Writer and Author

Tag: Bordeaux

A Swiftpost Answer to Procrastination?


The grotto to Ste Expedit in the church of St Pierre’s in Bordeaux. Each on of the marble plaques is a prayer answered.

Since the hack, I’ve been been going through this site from the very beginning. I had to reconstruct everything because I ended up taking a fairly nuclear approach with getting rid of the pesky hacker and not everything had been backed up. It’s been fascinating going back over my old posts. So much has happened in the past 7 years.

Then I upgraded to Windows 10 so I’ve been putting my laptop back together as well. Well not literally, obviously, but it always takes a while to get everything back the way I like it after a clean install. Just as I was looking over old posts I ended up looking over old photos and found the one at the start of this article. I started writing this blog on a holiday in Bordeaux, just after I’d delivered the manuscript for Devil. I’d spent a semester there in college and got engaged to the husband while I was there. That return trip was 10 years later. Even though it was supposed to be a romantic occasion I had a book coming out so every day I sat down at the laptop and tried to work out this blogging thing.


Me, probably writing the first post on Ste Expedit. Looking very young.

One day, wandering around the city we came across the church of Ste Pierre. I forget why we went in, it was either raining or too hot or possibly we liked the architecture, it doesn’t really matter. Inside the church, the only thing I remember about it now, was a grotto to Ste Expedit.

Ah Ste Expedit. I’d never heard of his before that day but he’s remained one of my favourite saints (although it’s not really a long list). He’s the saint of getting help in a hurry, of hackers, of procrastination (or rather deliverance from). Seriously, what’s not to like when you spend your time trying to earn a living through writing and the Internet? He’s big in New Orleans apparently. According to legend St Expedite was a young Roman legionary who was thinking about converting to Christianity. As happens all too often in these circumstances a crow came to him to try to convince him not to. “Leave it till tomorrow” said the crow – yes it was a talking crow. But young Ste Expedite was having none of it. “Today” he insisted and, bearing in mind this is the saint you turn to if you want to kill procrastination, he did do it today. This is the reason why the very pretty young legionary you see in statues has a speech bubble that says “Hodie” or today and there’s a crow hanging around somewhere who’s saying “cras” or tomorrow. I approve of puns when you’re talking saints and Ste Expedite is all about puns. Starting with the crow who’s “cras” could be tomorrow or “cras, cras” or “caw, caw”.

But the puns don’t stop there. Ste Expedit got his super power of being there in an emergency from a pun. He sounded like that’s what he could do. So he did it. The plaques behind the statue in St Pierre’s church show decades of desperate prayers. “Thank you for saving my little girl” reads one. “Thank you, 1914-1918” reads another. Each one is a moment where time stood still for someone. Where they sent up a desperate prayer for themselves, for someone they loved, and were thankful when they felt it answered. I’m not religious but there was something so poignant about those little plaques. Ste Expedit isn’t one for Lotto wins or massive gestures. He’s there in a frightened moment, when you need him. Hardly surprising that he’s also the patron saint of students at exam time.

You can find websites dedicated to St Expedite, and voodoo potions (the New Orleans connection I’m presuming) but what I like about him is beyond any of that stuff. Because you see Ste Expedit probably didn’t exist. The Armenian centurion who talked to crows doesn’t have a name. Expeditus, is apparently Latin for a soldier marching with no pack so poor old Expedit was a nameless individual identified by his job. A body in a field perhaps, identified only by his breast plate. He’s not one of those saints with a complicated back story, just a conversion and a crow.

But that’s not all. Perhaps he wasn’t even a Roman soldier. Another story makes him the Saint of Swiftpost. A travelling priest was buying up relics and posted them back to the nuns back home in France. He wanted his purchases to get home before he did so he made sure the box was marked “Quickly”…”Expedite”. The nuns, being of a sheltered disposition and obviously not familiar with the finer points of the postal system assumed that the word was a name and that name belonged to the bones. So Ste Expedit was born.

