Bronach Agus Bringlodi

By Ken Bruen

We’ve been having storms like you wouldn’t believe. On the seafront, the waves have reached heights of near 45 feet, that’s 13.4 m. I’ve stood transfixed at the ferocity and sheer magnificence of them. And of course, two surfers went out there and the Coast Guard had to risk their lives to rescue them. Down at the docks, another fishing boat was lost and the wives keep a lonely vigil. The fisherman don’t learn to swim, believing if the sea wants you, it will indeed claim you.


All I know is that the sight of those women devastates me.

The title of this piece translates as




Bronach, pronounced … Bro-knock, is so much more than sadness though. In Irish, it’s like a soul sickness, a melancholia that reaches down over hundreds of years and Bringlodi, pronounced Bring-load-e, is simply dreams.

In so far as dreams are ever simple.

I was telling Elaine Flinn about these words recently and she loves them as much as I do, they have a resonance that is beyond articulation.

Which led me onto me gig of lighting candles.

As I do for friends who are undergoing pain, stress or trauma. Alas, there is only one church remaining in the city where you can light the candles in the old style. The rest have gone, if not digital, certainly electronic. You put your Euros in and press a button and a light comes on. Reminds me too much of a celestial slot machine, Vegas without the noise.

I need the traditional route, the long taper, you light it then put it to the wax candle and the whole ritual is strangely comforting. They say a candle is a prayer in action.

No debate from me.

If it’s a really special case, I light a green candle, no, not because I’m Irish but the green candle has deep significance in Irish history.

I did that recently for a friend who said

“I don’t believe in all that crap.”

I said

“I believe for you.”

I’m thinking of Sandra’s novel, What Burns Within.

Didn’t fly.

She scoffed, said

“You’re the last person I ever expected to be religious!”

I tried to explain that I believe religion is for people who are afraid of going to hell and spirituality is for  those who’ve been there.

Said so

And she countered

“How do you know if someone is spiritual?’

Usually, if they firmly believe they are spiritual, they’re anything but.

And heaven knows, I seem to be a constant target for the spiritual muggers, they figure I need saving and they’re right, I do.

From them.

Like humility

You claim to be humble, you ain’t.

There are three simple questions to determine if you’re spiritual:

1.    Are you wanted
2.    Are you needed
3.    Are you loved

It’s quite astonishing the number of people who will deny one or all of those.

But lest I get too deep here, there is a wonderful song by Amy Winehouse with Mark Ronson titled, Valerie. Sent to me by my close friend Tony Black. His novel, PAYING FOR IT, has a line of true Bronach, a dying father saying to his son

“I thought I could win you round by being hard on you … it was all I knew. I got what I wanted by being hard, a hard player I was … I thought you needed the same.”

My daughter and I jive to Valerie.

You guys call jive, swing.

Her sheer gurgles of delight as I swing her round the kitchen is as spiritual as ever I need to know.

One of my close friends here, said

“Jaysus, I can’t picture you dancing.”

I want to ask

“And why should you?”

Plus, it’s a given that Irish guys don’t dance, way too macho for that shite.

Few things give me more joy than watching people dance. Time back, when line dancing was hot here, I was in me element.

Few years ago, in Mexico, I was with some friends who asked me how I’d like to spend the evening?

I said

“Line dancing.”

They told me it was passé.

I said there must be someplace that still had it and they finally admitted that a biker joint, just outside Cancun did but it was a risky venue.

Just what I wanted to hear.

It was certainly atmospheric, the Harleys outside, one particularly beautiful Soft Tail custom, gleaming in the lights from the bar, and inside, a motley crew. We found a table and got the Tequila with the worm in the bottom of the glass.

We didn’t order it, they brought it over, plonked it down and gave you the look.

There were actually two types of drink available.

You could have it with or without the worm.

There was a heavy vibe in the air, I felt like I’d wandered onto the set of “Dusk till Dawn” and asked my friend if there was ever any trouble?

He said no as everyone was packing.

