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07/01 Direct Link

Of course the depravation back then was McCourtesque, except the weather was better. We had nothing to read, bar what we’d write ourselves on the walls of the one room from which the furniture had been sold, in order to further our education by clearing the space. That presumes you HAD a wall, of course, which, owing to the topological limitations of three-dimensional space in which we are compelled to spend our few years on Earth, most of us had’nt.

 

The eldest four had a wall each. I was next, and lean pickin’s forced the reluctant fruits of latent genius.
07/02 Direct Link

Using a stout 2H pencil strapped with sellotape to the handle of the sweeping twig, I could do joined writing on the ceiling, while balanced upon a wicker chair.  The younger ones fought over rights to the floor skirting, graduating up the wall with the passing years.

 

You can only imagine the excitement when we got a black and white television. It did’nt stay black and white for long, because a blue plastic transparent sheet was needed to prevent gamma rays, up quarks, pions and other baryonic particles from doing irreparable harm to the cones and rods of our retainae.
07/03 Direct Link

Well we watched that thing in awe, mornin’, noon and night. We watched it from every point of the compass. Needless to say, Granny had pride of place, and her chair was positioned dead centre in front of the thing. After we’d watch it for a few hours, she’d pull on her pipe, withdraw it, and say “ Turn it on”.

 

Well, the excitement after that knew no bounds. Every class of a man and beast was on it, but our favourite was the young lad of the Mastersons, Batt. He was a martyr for the hat and walkin’ stick.
07/04 Direct Link

But this was no ordinary ash plant now, no, no. It was a lump of a blackthorn, with a roundy silver thing on the top. If Batt balanced the other end of it on his Wellington boot, now, you’d need to look out, because the silver globe at the top with be in yer gob in no time, so it would.

 

And there’d be no affectionate poke of it in the ribs now, because the other end of it was a gun. I tell no word of a lie. He’d squint down the blackthorn, one eye, takin’ aim at ya.
07/05 Direct Link

You could be out herdin’ heifers with that thing now, and before you could say “ Get up there, Maggie” you’d have her shot, all for want of a little care with the wee button near the top.

 

We learned our science the same way we learned to cipher and read, in the cold hard school of trial and terror. The uncle reared us while the mother and father slaved away in Monte Carlo, and he was a fierce man for the Principle of Archimedes, hydrostatic pressure on curved surfaces, and Bjerknes, he loved to circulate in his hydraulic didactions.
07/06 Direct Link

Nothing would do him only to have us at the cattle trough with cans, callipers, ballasting lead melted down from the tops of whiskey bottles, and a balancing scales. In all the happy splashing in those November days, we learned to prove that lead was’nt gold using only the specific gravity, the balance scales, a pipette and graduated cylinder, and auld Archimedes.

 

This occasionally would lead to some shoulderin’ with the cattle around the trough,  and the odd horn in the anvil of the ear, but th’uncle’d bate the arses off them, mutterin’ darkly about’ the weight of water displaced.
07/07 Direct Link

After Archimedes, he took a shine to Newton, and we had to look no further than the same cattle trough to immerse ourselves in the delightful riddles of the differential calculus.

 

He kicked a hole in it with the toe of his boot, and demanded to know how long it would take for the water to drop to 0.75 metres in depth, notwithstanding the inflow trying to keep pace with the leak. I still remember the soft sucky hoof shlurp of the heavy bullocks trying to muck shuffle to drink as we solved the puzzle to his proud avuncular delight.
07/08 Direct Link

But it is the way of the world to move on from the carefree days of healthy home schooling, and following an interview with Prof. Hochleitner, just past my eighteenth birthday, I found myself persuaded towards the study of the stars at Vienna University.

 

I was a precocious student, if a little diffident and retiring in class. I absorbed the mechanisms of supernovae, Type 1, with earnest self-effacing application, but I grew more and more disturbed about the views of Herr Professor on the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle in the cooking of higher metals in the core of main series stars.
07/09 Direct Link

He took to disappearing into his laboratory, for several days at a time, from which noises of hammering emerged, and from where the tell-tale blue-arc light of welding shone intermittently under the door. His visage in his brief periods of  rest was ashen, and his demeanour was silent and sullen.

