Thursday, 25 December 2014

Wibbly Wobbly Christmas

Last night after closing, I was putting out some barrels when I spotted Robbie Condan wobbling up the street full of the spirit of Christmas. Well full of spirits even if they had come from a bottle. He was singing Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer and wearing a paper hat while his feet took two steps backwards for every three steps forward.  

"Evening Robbie," I called. He waved in the general direction of the noise and nearly fell on his ass. He managed to hold himself up by grabbing the iron railings outside the park. I started to run across the road expecting him to  crash into the pavement. Even as drunk as he was, Robbie managed to hold himself up using the fence for support. He wobbled and staggered but stayed standing. I could only watch the amazing sight of Robbie pulling himself up the street bar by bar, singing with gusto as he went.

This morning after mass I happened to bump into Robbie. He was a shocking sight, eyes as red as the devils skin and his face as white as a sheet. There's always a price to be paid for our pleasures.

"Happy Christmas Robbie," I said. "I hope you got home safe last night."

"I sure did," he said with a cheeky grin. "I traveled by rail."


Happy Christmas every one and see you all in the new year.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Make it so number one.

I heard this story on the radio while coming home from work the other night and thought you might get a kick out of it. In setting the scene, it's important to remember being famous world wide is often of scant importance when viewed from a parochial viewpoint.

A while back William Shatner was holidaying in Ireland. From what I heard he was a most affable and unassuming man. During his time here his host took him to a Junior Club Hurling match. The teenagers put on a performance of such skill that Mr Shatner was blown away. His host suggested going along to the medal presentation in the clubhouse.

Being one of the most recognisable faces on the planet, it's not unusual that he made a stir but he didn't want to take from the achievements of the kids. Some of the club members approached the chairman when they heard who was in the audience. The chairman was a man who lived and breathed hurling and little else,

"Why don't you ask Captain Kirk to present the medals, it would be great crack," said one of them.

"Captain Kirk?" asked the chairman.

"Yea Captain Kirk, you know. He's the fella in charge of the Starship Enterprise, the space ship."

The look on the chairman's face left no doubt that he had no idea who the man was talking about.

 The exasperated club member said,"Just ask William Shatner to come to the stage."

"Alright," said the chairman and made his way to the rostrum. After a lengthy speech on the merits of the game it came time to call up the impromptu guest of honour.

"Could ...," started the chairman but he'd forgotten the man's name. Several people below the stage began whispering 'William Shatner' and 'Captain Kirk' which only added to the man's confusion. Frustrated to the hilt, the chairman grabbed the mike and said, "Will your-man from space come up here please."

When William Shatner eventually got his gales of laughter under control he made a great job of the presentation.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Loo Door Logic

At some time or other, we'll all end up staring across the table at a warming glass of Chardonnay that's destined never to be drunk.

Don't get me wrong, this isn't a moment of enlightenment in the life of a wine swilling alcho, I don't even like wine. The bottle of Heineken opposite the Chardonnay is mine, my suddenly called away lady friend is the wine drinker.

I don't know why I thought internet dating would be any better than normal dating, it’s not. They say the camera adds ten pounds, but in my dates case, it seems to have subtracted at least a stone. Her name is Sandra, or is it Sandy? Something with sand in it anyway. After chatting to her for a week, I finally plucked up the courage to ask her on a real date. You know what? She said yes. We really hit it off on line, her texts were chatty, intelligent, even bubbly, but she'd barely uttered a word since we met for real. What’s going on with that?

I took her to the eight o'clock showing of, "Inglorious Bastards." A truly great movie in my opinion, but she left me waiting in the lobby for ages, feeling like a spare part, two tickets in hand. The movie had already started when she showed up. She was really dolled up and I felt very under dressed in my skinny jeans and fancy V neck tee-shirt. I was nervous, so I made a joke about the traffic being murder, I thought it apt given the movie we were going to see. She didn't seem to get it. She wanted popcorn and drinks, which I forked out for as well, and we took our seats with half the show over. 

Nothing much had happened by the time the credits rolled. She hadn't tried to grab me or anything, actually she hardly said a word. Well, it was a movie, I guess. I suggested a beer in a trendy music club, so we could get to know each other better. Would you believe it, a fiver to get in…each…on a Wednesday! She didn't even take her coat off. By the time I came back with the drinks, her phone was suck to her ear. A flat mate, apparently, with some emergency. Her cat I believe.

