Sunday, 23 December 2012

All good things...

...come to an end....and with the fast moving online interface place (or something) it soon becomes time to move on to something new...which time has now arrived for this writer for my musical message...

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Days of Miracles and Wonder

The week didn't start that well, austerity wise. For reasons too obscure to even mention it so happened that  my beloved H and I found ourselves in guardianship of a small eleven year old boy for a few days.

A pupil in St Andrews College in Dublin, this single fact put the kibosh on the austerity bit. They don't do austerity down there. Or, if they do, the yummy mummys apply a pretty good face to things.

It was a revelation.

To avoid the congestion on Booterstown Avenue we had been instructed by the parents of the small eleven year old boy to approach the school from the rere. (Yes there is a joke there somewhere but I'm not going scraping that barrel.) There is a lane, we were told, running through wooded territory to the east of the Radisson Hotel. And that would lead to St Andrew's without getting snarled up among lowly commuters. We found it. And got snarled up among large vehicles with copies of Fifty Shades of Grey forgotten in the glove compartments. These large vehicles  were being driven (badly)  by blondish Mums who, if it had been sunny, would've been wearing sunglasses in their hair.

But it wasn't. It was raining.

I parked the car, suddenly conscious that the vehicle was a couple of years older than the small boy in my charge. It vaguely occurred that there was some rule of thumb or social convention whereas one's car should be younger than one's children...certainly to be socially acceptable in St Andrews laneway. But the thought evaporated. This happens more and more, these days.

It's not actually officially St Andrew's Laneway, more likely an extension of the entrance to that Radisson Hotel, and obviously originally a laneway that ran round the boundary of the onetime St Helen's Estate. I spotted apartment blocks here and there in the woods. Mere glimpses through trees. But then other lives are like that. And  I also spotted a playing fields which I first thought belonged to St Andrews but then was enlightened by the beloved H. (Not that she's that beloved when she's in enlightening mode, but whatever.) Apparantly the playing fields belonged to neighbouring Colaiste Iosagain, a different school entirely. Oh yes I know it well. Our daughter went there. And now walking down the lane I noticed clones of my daughter...well clones as she was fifteen years ago, that familiar uniform... coming up the lane towards me. Girls in greenish plaid skirts. Whilst going in the same direction as myself the St Andrew's kids were in their grey and darkish blue rigouts.

I noticed the different factions of young people ignored each other as they passed. The difference between fees of six and a half thousand a year and no fees at all does that I reckon.

"Like what do the St Andrew's kids get" I asked H, "like for their six and half grand? Like what do they get that the free school kids don't?"

"Better facilities?" she surmised.

"But Iosagain is one of the best schools in Ireland, and our daughter got a masters from University College London." (I didn't actually say 'our daughter', I used her name. But I realise  she desires anonymity from her father's writing. Wonder about that sometime.)

"Yeah well," said my beloved H, and the matter remained unresolved.

How and ever, that same evening some small chink of resolution did glimmer.

It happened down in Sandymount. I was in the upstairs bar of the clubhouse of the Pembroke Wanderers' Hockey Club. Pictures of old hockey teams on the walls. And among them photographic portraits of deceased individuals important to the history of the club. Women who looked unmarried and men who looked like accountants.

I absorbed all that.

I gazed out over the floodlit expanse of the all weather hockey pitch. Hordes of small boys were rushing around with hockey sticks and I was trying to work out which exactly was my eleven year old charge. They all looked pretty much of a muchness from that distance.

A DART train went by. I imagined myself sitting in the window, looking out at the hockey pitch, as no doubt people were, and as I had done myself so many times.  So many times but this, I realised, this was the first time I had ever been in the clubhouse of the Pembroke Wanderers' Hockey Club. But, however, how and ever, it was not at all the first time I had been at the grounds itself. Long years ago I used play cricket here. It was grass then, and the clubhouse then was a shack over at the Churchill Terrace side.

I remembered that.

The next day Saturday I went to the austerity march through Dublin. I wasn't actually participating, merely observing. I like to be in at the start of a revolution. It gets messy later on, but the start tends to be interesting. I walked up O'Connell Street.

A group of thuggish characters had taken over the O'Connell Monument and were waving flags of the IRSP, The Irish Republican Socialist Party. I nodded, but only to myself. I walked on. remembering how thirty five years ago I had walked through Little Bray behind the coffin of Seamus Costello.

There's been a lot of funerals since.

I walked on. A man that seemed to have stepped out of a Victorian cartoon held a large placard on a pole above his head. It prophesised doom in biblical language. A group of Islamic people stood silently along the kerb. Well, two groups of Islamic people, one made up of men, the other of women. I presume they were essentially the same group. They weren't protesting, rather evangelizing, if that be the word. Definitely was the word for yet another group, this one of fundamentalist Christian preachers. And beside them a group who didn't think much of Jews or Israel. All white Irish, the young men wore Arab scarves and the young women were in gear they certainly wouldn't be able to wear when their cause was won.

I walked on.

A solitary and beautiful young woman handed me a Pro-Life leaflet. I took it politely, wondering vaguely yet again why Pro-Life women are  better looking that Pro-Choice? It's been something that perplexes me. I suppose nature has an answer.

On and on I walked, my pocket gradually getting stuffeder and stuffeder with leaflets and pamphlets.


Tax Campaigners.

More socialists.

On and on I walked, and on and on they came, the leaflets. I took up my position beside The Spire and remembered going up its predecessor Nelson Pillar. And remembered being in Africa when someone told me it had been blown up. Dublin and its revolutions seemed far away then, other wars on my mind.

The protest parade eventually started. It was very very large and none of the people marching looked like they had kids in St Andrews College, nor that they actively participated in the doings of the Pembroke Wanderer' Hockey Club. 

The parade was led by a masked girl on a horse.

She was wearing a voluminous black cloak and I suppose she was meant to be death.

I thought these are the days of miracles and wonder.

And went home and listened to the song.

Conan Kennedy's new novel is
now in (Irish) bookshops.

 Days of Miracles and Wonder

Friday, 2 November 2012


There's woegeous journalism and there's an article on The Irish Times website, Is Dublin 8 the New Gay Village. It has the sentence:

The area's edgy cosmopolitan vibe is attracting gay residents.

