notable people and events (though that is interesting). In fact, quite the opposite is true; the thing I like most about it is its chronicle of ordinary days. The life of a genteel woman in the late eighteenth century is not so terribly different from my life, or from your life. Somehow, it's this that makes the diary so readable-- it's this that makes any diary readable. As I said previously, it's the atmosphere of the day-to-day, the ordinary, which gives it its charm.

I'm dissatisfied with my efforts on this blog, hitherto, to express my fascination with the daily, the quotidian, the ordinary-- the atmosphere which pervades every good diary. I will try again, now-- and doubtless many times in the future, when I once again fail.

First of all, I should say that  I'm fascinated by the opposite of the daily and quotidian as well. This is one of the reasons I'm so enthralled by tradition. Traditions take us into the realm of the timeless, or the almost-timeless. The sight of a Christmas tree or a Halloween bonfire draws us out of the current of the everyday, and into a kind of special time outside time.

The same could be said about so many other things. We can attain this feeling of timelessness by watching some classic film such as Casablanca or Groundhog Day, or by listening to a classic song or album, or by looking at good pictures in an art gallery. Perhaps to a greater degree than anywhere else, we get it from the silence of a church or cathedral. In all cases, we find ourselves contemplating something which seems to occupy a realm beyond change and transience.

(I've sometimes heard it suggested that we achieve this sense of timelessness in interpersonal love-- "eternity was in our lips and eyes", as Shakespeare puts it in the mouth of Mark Antony, describing his love for Cleopatra. I have not found this to be the case, whether the love was romantic, filial or any other kind. Quite the opposite; the transience of such moments are unbearably poignant. But perhaps other peoples' experience is different.)

Timelessness isn't the only state that contrasts with the quotidian. There are many others.

There is historical time. We slip into historical time when we read a history book, or watch a TV documentary about the American Civil War, or walk through a museum. Of course, I'm not just talking about history with a capital H here-- I mean sporting history, electoral history, art history, and so forth, just as much.

As well as this, there are many other rhythm of time. There is story-time, the sort of time we occupy in a narrative-- whether it's a movie we're watching or an anecdote we're hearing. There's dream-time, the strange current of time we occupy in dreams. There is phenomenon of being "in the zone", being so completely absorbed in some creative activity or problem-solving that we seem to enter another state of being. And there are many more.

The everyday contrasts with all of these-- although I would argue that it's not entirely separate from any of them, but to some extent encompasses them all, as a sea encompasses the islands within it.

How, then, can we describe the experience of "everyday"  time? Well, it's very hard to express. The best way I can try to express it, I think, is by listing the places where I find it embodied, other than diaries.

The daily news-- obviously. I doubt I'm the only person who finds poetry in the daily news. As usual, Chesterton puts it best, in an Illustrated London News article from October 1906: "A newspaper does not exist to give you information; it leaves that low work to encyclopedias. A newspaper exists in order to pass before you a panorama of this wonderful world. When you are growing narrow....it washes you with politics. it purifies you with murders. All the articles are rot. You have not learned any facts about finance or education or military preparations. But you have had a vision; you have seen the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them."

(Just as slow, cloistered days make for my favourite diary entries, slow news days are my favourite news days. I love a day where a street protest in a far-off country is the top headline.)

I especially like news in the form of rolling news headlines at the bottom of a screen, especially when the main content on the screen has nothing to do with the news.

My mention of Chesterton's Illustrated London News article brings me to another example. Newspaper columns, whether in their original context or in a collected volume, are drenched in this aroma of the everyday. The same is true of old periodicals, loose or bound. The passage of time only makes the everyday-ness more striking, and more poignant.

Television shows are another great vessel of this atmosphere-- at least, they are for me. Not all television shows, but television shows which fall into TV Tropes's category of Status Quo is God. Whatever happens in the course of the episode, everything returns to the status quo at the end. This is especially true of situation comedies, like Cheers. Yes, there are significant plot developments, but they are rare. Life goes on, and sufficient unto the day is the evil (or the mishaps) thereof. This gives a sense of stability and security which is very comforting. And it's not only what's on the screen that is imbued with this atmosphere, but the thought of all the millions of sitting rooms in which these shows have been watched, over the years. (For some reason, "The One with All the Thanksgivings", an episode of Friends, is the example par excellence of this for me.)

Chart history is another example. I'm not talking about music history here, but music chart history.

Film review shows, such as At The Movies with Siskel and Ebert, are another example. Film magazines, which I used to read avidly, are another.

Other examples:

Timetables, especially old timetables; school, college, work, trains, TV schedules, etc.

Photographs of street scenes.

Recorded ad breaks from years past, which are now easy to find on Youtube (and which I love).

Old printed advertisements and handbills.

Work meetings, of a routine nature. (I'm one of the seemingly rare people who actually enjoys these, most of the time.)

Public announcements in train stations and airports.

Well, you get the idea. I'm sure you could add many examples of your own. But have I even started to express the poetry of all this, reader? I fear not.