John O My Life So Far - Tuesday 31st May 2022

Old Age Attendeth Me! Now in my 79th  and physically fit, down to the gym every day for an hour or more.

My brain is starting to malfunction; my doctor has referred me to the NHS to see a neurologist; the NHS reckon it will be 52 weeks (February 2023) before I get an appointment! 

I have had four operations to remove cancer tumours from my bladder; I went for the fifth operation in March. It is only mild cancer, but a persistent one, as new tumours will continue for as long as I live. Not handicapping me in any way, et al. l, but have to go into hospital every four to six months to have the new tumours burned off.

Before the last operation (21/3/2022) at the pre-op assessment, I asked that the catheter be removed at the latest the morning after the op; this was agreed. However, they wanted to keep the catheter in for ten days after the op. I was not having it, as it is totally unnecessary and wearing something stuck up your dick is painful, and the pain does not stop until the catheter is removed. They refused, so had to invoke, ‘ NHS Right to Discharge, (NHS You have the right to discharge yourself from the hospital at any time during your stay in hospital.), so they made me sign the ‘Self-discharge’ form, removed the catheter and escorted me off the hospital premises.

 As a youngster, I read and enjoyed poetry, a line that stuck in my mind,’ That no life lives forever; That dead men rise up never. It never made sense to me as a youngster, but now it does. I was baptised a catholic and believed in catholicism for most of my youth but abandoned it for Atheism in my early twenties.

 I have been sending the below around to those people, both in and out of prison, whom I consider friends.

In solidarity,

John O

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Come Sleep! O Sleep, That Certain Knot of Peace

The baiting-place of wit, the balm of woe,
The poor man's wealth, the prisoner's release,
Th' indifferent judge between the high and low.
With shield of proof shield me from out the prease--
Of those fierce darts despair at me doth throw:
O make in me those civil wars to cease;
I will good tribute pay, if thou do so.
Take thou of me smooth pillows, sweetest bed,
A chamber deaf to noise and blind to light,
A rosy garland and a weary head:
And if these things, as being thine by right,
Move not thy heavy grace, thou shalt in me,
Livelier than elsewhere, Stella's image see.

Philip Sidney: (1554 – 1586)

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My Exit From This Life - (Dido’s Lament)

Darkness Shades me, 
O Death on thy bosom let me rest,
More I would, but Death invades me;
Death is now a welcome guest.
When I am laid, am laid in earth,
May my wrongs create
No trouble, no trouble in thy breast;
Remember me, remember me, but ah! forget my fate.

(Lyrics Nahum Tate (1652 - 1705), set to music by Henry Purcell (1659 – 1695)
Memorable vocal rendering,  Janet Baker, https://rb.gy/v5tvn2

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No One lives for Ever and Dead People Rise up Never

Here, where the world is quiet; Here, where all trouble seems
Dead winds' and spent waves' riot doubtful dreams of dreams;
I watch the green field growing for reaping folk and sowing,
For harvest-time and mowing, a sleepy world of streams.

I am tired of tears and laughter, and men that laugh and weep;
Of what may come hereafter for men that sow to reap:
I am weary of days and hours, blown buds of barren flowers,
Desires and dreams and powers and everything but sleep.

Here life has death for neighbour, and far from eye or ear
Wan waves and wet winds labour, weak ships and spirits steer;
They drive adrift, and whither they wot not who make thither;
But no such winds blow hither, and no such things grow here.

No growth of moor or coppice, no heather-flower or vine,
But bloomless buds of poppies, green grapes of Proserpine,
Pale beds of blowing rushes where no leaf blooms or blushes 
Save this whereout she crushes for dead men deadly wine.

Pale, without name or number, in fruitless fields of corn,
They bow themselves and slumber all night till light is born;
And like a soul belated, in hell and heaven unmated,
By cloud and mist abated comes out of darkness morn.

Though one were strong as seven, he too with death shall dwell,
Nor wake with wings in heaven, nor weep for pains in hell;
Though one were fair as roses, his beauty clouds and closes;
And well though love reposes, in the end it is not well.

Pale, beyond porch and portal, crowned with calm leaves, she stands
Who gathers all things mortal with cold immortal hands;
Her languid lips are sweeter than love's who fears to greet her
To men that mix and meet her from many times and lands.

