Jon Kennedy's 'Postcards from
his sojourn in Northern Ireland'

A writer's journal


Jon Kennedy  

JONAL ENTRY 1275 | April 4 2013

He who heeds instruction is on the path to life, but he who rejects reproof goes astray. He who conceals hatred has lying lips, and he who utters slander is a fool. When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is prudent. The tongue of the righteous is choice silver; the mind of the wicked is of little worth. The lips of the righteous feed many, but fools die for lack of sense. The blessing of the LORD makes rich, and he adds no sorrow with it.

— from Proverbs 10,
from today's lenten Orthodox
lectionary readings

Diary: Calling it a writer's journal might be a ploy to throw in anything from comments on the weather to the kitchen sink; who am I to judge my own motives? The weather today is brilliant— "brilliant" is a favorite adjective of the Brits, a sort of equivalent, I gather, to "fabulous" in American gay parlance. And I'm coming to appreciate that there is more "Brit-ness" among the Northern Irish than I had expected. Of course the BBC is the main source of broadcasts both televised and radioed, and even my steady diet of BBC shows via PBS when I was back in California affected my speech and thought patterns, so how could Britness not affect everyone here? Anyway, the weather is brilliantly sunny today with scattered clouds; all the snow on the roofs beyond St. Mary's Church of Ireland is gone. And the kitchen sink is compact, as the whole kitchen is, but we're not reduced to having to discuss that yet.

However, mentioning the kitchen's compactness suggests it may be time to say a bit about the differences between Irish (or "Anglo-Irish") and American cultures. Where to begin? Since I'm eating my lunch, consisting of a bowl of soup, as I write, "soups" will do. Here the dominant brand of soups is Heinz and I've yet to see a Campbell's soup (the market leader in the United States, I'm mentioning for any readers on this side of the North Atlantic...and though Heinz dominates several other market niches in the United States, its soups have never been able to challenge Campbell's there). H.J. Heinz, I read years ago, came up with his "57 Varieties" slogan by seeing something similar on a company sign from the window of the Tube in London; though the main logo is the same, the products here are manufactured by H.J. Heinz company U.K., which is not mentioned as based in Pittsburgh, Pa.

And not only are the market-leading soup brands different, the soups themselves are much different (though I noticed last summer that the tastes in soups are apparently different from Pennsylvania to California, too, even if Campbell's dominate in both parts of the the country, based on the fact that the types of soup most seen in California shelves are much less apparent in Pennsylvania, and vice versa). Perhaps the most "foreign" soup I've seen here is "Royal Game" (from Baxter's, not Heinz), which I've tried and did not find to be too gamey. There seems to be a lot of beets in the soups here, whereas I don't recall beets in any American soups. And "root vegetables" sometimes figure high in the names of soups; "zesty" is not an adjective I've seen on any of them here and I can't remember seeing "garlic" as part of any soup title.

Unlike American food-selling rules, though British products list their ingredients on the labels, I have not found a list of nutrients and their values, which I have relied upon heavily especially since my diagnosis as diabetic (carbohydrate content, especially, I have considered a lifesaver). I had read long ago that "English muffins," which I believe became common throughout the United States in the 1970s and are available in all food stores there now, are not found here. What we call muffins, I have read, is called "crumpets" here. But I bought a package of crumpets a few days ago and they are about half as thick as an English muffin and less "bready." I did see a package of just "muffins" in the store next door this morning, but those were bigger than the "English muffins" we know in the States, maybe a cross between an English muffin as we know them and a hamburger bun. And speaking of hamburgers, ground beef is sold here as minced beef, even though it looks the same as our ground beef and nothing like our minced ham (is that still used anywhere in America as another name for "balogna"? Or was my mum the only one who used that term for baloney?).

This discussion could go on but I'm sure everyone still reading is sufficiently bored, so I'll keep the rest for other journals.

Today's photo is also from my tour around Belfast, taken by Trevor Buchanan on Sunday afternoon. Here I am standing in front of St. Mark's Dundela Church of Ireland, the church whose rector was, at the turn of the 20th century, the Rev. Thomas Hamilton, CS Lewis's maternal grandfather. Lewis was baptized here by his grandfather, and a stained glass window was given to it by him and his brother Warnie, in memory of their parents.

Today's Scripture is yet another passage dealing with sins of the tongue. If I were younger and didn't think I had enough book topics to write on for the rest of my life, I'd add one to my list on passages like this one that I've been finding in both Old and New Testament. I had to think about "He who conceals hatred has lying lips," but when it broke through the fog, what a deep lesson it teaches. How often do we speak "tongue in cheek," or flatter when we want to attack or berate; how often do we cover our disdain and dislike—even hatred—under words that drip compliments or approval in order to disguise our true attitudes or to not alienate bystanders we don't want to let see us as we truly are?

And, "he who utters slander is a fool . . . but fools die for lack of sense." Sometimes our slander can kill us literally, but other times death may be the delayed judgment of a just God who knows how hurtful our slander may be, killing others—either metaphorically or worse—by saying things that are not true or based on rumor or self-righteous prejudice.

"When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is prudent." Speaking too much is always a sign of trying to cover over sins and ignorance; saying less—often, even, saying nothing— is always wiser, always prudent.

§     §     §

If you missed my overview of my venture in Northern Ireland, check it out here.

Webmaster Jon Kennedy

related pages

The Nanty Glo Home Page

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A Protestant parade in the Shankill and a Nativity narrative for lent

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