Thursday, 29 June 2017


The writer's group I attend, although not nearly often enough, picked the word tragedy as a story prompt this week. 

When I saw it, I said, "Easy," sure most of my stories have something tragic in them. I started ticking them off in my mind, I could use Five Little Fingers, which was a half poem about a child lost in a terror attack, or I could use Eamon's Monument which told the story of a husband lost at sea, or I could use Christina's Story which was a double tragedy dealing with a young woman who was attacked and the death of the man who came to her aid. Realistically I could have made a case for most of my stories to date and to do that would be pure lazy in my eyes.

I decided to find out what tragedy really was. 

Did you know the word is derived from the Greek word Goat?? Me either. Apparently, there is no explanation for the link between goats and sadness, but on considering it, they do have mournful faces.

So what does the word mean? A tragedy is an event causing great suffering, destruction and distress, such as a serious accident, crime or natural catastrophe. Can’t argue with that.

It also means, a play dealing with tragic events and having an unhappy ending, especially one concerning the death of the main character. Given that definition, a few of my stories are classic tragedies, and not just because of the terrible writing. 

So there we have it, that is the tragedy, but what is its essence? That required a little thought, so I settled down with a coffee and pondered. 

Recently I had an interesting conversation with a very attuned person about the need for hardship in life. I must admit, I believe a little bit of strife is good for the soul, it’s the teacher of lessons, it makes us value the good times, and it allows us to survive where we thought we should not. I think we're too quick to bemoan the small obstacles life throws in our way and it seems to me the more privileged we are, the greater we complain. In my mind, I could hear an expensive top, shrunk in the wash, described as a tragedy, or a missed aeroplane, or a flat tyre on the motorway. Are we too quick to label our lives catastrophes when the word was meant for so much more?

How can our designer disaster compare with the sinking of the Titanic? 

In what way does a delayed journey put us on par with the millions of soldiers who never came home? 

Never will a deflated wheel parallel the anguish caused by 9/11 or Hillsborough or The St Stephens Day Tidal Wave.

It’s time to use a new word for our troubles, one more suitable for their scale. You know, the next time I’m tempted to describe something in my life as a tragedy, I think I should pause and ask myself, am I just being a goat?

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Baby Bird

I came into work the other morning and found this little guy sitting on the floor. I've no idea how he got inside, but it was clear he was not in a good way. He was only small, a chick really. He just sat there, on the floor, not moving and not trying to get away. 

I covered him with a tablecloth so I could catch him and when I had him cupped in my hands, I carried him outside. I was going to put him down on a tree stump near the back door, so he could fly away. 

When I uncurled my hand's something strange happened, the little bird remained where he was, he didn't try to fly or anything. He just looked at me with his little dark eyes and sat where he was. He was clearly frightened because his feathers were a little puffed up.

It was amazing having something so delicate and wild sitting in my hand. Gently, I stroked his head and back, with my lightest touch and told him everything was going to be ok. His eyes closed and he lifted his head to receive each stroke as if he enjoyed the contact. It might have been a minute it might have been four as we enjoyed each others company, but in the end, I knew I had to let him go on his way. 

I stopped stroking him, and the most incredible thing happened. The little bird hopped across my palm and nuzzled his head against the tip of my finger. He may have been missing his mom, or he might have enjoyed the contact, whatever the reason, this little guy insisted on more strokes, and he continued to close his eyes with each pass over his feathers.

At last, I managed to get him to step down on the stump and left him there while other birds called from the trees. He didn't try to fly but stood there looking around. I knew he was roughed up, but I hoped he would be able to find his way home. I went in and opened up the pub, but the little fella wouldn't leave my mind. 

An hour later I went out the back to check on him, and sure enough, the top of the stump was empty. I was happy. Actually, my little friend had found his way home. I had started to walk away when I noticed a tiny fluffy patch on the gravel. I bent down and scooped up the cold body of my friend, a wild spirit who had made me his last contact before leaving this world. I'm not ashamed to say I shed a tear over his body, an innocent and beautiful creature who allowed me into his world before he found a better place in the universe. 

I will never know why that tiny thing hopped across my hand to get a second rub, but it will remain one of my most treasured moments.