Like that, she was gone, leaving me sitting alone, thirty quid out of pocket on a movie I'd already seen, in the most uncomfortable jeans ever worn, with a drink I was never going to drink.

Bloody typical.

One way or the other, I was finishing my beer, and a second. Why the hell not? A while later, a visit to the loo was required. Two bottles of Heineken, and a bucket of cola, will not all fit in my bladder. This was yet another massive mistake.

I pushed open the door and the place stank to high heaven. The urinal was blocked with fag butts, and full of piss. One of the cubicles was missing a door but a heavily tattooed biker was still taking a dump in it. Thankfully, the occupant of the second stall picked that moment to leave, so I ducked inside only to be assaulted by a lingering cloud of ass gas. Could this night get any worse?

As I stood, peeing, and holding my breath, I began admiring the scribbles left by previous victims of this filthy space. Floating right in my eye line was a message, penned by a sadistic prophet. Love yourself, nobody else will.

My life in a nutshell.


The next day started as always, far too early. The bus was crowded and smelly, taking me to a job I hate. Who actually wants to be a telemarketer? Five years in this soul sucking hell hole and not even promoted to supervisor. Mind you, I don't blame them. I've a habit of wearing my heart on my sleeve, and my annoyance in my voice...unfortunately. My friend, Tony, has the cell...sorry...cubical, next to mine. We've been lunch buddies since day one. My half-hour of sanity.

"How did the date go?" he asked between chomps of ham and cheese roll, while we sat on the steps of the building.

"She legged it as soon as we got to the club, didn't even finish her drink," I said, sounding sulky, and feeling I deserved to be pitied.

"Sorry mate," and to his credit, he did sound it.

"I should have expected it. Shit like that is always happening to me. I'm never destined to find the one," I said, and knew in my heart that it was just another example of how the world was out to get me.

"Don't say that," he said. "The perfect girl might be waiting around the corner."

"Rubbish," I snapped. What did he know? He didn't understand what it was like to be me. He was happy with his life, but I never intended to be sitting here, on a flipping step, eating sandwiches at twenty-seven years of age. I should be going places.

"Why?" he asked and he was being serous. He actually wanted an answer.

"Women don't want guys like us! They want Mr Flash, Mr Good time, and who could blame them?"

"That's a bit judgmental, don't you think?" he said, and sounded affronted. Jesus, I never took Tony for the delusional type.

"Sure! They say it’s all about personality, but that's a load of bullshit. The game is rigged and we're on the losing side," I said, throwing the last of my sandwich over the hedge behind us. 

"Not all women are the same, at the very least, they're not all as shallow and self-centred as you think they are," he said, getting hot under the collar. I didn't see what was getting him so riled up. Any idiot could see I was right.

"Ha!" I said, and let the sneer in my words do my talking for me. I was pissed off with women, why the hell should I hide it?

"Did you ever think you might be the problem, not them?" Tony said, his sandwich forgotten. He was proper angry now and for no good reason.

"Hang on a minute, what the hell did I do?" I said, slapping my chest with indignation.

"Nothing, you did nothing," he said, standing up and walking away. I wasn't having that. I jumped up and grabbed his shoulder, spinning around to face me.

"NO, no no... you were going to say something! Spit it out,"

"I don't want to get into this. I shouldn't have said anything. It's none of my business," he said, his tone calming, trying to talk his way out of an argument but I wasn't going to let him off the hook that easily. He'd started it, I was going to finish it.

"I want to know what you were going to say, is that asking too much?" I demanded.

He set his jaw, clenching it, the anger driving him to say what he clearly didn't want to say. "It's just you! Poor you! You expect so much and do fuck-all to make it happen! Then you sulk like a brat when you get what you deserve. And that's the truth!"

"I do not," I said, shocked. Really shocked. I never heard him so...well...confrontational. It wasn't like him at all. How could he have gotten me so wrong?

"Yes, you do, Greg!" now he'd started, he wasn't backing down. I stepped away and looked him in the eye. I hoped he could see how hurt I was, how maligned I was. If he couldn't, I was going to show him.

"Fuck you," I said, brushing past him. Yet again, Tony took me by surprise. He grabbed me and spun me around, hard. I thought he was going to punch me, and in a way he did; only with words.

