Friday, 29 June 2018

Magic in the Kerry Sky

Sometimes my breath is taken away by the majesty of nature, like this morning when the sky above seemed painted by the hand of a genius. 

I wanted to share some amazing photos I have managed to click on my phone over the months.

This mornings sky on my way to bed.

The Magic of Banna Beach

Lofty getting in the picture.

 Fire on the Mountain.

 A procession of fluff.

 Holly with a peak of the man above. 

Thursday, 21 June 2018


The door of the cafe squeaked as it opened and a wave of conversation washed over me. At once I felt at home. The air was filled with the smell of roasting coffee and chocolate. The room held every kind of person imaginable, all happily rubbing along together. There's nowhere in the world like a New York coffee shop...nowhere.

I spotted him straight away, Zak could always stand out in a crowd. He shone, it was his greatest gift and his ultimate failing. His hair swept back from his forehead in a jet-black wave. He was good looking in the way that middle aged men can be. He wore a tailored three-piece-suit, in tweed, and looked cool despite the springtime heat. As if sensing my presence he let the corner of his newspaper drop and glanced in my direction. To say we were friends would be stretching things a long way, past colleagues would be more accurate. I walked across and sat down as he put his newspaper away.

"Of all the coffee shops, in all the world, you had to walk into mine," he said with a smirk. The Bogart quote suited him, he had the same laid back swagger, the same level of disinterested elitism.

"Zak," I said in greeting and draped my jacket over the back of my chair. I should be suprised to see him, but I wasn't. He had a habit of popping into my life when the mood took him.

"Judy," he said and grinned. There was a smarmy tone in his voice because he knew he was pushing my buttons. My name is, Jude, not Judy. I knew if I snapped at him, or showed my annoyance, it would only make his day. I decided to play him at his own game and said nothing. I waited, and little by little the humor vanished from Zak's face. It was he that broke the silence.

"You're looking well," he said and smoothed an already razor sharp crease in his trousers.

"That's nice of you to say," I said and refrained from repaying the complement, another tiny victory. Instead I asked him, "What brings you to New York?"

"I had a bit of business to take care of, a few contract defaulters."

"And you came all the way here to do that yourself? I thought you'd have minions for that kind of thing."

"I shouldn't have to tell you what idleness makes. Anyway its good to step down on the shop floor from time to time. You can miss a lot of the subtleties when you rely on second hand information."

"I guess that depends on the quality of those you have reporting to you." I couldn't resist having a pop at him. He abandoned our organisation a long time ago and set himself up in opposition. Nobody could deny the level of success he enjoyed but he never managed to get the upper hand on my boss. To give Zak his due, he never stopped trying.

"That is a bit judgmental, don't you think? Aren't you the one who is always saying there is good in everyone."

"Some more than others. Look, Zak, you know I shouldn't be talking to you."

"But you are talking to me," he said with a wicked grin.

"It's a free country but..." Zak jumped on that like a dog pouncing on a dropped sausage.

"Free country? Ha! Freedom - the greatest lie of all."

"Are you going to start preaching? If you are I've better things to do," I said, not relishing one of the long winded rants he was famous for.

"Freedom is a myth used to control the masses so the powerful can get more powerful, so the rich can get richer."

"And you are complaining about that? I thought something like that would have been your idea, if it had an ounce of truth in it."

"That particular trick came from your camp. I thought you'd have known that," Zak said talking to me as if I was an idiot.

"You do come up with some rubbish," I said and sat back in my chair.

"It's not rubbish. Your boss is always harping on about how open his company is, how everyone is master of their own destiny and in the next breath he is listing all the stuff you can't do. He makes me look like an amateur when it comes to pulling the wool over peoples eyes."

A waitress appeared to take my order and as she left, her gaze lingered on my companioin and a flush coloured her cheeks. Zak noticed and gave her a smile.

"Still got an eye for the women I see," I said when she was out of earshot.

"And why wouldn't I?" he chorkled then sipped his espresso.

"In our of business, women are weaknesses."

"Hummh! Timber with no knots has no strength! Why don't you come hit the town with me, take home a blond at the end of the night, or two and ...."

