Monday, April 25, 2016

My bags are packed

The Joni Mitchell song is singing in my head: My bags are packed, I’m ready to go. Of course, I am neither leaving on a jet plane, nor lonesome, nor unlucky in love. Check. Check. Check. Still, it’s a grand song, and the melody - if not the lyrics - are seasoning my thoughts as I pack the intangibles - my memories of my first ever Airbnb stay. I think that I have just enough time to squeeze in a quick blog post - so here goes.

The view on my arrival of the reservoir at Blessington Park - where water used to be drawn for the making of Powers Whiskey. It is at the and of the street, two doors down from where I stayed.

The kindness of strangers who become friends, and maybe even family. One of the treats of this trip was meeting Daphne and her sister Rachel. Daphne picked me up from the ferry - even though we were half an hour late, took me to my B&B, and then we supped together. And chatted. Of course. On another evening, Rachel drove me home. I will have to tell her about Kinga's theory of Shamrock driving. Next time we meet. After all, Rachel & I did some of that.

The view from my window of Blessington Park.
Of course it wasn't always sunny, as my soaked hat can attest.

My first "picnic" shared with Peter and Daphne from Dublin & Donna from Boston.

Roasted Roots - the first dish I made with a dish that the owner of the B&B instantly supplied after I grumbled (a little) about how few containers there were to cook with.

Part of the meal I cooked yesterday.A wilted spinach salad dressed with tahini, lemon, maple syrup, salt & pepper. Simple - and thanks to Sabrina who introduced me to the cooking of Anne Jones (and also gave me the cute containers to bring tahini & maple syrup from home)..
Shortly, another of my Dublin friends will be here to pick me up, so it is time to pack up my computer. There are literally minutes to spare. The two of us are heading up to Armagh, and the Armagh Museum, and then for the next five days I will be in the loving care of Maureen Oliver. My heart soars.

PS For Vanessa - this is the coffee mug I used every day:

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Aren’t you done yet?

I am channeling my inner Laurie McConnell – a friend who is fearless in the silly selfie department. Read on, and my choice of this as opening might make sense.

Much of this project, that I embarked on a decade ago, in totally naive innocence, is akin to a game of Whack-a-Mole. I hammer down one peg, and up pops another. Am I done yet? Obviously not. I still want to make sure that I don’t find out something in the eleventh hour that substantively shifts the course of the narrative - at least the part that I have assembled so far.

One of what I call My Great Unknowns is that I still can’t find Sir Thomas JACKSONs farm in Co. Kildare. A few years ago, I did find out that Patrick Lynch, the Kildare farmhand who he hired in 1892 to manage his Cavananore farm in Co. Louth, came from Lughill, Parish of Monasterevin, Co. Kildare. That locale might be a clue. A few years ago, I listed all the townlands in Co Kildare where Jacksons  lived or owned leases, not that there were any compelling slam dunks. After spending the past two weeks in the Deeds Registry in Dublin, I have many more names and places to add, and will update that page when I get home. Perhaps the truth will turn out to have been staring me right in the face all along.

Part of why I keep pursuing this question about the missing farm is that it might help to explain some other aspects of Thomas’ early childhood. It might even be linked to the reason why his father lost the lease to their Co Leitrim farm in the late 1840s. That happened when Thomas was about seven or eight years old. He and his parents, and brother and sisters ended up moving back in with his grandmother. His father was reduced to managing his mother’s farm, surely not a moment of triumph for him.

Then there is the question of the shovellers – the birds that Sir Thomas had on his heraldic arms when he was first knighted and then made a baronet.

Jacksons - three shovellers
This crest is connected to the JACKSONs of Doncaster. Both the motto and the birds are also present in other JACKSON crests.
Crest of Jackson of Stanstead
 This is Sir Thomas Jackson's arms: ARMS: Ermine on a pile azure between two fountains in base proper a Sheldrake or. CREST: Upon a fountain proper a Sheldrake or. MOTTO Aut Mors aut Vitoria (Either death or victory).
.Does the inclusion of these birds – they are not common -  mean that Thomas’s family were related to the Jacksons of Forkhill, Co Armagh, or did his family merely believe that they were related – without any proof? Or – a third possibility - did the Chief Herald who designed the crest simply decide that the birds were a good fit? Unfortunately, there are no records of the why of this decision, but we do have a written record from 1912 where Sir Thomas referred to himself and the Forkhill Jacksons as kin. It amounts to a smoking gun, but no cigar. Not yet.