The writer who should in her own interests prefer to be nameless, she really should, builds on this start and leads the hapless reader into a carcrash of an article.  It's all quite risible, embarassing, appallingly written and...oh for the comments thereto attached...I actually could say it better myself but can't be bothered.

But but least I now know that the majority of people in Ireland who have entered into civil partnerships live in the area of Dublin 8. (Village? Village? Dublin 8 is a huge urban area with a population greater than most Irish towns.)

Another thing I now know is that couples who allow Irish Times writers into their houses to write about them and their ideas on society and interior decor are pretty damn smug and self satisfied. And it's nothing to do with being gay, but that helps.

Jim and Philip and Nathalie and Carla are (head?)cases in point.

The photo of Mr and Mr shows them standing in what at first glance looks like an Ikea showroom under construction, before the bits and bobs arrive, and yes they do look pretty damn smug and self satisfied. Jim is in communications and Philip is a librarian. But we sort of knew that. Just as we suspect that Jim's role in communications does not involve climbing up telegraph poles to connect wires. The photo of Ms and Ms is much the same, oozing with a like amount of smugness and self satisfaction, but with added girlie bits, like cushions. Ms and Ms appear to be in design, and one Ms is an apparachik in the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network.

This is where I come in.

This is where it all comes together.

My amazing connections!

I shared a flat in London with one of the founders of the GLEN. There were two other blokes there. Every week one of us would cook a Sunday meal for the others. I was the worst cook and the least gay and got chucked out of the whole arrangement. I then shared a bedsitter with the brother of Eric Luke, the Irish Times photographer involved in this appalling piece of journalism. Many years later I came back to Dublin and met the same Eric up Dalkey Hill...he took a photo of my small daughter being picturesque in the snow. And not...only...that...the other photographer involved in the misconceived article is Cyril Byrne...and Cyril Byrne is married to a friend of mine in Shankill.


Mr and Mr Jim and Philip live in Rehoboth Place in Dolphin's Barn. And I know an awful  lot about Rehoboth Place. I learned most of it when editing The Diaries of Mary Hayden.  Stuff like...

Molly Bloom's father lived in Rehoboth Place. Yes he was fictional, but real people who also lived there range from Isabella Mulvany who more or less founded Alexandra College and her sister who was the grandmother of Richard Murphy the Poet.

Whatever happened to him?

I think he's in Sri Lanka.

I suppose it all hangs together.

Sri Lanka being the sort of Dublin 8 of the Indian Ocean.

PS:  My new novel The Snake Dancer of Sati Choura is now in Irish bookshops. Though not of course in The Gutter Bookshop in Temple Bar, see below ! Their demographic wouldn't like it.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Jimmy Savile,Melanie Verwoerd, and The Gutter Bookshop.

So...the BBC didn't want any negative information about the late Jimmy Savile coming out...

And...Pat Kenny of RTE doesn't want any negative information about the late Gerry Ryan coming out...

"That book should not have been written", he is reported of saying about the beautiful Melanie's book which, among other things, deals with her late lover the RTE presenter Gerry Ryan.

It's ludicrous, methinks. And Gerry Ryan wasn't even a paedophile, he was just a rather sad character who took too much cocaine and didn't have any friends.

Interesting now that he's safely dead he does have friends in the Irish media mafia.

Hanging together lest they hang seperately? No doubt. And to be expected. But nonetheless it's rather alarming to note that Ireland's major radio/tv presenter/commentator (€800,000 per year...yes that's five noughts) has come out strongly in favour of book burning.

Ah sure...moving on....

Mentioning books. My own new novel The Snake Dancer of Sati Choura has now been published in print format.  And very good it is too. (Though I don't expect Pat Kenny to be interviewing me on any of his shows.)

As part of its publication I thought I'd take a wander round Dublin's remaining bookshops to see how it was looking. And in the course of this wander someone told me there was a new bookshop...well...a newish bookshop down in Temple Bar.

This, I thought, was good news. Bookshops are becoming increasingly few on the ground. Thank God for the world of E, etcetera.

I looked it up. The new bookshop presented itself as a happening sort of place at the cutting edge, reader and writer friendly, all that. I found that it was owned by a bloke who used work for Hughes and Hughes (which went bust) and also with Waterstones (which did likewise). So I reckoned he should know a thing or two about the book business.

I wandered down to The Gutter Bookshop to check it all out.

It was pretty much the same old same old, like a provincial Easons, but with fewer titles.  The usual suspects really. Disappointing but, whatever. A bookshop is a bookshop.

Anyway, they'd never heard of my book. But I suppose they are at the far arse end of Temple Bar in a sort of cultural bubble and stuff doesn't really penetrate.

I arranged for a copy of the book to be sent to them.

Week or so later I wandered down again.

No, they hadn't ordered my book. And she, yes she, whoever she was, had no intention of so doing. And conveyed this info in terms which could not be described as warm and friendly.

Ah hah, I thought, this shop is aptly positioned, in Cow Lane.

"Why not?" I asked, my thoughts staying schtum.

"It's not in our demographic."

"Oh. What does that mean?" I asked, but reply there came none...'she' just  left and walked away to sell a jumper to a customer.

Yes they sell jumpers.

And why not? I myself used sell horticultural products in Dublin's wholesale vegetable markets. And there's no difference. Some people you meet in the sales game are polite, and some are sheer damn ignorant and rude and offensive.

The product is meaningless.

Sunday, 30 September 2012


This much I know.

I don't English speak very well. I talking about?

The Guardian newspaper, that's what. It runs a column, or columns a run, if you prefer, entitled this much I know. The content is the same old same old, a few hundred words by no you've never heard of them either. But the title of the pieces, that annoys me. It's pretentious and portentous and lots of other things ending in ous. But hell, it's in the Guardian. A newspaper I only read to avoid The Irish Times. And hell again, I'll you tell, so know you this much, I that never read.

Enough already.

Myself and herself are currently sleeping on a mattress in a room which once was the living room. We now use another room entirely as a living room, a room in the newer part of the house. But the former living room is in the very old part of the house, as is the bedroom we have migrated from. That's all by the by, just setting the scene.