"No, fuck you! I've listened to your griping long enough. Everyone has shit days, everyone has disappointments, but we get on with things. We don't inflict our misery on everyone around us. It's no wonder women run a mile from you! Who the hell wants to be around that kind of crap all the time? Relationships are meant to be fun..FUN! Try having some, now and again."

As he walked away, he threw his sandwich in a bin and yelled over his shoulder, "And you ruined my lunch."


I sat there for a long time, feeling bad about what Tony had said. I was nothing like that. When I got back to my desk, a pink post-it was stuck on my computer screen. Sorry, just having a bad day.

Tony's chair was empty and remained so for the rest of the day. I worked through my shift, fuming. On the ride home, Tony's words went around and around in my head. The more I thought about them, the more stupid they sounded. Nothing I was going to do was going to make, Katie Perry, appear in my bed. I could have all the good thoughts in the world, imagine fairies and unicorns to beat the band, and life will still be shit. I imagined all the things I would say to Tony when I saw him, and they all ended with the phrase, stick that in your self-help pipe and smoke it!

In the morning, when the bus pulled up at my stop, there was one seat left. I took it and looked out the window. First one drop landed, then a few, before the next stop the rain was thundering down. I sighed, knowing I was going to get soaked getting to the office. The driver pulled up and more people got on. I stuck in my head phones and refused to look at them.

Everyone has shit days, we don't inflict them on others.

Tony's words were back to torture me. The bus slowed, again! Surely he wasn't going to let more people on?

The doors opened and dripping old lady boarded.

Everyone has disappointments. 

Damn you, Tony. Get out of my head!

The wrinkly old dear was moving down the bus, using the seats like monkey-bars. She glanced at me and held on as the bus moved away from the kerb

Sulk like a brat.

Tony's words were distracting. The bus jolted and I realised I was still looking at the old lady, and she at me.


Who said that, I thought? Oh shit! It was me.

The lady looked confused and said, "Do I know you?"  I had a feeling she was about to report me to the driver, or something. I'd better do something...quick.

"No, just thought you'd like to sit," I said, and slid out of my seat. It was no loss, I nearly never got one anyway.

She smiled a lovely smile. "How very nice." She patted my arm and took my seat.

I hated standing, and shuffling old ladies make my blood boil. This was all Tony's fault. When my stop finally arrived, the old girl tapped me as I passed and said, "God bless you." You know, strangely, I didn't get as wet as I expected on the way to work.


I intended to clear the air with Tony, but I couldn't. He'd rang in sick.

The next morning, I got up late and ran to catch the bus only to see it vanishing into the distance. I thought of Tony once more. His rant still stung, but not as much.

"Who says I let things get to me?" I said, as I sat at the bus-stop, deliberately stretched out my legs, linking my fingers behind my head. I gave a mental two fingers to my supposed friend. I closed my eyes and let the morning sun play over my face. It was quiet relaxing. When the bus arrived, it felt like seconds, not the hours it normally felt like. I never remember being so relaxed going to work before. As much as it irked me to admit it, Tony might have a point.

As the days passed, I tried other things; I let people on the lift before me, I held doors, I smiled even if I didn't mean it, I said hello to people in shops, I was nicer to tellers, I made coffee for colleagues. I even tried it with the customers. I started asking if they wanted to talk to me, or not, before launching into my sales pitch, and remarkably, my figures went up. The biggest thing I learned was, even when someone was grumpy, I still felt better, as long as I wasn't grumpy back.

A week passed before Tony came back to work. I snuck out for a few minutes and returned with a latte and a chocolate muffin. I slid them onto his desk, and said, "Sorry I ruined your lunch."

"I wanted to talk to you about that. I'm the one that should be sorry. I wasn't feeling well and took it out on you. It wasn't fair."

"No, you were right about a lot of things. Things I'm sure others said behind my back, but it takes a good friend to say them to my face."

He smiled, and I was glad. I'd done a lot of thinking about my life, and what had happened. I needed to thank him for that.

"Fancy eating this with me later?" he said, pointing at the muffin.

"That's a date! Which reminds me, I've another one later," I said, dying to share my big news with someone.

"You’re kidding? With who?"

"Ciara, from accounts."

"Ciara, from our accounts? That Ciara?"

