Alfred Hickling Published on Fri 12 Nov On the one hand there is the expansive bard of Ballybeg, the Emerald Chekhov. On the other is the austere master of theatrical monologue. It is like walking into a gallery and seeing a topographical canvas and a still life, by the same hand, side by side.

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Do you hear a stream? Try again. And at the bottom of the pedestal there is a circle of petunias. There are about twenty of them all huddled together in one bed. They are -- what? Some of them are blue-and-white, and some of them are pink, and a few have big, red, cheeky faces.

Touch them. Tell me what you saw. And what shape is their bed? Passed with flying colors. You are a clever lady. Just like you. Let us join your mother. Trust me. And it was only when I was about the same age as he was then, it was only then that I thought I thought perhaps I was beginning to understand what he meant.

But that was many, many years later. And by then mother and he were long dead and the old echoing house was gone. And I had been married to Frank for over two years. And by then, too, I had had the operation on the first eye. RICE : The day he brought her to my house the first time I saw them together my immediate thought was: What an unlikely couple!

I had met him once before about a week earlier, by himself. He had called to ask would I see her,just to give an opinion, if only to confirm that nothing could be done for her.

I suggested he phone the hospital and make an appointment in the usual way. Yes, an ebullient fellow; full of energy and inquiry and the indiscriminate enthusiasms of the self-taught. And convinced, as they usually are, that his own life story was of compelling interest.

He had worked for some charitable organization in Nigeria. Kept goats on an island off the Mayo coast and made cheese. Sold storage batteries for those windmill things that produce electricity. Endured three winters in Norway to ensure the well-being of whales.

That sort of thing. Worthy pursuits, no doubt. And he was an agreeable fellow; oh, yes; perfectly agreeable. That was his name. She was Molly. Reminded me instantly of my wife, Maria. Perhaps the way she held her head.

A superficial resemblance. Anyhow, Molly and Frank Sweeney. I liked her. I liked her calm and her independence; the confident way she shook my hand and found a seat for herself with her white cane. And when she spoke of her disability, there was no self-pity, no hint of resignation.

Yes, I liked her. Her life, she insisted, was uneventful compared with his. An only child. Father a judge.

Mother in and out of institutions all her days with nervous trouble. Brought up by various house-keepers. For some reason she had never been sent to a blind school. But for all practical purposes he had no useful sight. Other ophthalmologists she had been to over the years had all agreed that surgery would not help. She had a full life and never felt at all deprived. She was now forty-one, married just over two years, and working as a massage therapist in a local health club.

Frank and she had met there and had married within a month. They were fortunate they had her earnings to live on because he was out of work at the moment. She offered this information matter-of-factly.

And as she talked, he kept interrupting. Perhaps, I said. How can we not take it? She has nothing to lose, has she? What has she tp lose? And she would wait without a trace of impatience until he had finished and then she would go on.

Yes, I liked her at once. His "essential" folder. Across it he had written, typically, Researched and Compiled by Frank C. The "C" stood for Constantine, I discovered. And it did have some interest, the folder. Results of tests she had undergone years ago. A certificate for coming first in her physiotheraphy exams. Pictures of them on their honeymoon in Stratford-on-Avon -- his idea of self-improvement, no doubt. Letters from two specialists she had been to in her late teens.

An article he had cut out of a magazine about miraculous ophthalmological techniques once practiced in Tibet -- or was it Mongolia? Diplomas she had won in provincial swimming championships.

And remarkably, extracts from essays by various philosophers on the relationship between vision and knowledge, between seeing and understanding. A strange fellow, indeed. And as I watched her sitting there, erect in her seat and staring straight ahead, two thoughts flitted across my mind. That her blindness was his latest cause and that it would absorb him just as long as his passion lasted.

And then, I wondered, what then? But perhaps that was too stern a judgement. And the second and much less worthy thought I had was this. And if that opportunity were being offered to me and if after all these years I could pull myself together and measure up to it, and if, oh my God if by some miracle pull it off perhaps.

People who live alone frequently enjoy an opulent fantasy life. And of course that threw my whole financial planning into disarray. As you can imagine. And yes, as a matter of interest, they are small animals, Iranian goats. And, as I say, from Iran which, as you know, is an ancient civilization in South West. But I was telling you about what? The interesting discovery! Well, perhaps not an interesting discovery in any general sense but certainly of great interest to anybody who hopes to make cheese from the milk of imported Iranian goats, not that there are thousands of those people up and down the country!

Anyhow anyhow what I discovered was this. I had those goats for three and a half years, and even after all that time their metabolism, their internal clock, stayed Iranian; never adjusted to Irish time. Their system never made the transition. They lived in a kind of perpetual jet-lag.

So what, you may ask. So for three and a half years I had to get up to feed them at three in the morning my time because that was seven A. Some imprint in the genes remained indelible and immutable. Then he appears. The sight of him connects with the imprint, the engram.

And bingo instant recognition! Interesting word engram.


Molly Sweeney: Brian Friel’s Drama About Sight Has Vision

Do you hear a stream? Try again. And at the bottom of the pedestal there is a circle of petunias. There are about twenty of them all huddled together in one bed. They are -- what? Some of them are blue-and-white, and some of them are pink, and a few have big, red, cheeky faces. Touch them.


Molly Sweeney

She works as a massage therapist in a health club, has many friends, and has been married to her husband, Frank Tommy Schrider , for a little over two years. She is also unable to see, having lost her sight when she was 10 months old. Though still able to detect the difference between light and shadow, she is, for all practical purposes, blind. Carol Rosegg Molly is content with her life. She often feels she understands and experiences the world much more intensely than sighted people.

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