I said

“Except me.”

He shrugged it off, said

“Act like you are, swagger when you go for a leak.”


And knowing my history, someone would surely call my bluff.

I skipped the swagger.

The band were terrific, a blend of Cajun, Tex Mex and Country.

If I could have just got an Irish lilt to it, it would have been awesome.

Just recently, I’ve had a recurring dream. I’m walking with a lady and Ye Gods, I’m happy. I wake and I can’t recall her face, her name, just the feeling.

Craig Mc Donald in his debut novel quotes a line,

“You’ve got to find what you love and let it kill you.”

Head Games indeed.


My wondrous Rabbi in Beverly Hills emails me about the nature of love and the true spirit of the human condition.

I think of that as I re-read Louise’s blog about her amazing gesture for her dying brother.

All of this drags up some lines from a poem I never finished

In distance- once

Your face, I might
From complications
Have gentle
            Almost touched

My wish for 2008 is that Bill Crider’s wife is healed and well.

You guys say, Happy Holidays

We still say, Happy Christmas.

It’s so much more resonant in Irish and so, to you all

La Nollaig leat go lear

Thing is, I truly mean it.

Sin an sceal


15 thoughts on “Bronach Agus Bringlodi

  1. Tom

    I have no difficulty imagining you dancing – especially dancing with your daughter. It’s another approach to poetry.

    Joys of the season to you and yours (btw – read THE GUARDS last night. Will be heading back to the booksellers soonish (and not to return it!)).

  2. Bill Crider

    Thanks, Ken, for that kind and wonderful wish, and I do believe it will be granted. Judy’s doctor says she is in “complete remission,” and we have only one more chemo treatment to go! May you and everyone have a beautiful holiday.

  3. toni mcgee causey

    I, too, can see you dancing with your daughter, but maybe that’s because half my heritage is Irish (and the other half Cajun), so I’ve seen these wonderful Irish men dancing all my life. It is one of my best childhood memories, dancing with my dad, him teaching me all the steps.

    Thank you for the image of the candles–that will warm me for the day.

    Great news for Bill and Judy; that’s such a wonderful thing to hear about this Christmas.

  4. Pari

    How do you do it, Ken? How do you wander in so many directions and end up completing the circle?

    Must be like dancing. I want to dance with you someday, Ken. Can we make it a date?

    Re: candlesAsk your Rabbi in Beverly Hills about Jewish people and candles. We light them every week, for holidays, to keep people’s memories alive. I’ve an endless supply at home; they’re very meaningful to me.

    Bill,The news about your wife just made my day. O, joy! O, frabjous day!

  5. Louise Ure

    “Resonance that is beyond articulation” pretty much sums up both your blog and novel writing, too, my friend.

    Happy Christmas to you.

    And best Christmas wishes to Bill and Judy!

  6. Mary-Frances

    Ken,Thank you for this truly beautiful post, it started my very grey and wet day here in the northwest on a high note. It’s amazing how similar the weather conditions are here to Ireland–wish I could pop over to Spain for a holiday to get away from it like my Irish friends do.

    Okay, I have favor to ask. At the end of January will you say a word or two about Imbolc/St. Bridget’s Day. . .that’s my favorite holiday/festival.

    As my da always says as a toast for the holidays, “May you be in heaven half an hour before the devil knows you’re dead.” Weird holiday toast I know but it grows on you.

  7. Tammy Cravit

    The light of a candle’s flame is almost magical, isn’t it? When we light candles and sip wine and eat braided challah bread every Friday night, it’s almost as though our home has been transported to another place, another time, and the connections between us and our ancestors throughout the ages become tangible and oh so very real.

    Your post reminded me of a short story I wrote some years ago for an anthology my writing group was doing. I’ll have to find it and post a copy online.

    Blessings to each of us, on whatever holidays we celebrate at this time of year — Christmas, Hanukkah, Yule, or another. May 2008 bring all of us health and happiness and magic, in whatever form it comes.


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