"The one and only," I said, with a beaming smile. She was a stunner and I couldn't believe she'd agreed to come out with me.

"So where are you taking her? Not, Transformers, I hope."

I had to laugh at that. "No, I've something else in mind."


We ate an early dinner at a cafe by the canal. She laughed at my terrible jokes, and we talked about everything and anything. I never believed a woman as wonderful as her would ever be interested in me. After dinner, I asked if she fancied staying out for a drink, and my heart did a jig when she said, yes. I knew just the place to take her.

This time, the glass of wine was on the same side of the table as my bottle of Heineken, and a few empties rubbed shoulders in the middle. After a bit, I excused myself and braved the loo, hoping it wasn't going to be as bad as I remembered. Thankfully, the urinal had been unclogged, but the door was still missing from the first cubicle. I used the second.

Like the last time, I noticed the quote which had so tidily described my life. Reading it again, it seemed unfinished. After a quick shake, I fished a pen from my pocket and went to work. It was only a small change, but an important one.

Love yourself, it started but this time I'd written the word, OR , between it and, nobody else will."

"Not quite right," I said, and added a smiley face.

Now it was perfect.

Thanks so much for reading along. If you liked it, there are plenty more stories here to try out!! 

If you are feeling hugely adventurous, why not download, "Thirty Pieces of Silver." Those who've tried it seemed to enjoy it, but be warned, it can be a little bit...ferocious

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Doctors, Robbers and Wakes

This isn't a story but a wacky bit of history. I just found out today the reason funeral wakes came into being.

I just thought that the Irish loved a good party and any reason would do just fine. The beginnings of the Funeral Wake had a much more serous start. Medical science was in its infancy and they were mad for bodies to work on, expanding their knowledge. Annoyingly people were not so keen to co-operate. The number of people willing to be cut up in the name of science was tiny. Enter the greatest evil, cash.

The doctors began paying good money for a body. Enter the second great evil, people. Supply and demand did the rest. It was not long before freshly planted loved ones were just getting up and vanishing. That was when the wake was born,

Relatives would have to wait with the body while it was prepared for burial and stay awake, watch it while it was placed in the grave yard staying awake all the time. Lastly they had to stay with the body for several days afterwards particularly at night to make sure it was not dug up again while still usable.

Today a wake is a way to say good bye to a loved one but once it was a way to make sure you didn't loose them for good.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

King Rat

Have you noticed how determined everyone seems to be to leave a mark on the world? It must be a natural reaction to our mortality. Fame comes in many shapes and sizes. Some people are destined to be known throughout the ages, immortal through the annals of history, Achilles for instance. The rest of us have to accept that our own little glimmer of notoriety will dwindle slightly more quickly. Sadly, we don't often get to pick how we are remembered, that duty falls to the ones we encounter on our way.

In the eighties there was a man called Mr O'Gorman living in my town, he was a crooked old fella with withered features and a wicked scowl. He was determined to see the worst in everyone and everything. Nothing seemed to bring joy into his life. Hardly surprising really, he rattled around in a huge old store all by himself. What was once a thriving Grain and Feed business now was just a shell, falling into decay around the old man. Weeds sprouted through a massive yard, unused in years. The painted sign that stretched the length of the building had once announced, "O'Gorman and Son," proudly to the world in gold and black, now it was fading and flaked, a symbol of hope forever lost. It looked like a building abandoned to the mice and spiders. Mr O'Gorman was not a verbal man, he let his emotions crawl over his face like storm clouds racing over a sunny valley. Bumping into this shuffling figure could never be described as a pleasure, which Billy Nugent found out to his cost.

A small town is a microcosm, and one that can easily be thrown into uproar. One sunny Sunday, the morning the mass bell was still pealing when Mr O'Gorman was swept away from the steps of the church by a vision of evil. That was how the scene was retold later, at any rate. What had actually happened was Billy Nugent, recently returned from New York City, came careering down the pavement on something called a skateboard.

Clickity-clack, clickity-clack, clickity-clack, went the wheels as they pumped over cracks in the concrete. Along with the skateboard, Billy had returned from America with a whole collection of hoodies, an equally deadly addition to his arsenal of mayhem.  The sad truth of the matter was that, Billy, had no control of the board, and nearly no view of what lay ahead of him. The first time he saw Mr O'Gorman was when they became a flying ball of limbs. At first, some of the women thought it was the Grim Reaper, come to take the grumpy old sod down below. When they eventually untangled the mess, it was a major disappointment to see a spotty teenager emerge from the cowl.