At least one line of the Irish shoveller JACKSONs, if not all of them, descended from a Rev. Richard JACKSON (1603-1689) of Kirkby Lonsdale, Westmorland. Not only did he sire twenty plus children with two wives, but he also went from being totally down on his financial gums in the 1640s, to ending his life as a decidedly a wealthy man in 1681. How did that happen? Part of it was likely thanks to the money made by his sons in Ireland.

In the mid to late 1600s, William Jackson, who owned significant holdings in a handful of townlands in Coleraine, was reputed to be a bit of a buccaneer. He felled trees on land that wasn’t his and then sold them, and he also harvested fish without a license and sold them as well. He also stacked the votes on the local Council. That’s probably only the half of it.

One of William’s younger brothers, Samuel JACKSON, seems to have been a successful builder and property developer taking advantage of the post-Cromwellian reallocations of lands. At the time of his death in 1706, at Mary’s St. in the City of Dublin, he was worth more than 30,000 pounds sterling, and also had extensive holdings in Counties Meath, Monaghan, and Dublin. His sister-in-law, Susan Mitchelburn aka Jackson aka Beresford died on the same day that he did – he died in the morning, she in the afternoon. She was the widowed wife of his brother William, and was also the estranged wife of the much celebrated Col. John Mitchelburn of Derry fame. What is more, she died at Samuel’s home on Mary Street, where the two of them had lived with a houseful of servants.

Samuel left all his lands to various brothers and nephews, and most of the bequeathed estates stayed intact in the extended family until well into the late 1800s. Even the seemingly improvident marriage of the fifty-four-year-old Abigail Jackson to the twenty-seven-year-old Oliver Crofton, didn’t diminish the family coffers. She ended up with most of the lands after her brother Rev. Robert Jackson of Tatham’s death in 1726, but Oliver got his hands on none of them. It seems - so far - that none of Samuel Jackson’s money found its way into the pockets of Thomas’ branch of the family, unless they lost their share of it somewhere along the way. There is a family story of an ill fated card game where Thomas g-g-grandfather is alleged to have bet the farm in the early 1700s, and lost. That would fit.

Now, if Sir Thomas was related to these Jacksons of Westmorland, then at least one more question is especially tantalizing, given that Sir Thomas became a world-renowned international banker. Was Thomas related - in any way - to the John JACKSON who was Oliver Cromwell’s treasurer? This is not as big a stretch as it might seem since one of Rev. Richard’s many sons was a John Jackson who apprenticed in London as a goldsmith. He might have been a tad young to have assumed the post as Treasurer, but perhaps one of his uncles was also named John Jackson and he worked for him. If so, it would go a long way to explaining how the brothers were able to lay claim to such choice bits of land in Ireland in the mid-1600s. In a few weeks, I plan to visit the Goldsmiths Library in London to see what else I can learn.

All this being said, I do realize, that at some point, very soon, I will have to draw a line in the shifting factual sands, and then say - with as much finality as I can muster - I am done… at least for now.

My page of Jackson Crests is due for a major update when I get home in June. This coin is one of many bits that will be added. This coin was used by a Sir George JACKSON in 1795.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

In-My-Pocket 2016

Whenever I travel,  Kinga always says, put me in your pocket. So, I do. Here are a few snapshots of a day with Sabrina & Mauricio in Manchester. The morning after I arrived. I awoke to the delight of a tall glass of orange juice, freshly squeezed by Sabrina, as well as coffee & porridge made by Mauricio. Although I had endured a full 24 hours of travel the day before, this made me feel like I didn't even have a twinge of jet lag left (this turned out to be utterly deceptive, albeit delightful).
Porridge made with freshly toasted seeds, various grains, Greek yoghurt, tahini, and maple syrup. Yum!
A century ago, the flat that they rent used to look like this. Their part is in the building on the lower right hand side:
John Heatherington & Sons 1896. SOURCE: Wikipedia. Creative Commons.

Behind the archway in the lower right hand corner of this photo, there is a space where Sabrina envisions possibly making a garden. We named it The Shy Garden - a name which arose out of my misreading of a sign which was advertising about-to-be-built apartments with Sky Gardens.
A future "Shy Garden"?