The mattress lies up against a range of bookshelves which act as a sort of headboard. And it is my habit betimes to reach out a hand blindly and take an arbitrary book down. I do this over my head and cannot see which book it is until it is in my hand. It makes for a surprise. It's a journey and exciting. We have been married a while and one must spice up one's bedtime as best one can.

Thing is, becuse this is the abandoned living room, the books in the shelves are likewise, yesterday's items, abandoned, many forgotten  and some by Edna O'Brien. The book that came into my hand on a particular day this week  was an Anthology of Dalkey, my home town, a pretty little town on the edge of Dublin. Bono lives there now, I don't.

I flipped through the pages of the anthology, a type of memoir, local history. And there I saw a photograph of a man by the name of Dessie Swords.

Ah hah, I said to myself. I knew that Dessie Swords, when I was a child he was Desmond, the verger of the church. Cassock clad he lit the candles before Mass. And rang the daily angelus that pealed acoss the town, at twelve and at six and my Granny crossing herself and muttering incantations.

I had not seen nor heard of him for fifty years.

Thing is, Desmond was part of my early childhood. And, like my Granny and my childhood, he's long gone. And which stars in the sky are the candles he lights in the darkness...that sort of gone.

I put the book back in the shelf and, as The Guardian might say, I no more thought about it. That very day I had to go to Dublin. For work and a spot of socialising. The work was work and the socialising in the evening was to have a meal with a woman whom I had not met for thirty five years. Living in America now, she was visiting Ireland and had got in touch. So myself and my wife and herself and her husband and my mate Michael-the-Mystic all met up to eat. In Michael's  house in Dalkey, my old home town. (He, being a mystic, can afford to live there).

Angela and Daniel were a very nice and interesting couple. Everything went swimmingly. Apart from the salmon which my wife had brought along...that didn't ...the guests were vegetarians.

Angela did not come from natural vegetarian territory. On the contrary, she came from an area of nearby DunLaoghaire where, my father used say, "they eat their young". But then, my father said things like that. Those that read my just published book Fragments from Frescati will understand his reasons. Whatever, Angela .comes from what us southsiders know as The Noggin, which is a large working class area of public housing. As mentioned, I come from Dalkey, which is not. (Bono lives there.) But Angela and I had known each other and had met and mingled back in the old hippie days when class and the like were meaningless.

Yeah right.

Anyway, we discussed the writing life and days gone by, and certain people remembered, many best forgotten. Sometime between the vegetarian spaghetti bolognese (don't even ask) and the vegetarian roulade Angela mentioned that as a child she used come right here to Dalkey to visit her Uncle Dessie. In Begnet's Villas.
"Uncle Dessie?"
"Yes, he was the verger in Dalkey Church."
"Dessie Swords? He was your uncle?"
Ah, I thought, remembering that very morning in my idle bed. And my fingers  playing the unseen spines of unknown books... like a blind piano player looking for a tune.
And finding it.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Bad week, good week.

Bad week. Car broke down. € 1000 or thereabouts. So that means 500 of you folks have to download an EBook of mine, or 200 of you have to buy a printed book. So let's hope everone rallies round. Steps up to the plate, all that. Words are cheap. Major engine works on a VW Passat are not. Bloody Germans, first Angela Merkel, now this.

Good week. Well, good in the sense that one of the beautiful daughters appears on Page 27 of Gaelsceal, the Irish newspaper. Irish language newspaper. And here she is. On right of photo.

For the benefit of the few of you who don't understand Irish I will translate. Roughly. This beautiful daughter is a radio producer/presenter, and the article is about a series of her radio shows dealing with minority beliefs in Ireland. Here in the photo she is with a few of her pagans. Irish-speaking bodhran-banging pagans. I like to think that my book Ancient Ireland-Users Guide is responsible for the growing interest in such ancient practices.

But it probably goes deeper than that.

Good week too in that the mother of one of my beautiful daughters appears on Page Three of The Western People. 

There she is, unveiling a plaque, rather than herself, which most women on page threes of Irish newspapers are doing. I dealt with all that memorial plaque business in my September Ninth posting. But of course it seems much more real when one sees it reported in the media. Which is the world we live in.

And which reminds me. I myself haven't been mentioned in a newspaper for months.

Bad news? Or good news?

Sunday, 9 September 2012

OK I'm back.

No I haven't been here for going on two months. And a quick check of this blog's stats show that, if anything, readership has gone up in my absence.

The less I write the more readers I get?

Some message there, best not go too deeply.

One of the things I've been busy with is a military ceremony to honour the memory of my wife's late father, an Irish Army officer. And here she is, walking ahead of some troops on the way to unveiling a plaque in Admiral Brown Park in County Mayo's Foxford. And yes she is the same woman who appears on the cover and in the pages of my best selling A Walk On The South Side.

And here are some more pictures. For which I am grateful to Lam Lee who came all the way from Toronto to the ceremony. And that's her (guess which?) with Jane Edwards who came from the UK. Both for family connection reasons. We're a widely scattered bunch. And yes those are glasses on the table of Brennan's Lane Restaurant, pride of Ballina nightlife.

And here is Colonel Aherne, making his speech at the ceremony, the band in the background.

Yes it all went well.

Also in my absence from this blog location, three new books of mine were published. Not one, not two, but three. This may sound magnificent  but one of them (Fragments from Frescati)  had been hanging round for quite some time, awaiting its moment. That moment has now come. Fragments from Frescati is now in the bookshop, as is Boy on A Bicycle.  Details of these on my website. (Non fiction, they probably won't be E for awhile.) The third is the print version of the novel The Snake Dancer of Sati Choura. That has available as an EBook for a few months, though with a different cover. Same words.


So after all that I went home.

There I was at home to find that the local population are celebrating the nineteenth century composer William Vincent Wallace. They're not exactly dancing in the streets but a committee is up to things, concerts and talks and the likes. This I found interesting because my book Fragments from Frescati has two pages on the same William Vincent.  Also interesting because William Vincent was son of an army bandmaster and I had just come from being entertained by an Irish army band.

It all hangs together.

William Vincent Wallace is described in the publicity material for the shindig here as "colourful".