She waits for each and other, she waits for all men born;
Forgets the earth her mother, the life of fruits and corn;
And spring and seed and swallow take wing for her and follow
Where summer song rings hollow and flowers are put to scorn.

There go the loves that wither, the old loves with wearier wings;
And all dead years draw thither, and all disastrous things;
Dead dreams of days forsaken, blind buds that snows have shaken,
Wild leaves that winds have taken, red strays of ruined springs.

We are not sure of sorrow, and joy was never sure;
To-day will die to-morrow; time stoops to no man's lure;
And love, grown faint and fretful, with lips but half regretful
Sighs, and with eyes forgetful weeps that no loves endure.

From too much love of living, from hope and fear set free,
We thank with brief thanksgiving whatever gods may be
That no life lives for ever; that dead men rise up never;
That even the weariest river  winds somewhere safe to sea.

Then star nor sun shall waken, nor any change of light:
Nor sound of waters shaken, nor any sound or sight:
Nor wintry leaves nor vernal, nor days nor things diurnal;
Only the sleep eternal In an eternal night.

By Algernon Charles Swinburne

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'British Troops and Catholicism Out of Ireland'

I John O, was conceived out of wedlock sometime in September 1942, in an ally back of a dancehall in Sparkbrook, Birmingham. Both the participants were from Belfast, Northern Ireland. Male (dad) was a Catholic, female (Mother)a Protestant. They could not get married immediately as dad's mother was adamant that her son would not be allowed to marry a Protestant. So, mum had to convert to Catholicism before the wedding. There was nothing to stop them from getting married in a registry office, but my dad was too much of a pussy, to oppose his mum. Mother gave birth to me in May 1943, in the upstairs front room, of the house in Hall Green, Birmingham, where she was living.

I was only in the world for fourteen days when I got my first taste of the anti-irishism of the English state. I was baptised as Sean Ó Raghallaigh, when my parents went to the Birmingham registry office, to register the birth. They were told that Irish names could not be put on an English birth certificate. Parents created a fuss and insisted on speaking to the senior clerk of the registry office. It was to no avail; the officer was racially abusive and stressed they either anglicise the name or fuck off. Faced with that my name on the birth certificate was changed to John O'Reilly, the Anglicised version of Sean Ó Raghallaigh.

Birmingham, 1943-53: Three sisters followed after me in quick succession. The house in Beechfield Grove off Beechfield Road, Ladypool, was a typical council house, with two small bedrooms, no indoor bath or toilet and the lighting was gas. This was the standard for all council houses in Birmingham at the time. It was just on the edge of Sparkbrook, a vast Irish slum, though no Irish families except for ourselves lived in either the Grove or road. None of the Brummie kids, (all white English, no Jamaicans or Asians) were not allowed to play with us because we were Irish. The only other kids we got to play with were our cousins, Rose, Kathy, Sean, Nora and Pat, when ether they came to visit. A lot of the time, the cousins were homeless, their mother would sooner drink the rent than pay it to the landlord, and they could end up staying with us, till they found new accommodation.

Our father had no time for us, went to work, came home, ate his supper, and immediately went down to the pub. Never played with us or took us for walks or to the local park. Saturday night was always bath night, as there was no indoor bath, we used an aluminium bathtub, water boiled and poured in, then in went two youngest, Jean and Pat, after they came out, my sister Lee and I went in, after that dad and last mum, water was never changed, all six of us washed in the same water. Life then was reasonable; the job dad had did not pay a lot, so once we were off to school, mum took cleaning jobs in the extensive Irish digs that surrounded the area. We only got new clothes when the ones we were wearing either fell off our backs or outgrew them and could no longer get into them. When I say new, I mean new to us; they were usually cast-offs from better-off kids, available in the local rag market or pawn shop.

So, ten years passed, pretty healthy, typical family life. Not that we knew it them, but the lives of my sisters and myself were about to take a turn for the fucking worse; in hindsight, I can say we were about to be hit by a hurricane. My dad's mother, Granny O'Reilly, was feeling very lonely, all her kids (our aunts) had fucked off two to England and three to America, and none of them would come to visit her, she did have some kids in Belfast, but they would have nothing to do with her. So, she enticed dad back to Belfast, and bought him a house and a horse and cart so that he could be self-employed. When the news was given to us that we were going to Belfast to live, we cried solidly for three days; we did not want to leave Birmingham. However, does anyone ether listen to kids?