I love the layers of the story of Expedit. From the relative detail of the original legend – the talking crow, the centurion – the story unravels and dissolves in layers. For his believers it doesn’t matter if Ste Expedit spoke to a crow, it doesn’t matter that he might have been an unknown soldier, it doesn’t matter that he might have been more than that, just random bones. For them, Expedit will save you in a tight spot. Those prayers are heartfelt, those plaques would have cost money. In the end does it matter if he existed, the logic seems to go, it works. There’s something in there that’s probably quite profound. It appeals to the writer in me.

I’ve thought about that little church many times over the years. Perhaps I need Ste Expedit myself. I was supposed to be researching a paper rather than writing here. Procrastination – I’m extremely good at it.

Off the Point: Why Can’t you take Photographs in Irish Museums?

It’s Sunday evening and I don’t feel like talking about all matters legal with work looming on Monday morning, so I’m resurrecting an old tradition.  From here on in Sunday is to be a day of reflection…and possibly irritation.

To kick off a long standing annoyance the subject of photography in Irish museums and galleries.  Now the husband and I are recently back from a short break in Bordeaux.  There being not a lot to do in the town when you’re there doing nothing we ended up in the Musee d’Aquitaine.  Turns out that the history of the region goes back to Neanderthal times and Bordeaux itself has a history going back to the Romans.

Being a photographer, the husband had the camera with him and happily snapped away throughout the museum.  When we got back to Dublin we had a few days before either of us were back in work so we decided to go to the National Museum to have a look at the bog bodies (as you do).  As soon as you walk into the place there are signs forbidding photography of all kinds which just doesn’t seem very friendly.

After watching several tourists being barked at for trying to photograph the vaulted ceiling of the museum building we made some enquiries.  What’s the story?  You can walk into a museum in London or Paris or Prague and whip out a camera without a peep from the security guards but here in Ireland you need special permission to photograph the exhibits.

Over the years we’ve come up against the problem several times –  the husband usually has a camera somewhere about his person – and it’s always the same.  The one thing that isn’t the same is the explanation.

The OPW, apparently forbid photography because their properties keep appearing on EBay being flogged to unsuspecting Americans (allegedly).  The reason we were once given in the Natural History Museum was that it interfered with the sale of post cards.  In the National Museum last week we were told it was a copyright issue.  Apparently the 1928 Copyright Act made the National Museum the property of every man, woman and child in Ireland, all of whom would have to give permission before people could take photos.  Well it’s an interesting one anyway.

If you ask me it smacks of pure mean spiritedness but if there’s a relatively logical explanation I’d love to know it.  I understand banning flash photography when you have light sensitive exhibits but all cameras?

Even if there is a logical reason why photography is banned it seems like a daft rule.  If people are coming to Ireland from all over the world, used to taking photos to remember their trip it just doesn’t make sense.  Quite apart from anything else, two out of the three reasons we’ve been given are tied to a rather unattractive suspicion of the rest of mankind and an officiousness that’s just embarrassing.  I’d almost rather it was down to simple meanness.

I know it’s possible to make an appointment to come in and take photographs, certainly in the National Museum on Kildare Street, but last thing I heard, you had to give a good excuse.

If anyone out there knows by this prohibition is they please let me know.  Otherwise lets get the revolution started and all turn up armed with our Polaroids.  It might not be a big issue in a world economy that seems to be going bang right now but it’s the little things that count…and if the economy does do bang we’ll all have a lot more time to wander round museums…and at times like that a hobby is a good idea!

Back Home and Back to Work

After a much needed break (even with all the hassle with this blog) I’m back at my desk and back at work.  I have just over a week before Sharon Collins and Essam Eid are back in front of the courts for sentencing and the courts aren’t back until next week either so there are a few days to get back into the swing of things.

It’s time for one final push but for today with the suitcases still only partially unpacked I can’t take things too seriously.  I still have French music on Media Player and I’m not quite ready to get back to the hustle and bustle of normal life and normal posting just yet.  Once I settle down I’ll blog more seriously but since I’m still essentially talking to myself (Google indexing being the arcane beast that it is) I thought I’d share a little music.

