Monday, February 27, 2006


Growing up in Hail Holy Catholic Ireland, Hell was a very immediate and scary place.

Though Woolly Days would have been hard pushed to tell you exactly where it was, it had to be on a signpost somewhere. Pointing Down.

Buried deep below, somewhere beneath the molten crust lay a hot fiery realm where firefighters dare not go and Lucifer, the fallen recidivist angel, ruled.

He was the devil and he came equipped with scaly horns, an angular face ideally suited to deep throaty evil laughs, a scalding hot trident, and he had a tail too.

This misbegotten monster was the honcho of a horrible heaven’s oven which is exactly where Woolly Days would end up, baked for an eternity, if it didn’t behave.

Though Ireland is a country of cool, damp temperate climate, the prospect of spending eternity and beyond in the cosy warm fireside of hell was not enarmouring.

The word hell itself is short, sharp and ominous. Barely a small round ‘o’ short of a greeting but a long way shy of a welcome, however warm.

Its stunning reality and half conceived scariness allied to the immediate but just out of sight location made it the stuff of boyhood nightmares. Of course, we all grew older and wiser and geology told me enough about the Earth’s core to dispel the likelihood of a Middle Earth address for Hell.

Though it also confirmed the centre of the planet was an extremely hot place. The temperature at the core is several thousand degrees Celsius.

Alas such an environment combined with the great pressure is singularly unsuitable for a flame-ridden hotel of lost souls let alone have planning permission for all the fire escapes.

And so Hell drifted back into the imagination in search of a more hospitable home in the universe. It remains part of Catholic Orthodoxy but its geography is now a matter of conjecture. The damned are homeless pending an official enquiry.

Meanwhile, the fans of Galatasaray FC in Istanbul have put their home ground forward as one of the candidate sites. Welcome to Hell.

Elegy of an Ipswich Graveyard
The car careers past crosses at speed
fleeting crops of a body dump looms near
my daughter pipes up in inquisitive wonder
“Daddy, is Princess Diana buried here?”
In my head two conflicting emotions flicker
I laugh and guardedly tell her “no”
Her bones are the property of Public Grief Incorporated
Who have nothing better on offer to show
But I’m also disturbed by a child’s fascination
With a cold icon of the toilet paper press
Who worship the patron saint of Imagedom
And pronounce the gospel according to Couldn’t Care Less
And as these one dollar pages throb with misery
A tear factory canned and bottled for mass presumption
Disney fascination of the stupidly incredible
enjoying nimby death is the common consumption
So can I be honest and answer her question
Or will I deflect this longing with a knowing smirk
Dare I confront her energetic quest
Or frustrate her with the bureaucracy of a parental clerk
There is right and wrong and honeyed nothing
There is a sleeper policy dancing on the eyes
Throwing down the curtain on this morality play
Licking the ice cream off these saccharine lies

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