Belfast 1953: It was a fucking disaster from the day we arrived when we got to the new house in Fairview Street, it was not fit to live in, and the furniture, which we had sent ahead of us to Belfast had not arrived. So, we had to go and stay with Uncle Frank, granny O'Reillys brother. He lived in the market area of Belfast, another slum, and the house was tiny. There was no room for us, but there we had to stay, all six of us sleeping in the same bed. Uncle Frank Cullen, and his wife Annie, were the two dirtiest people in Belfast. They never washed from one week to another. Dirt was engrained into their faces and bodies. Frank would work for weeks/months on end; he was a street hawker once he had accumulated enough money. He would book into a local working men's hotel that served alcohol put all his money on the counter and instruct the proprietor, to throw him out once the money was used up. He would get roaring drunk, visit his relatives, including us, and give speeches from Shakespeare's tragedies. He knew them all by heart every line and never missed a word. A very unwelcome side of these visits, he would always at some stage vomit onto the floor or piss himself. Aunt, Annie, was a sadist, loved torturing children; if they had a packet of sweets, she would always take half of them away for herself, leaving the children in tears. The louder they cried, the more she enjoyed it. That lasted three months, and we finally moved into the house in Fairview Street; the street was a mixture of Protestants and Catholics and was right next to the Shankhill, where Catholics were not allowed to live!

“Vanity of Vanities", thy name is Sister Mary Cecelia. A member of the sisters of Mercy, Crumlin Road convent. The fuckers had a funny idea of what the word mercy meant. Many of them taught school, and their 600 pupils came from one of the most deprived areas in Belfast, Carrick Hill. All the kids were in rags and very seldom saw new clothes. Families were large, and once a child grew out of something, it was handed down to the next child. If a child appeared in the classroom wearing hand downs, the nuns would drag them to the front of the class and ridicule them. Corporal punishment was still the rage in all schools, and those fucking nuns were very adept at it. Their particular favourite was to use a Twelve-inch ruler, with which they rapped the knuckles of the school kids, often until they bled.

Family life started to take a nosedive; dad's mother, Granny O'Reilly, hated my mother; nothing unusual in that as she hated everybody, but mum was a handy target for her. Every day, she would come to the house and vilify mom to the ninth degree, making life as miserable as she could for her. Throwing in her face daily that she had bought the house we were living in. Dad now started working as a street hawker, selling fish, fruit and vegetables off the back of his horse and cart. In the winter Coalbrick, (A solid block of coal slack, mixed with tar, then treated with steam to cement the mix). Lee, Jean, Pat and myself, still kids, were forced to prepare the fruit and veg and gut and clean the fish. This we had to do before going to school or after we came back. We had to do this in the backyard of the house, even in the winter, no matter how cold it got. Our hands would be covered in chilblains, sometimes bleeding. This we had to do without pay. I had ulcers by the time I was eleven. The family grew by two, Michael in December 1955, and Tommy in August 1959; they had a much more normal upbringing than the rest of us.

As I left Belfast in 1996, I missed the start of the troubles, which despite the 'Peace Agreement', continue to this day. In 1970 a mob of Protestants from the Shankill invaded Fairview Street and ordered all the Catholic families out. They were giving them two hours to remove their belongings from their houses onto the street. The Catholic families had no option but to comply, and as soon as they removed the furniture, the Protestants set fire to the houses, making them uninhabitable. My family, all seven of them, spent the next two years eating/sleeping in one room, no toilet/bathroom before being given a house on Unity flats. One of my brothers and a sister had to leave Belfast, my brother getting too much attention from the police, and my sister too much attention from the British Army.

Protestants and Catholics, Sectarianism and Racism: I had not lived in Belfast for more than six months and had no idea of the divisions between Catholics and protestants, but soon found out the hard way. The protestants beat the fuck out of me for being Catholic; the Catholics beat the shite out of me for being British; within six months, they kicked my broad Brummie accent out of me. Moreover, when in 1955, my mother failed to get a separation order from my father, she started beating the fuck out of me on an almost daily basis, for being the reason she had, had to marry.