"That will be the day! Why have you tracked me down... again," I asked starting to growing weary of him.

"What's wrong with catching up with old friends?"

"We were never friends," I said crossing my arms.

"At least we are old." he said and grinned.

"True," I said, I did have to give him that one. Then it struck me - the real reason Zak was here. "You're lonely, aren't you?"

"Don't be ridiculous," he said dismissively but he crossed his legs at the knee, a sure sign I'd hit a nerve.

"You are! You're lonely," I said and slapped my own knee while I let out a belly laugh. Zak tried to control his emotions but he was never any good at that. His skin flashed an alarming shade of red and something dangerous crossed behind his eyes.

"I've got the world at my fingertips!"

"A world of what? Drooling idiots? Self centered egotists? The dross of humanity?"

"At least I chose my own path. What about you? Incredible power at your disposal but power you can never use unless your handler bids it. A brain in your head that you can't exercise. A heart in your chest you're forbidden to follow."

Handler he'd said! He was trying to make me sound like a trained mutt, and it stung.

"Are you are trying to goad me into doing something stupid!"

"How is it stupid to follow your heart?"

"I already follow my heart! I also follow my head!"

"You do what your told!" he said, getting a little bit loud and attracting a few stares.

I sat back and took a breath before I answered him in more controlled tones. "We can't go around acting like toddlers, doing things just because we get the urge. We have responsibilities to uphold."

"Responsibilities my fucking ass."

"Very eloquent."

"You accuse me of acting like a toddler when the truth of the matter is you, and the rest of your kind want the general public to believe they are free while even you are shackled."

I waved Zak's accusation away. On the surface I refused to be drawn into his madness but deep down I felt a pinch of doubt. In my darkest hours I'd wondered such things myself. I knew the importance of what we did but I could see the double standard at work. I followed the company line because I believed it was for the good of all.

"You're blind, Jude. You're a prisoner of your own making."

"Just because I don't see the world the way you do does not make me blind."

"Have you tried to see things from my point of view?"

"You know I can't do that."

"See? A prisoner. "

"Ok, I don't want to see your point of view. How's that for using my free will."

"Ha! That's not free will, it's doing as your told."

"It's because I believe...this is a ridiculous conversation."

"Freedom of choice is ultimately good."

"Yes I agree but not freedom without control."

"Surely you can see that controlled freedom is no freedom at all."

"No I can't."

"All I'm saying is that freedom and truth are subjective. A man kills his neighbor for trying to steal his wife and it's murder. A country goes to war over land or some high moral code and it's justified. Because it's a whole country it becomes acceptable but the truth is, it's all murder. You dip your hand in a man's pocket and it's stealing, a country sticks it's hand in your pocket and it's tax. I can prove I'm right."

"Are you playing games again, Zak?"

"Not at all. What harm could a small experiment do?"

"When you're involved, lots."

Zak smiled. He liked his rebel persona. He slipped his hand inside his jacket and took out an expensive wallet. He selected a hundred dollar bill and let the note flutter to the ground behind his chair.

"You'll never change, still trying to hoodwink people," I said, draining my cup.

"Not at all. Its money I don't need and won't miss. There's no way I can prove it's even my note. No one can be sure where it came from. It's a windfall, a bit of luck."

The waitress who had served me walked behind Zak with a loaded tray. She spotted the note and stooped to pick it up while we continued talking. She paused for a second before continuing to her next order. Zak smiled in victory and leaned forward, placing his elbows on the table.

"I don't know what you're smiling about," I said, "she just exercised her freedom which goes against all you were saying."

"Not really. She's proven that YOUR idea of freedom, YOUR idea of right and wrong is unnatural. It flies in the face of what people do when they have the opportunity and that is why YOU and that sanctamonous asshole you work for will never win."

Zak didn't see the waitress stop behind him and he jumped when she tapped him on the shoulder. "Excuse me, I think this fell out of your pocket," she said. Zak looked at the money she was holding toward him, and although his lips were smiling, his eyes were furious.

"Thank you so much," he said, taking the note and placing it on her tray. "A tip," he said and the woman's jaw fell open.