That he was. As teacher of music in a convent he ran away with one of the schoolgirls to Australia, fathered two children on her, abandoned her to a life of poverty and went about his business. Which was pretty damn murky.

OK. Those who have already read  A Walk On The South Side. will know that I also married  a schoolgirl and thus should cease casting aspersions.

Yeah but I didn't abandon her to a life of poverty. I share it with her.

And, more importantly, being kind of classy, we went to America, not Australia.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Writer's Block

If I were in my secondary home of Italy, which I'm not, I might have called this piece Writer's Sun Block. But I'm not. Another opportunity for hilarity lost.


I'm in my Irish home working on The Novel. Suffice to say this is based around the Yeats International Summer School which takes place in Sligo. I'm writing the thing about 50 miles down the coast.

Tuesday got into a bit of a bugger-this-writing-game, can't think what to say next. Went for walk to harbour.

There I see large and beautiful yacht stuck on sandbank.  Maybird of Falmouth. Local fishermen trying to pull her off. Took these photos.

Went home. Looked up the Maybird of Falmouth.

Say no more. Here she is. 
Interesting, I thought, boat sails around world through storm and fury, Fastnet Race and so on and so forth, ends up on sandbank in quiet calm harbour.

Then, more interesting. Another coincidence/correspondence/holistic occurance. The Maybird was on passage to Sligo where the owner/skipper intends to go to the Yeats International Summer School.

Sailors Block?

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Sustainability and all that.

I went to Galway ten days or so ago, sat in on a speech by the Taoiseach.

I didn't actually go there to hear the Taoiseach. But I heard him anyway. He gave his speech in a large conference tent in Galway.

The Volvo Ocean Race was in town.

I didn't actually go to Galway to see the Volvo Ocean Race yachts but there they were anyway. And very impressive they were too. Not actually having a boat...(haven't had a boat for twenty years, and that a mere Enterprise dinghy in DunLaoghaire)...not actually having a boat I couldn't see the Volvo yachts in full sail...but that's them on the horizon as seen from the Galway docks.

And that's  the wife/stand-in mistress. (She's had her hair cut). We weren't in Galway to hear the Taoiseach or to see the yachts, we were there to meet a son.

The particular son, being the son of this writer and his wife/stand-in mistress, both perhaps 'alternative' and somewhat eccentric, is, naturally enough, a major player in international investment banking. This is what happens, parenting-wise. You try to bring them up right and proper and they end up managing sovereign wealth funds. He had flown in from afar and we, proud parents, had driven to Galway in the (eleven year old) car. (In the unlikely event that same son reads this blog, please note contents of the previous parentheses). Anyway we went there to listen to him at the sustainability conference. (It all comes together, eventually). He spoke with flair and humour and was quite impressive.
Though he was lucky. Comparison wise. Because he spoke after the Taoiseach...who didn't speak with flair and humour and wasn't that impressive. Wellmeaning enough, he was borderline woegeous. And, I admit, in all honesty, listening to him didn't occupy the fullness of my mind and I used some spare available capacity in remembering Richard Douthwaite.

Long years ago I was involved with him in setting up an Irish branch of The Future in our Hands.
It was not successful. We were before our time. Or, rather, before everyone else's time. I reflected on that, listening to the Taoiseach wittering on about the issues which Richard had addressed so passionately. He's in fashion now, I thought, but dead. God be good to him.

Interesting, these conferences.

I noted that the guy sitting in front of us was surreptitiously reading a newspaper DURING PAT RABBITTE'S SPEECH ! But it was the Financial Times so I suppose that's OK.

A nudge in ribs from the wife/stand-in mistress then alerted me to a woman a few seats up who had beside her a copy of Anna Karenina. She was obviously expecting to have a fair amount of down time.

I found this interesting. The Anna Karenina bit.  Because not twenty four hours before I had been writing my new novel in general and in particular writing a few thousand words in which my character Emily Tomkins ( sixteen with long dark hair, you'll love her) is given a present of Anna Karenina by her mother's lover. He's interested in her personal development. (But I haven't got to that bit yet.)

This rather eerie confluence of events struck me as being, well, rather eerie. My mate Mystic Michael says such things happen because of the holistic nature of the universe. He could be right.

After the speeches we were approached by a functionary who invited us to lunch with the Taoiseach. He didn't really want us at the lunch for the Taoiseach, just wanted to butter up the star turn, namely the son/investmnent banker who had flown in from afar with hundreds of millions of other people's money to splash around. Little did the apparachik know that the same son wouldn't want his disreputable parents at the lunch anyway.Lest we disgrace him.

Couldn't and didn't go anyway. Had an appointment to meet my mate John the Polymath. Met him and had hot dogs and drove, not home, but  to Dublin. We had a full social diary that weekend and were headed for a barbecue in a rather elegant house on the southside. Many of the guests were people from a past that was interesting but must  remain unrecorded. Being my age they were all too old for me so I  talked to one of their daughters, as a sort of exercise in time travel. In that she reminded me of her mother as of twenty years ago.  

The daughter was a a Canadian (we get around, us DunLaoghaire folks), worked for an NGO and had recently returned from Zambia. We discussed that, myself having lived in Zambia. As mentioned, we get around, us DunLaoghaire folks. Lovely country, laid back people. (Zambia, not DunLaoghaire). But what really interested me was that as I discussed matters such as  Africa/Development/Gender Issues I was really thinking of an invitation in my pocket for a forthcoming function. It was from my mate the Ambassador of Belgium to Ireland. An evening  of Stella Artois and Leonidas chocolates in Ailesbury Road. (They go as well together as do the Flemings and Walloons). I wasn't actually going to go, life being increasingly short, but it was interesting to have the invite in my pocket as I talked to the young woman from Zambia.

And why?

Because when I lived in Zambia up there on the Congo border, right across the river in the Congo lived the presentday Belgian ambassador to Ireland. I didn't know him there or then but he told me this when I first met him in a Dublin pub. People who have lived on either side of the Congo border have a certain affinity, not to mention a certain ability in self preservation. That's why he invites me to the Belgian National Day. That or he wants to dilute the Belgian thing a bit. But of course none of that's the point, as is fairly usual in my blogs. The point is...weird connections...

And so all that fascinates me.