 Now in Belfast, I got to meet my parents, parents and families. My mother's father (Grandad Scott) and family were uptight/upright Protestants. Fathers, family all Catholics and lumpen to the ninth degree, apart from my dad's father (Grandad O'Reilly), crude and uneducated. Both my grandfathers were to have a powerful influence on me. 

Grandad Scot was a proud Ulsterman, considered himself to be Scottish/Irish, traced his family; back to the Plantation of Ulster, 1609, organised colonisation (to bring about Ireland's religious reformation, never happened) Ulster by King James 1of England. I used to visit Grandad Scot every Sunday; he was a naturalist and knew every animal that populated the country as well as the flora. He was not a bigot in any way but did disapprove of his daughter taking the Pope's shilling. He explained to me the iniquities of the Catholic religion, never raising his voice to make his points. My questions on what he was saying were numerous, but his patience was solid, answered all my questions, making the case that the Catholic religion had been bastardised over the centuries. More to the point that the Catholic church was larcenous, more interested in gathering wealth to be spent on the clergy/bishops/popes. Moreover, very, very little going to the poor and needy, so little, it did nothing to alleviate the misery and suffering of the masses of all countries, where Catholicism was the dominant religion.

Grandfather O'Reilly, utterly different as you would expect. Traced his heritage back to the Princes of East Breffni 909, in County Cavan, southern Ireland. He was a great and prolific letter writer. He used to take me on trips to Dublin, in particular, to visit Glasnevin Cemetery to visit the graves of Ireland's Glorious dead. Throughout the Easter Rising in Dublin in 1916: nearly 500 people were killed, half of them civilians. Most of them were buried in Glasnevin; he knew many of them. He joined as it came to be known at the time as the "Irish Republican Army", which combined forces of the Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army and took part in the Easter Uprising of 1916. In 1921, when Ireland was partitioned, he burned a Union Jack in front of Belfast City Hall and was given two years of hard labour in Lincoln jail. The jail was notorious for beatings, which prison staff, handed out to the Irish inmates. On numerous occasions, he wrote to me pointing out the atrocities the British had enforced on the Irish for over 800 years.

Both my grandfathers had a profound influence on my early outlook on life and led me in 1958, when I turned fifteen, to take a stance that has lasted all my life, to whit, 'British troops and Catholicism out of Ireland'. I abandoned the Catholic religion in 1959 but was too afraid at the time to let my parents know; took me ten years to pick up the courage to tell them; they were both outraged and ordered me out of the house, told them they could go fuck themselves and left. However, a couple of days later, they contacted me and asked me back into the house on the condition that I spoke to the parish priest. Said, I was willing to meet the priest, but I would punch his fucking head in. I had known the priest since a kid, and he was a scoundrel. He was the head priest in St Patrick's church and had been dicking the lady who cleaned the clergy house for twenty years. Not much wrong with that, except he condemned anyone else who was having sex outside of marriage. Much fucking worse was his larceny; the church had numerous collection boxes for the poor, black babies in Africa, white babies in Ireland, the sick and infirm; there were Eight of them in all. Every Monday, the collection boxes were emptied into a wheelbarrow and taken down to the Bank of Ireland. Not a penny of the monies collected ever went to those for whom the money had been donated.

I ran away from home as a kid three times in four years, 1955 to 1958, never got far the first two times but managed to stay away more than six weeks, when I got the boat to Liverpool, stayed with my Aunt Lizzie, the maddest O'Reilly of them all.

Left home and Belfast for good in 1964, went to work in Luton at the Vauxhall car and van factory. Thousands of Irish had been offered jobs in Luton and paid our fairs, but the inhabitants of Luton hated the Irish and made sure we knew about it. The money was perfect, the highest-paid wages for the whole of the UK. I could not make life there due to the constant anti-Irish racism. So packed my bags and went back to Belfast; early 1996, could only stick it at home for three months, re-packed my bags and moved to Birmingham, where I have lived ever since. 

That is a much longer story, in abeyance, for now, containing many ups and downs before life levelled out.