Looking back to when I was at primary school, I was appallingly ignorant about the Holocaust.
I don’t want my children to be as in the dark. Continue reading
What I want from a musician is a bit of chat between songs. A bit of meandering banter. Destination digression. And does anyone lead into a song better than Continue reading
“Great men are almost always bad men.” That’s the tagline to the wonderful play, Blood and Gifts, about US involvement in Afghanistan from 1981-1991. I’ve just seen it.
That depressing opening sentence is also the missing third line from the famous and much cited quotation from Lord Acton (aka John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton):
“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” Continue reading
This is the story of World War Two hero Paddy the Pigeon from Carnlough in Northern Ireland. Unlike the Desert Fox, Mad Dog McGlinchey, Richard the Lionheart, the Border Fox, Carlos the Jackal and the Black Panthers – Paddy really does what it says on the tin. He actually is, or was, a pigeon.
But not just any pigeon. He was the speediest RAF messenger pigeon during the Normandy landings.
The late (as in dead, not slow) Paddy has been in the news because he’s just been honoured with a fly past near his home. A fly past of pigeons. Loads of them. No doubt local car owners were delighted.
Paddy, courtesy of his medal, has Category Three Pigeon Status. (Category One: Airborne Vermin – includes nearly all other pigeons. Category Two: Stool Pigeons. Continue reading
I based a character in my book Blackwatertown on a friend I used to work with. Actually, that’s not quite accurate. I just used his name and nickname. But Tom (who becomes Tomas) Greenard is now far away in Australia, so he is at my mercy.
His nickname was Tom Grenade. I never did find out why.
Tom, you’ll be pleased to hear that your alter ego lives up to your nickname in the book. Though I cannot promise that he survives to feature in the sequel.
Tom – in Australia sends this uplifting story:
Keep this in mind the next time you are about to repeat a rumour or spread gossip.In ancient Greece (469 – 399 BC), Socrates was widely lauded for his wisdom.
One day an acquaintance ran up to him excitedly and said, “Socrates, do you know what I just heard about Diogenes?” Continue reading
Yesterday upon the stair
I met a man who wasn’t there
He wasn’t there again today
Oh, how I wish he’d go away (from Antigonish, by William Hughes Mearns )
In this case it was children I met who weren’t there. As well as women and men. In fact a whole village. But officially they didn’t exist. “Never heard of them.” Or so I was told by the authorities. I got them to check just in case. “No such people,” I was told. I sought official confirmation. And got it. Definitely no such people in this country. And by now the man they wished would go away was me.
So naturally, I decided to have a look for myself. Continue reading
Its been tumultuous in Blackwatertown Towers lately. Normal service will soon be resumed. Once we establish just what the new normality will look like. But in the meantime, I’ll share with you some of what I’ve learned lately.
Writing is attention seeking. You want readers. But there’s no guarantee they’ll like what they read. And then there may be those who never actually read a word you’ve written, but form opinions through hearsay.
Those were the fellas on my mind even before I started. My book, Blackwatertown, is fiction. But it’s set in a real time, the 1950s IRA border campaign. And it’s based on real events which involved real people.
Some people whose views I respect urged caution on me when they learned I what planned to write. Not because they feared it would be rubbish. (Or if they did, they were too polite to say.) But because they feared what people might think.
Those dread words. The book might trouble people, offend them or annoy them. Even worse – it might attract attention.
You’d imagine attention would be a prerequisite to getting published and selling a few copies. But when the normal modus operandi is “Whatever you say, say nothing” – drawing attention is discouraged.
Of course loads of people write prose or poetry, sing or create images related to violent times in Ireland. And good for them. Perhaps, like I have, they decided to put other people’s sincere concerns to one side and plough on regardless.
Now I’m close to completing my Blackwatertown story, brows around me are furrowing again. While I’m worrying if anyone will publish/read/enjoy the book, others are dreading adverse reactions. Will publication dredge up old resentments? How far might critics, especially the hearsay merchants, go to express their disdain? What might be the practical consequences? Who might be vulnerable?
When people pass on warnings to me, I do take them seriously. But living life head down, shoulder hunched is a waste. So, publishers permitting, the book carries on.
And to any critics tempted to vent their criticism in an extreme fashion. Please at least buy a copy of Blackwatertown when it comes out, before you do something unpleasant. It’s only fair.
What a difference 30 years makes. In this police photograph from the 1920s almost no-one is smiling. I have another of new recruits to the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) taken in the 1950s where nearly everyone is beaming. Two photos, two different sets of people, two different times, two different generations.
This one includes the father – my grandfather. When this post was originally published I included his name, rank and where he is in the picture. But I’ve been asked to remove the name – so I have done so.
But he’s easy to spot. The handsome one with the patrician air. (God no, not yon dopey-looking one.)
You’ll notice they’re a serious bunch. I suppose given that they’re in a tough area – the Belfast’s Brickfields police district – and that some of them will have survived World War one, the Irish War of Independence, civil war, pogroms and general rioting – it’s understandable. Or perhaps it was the rule back then. No smiling while on duty. Perhaps Smiler in the back row, left hand side, is actually squinting, not grinning.
I was struck by the contrast between this photo, and another from the mid 1950s. In the later one they’re all smiling. Including the son of the handsome one above. (I hope to put it on display shortly.) Maybe it’s because peace has broken out and war in Ireland is a sufficiently distant memory. They weren’t to know that the next round of hostilities was heading their way in a couple of years time – the IRA’s 1950s border campaign (which is the setting of my book, Blackwatertown).
So the men in this photo are the fathers or uncles of the police officers who fought in the ’50s campaign. They were a formidable bunch.
But back to 1923/24. Does anyone else remember those snake-clasp belt buckles? I remember coveting one when I was small. (Which was only the other day. Or perhaps the day before.)
It’s the story of how Stansted Youth Centre sent a group of young people over to Corpus Christi Youth Centre in Ballymurphy as part of an exchange programme…”