 

He finally announced that it was impossible, in a Type 1 supernova, to reach the necessary energies to synthesize Molybdenum from the lower denizens of the Periodic Table. I feared for the consequences for my PhD if I took issue with him, and yet, is not science founded on integrity?
07/10 Direct Link

There was nothing for it, but to seek counsel from my elderly uncle. He got in help to milk the Friesians and braved the January blizzards, arriving in Vienna with a determined cut to his jaw. He lit a match to light his pipe; I explained the dilemma, and he puffed blue clouds of sage tobacco as he considered it.

 

“ Did ya not tell him about the quantum tunnellin’ and electrons burrowin’ through the F Shell’?” he asked. My face coloured with embarrassment at such an oversight, and I sheepishly ushered him into Professor Hochleitners’ study in the Hochhalle.
07/11 Direct Link

I excused myself to allow the savants free discourse, and sat with Frau Bessel in the anteroom. Soon I heard loud shouting, and , fearing the worst, I remained nervously seated. The subject of their discussions was indistinct through the heavy oak door, but the uncle flung Feynman and Gell-Mann along with the best of what was thrown at him.

After some minutes of apparent calm, I timidly knocked and entered, to find the Single Malt decanter and the Havanas were out. Th’uncle agreed to co-author the Paper on Quantum Tunnelling in Type 2 Supernovae, but only with lessor priority.

07/12 Direct Link

My studies in stellar science progressed to the hunt for exoplanets, and the University of Vienna reserved time on the Hubble telescope for me. Small wonder to you reader at this point, that the uncle demanded access, on the grounds that he knew Hubble himself.

 

Did’nt I derive his Expansion Rate Constant on a beer mat of a Tuesday in the year of the Eucharistic Congress in 1932?” he declared, very much rhetorically, and frankly not givin’ a damn if I answered. “Edwin was a pure hoor for the drink in them days” says he, “he near lost Andromeda.”
07/13 Direct Link
It appears that, alone of the Local Group, Andromeda is thunderin’ and rattlin’ away towards us, at several hundred kilometres per second.

Th’uncle, you see, spottin’ the blue shift before yer man, drew the appropriate conclusions.

However, he knew there was no particular panic, as it won’t arrive for two million years, so he set Edwin to checkin’ that none of the others would arrive any sooner. Something like that would play hell with the price of milk and land, and he was always and ever attentive to these markets, when not absorbed in higher matters of a galactic nature.
07/14 Direct Link
Well imagine his shock, when Edwin announced that all of the other galaxies were in the most indecent haste away from us.
 
The uncle summoned Hubble to a conference, checked his calculations, and the colour of the light shift, verifying it as red as a Leghorn hens’ comb.

He finally cleared the table in the pub, and plotted the rates of recession against parsecs for the Local Group, on the back of a beer mat for Haughtons Light Ale. Once the line was drew, there was little to be said. “ The Universe is flyin’ apart” said th' uncle, anyway.
07/15 Direct Link

The uncle only barely managed to persuade Hubble to publish, as he himself could see the depredations of the Great Depression would demand his presence on the dairy farm at Lyreacrumpaun.

The Expansion of the Universe was unlikely to lead to market instability as he had feared, and he consequently lay down his cosmological yearning, in a selfless gesture toward animal husbandry and the agricultural research later published in the Journal de Recherches de Lycée Agricole de Lyreacrumpaun.

Little did we know of the glorious discoveries that lay before him, which would mark him as, inter alia, a poultry savant.

07/16 Direct Link

It is a little know fact that, even without attempted flight, the plumage of hens in association with Stokes Law will result in a 10% reduction of the apparent acceleration due to gravity as experienced by hens dropped from a great height.

When free to flap ineffectually, the improvement in aerodynamic resistence depends upon the breed of poultry. Among bantams, Silver Seabright and Gold Pekin achieve the nearest to free flight, whereas the New Isa Warren drops like the proverbial stone.

All of the foregoing was tested, rigourously, with hen releases from the hanging gardens in Grandfather Jeremiahs’ old homestead.

