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Irish Eyes

By Mattie Lennon

Senseless Censors and Pocket Science

It has been said that every editor should have a brother who is a pimp. To give him (the editor that is) somebody to look up to. Should every censor have a similar sibling?

There is a World Day Against Cyber censorship. It is celebrated every year on the twelfth of March . Should there be a world Day against the other sort of censors? My namesake, the critic Michael Lennon wrote that Ulysses was, "Not so much pornographic as physically unclean......” I am not in a position to agree with or contradict him. Because despite numerous attempts over the years I have not yet got to Molly Bloom’s “Yes I said yes I will yes.” Of course contrary to popular belief Ulysses wasn’t ever officially banned in Ireland so ninety-seven years after its publication I can’t blame the censor for my lack of erudition in that area.

However, though I am reluctant to use the word “victim”, for more than three score years I have been a soft touch for “censors” of various hues. Although in most cases I took Sam Goldwyn’s advice to, “Don’t even ignore them.”

As a bus inspector I once submitted a report on a complaint from an irate passenger. I had transcribed, verbatim, his objection which included many expletives, known in polite society as “the vernacular of the soldier.” My Divisional Manager asked me to change the wording, explaining, “I can’t ask the girls to type that. “

As fifteen year old, due to strict parental supervision, I was obliged to devour the exploits of The Ginger Man, Sebastian Balfe Dangerfield , and his fantasies about Miss Frost, in the semi-darkness of the cow-house in remote west Wicklow. While “the shelves of Patrick Kavanagh’s library” were the hedges of his small farm at Shankaduff my book collection was kept on the wall-plates of a thatched byre which lacked diurnal illumination. By the time I got my hands on “Goodbye to the Hill” a neighbour had moved out, his cottage was empty and I could savour the carryings on of Paddy Maguire around Ranelagh and Rathmines in relative comfort.

A wise man once said that if you want something to last for ever you should either carve it in stone or write a song about it. Although I grew up within spitting distance of Ballyknockan granite quarries I am no stone-cutter. But I did on occasions make a feeble effort to record local happening in ill metered verse. Court cases were threatened more than once but , sadly, didn’t materialise . And before you ask . . . I haven’t ever been prosecuted under the Obscene Publications act.

My verbosity didn’t escape censure either. My olfactory organ, you will have noticed, has a Grecian bend. And what, you may well ask ,has that got to do with censors? I didn’t acquire my nasal fracture through walking into a wall, falling down, or being hit accidently. No. It happened in Blessington fifty-five years ago when a civic-minded man, head-butted me on the grounds that I had been using un- parliamentary language in the company of females. The ultimate in censorship I think you will agree.

When my one-act Play, “A Wolf by the Ears” was staged by an amateur drama group in Kildare the producer removed just one line. “In case there would be somebody sensitive in the hall “, he said.

I have no way of knowing when I will be finished with censors but I know when it started. I was eight years old and it was 1954. The year that Sean O Faolain was commenting on the powers that were and their criticism of crossroad, dancing, V-necks, silk stockings and late dances. To this list of debauchery was added mixed bathing and advertisements for female underwear. And either close dancing or bikinis was a passport to Hell.

One Sunday my mother arrived home from first Mass with news. The curate, in a stentorian voice only a few decibels below that of a Redemptorist Missioner had warned the congregation against “turning over the pages of the rags of Fleet Street.” Despite her less than perfect eyesight my poor mother managed the decipher the small print on the back pages of my Beano and Dandy which showed that they were printed at D. C. Thompson’s outpost in Fleet Street. Dennis the Menace and The Bash Street Kids weren’t actually banned from the house but my father reckoned it was “the thin end of the wedge.”

My parents were unanimous in their belief that the relatively young Curate was well qualified to set the moral compass for the youth of west Wicklow. And why wouldn’t he; wasn’t his father a Guard in Bray?

* * * * * *

Pocket Science with A “Cats” Connection

In the rural Ireland of yesteryear one didn’t hear any complaints from women about the lack of pockets in female clothing. Younger women could carry their handkerchief in the sleeve and a housewife was able to carry anything from eggs to potatoes or cabbage in the upturned multi-functional apron.

But in the words of W.B. Yeats, things have changed, “Changed utterly.” In recent times many ladies will be heard to complain about the lack of pockets to hold mobile phones, Tablets, and many more appliances to which the female of the species is heir. A solution has been found: Sharon Doyle, now based in Florida, worked for sixteen years at General Mills in Cedar Rapids. She told me,

“I quit there and got into buying and fixing up properties to sell. My husband decided to retire early so we could spend part of the winter in Florida. He sold his business, and I sold my houses so we could be freed up. Not working was not a good thing for either one of us.

Our only hobbies were biking and going to the gym. It's pretty hard and eventually boring trying to fill up your day with just that. There was a show on TV back then called Donny Doitch's Big Ideas. It was all about people who had or were in the process of inventing something. I kept telling my husband "you're smart; you should invent something so we have something to do." So, God used the weak and foolish instead (me).

I have always been pretty active, walking, going to the gym etc. I had all of these shorts and pants that had elastic waist band, and no pockets. Nowhere for me to carry Kleenex, chapstick, keys etc. I also did not like the options for cell phone carriers, so I was trying to figure out something that would accommodate my phone also. It seems to be true; necessity is the motherhood of invention. Initially I thought I would just try to figure out something I could rig up for myself. I tried using clips at first, but they weren't anywhere close to being strong enough. Magnets came to mind for some reason (God); it just kind of grew from there. Needless to say, I give all the credit to God. He has continuously put people and opportunity in place all along the way. So many stories I could tell, too many to remember. So blessed, and so thankful. I received a patent after 6 long years."

When Sharon’s husband told her that she was smart she didn’t let it go to her head or rest on her laurels. No. She founded Pockets Plus. I wondered about her surname so, of course, I asked. Sharon put me wise,

“My husband's (Kevin) great -great -grandfather immigrated to the US from Kilkenny on a ship from Cobh. He settled in Oxford, Iowa, and began farming. The story goes that he often talked about the Kilkenny Cats, a team he missed and had fond memories of.

Kevin and I went to Ireland for our honeymoon, and spent 3 weeks exploring the beautiful country side. We stayed in many people's homes (B & B). Some pretty chilly mornings at times, but the incredible hospitality more than made up for it!”

Pocket Plus is a portable pocket that was designed to attach over your waistband and stays secure with magnets – no need for a belt or belt loops. Pocket Plus will attach around the handlebars of a bicycle, strollers, walkers, wheelchairs and even golf carts. It comes in three sizes. A great, inexpensive gift idea for someone of almost any age. Details on the Pocket Plus

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Wicklow athletes will be competing in the Special Olympics in Abu Dhabi in March

Shown in photo: Graham Hillick, Rukky Atiyota, Aisling Beacon, Padraig Reilly and Paul Condren in attendance at the Special Olympics Ireland official launch Team Ireland for the 2019 Word Summer Games at the Carlton Hotel Tyrellstown in Dublin. My old friend Padraig Reilly is second from right.

See you in April.

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