"There is no need, its far..."

"I insist," said Zak and gave her a killer smile. The woman beamed and hurried away with her eyes glued to her huge gratuity.

"What was that you were saying?" I asked leaning back to bask in Zak's fury.

"She must have thought we saw her pick it up," he said like a sulking kid.

"Or she did the right thing because she's a good person and good people choose freely to respect the world they live in and the people they live in it with."

"If you're so sure of that, why don't we up the ante?"

"In what way?"

"The next person through that door," Zak said pointing at the entrance. "The very next person! I'm going to make their dreams come true. Everything they ever wanted will become possible, but only if they choose it."

"I don't see how that will prove you right or me wrong."

"Like all freedoms, there is a price. I'm betting when the offering is big enough, even the most righteous person will abandon all notion of society and gorge himself on pleasure."

"Only if they are already that way inclined," I parried.

"Then you pick the subject," he said, and I saw the trap. He wanted this experiment to be mine. I was no wet-behind-the-ears-beginner in this game.

"This is your game, Zak, nothing to do with me," I said, and saw the twinkle in his eye when he realised I was not falling for his lure. Whatever would happen was Zak's doing but I was still interested to see the turn of the card. As if on cue the door opened and a mailman walked in. He approached the counter and delivered some envelopes, exchanged a friendly word and then turned to leave. Zak stood and intercepted him. They both moved left in unison, then again to the right. The mailman smiled and said, "My first tango in ages." He stood still and allowed Zak to move around him.

"Mine too - Simon," said Zak, reading the man's name tag, "but hopefully not our last."

The mailman watched my colleague go to the cashier with a frown. It was certainly a strange comment for a complete stranger to make but unfortunately for Simon, Zak wasn't just any old stranger. I watched the man shrug to himself then leave the cafe. I knew from that moment on, nothing in the mailman's life would ever be the same again.

The End...or is it just the beginning. 

Tuesday, 5 June 2018



Her name echoed through the house and she knew by her mothers tone, she was in trouble. She shuffled off the bed but decided to say nothing, if she was quiet enough, her Mom might give up calling her.

"Megan!" her Mother yelled again. Looked like that plan backfired.

"Coming," she called, opened the door and stepped out on the landing. She looked over the banister and saw her mother standing in the hall with her fists planted firmly on her hips.

"You brought more of those pests into the house, didn't you?" demanded her Mother which made Megan look down at her shoes. Now all the yelling made sense.

"They're not pests," she whispered into her chest.


"Nothing," she said sadly, twiddling her fingers in front of her dungarees.

"Get down here before I start squishing them!"

"Mom! You can't!" she said rushing down the stairs as quick as her eight-year-old legs would take her. Her Mom wasn't joking, she would squish them, she'd done it before. What Megan didn't understand was how her Mom had found them. She had been very careful to keep the box hidden when she came in from school. She didn't even take them out of her bag. By the time she got to the bottom step everything became clear. Her school bag had fallen from the hook on the wall, her math and English books were lying on the floor along side an empty box with it's lid half popped off. All over the floor were silver snail trails. It was no wonder her Mom was going crazy. Megan scooped up the box and started collecting the snails and popping them back in side.

"They're disgusting!" said her Mom poking one slow moving guy with her foot.

"They can't help the way they look," said Megan, stooping down to gently pick up the snail before her Mom did more than nudge the little guy. Megan didn't understand why people thought snails were icky, she thought they were great. In her opinion they were the best pets ever.

As she gathered the rest, her Mom noticed a particularly wide slime trail vanishing into one of her shoes lying on the floor. She bent down and picked up the bright red stiletto and peered inside.

"That't it!" yelled her Mother as she began whacking the shoe against the banister to dislodge the snail inside.

"Stop, Mom. You're frightening him."

"I'll do more than frighten him when I get him out. Those shoes cost me eighty euro and now they're covered in slime. Look, look! What's that stuff?" Inside the shoe the snail was blowing white foam everywhere, making an already bad situation worse.