Anna Karenina and Anna Karenina.

Zambia and Zambia.

I have a Zambian friend in Boston. If I find out she has been reading Anna Karenina this week then...well...I dunno really.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

I Met This Man and...

What a difference a week makes!

There I was last week spending time with a beautiful woman in Dublin. See last week's blog. And here I am this week spending time with a different (beautiful) woman in the West of Ireland.
Who says life is not good?

Snap out of the misery, people!

I have nothing but good news.

Firstly, I have bought a new barbecue.

Secondly, my in-box emails are positive. My much loved in Australia is there, not with great news, but any news from her is good. A woman I knew as a schoolgirl is also there, she's a Dublin journalist. I think she must be my oldest friend. Not in years but in length of time hanging on in there. When we meet as we sometimes do we relive our teenage days. And look into each other's eyes and wonder why we didn't...whatever it was we didn't do... and it's too late now. Proust probably had an insight into that stuff.

And there among my emails someone new to me, another  journalist, Aoife Drew. An Irish journalist living in Paris. She wants to read a book of mine. Yes I want her to do that too. Because hopefully she will write about it and then other people will want to read the same book. Though, of course, it does depend on what she writes.

All in lap of Gods. It'll be lively anyway.

Why are all the bounciest Irish journalists and media folks living outside Ireland? Yes Aoife tells me she is married to a Frenchman, so in her case that's an explanation. But that can't possibly be the explanation for the mass migration of the brightest and the best. We can't all marry Frenchmen. Could the reason be that the Irish media and literary world is infested with dullards and mediocrities and back scratchers who won't give way to anyone else? Could very well be.

Could very well be.

So, enough of that.
I met this man and...

He approached me on the pier of the small unevolved west of Ireland town where I am well known as that ^%&*%" who writes. We conversed generally. I have found that it's always best to converse generally with men who approach one on piers. Having grown up in DunLaoghaire, which has a very long pier, I reckon I learned this at an early age.

He moved on from the general to ask me about my work, (being from out of town he didn't know me as that ^%&*%" who writes) what did I do for a crust, he asked? 

"I'm in the book business," I told him, reluctantly. Very good reason for this reluctance. I often think I should change my stated career to rat catcher. Few people would say "good, my house is full of rats, can you help?" But at any mention of book publishing they say...Yes you know what they say. Read on.

"You mean you publish books?" he asked.

"Well I am involved with...a book publishing business..." I added, vaguely, even more reluctantly.

"I've written a book of poetry," he told me.

Yes that's what people say. Though sometimes they've written a novel. I have an all purpose answer.

"Aahh," I say, "not our area, at all at all. At all."

"Why not?"

Well. No-one reads poetry. And I like to eat. And spend my time with beautiful women in Dublin and the West of Ireland. Neither of these activities would be possible if I published poetry. Because I wouldn't have any money. And any spare time I had would be used up in dealing with poetry mafia apparachiks like Joe Woods and Peter Sirr.  And Joe Woods threw me off the Poetry Ireland Forum for mentioning Cathal O Searchaigh in an unfavourable light. And Peter Sirr is descended from the secret policman who arrested Lord Edward Fitzgerald in 1798. (Yes I have a long memory). But worse, worse than that. They both do poetry readings.  And even worse. They do poetry readings of THEIR OWN POETRY. And this depresses me. I don't need to be depressed by others. I can do that all by myself.

Oh. I've done it already.

Better end right here.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

I Met This Woman and...

Yes, many interesting things in this writer's life start with that line...I met this woman and...

However there are lots of run of the mill things that do not start with that line. And there are several extremely irritating things that do not start with that line. And one of that latter variety starts with this:

I went to Dalkey.

I went to Dalkey to see  Michael the Mystic, my friend and sometime editor.

The Dalkey Book Festival was on. It seemed to be headquartered in the now closed down and lamented Exchange Bookshop. This struck me as akin to celebrating one's wedding night in  the funeral home in which one lies lifeless in the box. But whatever. I avoided the festival. Last year I commented wryly upon it and the chief barker David McWilliams emailed me to tell me I  was a sad bastard, or words to that effect. I avoided the festival and decided to move on. 

Unfortunetly I moved on past this signboard.

Ah, I thought, good to see at least those two Irish media commentators confessing. But not so good to see the sign was pointing in the wrong direction. That blue door is in fact the Masonic Hall,( people like me born in Dalkey know these things). Holy Mother ! Can John Waters and David McWilliams not get the simplest things right?

Answer: No.

Moving on again... I made my way along Castle Street past Bloomsday sort of activities.

I knocked on the door of the residence of Michael the Mystic.

"Ah," he said, as he opened, "I've bad news."

"What's that?" I said, expecting something about the fabric of the cosmos shattering and a time warp dropping us into an alternative universe of absolute horror. Something Dante-ish with added California. And maybe a bit of Mayan cosmology.

"I've lost that manuscript of yours."


"I left it on the DART. Come in."

I went in. Yes he'd been reading the manuscript on the DART and left it behind on the seat like it was a METRO throwaway newspaper.

I said "you mean some gobshite in Bray is reading my private draft material."

He said "don't worry they can't read in Bray."

People in Dalkey say things like that.

He gave me a beer.  His beautiful daughter arrived. She calmed me down. Beautiful young women have that effect on me. Strangely they used do the opposite. I must be getting old.
So that's the waffle over.

Now for I met this woman and...I met this woman and...and I arranged to meet her in Glasnevin Cemetery on a matter of genealogical interest.

Yeah right.

I cannot tell a lie. I arranged to meet her in Glasnevin Cemetery because I met her on the internet and our communications there revealed her to be a  very interesting and attractive woman indeed. And I wanted to meet her in the flesh...and so I met her, there among the bones.

She arrived and didn't look remotely like the photo she had sent. And yes this can be a good or bad thing. In her case it was good. (Though I suppose it is a canny bit of feminine wile to send a photo of yourself at not your best...but enough of lookism.)

We didn't find her ancestral grave. But I did find my lost manuscript, in a manner of speaking.

