Monday, 11 May 2015

The story of Jamie McJamie

I dream I am in a hotel-lounge attending a literary event. To my surprise, I am invited to speak. I have nothing prepared and no topic in mind, I decide to make it up as I go along. The words in brackets in the following account are my thoughts, during the dream, as I pause to compose the next sentence.

"I will tell yo the story of (think of a memorable name, but one that will not lead them to make presumptions about the story) Jamie McJamie, (what about him?) who discovered a gold mine on his land, before he was twenty, (How could that happen? Yes, a sink-hole - caused by what? The mini sink hole in my own back garden when the extensive roots of a felled tree decayed leaving an.underground mini-cavern came to mind) where the great beech tree used to stand. (How could he have inherited land before he was twenty - family circumstances). Jamie's widowed father (give him a name), Brogan McJamie, was a hard-working farmer, like his forebears, ever struggling to make.a living out of the little holding and to pass it on intact to the next generation. Like his forefathers, he had primary education only, but had resolved to give his son, Jamie, secondary education. Unfortunately, young Jamie did not show much interest in the farm, whether that be due to some innate defect or to the secondary education he was receiving, and Brogan, dispirited since the death of his young wife was doubly-dispirited seeing his son's lack of skill and understanding of farm work. One night, Brogan lifted Jamie's exercise book from the table and flicked through the pages. An item caught his eye, titled 'My Father.' Brogan read the words: 'I look out the window and see my father digging in the potato plot. Skilled with the spade and hard-working like his father and his fore-fathers before him, struggling to make a living from his tiny farm and hoping to pass it on to the next generation of his breed. But I will never earn my living from farming: the pen will be my spade.'

On reading this, Brogan had an epiphany. He saw into the waste-land that had been his life. He had never had anything for himself, but had given everything to family and farm. He had despaired that his son would not have the competence to maintain what his fore-fathers had built up. He had despaired that Jamie would let his fine, pedigree, herd of cows decline, and the farm go to rack and ruin. Now, on reading Jamie's essay, Brogan had a flash of inspiration. He would stop living for his son's inheritance and live for himself instead. He would leave it to his son to do what he liked with his farm and his own life. Make a living with the pen if Jamie so wished, Brogan would forsake the farm now and live for himself as he had never done before. Soon he acquired a passport for the first time in his life: he had never been abroad, never been anywhere except on the farm. He sold his fine herd of cattle, worth more than the few acres of land on which they grazed, wrote a good-bye note to his son, and headed off to the Caribbean, where he could live in sunshine for the rest of his life on the proceeds of his cattle.

The son looked at the good-bye note in despair and looked out over his cattle-empty land. He saw the great Beech Tree: past its sell-bye date, old and mighty. The tie closest to the throat is the first to untie. He needed cash for his immediate needs. He would sell the Beech tree, and he knew where to get a good price. There was a wood-turning craft industry in town, always looking out for  good timber, such as beech. He went to the manager and got a good price for the beech tree. The employees of the craft industry came and cut it down, removing the lot except for the twigs."

This is as far as I got with the story.

Not clear if it has any meaning, except random memories. Perhaps having to make up a speech as I go along is saying: "You must take each day as it comes, you can't plan the future." The choice of name "Jamie McJamie," might be purely haphazard, or perhaps my unconscious is using an old habit of communicating through puns. "Jamie" derives from the name "James," common in Ireland, but sounds something like "Shame Me," asking the question if there is anything I am, should be or was ashamed of.  Struggling with the land and tied to family obligations is the common human load, whether in respect of an actual farm or the maintenance of a stable environment for family: sometimes fulfilling, but sometimes limiting and restricting. I suppose we all dream occasionally of breaking away from our humdrum lives - and that is what holidays and hobbies are for. The name "Brogan" may be random, or have a flavour of heroism, since some champion players of Dublin's Gaelic Football team are the Brogan family.  What Brogan read in Jamie's copybook is, of course, Seamus (Jamie!) Heaney's (in Irish sounding something like "McJamie") poem, whether the words of the poem or a paraphrase. What Heaney records as a tribute to his father and stock could also be cynically regarded as an educated person looking down on his peasant forebears. Cutting down the beech-tree derives from my cutting down of a mature elm tree in my back  garden. Yes, I sold it to a wood-turner, but, unfortunately, all the timber was worthless, decaying from the Dutch Elm disease, which caused me to have it cut down in the first instance. Where, however, is my gold-mine?

So, here's the Message, perhaps:
Firstly, Shame on Me for not respecting the heroic work of my forebears;
Secondly: keep seeking the goldmine, even though I may never reach it.

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