I always get cds when we go to France and my latest find is a Parisian singer called Camille.  I’d heard about her before we went through my friend Rowan’s blog (always a good source of inspiration music wise!) and already got her latest mainly English album, Music Hole which includes tracks like Cats and Dogs – you’ve got to love a song which has the whole band making random animal noises at the end…

While over there I found a copy of her first album, Les Sac des Filles.  Sung mainly in French it includes songs like Paris.

The lyrics (for those of you that don’t speak French) are talking about leaving Paris because it’s dirty and miserable and smelly but in the end coming back because it’s home.  Which seemed rather appropriate coming back to grey and miserable Dublin.  It really is just peachy coming home to the news that the economy is teetering on the brink of collapse…

Yes I’ve just decided, the holiday can last one more day, I’m going to listen to more Camille!

Yet More Technical Problems!

I’m seriously beginning to wonder why on earth I decided to start this blog on my own domain.  After days of grappling with the vagaries of WordPress, Google and FTP clients I feel like banging my head against the wall and going back to the nursery with a hosted blog.  I know that I had reasons for registering a domain and getting started on all of this but it’s been a long time since I’ve felt so relentlessly dumb as I have trying to set up a website.

Up until I registered the site a couple of weeks ago I had thought I was computer literate but now I realise that I’m just like any other journo, an expert in the surface matters but just as in need of tech support as any Joe Soap.  As I write this I know, with all the general sinking, annoying frustration of it all, that no one is going to read this post because the Google bots haven’t found me yet.

I feel like someone far down the cast list in a 1950s science fiction film waiting for rescue.  I’m new to the idea of bots and in my mind they’re still large, shiny and man shaped.  In reality they’re anonymous and unfathomable (for the moment anyway).  What I do know for certain though is that they don’t like me.  My site does not have sufficient crumbs of shiny robot food for them to come and take a look.  I can look on Google’s Webmaster applications page (another new discovery) and see that they did in fact visit my site today but left without so much as a hello or a goodbye.

It’s ironic that I’ve spent much of my summer up to my elbows in web searches and Internet sites, while I was writing Devil in the Red Dress.  I can confidently say that I can find most things I look for on line.  The last couple of months have taught me a few more tricks of the trade and I’m just as quick to google as any of my colleagues rather than hit the books these days.  But now that I’m supposed to be adding to the whole World Wide Web phenomenon I’m stumped.  I’ve spent the whole summer searching for sites that weren’t there and finding them and now I’ve got a site that’s not there (at least not as far as Google is concerned).

This is a bit of a pointless rant really.  It’s not really on topic as far as the blog is concerned and by the time anyone can find it my troubles will be over and it will be redundant.  I suppose I’m just writing it down for posterity, so that one day , when I’ve worked out how the hell everything works I can look back on this and laugh.  Also it helps to vent a bit.

With any luck Google’s robots will have come back to made friends in a day or so and this post will actually see the light of day.  Then I can begin the blog in earnest. I hope anyway…

Getting Started…I Hope

Well the blog should be up and running now.  Any more technical glitches will just have to wait until I get home.  I know that once we set foot back in Ireland it’ll be back to madness.  The Courts are back on October 6th so I’m back in the day job.  Sharon Collins and Essam Eid will be putting in an appearance on the 8th and that’s when the circus will really get started.

There have always been high profile cases through the Irish courts but since Joe O’Reilly was sentenced in July 2007 there has been one after the other.  Anton Mulder, Brian Kearney, John O’Brien all came before the Collins, Eid trial and all can still sell papers today months after their various convictions and acquittals.  We have moved without noticing it into a time where criminal trials are hyped almost as much as Hollywood films in the Irish media.  I should know.  To a certain extent my job depends on it!

Collins and Eid is a special case though – and I’m not just saying that because I’ve written a book on it.  The fact that no one died and proceedings had more than a tinge of farce to them meant that this was less of a guilty pleasure than the family tragedies that normally hit the headlines.  That’s not to say that people weren’t hurt as a result of these proceedings, it’s simply that we didn’t have to listen to the post mortems of their grief in quite the same way.