"You guttersnipe, you should be arrested," growled Mr O'Gorman as he was helped to his feet.

"It wasn't my fault. You jumped right out in front of me," stammered Billy.

"Rubbish, you moron! This is a footpath, not a whatever-the-hell that is, path," roared the old man, waving his blackthorn stick at the upended skateboard.

"I have as much right to be on here as you, and it’s a skateboard, you old goat," said Billy, as bold as brass retrieving his board. The name calling was a step to far for Mr O'Gorman, who lashed out with his knobbly walking stick. Billy deftly avoided the blows and raced for safety.

"I'll get the Sargent after you…you PUP!" yelled the old man at the disappearing teenager.

Mr O'Gorman was nothing if not a man of his word. After several heated telephone calls to the Garda station, the Sargent finally agreed to call on the Nugent's, but refused to arrest the teenager for attempted murder, as the old man wanted. Now, whatever the Sargent was expecting to encounter it wasn’t the disinterested, disrespectful, irreverent young man he found Billy Nugent to be. Every attempt he made to explain the gravity of the situation, to the spotty teenager, was greeted with rebuttal. Most annoyingly, the kid's points were difficult to refute. In the end the Sargent could take no more, he blew his top, telling the sheepish parents that, "Billy would end up seeing the inside of a cell before long," then stormed out of the house.

The following few days saw several more angry calls from Mr O'Gorman, wanting to know, "Why that hooligan was still roaming the streets terrorising law abiding people?" Being told that there was nothing illegal about skateboarding did nothing to ease the situation.

"What do you mean nothing illegal? Didn't he nearly clean kill me?"

"I understand, Mr O'Gorman, but it was only an accident and I've had a stern word with him, and his parents."

"Feck all good your words are! Didn't I have to run him out of my yard only yesterday, with that devil board of his, and he gave me the finger, did you hear? The finger!"

The Sargent sighed heavily into the phone and said, "I’ll have another word." You could nearly hear his back creak under the weight of defeat.

"You do that, Sargent, and I'll start selling chocolate tea pots; they’ll be about as much use."

"I have to act within the law," said the Sargent, having nearly enough of being hectored by this old codger.

"Well, the law is an ass!" roared the old man.

"Are you calling me an ass," said the Sargent, not believing what he was hearing.

"If the cap fits, wear it," snapped Mr O 'Gorman, slamming down the handset.


The Sargent wasn’t the only one to feel the sharp side of Mr O'Gorman's tongue. Having given up on the law, he turned his attention on the head of the County Council, for whom he held little regard anyway. That phone conversation went even worse, as the Town Planning Officer was a jobsworth, with a lazy streak a mile wide. After listening disinterestedly to Mr O'Groman's rant, the Planning Officers reply was, "And what do you want me to do about it?" Mr O'Gorman's blood pressure went stratospheric.

"What do I want you to do? I want you to get off that huge, lazy, backside of yours and make this town a safe place to live. I want to know what you lot do in that brand new, state of the art, tower block, besides ripping off pensioners like me."

"We certainly do not rip off pensioners! I resent you're tone, Mr O'Gorman," said the Planning Officer hoitily. "We take no revenue from the retired of this community I will have you know."

"Why then, are you charging rates on my home?"

"Technically, it is a business premises, Mr O'Gorman."

"Technically, I haven't sold anything ten years, but the rates bill comes regardless."

"That is a different matter entirely," said the Planner, hastily.

"Different matter my arse, you mark my words, you little shit, if you don't do something about these kids, you’ll be sorry," ranted Mr O'Gorman, before driving the handset into its cradle with a crash. Another dead end but he was a dogged old man and once he got the bit between his teeth, little would distract him. He contacted the, National Roads Authority, the local TD, the Parish Priest, as well as every member of the tidy town committee. It seemed no one could do anything.

The Sargent had his own axe to grind with Billy Nugent. He was not used to being belittled, or ignored, making Billy a marked man. Whenever the opportunity arose the Sargent gave him a grilling, or a clip around the ear. He even hauled Billy into the station in the back of the squad car. This only made Billy’s reputation grow until it reached legendary proportions among the youth of the town. Soon, the number of hoody-wearing skateboarders began to grow, Billy's rein of anarchy was gathering an unwitting army to itself.

