I didn't realise that about when Orthodox Advent started - does that make it two months long? (Assuming Orth Xmas is after the Western) I've often thought that November is a good time to start fasting - and mid-December onwards is particularly difficult!

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Dec 1, 2023Liked by Paul Kingsnorth

Very happy to read about the book Paul. I know at least two people I'd like to share your essays with. Happy Advent to you and yours.

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Like a lot of fans yesterday, I was playing Pogues tracks all day. The first moment I became aware of MacGowan circa 1986 he looked to be at death's door. So really the news could have come at any point over the last 35+ years and not been entirely a shock. His appearance did add to the mystique, for sure, of a hard-living guy who knew of what he was singing when it came to these often boozy tracks of heartbreak and perseverance, even when he'd not actually written the tune himself.

'A Rainy Night in Soho' he actually *did* write, and it contains a verse you can put up against any songwriter's best:

"I'm not singing for the future

I'm not dreaming of the past

I'm not talking about the first times

I never think about the last

Now the song is nearly over

We may never find out what it means

Still there's a light I hold before me

You're the measure of my dreams"

That, as they say, is how it's done.

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Amazing how music and words effect us. Scrolling thru the 1000s of comments about Shane on youtube theres no bitterness or crazy hatred. Poets, musicians, writers all have a great and powerful gift.

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I must admit to being shocked to hear the news of Shane McGowan. Not that he was dead. But that he had, until recently, still been alive. His St. Patrick's Day performance on SNL remains the both the hallmark for great performances, but also the most drunk I have ever seen someone on American TV.

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Hi Paul,

Very much looking forward to seeing Against The Machine in print; this is great news.

I am also happy to see you recommend Andy’s writing; I describe Andy as a Reactionary Nonkronius Bon-Vivant, a man out of time, a real original. Hearing the two of you discuss matters of great import in that van going across South Dakota was truly an experience I will never forget.

What a coincidence, I’ll be going to see Andy and his soon to be bride at his home later today.

We will have a cup of tea in your honor.

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For a second, I misread the title as "Christmas Penance".

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Thank you Paul for these gifts, and for helping us keep the faith.

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Paul- Congratulations on the book! This is great news.

The Pogues were an integral part of the soundtrack for my college days. I started listening to them again during the pandemic on my drive to work--which I found oddly comforting. May he rest in peace.


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While the pandemic and our nations’ panicked responses drove us further into remoteness, into divisions that previously remained simmering under the lid of the pot, it is great solace to have these writings from Paul, and the commenters. It’s like a post-apocalyptic sci fi flick when the few struggling survivors are tuning a staticky radio hoping for signs of humanity in the world at large, but in this case, my phone is that radio, but joyfully, I get this instead of static.

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Thank you ,Paul, for this space. You keep me aware and yet hopeful. In these crazy times you inspire three needed pillars: Faith, Hope and Joy. Have a fruitful and blessed Advent season and may your new book be a great success.

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On the subject of "the machine" - how in the world did EM Forster write that short story in 1909, The Machine Stops. Thought of it this AM when my dear husband joined his Orthodox church's men's group via zoom. I awoke to him talking to someone, then other voices. What is going on, I wondered. Just invite them here for breakfast, I said.

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Very much looking forward to the book, Paul!

Thanks for the substack recommendations. I struggle to find good things in this place as it continues to grow ever larger.

Cheers to fasting before feasting.

Cheers to doing the uncomfortable things in order to truly feel the goodness of the celebrating.

(It is so funny how we have forgotten that the two of them are woven together).

I received so many texts yesterday starting with: "You scumbag, you maggot..."

He will be missed.

Praying for Ireland (and all of the places across the sea),


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Great news on the book, Paul. Will be looking forward to it, and best wishes in finding a UK publisher!

Yes, RIP Shane indeed. I've been a Pogues fan for three decades, and I'm a bit surprised that he lasted as long as he did, but God bless him -- Brilliant songwriter, and apparently a very caring, giving man despite the rough-edged surface. As much as I like "Rainy Night...", I'd have to say that my two favorite Pogues songs are "A Pair of Brown Eyes" and "The Broad Majestic Shannon."

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"I give myself permission to take the best of both traditions..." This just proves you're Orthodox.

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Alas Shane. I agree about "A Rainy Night in Soho." That song never fails to move me.

I was lucky to see the Pogues in a tiny venue LA in the mid-80s when they were just starting to get noticed by the alt scene. Shane was chugging wine and was getting quite drunk. During Sally Maclennae he actually forgot the words. The audience finished singing it for him. I think the band was surprised that these daft Americans knew all the words. They were a special band and that was a special night.

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