Nostradamus, Malachi and Me

      By Mattie Lennon



      "He'll romp home". "She'll head the pole". "It's not going to snow". "He

      won't see morning". All forecasts with not a great track-record of

      accuracy. I'm inclined to agree with Bacon ".....predictions ought to

      serve but for winter talk by the fireside". I've encountered prophecies of

      doom from various quarters. Nostradamus left us some cryptic clues about

      the END, as did Malachi, nearer home. Heath Watson, a religious leader,

      says the good among us have nothing to worry about as "We'll glide

      straight up to Heaven".

      My late father found out somewhere that we were promised two thousand

      years with "a tilly in" not to mention a Dunraven farmer I met last

      August. I gave him a lift to a match in Dublin, and apart from his

      endeavours to dispel my naïveté of the wiles of the female, he frightened

      the life out of me with some lesser-known Biblical revelations which he

      claimed would have particular relevance in the year 2000. (I nearly picked

      up a couple of on-the-spot fines in my haste to deposit him in the

      Metropolis- or somewhere - as quickly as possible).

      And now I see where well-heeled film actor, Jean Claude Van Dame, has

      learned that the end of the world is at hand, through a nuclear

      holocaust.....but only for Europe and America. So he has bought thousands

      of acres of land in Australia. There he is going to keep a male and a

      female of every species he can find. He is rounding up animals two-by-two.

      But why didn't he pick Asia or Africa? I mean, would you put, say, your

      sheep in Australia, knowing the pedigree of the inhabitants? Also I'm

      wondering is Mr. Van Dame a plagiarist. He describes his purchase as "a

      serene wilderness area where endangered and threatened species can

      continue to live and evolve". That statement sounds very like a certain No

      65 bus driver's description of Donard!!!!.

      I'd be the first to admit that futurists have been frighteningly accurate

      at times, down the centuries. I wouldn't be one to nit-pick and labour on

      the fact the nobody predicted the nose-ring, autofare, that politicians

      would be caught taking back-handers or that Clinton would shake hands with

      Castro.

      Since some predictions have been about as accurate as D'Unbelievables'

      weather forecast, what about historical accuracy if, as Friedrich Von

      Schlegel claimed, "a historian is a prophet in reverse"?

      Yet, the future has been foretold with amazing exactitude, since the

      beginning of time. Who could argue with T.S. Eliot's assertion that "time

      present and time past are both perhaps present in time future and time

      future contained in time past".

      Nostradamus had many accurate predictions under his belt, including the

      manner of the death of Henry II of France. And even the most severe and

      skeptical critics of Jean Dixon credit her with some precision. However,

      despite the informed anticipation and pessimistic augury of the

      aforementioned et al, my trepidation is tempered by a stubborn if cagey

      skepticism. It dates back to my first long-trousers.

      Let me explain. When, I was growing up it was normal for boys to wear

      short-trousers up to the age of fourteen. In 1959, my aunt in Coleraine

      who had a son a couple of years my senior sent me my first hand-me-down

      long trousers, which had to be consigned to mothballs until my 14th

      birthday. Since I had ultra-conservative parents, the tradition was

      honoured to the full. I had to serve the full sentence, with no remission

      for good behaviour. By the time I was thirteen and a half, I began to see

      something incongruous about my bear knees and certain "manly" pastimes.

      Now, in the late fifties an article appeared in a Catholic newspaper - was

      it the Standard or The Irish Catholic? - informing the Faithful of the

      imminent termination of the planet.

      We didn't manage to get our hands on the paper at home, but several

      well-meaning neighbours, enlightened relatives and acquaintances met a

      fairs and Devotions, relayed the good tidings, piece-meal, to us; THERE

      WOULD BE THREE DARK DAYS IN 1960. Black pigs would walk the earth. The

      smell of brimstone would be stifling.

      And no family would be together when this calamity would occur. (I

      interpreted this latter as meaning that in the case of each family, unit,

      the father would be at the turf Rick, the mother would be in the cowhouse

      and each of the offspring would be out playing a solitary game in a

      different part of the inch).

      1960 came and went. I attained the age of fourteen (and I haven't used

      camphor balls since). I got my first bike. There were no dark days, in

      Kylebeg anyway. (Well not in the sense that we were deprived of diurnal

      illumination).

      There was no smell worse than cowdung and rotten spuds evident, and there

      hasn't been a dark member of the bacon-providing species seen in the area

      since the days of the Yorkshire pigs. So, seers past and present, I've

      heard what you have to say about flooding and disaster. I'm less spiritual

      but just as doubting as Thomas.

      So if you were to predict that;

      Daniel O 'Donnell was getting married,

      Shane McGowan would visit the dentist,

      Jackie-Healy Rae would be next Taoiseach or

      Wicklow would win the 2001 all Ireland Final

      I would treat it with a healthy scepticism. Wouldn't you, if you had spent the

      initial years of your teens worrying that you were going to die in

      short trousers?.

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