There’s also been a delayed conclusion.  With a murder trial there is only one possible sentence on conviction.  As soon as that verdict is handed down whoever’s in the dock knows they are about to start a life sentence and an appeal will be formally refused.  With conspiracy to murder there is a need for a separate sentencing as no fixed penalty has been set out.  So we will all gather on October 8th and wait with Collins and Eid to hear their fate and there will be headlines and TV programmes and books and some people will wonder publicly whether the whole things has perhaps all got a bit too much.

But in the meantime, I’m on holiday.  When I was a student in Bordeaux I always daydreamed of returning one day to work on a book.  Now as I sit by the window in our rented apartment gazing out of the window onto all the old yellow stone leaving it to the very last moment before I get ready to go out to dinner with the husband I’m conscious of how close I came to that.  The book may have actually been written in Dublin but I still don’t have an end for it, and won’t until that sentence.  So I’m technically still writing it.  Looking back over this post though, the sun’s playing havoc with my syntax and sprouting flourishes in every clause that probably shouldn’t even be there.

There’s a church here called St Pierre, not far from our apartment.  It’s a quiet little church, all vaulted ceilings and candles.  To the right of the door there’s a statue of a saint I’d never heard of – Ste Expedite.  The statue is of a very pretty Roman legionary holding a cross that says Hodie, the Latin for hello and stamping on a crow that’s cawing Cras meaning tomorrow.  He’s big in Chile and New Orleans apparently.  He’s also the patron saint of procrastinators, and computer hackers.

I discovered all this when I googled him after we’d wandered in to avoid the heat of the afternoon sun.  There’s also some doubt about whether he actually existed or whether he was simply some random bones that had been labelled expedis, basically First Class Post, when they were shipped out to some French speaking nuns for cataloguing.  But Rome decided to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Ste Expedite seems a very appropriate saint for this current endeavour.  I’ve certainly done my fair share of procrastinating and I like the idea he may or may not have existed, rather like Sharon Collins’ alibi, Maria Marconi.  There’s even computer hackers in there as well.

Well I’ve rambled enough.  There’s an evening going on out there that I’m ignoring and the husband is looking a little irritated.  I should probably try to focus on actually having a holiday before there’s no more time for procrastination.

Trying to Do Things Properly!

It seemed like such a good idea, book due out soon so setting up a blog to get in on this whole author blog thing.  It’s been something I’ve been wanting to do for ages to be honest but you feel a bit daft setting yourself up as a fount of knowledge when you’ve got nothing published to your name.  It’s hard to be a credible source of writing wisdom when the only thing you’ve ever written is stuffed in a box under the bed.  Not that I’m planning on becoming an oracle of course but I did think that a moderately attractive website containing the inner workings of my fevered little brain would be a good idea, besides, everyone’s doing it and since the books due out before the end of the year…

Well for the past week I’ve been trying to set up this famous blog.  Emphasis on the word “trying”.  I’m currently recovering from the whole writing frenzy in the South of France so I was planning on stopping trying while I was here but here I am, sitting inside while the sun splits the stones outside, the husband getting increasingly annoyed that I’m not getting ready for a romantic candlelight dinner – you get the picture.  Instead I’m sitting here, writing this, in the full knowledge that I’m not even writing to anyone at this stage because the bloody blog’s still up on the blocks so to say.

I’m beginning to think I missed a trick, spending all those years studying journalism then working in newsrooms until I’d learnt my craft and all that jazz.  What I actually should have been doing is studying web design, then I would know what the hell I am doing here.

I’m used to writing a WordPress.com blog.  Hosted and mindbogglingly simple to set up.  I thought it would be a better idea, with my plan for self promotion, to register my own domain and install the WordPress application from wordpress.org.  That was my undoing.

I’ve spent the last week and a half batting emails back a forth with a tech support person with my domain provider who is managing to answer every sodding question but the one I’ve actually asked her.  My poor blog still sits unread because up until today the domain provider have been insisting to the world there’s nothing there.

I’m fed up with tech support and I’m fed up with technical problems.  I don’t even particularly want to be writing this blog.  I want to be out enjoying the September sun with the husband and forget for a couple of hours that there’s a book coming out all too soon.

Ah well…maybe tomorrow…

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