Next, was a visit to their studios, a short walk from their home.
The ever talented Sabrina builds furniture, and writes music.

These are some of the drums she uses - usually with resonators placed on top.

A recent draft of a  composition written onto scrolls on the wall.

Next, after more walking, was Dim Sum at the Glamorous Chinese Restaurant - that's what it is called. Totally excellent food.
Just so you can see that I too was at the Glamorous Chinese Restaurant. Buddha Buddha!

Later, at a fruit and veg stand we met a fourth generation vendor. A photo of his grandfather selling veg in the same spot in 1928 was further off to the left.

In the photo behind the vendor is the image of him working in the same spot as a boy.

Back at the apt, there is a copy of an old photo of myself in my mid-twenties on Sabrina's fridge. Now that is cool, in so many ways.
There is also an old poster which I had passed on to Sabrina more than a decade ago. There are two women in it, both straddling their motorcycles and both smoking. Beneath them is quote from Charlotte Perkins Gilman: Among the splendid activities of our age the nuclear family lingers on, inert and blind, like a clam in a horse race.  Gilman (1860-1935) was a writer, feminist and social reformer who was also famous for her short story, The Yellow Wall-Paper. It may be time for a reread. I read it at least four decades ago. Even so, when I reflect on it, I figure that maybe our particular clam didn't fare too badly in the nuclear family horse race. So far, so good.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

What I take with me

My eldest daughter mocks me – lovingly – about the amount of stuff that I tend to haul with me when I venture forth on my annual (or semi-annual) trips to Ireland. She does have a point– especially given my three score years and ten. Mum, you didn’t bring a cedar plank to cook salmon on, did you? Well, yes, I did, and I could explain, but I promise to refrain.

In some ways, the most important bits that I bring with me on my trips are invisible. They remind me of the ritual in Margaret Wise Brown’s famous children’s book Goodnight Moon. For example, I always bring with me my last sight of the mountains from the ferry as I head towards Horseshoe Bay on my way to the Vancouver Airport.

On the morning that I left, I also photographed a framed poem that Andreas and I have in our bedroom. It was written by John Newlove. We constantly need his reminder. You can see me in the reflection on the glass, which is fitting.

John was wise, but he was also a wild and crazy man. I will never forget driving him home from a party at our place in Regina in 1980, when he was drunk enough that it seemed to him to be a very good idea to try to kick out my windscreen while I was driving, and the temperature outside the car was 30 below. I can’t recall if he didn’t succeed because he was still recovering from a broken hip sustained while falling off a bar stool, or whether that broken hip came later.

Regardless, John was also capable of being the soul of utter kindness. He and Susan hosted us when our new digs were not yet available in the year that we moved to Regina – not an easy feat since the two of them lived in a modestly sized apartment, and we had a one-year-old in tow. Most mornings, he and I sat together with my daughter at our feet, while our spousals were out in the world, as he watched his habitual morning game shows on TV. He got all the answers right, and would shout them out before the contestants on the screen had a chance to hit their buzzers.

This poem of John’s – one of his many brilliant poems - speaks to me on a regular basis, so I had to bring it with me, of course, along with a bit of candied ginger, orange bitters, and pink peppercorns for making cocktails. The essentials. John would understand.

I'd like to live a slower life.
The weather gets in my words
and I want them dry. Line after line
writes itself on my face, not a grace
of age but wrinkled humour. I laugh
more than I should or more
than anyone should. This is good.

But guess again. Everyone leans, each
on each other. This is a life
without an image. But only
because nothing does much more
than just resemble. Do the shamans
do what they say they do, dancing?
This is epistemology.

This is guesswork, this is love,
this is giving up gorgeousness to please you,
you beautiful dead to be. God bless
the weather and the words. Any words. Any weather.
And where or whom. I'd never taken count before.
I wish I had. And then
I did. And here
the weather wrote again.

The last little bit of my Goodby Moon rituals, when I leave by air, is always the Black Canoe. I like to sit with it for a bit, after I have checked my bags at YVR. If you do this too, if you stop to sit by Bill Reid's sculpture, and if  as you do, you ever wonder about the sheen that you can see on the Old Mouse Woman’s nose, it is because that is the most favoured place for travelers to touch before they depart. It brings them luck.

Thank you Old Mouse Woman. Thank you John. This morning as I natter on, a week after I left home, I am finally free to honour the slower life. At least for a bit.