The Times We Lived In: King of flesh-and-blood front-page mischief

Published: March 3rd, 1989. Photograph by Paddy Whelan

When I came across this image in the archive, buried deep in a stack of quirky news shots, forgotten celebrities and standard-issue handshakes, it brought me to a complete halt.

I rejected it and moved on to the next picture; but I kept sneaking back to have another look.

What was Paddy Whelan, the ultimate people person, king of flesh-and-blood front-page mischief, doing out in the fields of Co Westmeath taking poetic landscape pictures in the vicinity of Lough Ennell?

Clearly, he saw something worth recording in the shape of the tree, the echoing contours of the clouds behind, and the contradiction between the movement of the restless wind through the branches and the calm, flawless curve of the hill.


Perhaps what he was recording, I thought, was the idea that everyone needs time to daydream now and again.

The line reminded me of a line from a poem.

It took me a while to track it down, but it turned out to be part of Dermot Healy's 2010 book-length poem A Fool's Errand.

Appropriately, this particular section is called The Wild Goose Chase.

A meticulously-observed recounting of the annual migrations of barnacle geese between Ireland and Greenland, the poem is gripped by the suspicion that most of the self-important stuff with which we humans occupy ourselves is – mostly – a waste of time.

Have a look. Have a read. And have a happy, guilt-free daydream. Arminta Wallace Everyone has a wild goose In the head that they heard

once on the quiet border between Spain and France or a balcony with Mongolian chanters in Perth, the sweep to aft on a half-deck at Aughris, or in a melodeon out the pier at Sopot, a main street in Prague by an empty tomb. In some back room long forgotten a goose is about to spread its wings