Billy was far from a criminal mastermind; he wasn't even a bad kid. He just let his mouth lead the way long before his brain knew what was happening. He never intended to knock over the old fella outside the church, or even get the Sargent so mad. It just seemed to happen. People said he was moody but most of the time he just had nothing to say. Billy didn’t really fit in anywhere. When other kids began to copy the way he dressed, and wanted to hang out with him, he thought it was wired…creepy even. In the end, the lure of company was too much, and he begrudgingly accepted his new role as the town bad boy.

Mostly, Billy loved to skateboard. He and his new friends made little ramps and tried to perfect tricks, using the steps of the church or the school playground when nobody was around. Once, he even skated in O'Gormans yard, thinking the old man was out. That had been a mistake. As the number of skaters in town grew, so did the number of voices raised in protest at their existence. Billy couldn't understand it, after all, what the hell were they doing that was so wrong? It wasn't like they were selling drugs or mugging the wrinklies. It just made no sense. When the council tried to get a bye law passed, banning the use of skateboards on public pavements, Billy knew something had to be done.

About then, the rats began appearing. Not real rats, ones even more insipid. Small graffiti rat's, on public buildings. They seemed to spring up overnight, like magic. People thought the first one was cute, as it depicted an old rat walking on its back legs with a little walking stick. The next one had the same little rat but this time he held a bunch of flowers. When the third one appeared, holding a severed head, the public outcry began. Guess who was first on the list for questioning? It was Billy with a bullet.  

Of course, he said he had nothing to do with it. The night after Billy was questioned a whole family of rats appeared on the county council building with the slogan, "Freedom for the People," blazoned in bold letters above them. Billy's feet hardly touched the ground as he was hauled back in for further questioning. This time, he did see the inside of a cell, a whole night’s worth. At a minute to five in the morning, he was released, with a boot in the arse to help him on his way home.

Billy trudged the sidewalks of town, his trademark hoody pulled low over his head. He’d told the Sargent a dozen times, he had nothing to do with rats, but he may as well have been taking to the wall. If the Sargent wanted proof he should just talk to any of his teachers. They would have been delighted to tell him that Billy hadn't an artistic bone in his body. He was beginning to wonder if his new found popularity was worth all the hassle. The town was eerie at this time of the morning, it was so quiet. He walked along rows of houses, fuming, when he saw something move in the darkness. He froze. If it was the Sargent, he’d probably nick him for loitering or something.

In the distance, he made out a hunched figure near the Water Works Office. Billy decided to get a better look and tip-toed. He was just about to stop when his foot landed on a patch of gravel, causing the figure to spin round. You could have knocked him over with a feather when a smiling Mr O'Gorman regarded him with twinkling eyes. Where he had been kneeling, there was a still wet drawing of a rat, shaking the last few coppers from a coin purse into the begging bowl of huge suited figure, with the slogan, Power Corrupts - Completely. Billy heard Mr O'Gorman chuckle for the very first time and in a wink, he was gone.

The very next day, Billy was back in the clutches of the Sargent. He never mentioned a word about what he had seen, but continued to protest his innocence. What would be the point in saying? Nobody was going to believe what he saw. One or two more rats appeared after that, but no one ever identified the artist. Billy continued to skateboard up and down the pavements of the town, and Mr O'Gorman continued to rail against the world.

A few years after that, Mr O'Gorman passed away. His funeral was attended by only a handful of elderly towns folk, and distant relatives. It amazed everyone when Billy Nugent turned up at the graveside and remained for the full service. It was even more baffling when Mr O'Gormans will was read. Hadn't he donated his yard to the community, under the stipulation that it be concreted over, and used only as a free skate park for the young people. He also added that the council could whistle for the rates owed on the land.

The day after the newly concreted skate park opened, the mysterious artist struck again. A giant rat, with a crown on his head, appeared on the largest jump. The Sargent didn’t come looking for Billy about this one, which was just as well, because he couldn’t get the paint to budge from under his fingernails.

Billy and his friends continued to skate there for many a year, under the happy observation of the smiling rat. In the end, the boy, and the man, neither of whom fitted well with the world, existed in harmony. 