07/17 Direct Link
Day after day, we mounted the stairs through the house, clutching the hens in question, gently, while Grandfather and the uncle measured the rate of fall from the gardens to the courtyard below, by means of calibrated water clocks. The plotted data were strongly negatively correlated with subsequent egg production.

Among the unexpected fringe benefits of this work, so important to psychiatry of poultry, was the discovery of hen hypnosis ( O’Crohan, Jeremiah, Journal of Applied Poultry Research, 1954, Vol 2, 213-224).This paper formed the foundation of hen electrolysis and was so richly deserving of the Feldman Medal in 1955.
07/18 Direct Link
The hen, with her head tucked gently under her wing, rocked from side to side for 30 seconds, will immediately presume it’s night, and will happily sleep once her leg is introduced to the roost perch.

More intrusively, a chalk line drawn from the eye of the hen, held gently on a flat surface, will produce hypnosis. Rosenfeldt et al (ibid) have generalised this to ducks and geese.

We move now, to the difficult area of cross species hatching, at which Grandfather Jeremiah excelled. He could successfully hatch ducklings under a hen, or chicks under a duck, in equal measure.
07/19 Direct Link
Grandmother, his faithful collaborator for almost half a century, was not without her reservations on this particular area of research of the Lycée.

What is the stupid old buzzard at now?” she’d ask, in her jocular way.

As a matter of disinterested peer review, I do recall that all went well with the hen hatching ducklings, until her “chicks” encountered water, on which they went a’ floatin’, leaving her cluckin’ in consternation at the edges of the pond.

The symmetric converse occurred with the duck hatching chicks, with wee yellow balls of abandonment on the shoreline in that instance.
07/20 Direct Link
Related research on bonding of chicks, hatched under a warm light bulb ( Drew-Dawes, 1969), shows that they will bond with any inanimate object they encounter moving in their immediate vicinity within two minutes of hatching.

This was confirmed by Grandfather in his famous double blind experiment, where he managed to get simultaneously hatched chicks, ducklings, pheasant chicks and goslings to pursue the same milk bottle strapped to a small trolley on wheels ( O’Crohan, J. 1974). However, a large magnetic field, induced by a Mini Cooper motor coil hitched to a Deere tractor, disrupted this tendency at 130 Tesla.
07/21 Direct Link

Funding for research at the Lycée was always a difficulty, as brings knowing nods to the heads of our colleagues at CERN and NASA. The uncle was the financial powerhouse in those difficult years in the mid 1980s, before the patents began to pay.

He had established a breeding centre for laboratory rats in the far field by the quarry, and nearby, he had reared Siamese cats in following his theory on the genetic transmittal of memory.

Years later, we marvelled at the simplicity of his ingenious scheme, which was based on the sale of high grade Siamese cat fur.
07/22 Direct Link
The natural wastage of dead laboratory rats, he decided to feed to the Siamese cats, who in turn thrived, reproduced and grew old.

As nature took its’ course, he duly skinned the dead Siamese cats, sold the fur, but, and here is the genius, he fed the cat carcasses back to the rats.

This, with due and respectful allowances for the limitations of the Second Law of Thermodynamics, of which we are supporters, was an endless cash cow. Lyreacrumpaun Fashions in Fur was listed in London and Tokyo in 1991, and franchised to the late Coco Chanel in October 1995.
07/23 Direct Link

 

Grandfathers’ only error of judgement occurred in his 93rd year, in 1996, when he hired Corcoran as research assistant. Corcoran is living proof of the need to check references thoroughly.

His Value-Added was his claim to be able to generate electricity for the laboratory through the burning of methane generated from the anaerobic digestion of cattle manure. Two years worth of manure were fed to a large glass fibre domed digester, and brought to 38 degrees Centigrade. Ominous gurgling, heard from the innards of the tank on the third day, resembled oneself, the morning after a feed of drink.
07/24 Direct Link
Corcorans’ omission to mention that the entire yard was now a Zone 1 area under Potentially Explosive Athmosphere Regulations was unfortunate, given Grandfathers’ well known routine of a smoke with his coffee at 11am each morning.