Because that is a book in which the man guy meets the woman guy in a graveyard. And in the early chapter he stands there leaning against a grave stone, watching her in the distance, watching her as she moves from grave to grave, bending over to read the names. And in  Glasnevin Cemetery I now found myself doing precisely that, watching the woman doing precisely that. And suddenly remembered...hey this is in my book !

How did I write that before I experienced it?

No, I didn't get any answers.

And we didn't find her ancestral grave in Glasnevin Cemetery.

So we went down the road to the Botanic Gardens. And strolled a few hours away among the lanes beneath the trees. And no we didn't find the ancestral grave there either.

So we went to The Bleeding Horse in Camden Street.

No, the ancestral grave was nowhere to be seen.

But at that stage we'd kind of moved on from genealogy.

As mentioned...I met this woman and...

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Making an IMPAC

Well,I didn't win that IMPAC prize. A pity, really,given the state of my roof. But then...not everyone can win it.

Winners have to be members of a small self selecting coterie of inbred self obsessed literati existing on the fringes of the world's realities and concerns...and they won't let me in.

Maybe I should write better?

I'd better try. The roof situation is becoming untenable.

Maybe the new book,  (just out in its E version), maybe that  will buy a few slates. Fingers crossed. (And the print version is, I believe,on its way.)

The Snake Dancer of Sati Choura  divides its time between Dublin and India and that adds up to a billion or so of a potential market. That's a lot of they say in the IT sector. So fingers crossed. Extracts on my website.

Extracts are also published within another book that I have coming along shortly. Not a great world changing panoramic sweep (of a definite IMPAC winning novel) like the snake dancer, rather a ruminative little memoir sort of thing, a prequel to my Walk on The Southside.

Boy on a Bicycle is not going to make much inroads into the billion Indian readers, I fear, but if it does as well as the Southside book it will go very well in Ireland anyway. And will actually have a new lease of life when Snake Dancer wins the IMPAC next year.

This is what writing is all about, planning ahead.

And today is the 14th June and this is my wedding anniversary. So I'm out of here. The woman on the cover of Walk on The Southside is up there in bed waiting for her breakfast.

And if it came between a choice of that situation and winning the IMPAC...well..

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Moving Statues...Moving Winos...

A citizen of the world...I'm either in Mayo or Liguria or Dublin.

Dublin this week. The National Library of Ireland.

There's a notice up.

As part of reorganisation and general improvement to readers' services...

Hate notices like that. I suspect they mean cuts, the country is broke, etc...

My suspicions were founded. The book I wanted was unavailable. (As part of reorganisation and general improvement to readers' services...)

 I ordered up an alternative. It was 9.30AM.

Yes the alternative would be delivered to my table shortly after twelve noon. part of reorganisation and general improvement to readers' services the attendants only deliver books at specified hours. In between these specified hours they do other stuff. To the casual observer this seems to consist of standing around in groups chatting to each other about how the National Library of Ireland has gone to hell.

It has.

You don't have to take my word for it. The academic Diarmuid Ferriter has resigned as a Director, in protest. He has that luxury. Unfortunately I don't, I need the place to do research on stuff that I need to write about. He being a professor of history has other places to go to. Mostly the bank. Because Professors of History in Ireland are very well paid indeed. Grossly overpaid. In seems to the embittered lateral thinker (me) seems the fact that he and his cohort are grossly overpaid in UCD bears directly on the fact that he has to resign from the NLI...because there is no money availble to run the library in an efficient manner.

He probably doesn't see things like that.

I sit at my table, bookless. I notice that the man beside me is  reading bound volumes of the Annual Reports of Bord Bainne. Piled up on his table like a delivery of milk cartons.
The one book I wanted was about Madame Blavatsky. She had nothing to do with Bord Bainne. A pity really.

I have the choice of sitting at an empty table for three hours or leaving. I left and went to DunLaoghaire on the DART to see a man about a ms. In my world view a ms is a manuscript, in the sense of being a manuscript, an unpublished unprinted book. In his view it is a typescript.  He is an editor. And picky. I tell him repeatedly that I've been in publishing for decades and everyone calls an unprinted book a manuscript. "Well," he says, "everyone is wrong. A manuscript is written with a pen. A typescript is wriiten with a keyboard. Simple as that."

Approaching his apartment I get a phone call.

"Do you want milk in your tea?" he asks.

"Yes please."

"Well get some in the shop, I've none."

I walk back a half mile or so to the shop. It's very hot. The shop is full of exuberant schoolboys and girls. Their schooldays just about over and the easy part of life about to commence, that sort of exuberance.

Yeah right.

I buy a carton of milk and walk back to the editor's apartment, thinking of the man in the NLI writing about Bord Bainne.

I have a rich inner life.

There are building works on DunLaoghaire seafront and a huge crane looms over. I and other concerned citizens gather to rubberneck. I whip my phone out to photograph. Its not a very good phone and not a very good photograph. But no matter. They are moving the statue of Christ the King. This is about the only thing that gives artistic or philosophic meaning to my home town of DunLaoghire so they better put in back.

The statue rises into the air.

"It's the resurrection," says one rubbernecker.

"Or they're taking it away for scrap," says another.

I walk on. If I want unfunny comedians  I'll go to the Kilkenny Comedy Festival.

I cut through the grounds of the Royal Marine Hotel. Four star.

Twenty yards from the main front door of this hotel is a victorian bandstand. Click that link above and you'll see it. But what you wont see is what I saw. A knot of people gathered there. A woman of middle years is dancing around waving a bottle in the air, singing and drinking. The scene is vaguely Hogarthian. These people, I realise, are DunLaoghaire's derelicts and winos. Street people. The drinking ones. (The drug crazed ones gather on the plaza beside DunLaoghaire Church.) Building works have displaced these drinking people from their normal location in the shadow of Christ the King and they've now set up a new home on the bandstand.

Right outside the door of the Royal Marine Hotel. Four star.

I observe the scene thoughtfully.I expect to see a bouncer or some such functionary emerge from the hotel to eject the interlopers.

Nothing happens.

Except a large blue airport tourist bus draws up with tourists.

It parks beside the dancing drinking muttering singing alcoholics.

Tourists emerge bemused.

I think yes. National Library of Ireland disintegrating. Overpaid academics throwing shapes. Moving statues. Moving Winos.

Cead Mile Failte.