Friday, 19 September 2014

Eamon's Monument

Sometimes I think the romance has been sucked from life by the technology we surround ourselves with. It is hard to describe the feeling, computers, cars and such devices leave with me. Detachment is close.

I often think of the days when we were connected to our surroundings in a more basic way. When a man plunged his hands into the heavy loam of the earth, working it with skill and passion, to bring forth a bountiful harvest. Perhaps it is because I'm an island dweller that I feel this way. So many men in the past have faced death just to put a meal on the table. I think that accepting ones own mortality paints the world in wondrous colours. I love the ocean and respect it. It has shaped the very land I stand on, given birth to the all life. The vast expanse of water, that has made us what we are, is the greatest thing I have ever seen. I am drawn to it like so many that have gone before me.

Today, the waves are gentle and inviting. They lap against the limestone cliff as it plunges into the sea, diving deep, where light has never shone. The wind is sharp with just a taste of winter. Gulls hang in the air, effortlessly riding the currents with skill. A watery sun sinks slowly into the west as I wander the contours of Kerry Head. I know this land well; it has a feeling of history. The walls, built by hands long vanished from the earth. Coves, worn into the rock by eons of erosion. All this existed before I was born and will continue to exist long after I am gone.

I visit the old grave yard, remembering those who went before me. I wander among the stones, some new, some older than time. The ones that fascinate me most are the ones so weathered that all trace of inscription has vanished. These blank tablets of rock ignite my imagination with possibilities. As chance would have it, I stumbled on the final resting place of Sheila Lennihan. Her headstone inscription reads;

Sheila Lennihan (ni Brennan)
1905 - 1978
Beloved wife to Eamon, on whom she still waits. 

The story of Eamon and Sheila Lennihan is well know in these parts, and sadly, their story is not uncommon. You could search for a year and a day amoung the headstones in this grave yard but you will find no monument to the late Eamon Lennihan. He left a more personal reminder of his passing. This is his story.

Eamon Lennihan farmed a small holding, clinging to the very edge of the land where it gave way to the Atlantic Ocean. Like so many others, he had to turn to the sea to make ends meet. Early each day, he would take his battered old bike and ride the short distance to Kelly's Cove, and his Currach. For those that don't know, a Currach is a traditional Irish boat, made from pitch and hide. The hide in modern days had been replaced by canvas, but the intention remained the same. In these simple craft, Irish men have challenged the might of the sea for hundreds of years, gathering what little they needed to survive. Sometimes the saddest facts are also the simple ones. Not every man that left in a Currach came back.

On a morning like any other, Eamon waved goodbye to Sheila and set off on his rickety old bike. Before the sun was high in the sky, he’d pushed the boat into the waves forcing the Currach away from the land with powerful strokes of his narrow oars. The little boat creaked and groaned as it rode the swell, laden with a cargo of lobster pots. Before long Eamon and his Currach were out of sight. The day was a bright one with a gay breeze, the ocean rose and fell gently. 

In Lennihan's cottage, Sheila prepared a pot of stew, tended the chickens and looked after the few cattle they possessed. When the sun began to dip towards the west, the pot of stew remained untouched and cold on the kitchen table. Shelia had worn a trench of worry, from door to window, as she waited for Eamon to return. He had never been this late before. In the end she could wait no longer and hurried toward Kelly's Cove. As she raced past men toiling in the fields she asked if they had seen her Eamon? None had. Soon, the news spread and concerned friends began to gather. 

When Sheila reached the end of the path, she saw Eamon's bike leaning against the dry-stone wall bordering the sheltered inlet but his Currach was not on the shingle beach. Sheila searched the ocean for her husband as people rallied round. Men ran to boats, launching them into the evening sun and stroking for known fishing spots. Women gathered around Sheila but she wouldn’t be moved from the edge of the cliff. She searched the horizon and cried with joy when she spotted a boat, only to sob with anguish when she realised it was a search boat returning empty handed. 

The last boat returned just as the sun touched the western edge of the ocean. Sheila refused leave. The women built a fire on the edge of the cliff to keep her warm and to guide the lost Eamon home. The beacon burned all night, and in the morning, everyone except Sheila accepted the tragic loss.