"That's Ed Sheeran and he is doing that because you're trying to bash him," said Megan, holding out her hand to take the shoe. Slowly her Mom handed over the footwear, like the guys on TV do with a gun when a cop tells him to. Perhaps that was what she was - Megan, the snail squad. Now she had the shoe she was able to see the mess Ed had made but it was but noting a cloth and some washing up liquid wouldn't fix.

"Come on, Ed, she didn't mean it," said Megan gently picking her hard shelled friend out of the shoe. Ed made a little squeak which was why she'd called him Ed Sheeran. He was a great singer, for a snail that is.

Once she had all the snails gathered she put the lid back on the box and made sure it was secure. She had her foot on the first step of the stairs when her mom said. "And where do you think you're going, young lady?"

"Up stairs," she said, which was silly because anyone could see she was going up the stairs.

"Not with those you're not. They're going back in the garden where they belong. I am not having a repeat of the bat situation."

Oh! The bat situation - again. Grown-ups never let things go. Megan didn't understand what all the fuss was about. A while back, Dad left the attic ladder down and Megan went exploring. She had found the most gorgeous creature. It had dark fur, nearly black, and was about the size of her hamster. Best of all was he had wings! A hamster with wings! She called him, George. Gorgeous George, and she fell in love with him. He was really quiet and slept a lot but that was only to be expected because George was a bat. He only woke up at night when she was asleep. Megan thought George would be hungry when he woke up so she went to get him a snack. She got a block of cheese from the fridge and left it beside him. The next day she pulled a chair onto the landing and managed to get the attic hatch open with the stick Daddy used. The ladder came down and Megan was able to go check on her friend. She was very upset to see that George hadn't eaten any of the cheese, but he was still there, sleeping. This time she left George some ham.

Everyday she brought George something new but he didn't eat anything. One day she was trying him with some carrots when the lights came on and Megan turned to see her Mother's head poking up through the trap door. She got so mad, she said the place was full of rotting food and the rats would come. Megan told her the food was for George, the bat, not rats. When Mom saw George she said he was not sleeping at all. That night Megan cried so hard she thought her eyes would break. Bat situation or no bat situation, Megan thought her mother was being a meenie about the snails.

"That's not fair, its cold outside," she said, crossing her arms and stamping her foot for emphases. Megan was not about to give up on her friends, not without a fight.

"Either you do it or I will," said her Mom, crossing her own arms and putting on the face she thought was scary, but it wasn't.

Megan shook hear head and tightened her arms across her chest.

"Megan," her mom said. This time her name was said in the voice that was serous, not pretend serous, or serous that Megan could wiggle out of, this was serous serous and Megan knew she had lost.

"OK," she said and dragged herself toward the front door as if the worst possible thing waited on the other side of it. Megan could feel little tears at the corner of her eyes but she wasn't going to cry, she didn't like crying even though sometimes she couldn't help herself. Her mom opened the door and stood to one side as Megan walked to the bottom of the garden and sat down at the base of the wall. She opened her box and picked out the snails one by one, resting them under leafs and flowers, where they would be sheltered from the worst of the night. She left Ed for last and whispered to him as she held him against his favorite place, under the lip of concrete at the top.

"I'm sorry Mom scared you, Ed. She just really likes her shoes, like really really. And you're not disgusting, you're handsome, and talented, and really really wonderful. I guess we might look weird to you too." As she spoke, Ed slowly began to poke out his head and uncurl his eyes on the end of stalks. She kept whispering secrets to Ed until he had a good hold of the wall and she could finally let go of his shell. The very last secret she told Ed was to hold on till tomorrow and she would pick them all up again on her way to school.

Megan turned and walked past her mother sulkily, taking each step up the stairs like the sad girl she was. When her Mom came to her room later with a bowl of ice cream and kissed her head, she was still worried about Ed having to spend the night out in the cold. As her Mom left the room she turned and said, "They like it out side, really." Then she pulled the door closed. Megan put the ice cream on her bedside table and took out six boxes from under her bed and opened the lids. Every box was filled with snails.

"Do you like it outside better?" Megan asked. From deep inside a box came a little squeak and Megan smiled. "I didn't think so," Megan said to her friends and began feeding them tiny bits of ice cream which they seemed to love.