Monday, 28 May 2012

The stolen woman.

One of those weeks. An interesting woman emails me. She’s been reading my Mary Hayden books, and is enthralled. In truth she seems a bit obsessed, following Mary Hayden around the city, bringing flowers to her grave. But she seems nice and lovely and intelligent, and we josh and joke and flirt on the internet together. Well, I do the flirting and she does...whatever she does. She won't tell me her age but she does tell me she's not married. I spend some time analysing the connections between her sharing and/or not sharing those revelations. Anyway after a few days of joshing and joking and and all that on the internet together I know her better than people I’ve known all my life, better than women I’ve slept with. But that’s the internet for you. It's the psychological equivalent of those security machines at airports that ignore your clothes and examine the inner you.

And then another virtual person arrives in my inbox.. A man, he’s read my book A Walk on The Southside, and tells me that long years ago I stole the woman on the cover from him. I don’t know him from a hole in the ground. But he sounds a very agreeable chap. If a bit miffed about me stealing his woman. I mention this matter to the woman I stole from him. Yes, she agrees, she remembers him. But the conversation does not get much further than that. The stolen woman and I go to the Lacken Races.

We sit in the sun, watching the horses, backing them, losing money. We don't actually have that much money left to lose because we've just paid €8 each to get on the beach. Are they mad? Is it any wonder? And all that.

I take a photograph of the stolen woman. This photo. That dot in the far distance is the horse we backed, still running. And don't be fooled, oh foreign distant readers. That blue sky is not common in this part of the world. It is a rare day. So I take another photo of the stolen woman. That photo.

It's a good day out there. No-one is worrying about double dip recessions. Everyone's having a good time. We are having a good time.  It’s like being on a date. We eat ice creams. Hot dogs. Chips. Yes, I know how to show my dates a good time. In the evening we drive back home and at the door I pause, my key in the lock and I say “would you like to come in for coffee?” She smiles enigmatically. We have shared a bed for thousands of nights. But the next one is always up for negotiation.

We cook a meal and eat the meal and watch the television. The meal was a piece of lamb from Tesco but in all honesty the television might have tasted better. We drank vodka, beer and wine. Not all in the same glass, but in the same process. And lest that sounds a bit Irish Alcoholic Writer and his poor demented wife driven to alcohol, best mention I don't drink vodka and she doesn't drink beer. But we both do drink wine. Yes, that still sounds bad, units wise. So best move along.

There’s something about the Monte Carlo Grand Prix on the news. She tells me she remembers when she was sixteen in the South of France and the Monte Carlo Grand Prix was on. The anecdote concerns her being lost and wandering into a sleazey bar for directions and advice. Let's hope she didn't follow either.

The TV news moves on from motor sport to wars and atrocities general. (It's a Sunday and they put the light stuff first.) I look at the wars and atrocities general and think, look back, remember where I was when she was sixteen in France. I was in Africa. There was a war going on around me. And atrocities just up the road. It wasn’t my war. But it could’ve killed me nonetheless. I was there and she was there.

But I didn’t end up being killed in someone else’s war. And she didn’t end up being lost in France. We ended up together.We had five children and went to the races on Lacken Strand. And came home. Together. A good day.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Tá Mac-na-hÓige Slán ?

It all hangs together.
The priest conducting  the ceremony is Father Cormac McIlraith.
Ah hah, did I not long years ago live in a house in Sandycove beside an engineer by the name of Declan McIlraith? I did, and he (my bean cheile H whispers beside me) is brother to the priest.
Not only that.
The First Holy Communicants are drawn from several schools in the Booterstown area of County Dublin. St Andrew's. All Saints National School, and Booterstown National School.
Ah hah again. Did not the father of one particular communicant attend the precursor of that Booterstown National School, then situated beside Monkstown Church?
He did, and he has flown in from the Middle East for the ceremomy. Just as I, his father, have trained in from the Far West for the ceremony.
It all hangs together.
The child communicant is my grandson.
A moment of reflection appropriate to the occasion.
First conclusion. I am now old enough to have a grandchild of first communication  age.
Develop that I remember my own First Communion?
Well in so far as I remember a crocodile of kids being marched along Sandycove in the rain and into Glasthule Church, I do. The rest is silence.
Carry I remember the First Communions of my own four children?
Three of them yes, because they would have been as gaeilge, those particular kids having been brought up in the Irish language. But as for the older, he from the Middle East, tanned in suit, designer sunglasses perched in hair, gazillion dollar watch on wrist, I can't remember his First Communion at all. He did go to a Protestant school, but it must've happened. I may be lax and maybe lapsed, but in First Communions I take a hard Roman Catholic stance. This is my apostolic line in the sand. Once crossed, the whole thing will fall apart.
Today we're all doing our best to see that doesn't happen. 
The ceremony is well thought out, and elegantly organised. Both prayerful and exuberant, it is a happy morning in an unhappy world.  
At the bunfight afterwards I meet an interesting and intelligent Frenchman, a schoolteacher in Dublin. We have a wideranging conversation, among the topics raised being Moliere and Racine.
Ok. I know moliere all about Racine. And it is a racine certainty that I know even less about Moliere. But why let that get between oneself and a good intellectual discussion?
No reason.
Another question. Why entitle this posting Tá Mac-na-hÓige Slán, and what does it mean? Well I can certainly translate the phrase, but I cannot tell the meaning. It translates as "The Virgin's Son is Safe". And its origins are in the old Irish story about the wife of one of the people involved in Christ's crucifixion, how she said that Jesus had as much chance as rising from the dead as that cock cooking there in the pot. At which the cock jumped out of the pot saying... "The Virgin's Son is Safe!" That is the translation and the explanation.
The meaning is another question entirely.

Monday, 16 April 2012

To answer...

People asked...what happened the other postings on other topics...since website reorganised...

Well...they're available from here...