Sheila never would, or could, accept that her Eamon was not coming home. Every evening before the sun would set, she made her way to Kelly's Cove and watch the horizon until dark, waiting for her man to return. Having no body to bury there was never a grave stone erected in memory of Eamon Lennihan, that is not to say he was forgotten. 

I give Mrs Lennihan's headstone a touch for luck before walking down the path that took me to Kelly's Cove, to stand on the headland, as she had done every night to watch the sun go down over the wild Atlantic Ocean. As I rounded the last corner, I caught a glimpse of Eamon's Monument, still lying against the wall where he'd left it, all those years ago. An old bike waiting to carry its owner home. 

Perhaps I was a bit harsh about technology at the start of this piece, when used right, there is majesty in just about anything.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Work In Progress

I was delighted to find the fantastic Teagan Kearney had nominated me for this blog challenge, it is just the kick in the arse I needed. If the truth be known, the work in progress over the last few weeks was a demanding repaint of the house and laying timber floors, which has muted most of my efforts on my blog of late. All that is about to change.

Here are the rules:
Provide the link back to the post by the person who nominated you.
Write a little about your work-in-progress.
Give the first sentences of the first three chapters of your current WIP.
Nominate four other writers for the challenge.

Teagan Kearney, where do you start with a personage as deep and complex as Teagan. The simple fact of the matter is you just have to dive right in, that is just what she does with each and every post. They say that every writer has a voice, or should have a voice. Teagan's voice rings out crystal clear, filled to the brim with honesty, passion and courage. She helps without asking anything in return while laying bare her very soul for all of us to wonder at. As for her talents, they seem boundless. A taker of pictures, a blogger of sanity and fountain of wondrous fiction, where to start with Ms Kearney is not the problem, its the ability to drag yourself away from her posts is always an issue I have. I am proud to count her among my friends.

Now onward with the challenge. 

So what have I started but not yet finished? The answer is loads but the biggest thing is a monster called Honeysuckle Lane. 80,000 words and counting ( not saying many of them are good) with a hazy image of a finish line on the horizon. I have no idea what to do with this when it is done except to say that it's finished. I think I over extended myself when starting this by choosing four intertwining story lines with a cast of characters Ben Hur would be proud of.

Here are the first couple of sentences of the first three chapters ( I feel I should apologise in advance here).

Intro Honeysuckle Lane
 Frank's palms slipped on the steering wheel. This was a full on panic attack now. Was the car following or not? His eyes flicked constantly to the rear view mirror. Hunched up over the wheel, his body hummed with tension.“Jesus, Jesus, Jesus,” he said. He hit the brakes hard when a red Micra pulled out in front of him

Chapter One
“Is that you Frank?” called Barbra from upstairs.
“Hi Bar,” he called back with just the hint of exasperation.
Who did she think it was? Every night the same thoughtless question. Frank yearned for the woman Barbra used to be. That woman wouldn't call such banal rubbish at the sound of an opening door, far from it, that woman would have playfully called “Bill you know you shouldn’t be here, Frank will be home soon,” knowing full well it was her husband who listened.

Chapter Two
Mary Sweeney stood inside her sitting room window watching the grey haired man outside the O’Shea’s house. She was on the verge of phoning them when Frank come out. It was hard to be sure but he did not seem overjoyed with his visitor. A few minutes later they both got into Franks fancy new car.

I am not expecting anyone out there to swoon at these opening lines, far from Joyce they are, at least they are mine.  

This is the bit that I have been wanting to get to. The four fantastic people who light up my days when I read their words. Sadly I cannot re nominate Teagean as she surely deserves it, I would have also nominated Gendon Perkins but he has withdrawn from blogging of late. Considering these notable exceptions, here are my picks for the challenge.

A Long. AJ is one of my oldest friends on G+, a poet of extreme talent and a hell of a nice guy.

I love Ali's blog posts, her craft is beyond question. She fills each and every post with information, intrigue and joy. She what a real writer is all about.

Erica Gore displays all the polish you would expect from a professional writer and journalist without any of the distance. She is the possessor of the biggest heart with the sharpest mind around.

Rob Tobor is one of the zaniest bloggers out there, every post leaves me amazed at the world his brain occupies. Always amazing always way way out there.

That is my work in progress blog post, I hope my four nominated people don't mind too much and will take part. Thanks everyone and keep tuned for the next story.