How the man survived the catastrophe is beyond us all, beyond us all entirely. It is a tribute ( what is it, children? a tribute ) to his sangfroid, that he merely invited Corcoran to mount his bicycle and take himself from the Lycée forthwith.

We reluctantly resumed purchasing mains electricity, having cut down the poles the previous week, with unfortunate and premature, hauteur.
07/25 Direct Link
With the collapse of Lyreacrumpaun Fashions in Fur, following the disgraceful shennannigans at Barings and Zurcher Bank, the uncle was once more called upon to secure the financial future of the Lycée. 

He and I, in our astronomical observations, had long been irritated by the wanderings of various satellites across our field of view, leading to embarrassing phone calls to have comets named after us.

His Eureka moment was to realise that, in crossing our air space at Lyreacrumpaun, they owed us overflight royalties, under Protocol 116 to the Warsaw Convention. Rudimentary orbit calculations defined an estimated €23,000 per day.
07/26 Direct Link
A progression of demands, directed in escalating tones of irritation, to the Director General of NASA, produced no reply, until the uncle engaged the services of a well known debt collection agency in the Cape Canaveral area.

Naturally enough, this was done on a “no foal, no fee” basis.

This had unfortunate repercussions when the Space Agency, in a lamentable lapse of standards, refused to honour the Warsaw Convention, and some of the debt collectors staff were repatriated to various lands. Threats to bring jettisoned rocket boosters back to earth, on a trajectory near the Lycée, have been received.
07/27 Direct Link

Tiring of the endless rigour of a life of scientific research, Grandfather in 2001 began to face his own mortality. He did so with his customary attention to detail, in specifying an environmentally friendly Viking funeral as his preferred dénouement.

He had, in 1962, with a perspicacity for which few parallels will be found, envisaged the need for an oak longship, and had planted an oak grove.

Felling the oak began when he was feeling poorly with a bout of lumbago and Black Death. The carvings alone took six months for each end, and we soaked the oak that December.
07/28 Direct Link
His rebus gestis, as Caesar might have put it, we launched him loaded with olive oil and natural pitch pine resin on the pond in the lower field.

As malevolent luck would have it, the wind blew the ship ashore again, and set the adjacent haggard alight. The occasion was deeply touching, with the families of his associates down the years, and representatives of several government agencies, witnessing his body being placed on the ship and staying until the fires had completely burned out.
 
Allegations of their forensic interest are scurrilous and low calumnies of his envious detractors and claim-jumpers.
07/29 Direct Link
 
Strings in the earth and air
Make music sweet;
Strings by the river where
The willows meet.
 
There's music along the river
For Love wanders there,
Pale flowers on his mantle,
Dark leaves on his hair.
 
All softly playing,
With head to the music bent,
And fingers straying
Upon an instrument.
 
Images of gentle water, sweet music, indolent carefree times, and a wicked double entendre from James Joyce. The summer is slipping away from us, and already high bulbous clouds are lit by sideways light from a less garish sun. Soon the carefree will be careworn again. Once more, again !
07/30 Direct Link
The twilight turns from amethyst
To deep and deeper blue,
The lamp fills with a pale green glow
The trees of the avenue.
 
The old piano plays an air,
Sedate and slow and gay;
She bends upon the yellow keys,
Her head inclines this way.
 
Shy thought and grave wide eyes and hands
That wander as they list—
The twilight turns to darker blue
With lights of amethyst.
 
Beautiful cadent balance Mr Joyce, and yes, sound does most surely matter in poetry, soothing, rythmic rolls of symmetry, and the long langourous “o” and “u” vowels, I so love them too.
07/31 Direct Link
I’ve been bad, procrastinating for Ireland all month, and then rattling all afternoon for a deadline that’s only in my head

At 11.10pm, I’ll make it with fifty minutes to go, not that it matters to anyone but me. But it does matter to me, I can’t let go of a thing undone, a hole half dug, or a game unwon. It is a fearsome character flaw, that flails me until I scramble ashore on each exhausted deadline. But at least I’ve quit correcting spelling errors. Quod scripsi, scripsi.

Doggo, doggere, pupsi & bitum, the sixteen legs of the Apocalypse.