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Girl on Train

Oh well, there went March.
 Apologies to the Dear Followers. Have been away writing a book. Well, not precisely away, in the sense of being off the island, just away from this particular virtual place.
 Book in question is fiction, and has turned out to be very interesting. Yes, I can hear the mutters out there, that makes a change. So I'll elaborate, it has turned out to be very interesting to me, as a writer. Writing for a living can be very boring but...this time...different.
So, to break a lifetime’s veto, something about the job of writing follows.
 It appears to be a generally held feeling, and no doubt reasonably so, that a writer's life experiences, his/her understandings and observations and lunacies, well that they  go into a sort of cement mixer situation in the brain, get churned about a bit, and at a later date emerge as fiction, as events, personalities, characterisations and so on and so forth on the printed page. The belief is that in effect there is a progression from this 'real' world to the artificial/fictional world of the book. And furthermore, that this progression is linear and goes from the past, through the present, to the future.
Not so with this book I'm working on.
OK. For reasons quite unclear to me now, my main woman character comes from County Offaly. My main man is a Dubliner ...and the bits of relevance to this particular elaboration are…

 In the book my man character is travelling from Athlone to Dublin on train. Train stops at Clara County Offaly. Main woman character gets on. Sits beside him. The rest is 100,000 words of love and sex and travels to exotic places like Toronto and Perth. Or something along those lines.
Unfortunately the phrase "love and sex and travels to exotic places like Toronto and Perth" does not actually add up to a book, there's slightly more work involved. So a few days ago I thought I'd better do a bit of this work.

  I was in Dublin and told myself I'll hop down to Clara on the train, check out the journey and Clara and all that, and come back and hit the keyboard.
The first half went well. Although it was raining in Clara, a woegeous little place of shops to let and all pervading gloom,  I did get the picture. I could see why my main woman character was heading to exotic places.
Thing about my main woman. She's a musician. And that day (in the book) she is carrying a guitar on the station platform, awaiting the train and her destiny, the bloke from Dublin.

He's already on the train. She waits on the platform.
The rest is, as mentioned,  100,000 words of love and sex and travels to exotic places like Toronto and Perth. Or something along those lines.
All this was already written in the book as I traipsed back up in the rain from the town to get the train back to Dublin, my wet notebook brimming with interesting info.
It was two o'clock or thereabouts..
The platform was empty.
Then about four or five minutes before the train arrived I saw her, a young woman coming on to the platform...a young woman carrying a guitar.
Freaked, I was, yes I think that's the word. It’s all very well for one's characters to come alive, but to actually physically join one on Clara Station platform is another thing altogether.

I watched her warily.
She didn't actually look like my character. Ok she was the right age, early twenties, for the incident in the book, but she wasn't the woman. She was just a young woman, with a guitar. Whereas my woman in the book stands out, she is very good looking. (Writing is a lonely job. Might as well write about a goodlooking woman as a plain.)
The train was crowded and the guitar carrying woman vanished, and I just sat down any old place. The any old place turned out to be right opposite a young woman who did look like the character in the book. Right age, colour hair, right looks. Maybe even slightly too goodlooking for the character. And also, whilst my character is a civil servant, this one turned out to be a student at TCD.  Or so I learned when I bullied her away from her laptop to engage in conversation.
We got on quite well. Apart from her yawning now and then. Maybe she was tired. We discussed life's hopes and dreams, well, her ones. Being a writer I don't really have many hopes and dreams available for discussion. She turned out to have several interlocking zany philosophies and proposed lifestyles. Many of these were incompatible.  And life will wear her down.  But she was very clever, laughed a lot, and underneath had some kind of steely understated feminism. As the editor of the Diaries of Mary Hayden, I'm very fond of steely understated feminism. Bottom line she was very likeable. Even admirable I suppose. And she told me she wrote poetry and liked Kurt Vonnegut.
Just like me !
All in all, if I were younger and less married and less the father of a daughter of the same age...well...this would add up to a different story....etcetera.
I told her about the writing business, mentioned a book I'd written about my wife. In response to this she took off her top. (Yes you did!). No doubt in some kind of weird unconscious primitive female body language thing. Or alternatively it could have been the temperature in the train. I prefer to believe the former. Because she also fiddled with her hair and played with her bare upper arms. (I’m a writer, I notice stuff!) Good sign all that. (If one were younger and less married and less the father of a daughter of the same age etcetera etcetera).
But the point…underneath the sweater she wore a teeshirt. It had writing on it, saying what I do not know or clearly see.I tend not to stare at the writing on young women's teeshirts, it can be misconstrued. But the point here is that my woman character also wore a teeshirt with writing on  it.
The more I talked to my new friend the more I realised I was actually talking to my female character. I had actually written phrases she used. And given my character her little gestures. I found this pretty damn strange. If I had met this girl before I wrote the character it would've been OK, I would merely have been taking a shortcut into getting someone down on the page. But I hadn't, and I didn't.
Approaching Heuston Station we exchanged emails. For what purpose I have not the remotest idea, doubtless time will tell. We then established a pact, an arrangement. When we got to the station we would both go our seperate ways, not go down into the city together. I took her hand and shook it, telling her that while we could very well meet in cyberspace, I would like to have had some physical contact beforehand. To confirm that she was real, so to speak. Then she went her way and I went mine.
I watched her and remembered how I had described my man character parting from the woman in the book. I quote…

She nodded, and then she turned away. Yes, he noted, she did do that with some kind of flourish. He watched her walking away, some statement in her sway. He watched her walking all the way down Dawson Street, watched her as she weaved herself into the crowd, into the fabric of the crowd like a stitch of some particular colour. Now you see me, now you don’t. Lost her outside Waterstones, a closed up bankrupt bookshop. He thought of the empty shelves in there, and all the vanished books, and all the ghosts of stories.
Put that rather well I think. And apart from the Dawson Street and the Waterstones bit, that was the exit of the TCD student.

Later on the Luas platform I did spot my character…oops, sorry, the TCD student…buying her ticket from a machine. But I reckoned that particular chapter of the mysterious story we share was done, and kept my distance.
 That evening I dined with my mystical editor Michael. I told him of this strange event. more or less meeting my character on the train. He said you really don't understand, you're a gobshite. (I think that's an editorial term.) He said it's all about synchronicity. When you're writing you're in a different zone, psychically and timewise. There is no past present future. You have in fact already met that girl, and seen that other girl with the guitar. And used those things in the just think it's linear, it's not...the future is inspiring you…and all that…
But but but...
No buts about it, according to my mystical editor.