The Shoot

AE9EDBF1-EEAE-422D-9252-C0A873320DFF.jpegIt’s 10am on a manically roasting morning and I’m fully made up-face, eyes, hair and to top it all, I’m wearing a classy summer dress. I look chic and elegant and most definitely not myself. Like I’m preparing for an interview or something serious like that-which, in a way, I suppose I am.

Now I’ve got your curiosity properly piqued. So I’ll tell all. Together with a friend and fellow writer, I’m having myself professionally shot by a photographer friend at her house in less than a hour. How’s that then-impressive or what?

What do you mean, write in plain English? I’m using this phrase because this is the way real professionals speak. They ‘shoot’ people and objects and use drapes and screens and backdrops.They also use big umbrella lookalikes which do wonders apparently with light. They look grave and stare into the camera lens, muttering about reflections and shadows. They also ‘blast you out of it’, won’t shoot thumbs under any circumstances and tell you the shot is ‘interesting’ when they really mean, it’s dire. It’s all very technical really so don’t get too hung up about it.

But to get back to the professional shoot(professional shoot- my goodness, it’s got such a lovely, kind of exalted, ring to it, don’t you think?) we had a great time. We smiled, looked mysterious and enigmatic, gazed away into the midde distance reflectively, pirouetted, pouted. We also did seductive, sort of sexy ones which Viv, our photographer friend declared ‘very interesting’ before promptly deleting them altogether. Clearly, the world is not ready for us doing seduction just yet.

We tried to do the mammogram pose, but it was too dangerous without a nurse present. It’s very hard to keep one’s shoulders back, breasts forward, stand on tiptoe with one leg while thrusting the other underneath one’s hip, while simultaneously tilting one’s head to the left and keeping eyes fixed on the camera in centre, without risking the very real possibility of doing oneself enormous damage. And with the health service in the shocking state it’s in, it’s better not to draw any injuries on oneself, if one can at all help it.

So now thanks to the make up, the chic dresses and tops, the freshly washed hair, but above all to the skill of photographer Viv Buckley and her miracle camera, we’re getting right notions of ‘upperosity’ about ourselves, so we are. Shure, isn’t that the reason, I’m swanning around on the sofa on a seriously torrid day with a flawlessly made up face. It’s also why I’m refusing to put my nose outside the door for fear the stuff will begin to melt on me and I’ll end up looking like a seriously diseased panda about to become extinct.Woman mistakes a camera for a gun

 

 

 

My debut collection of short stories will be launched in the autumn and an author photo was needed for the book. A sincere thank you to our good friend, digital artist and photographer Viv Buckley, for her patience, time, good humour and skill at this morning’s session. 

 

 

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Costa del Under the Bed.

Greetings from underneath a bed somewhere in the barony of Duhallow. I’m surrounded by heat, pitiless heat. Outside the open window, nothing stirs. The sun blazes down, invading every corner of the house, the garden,  vegetation shrivels, plants die, the sound of roaring is heard from Newmarket and I know Teresa, in the West End has cracked and it sends shivers up my spine. Everywhere, the tarmac boils so that Sally O’Brien(remember her) could fry an egg-if she had an egg and if she wasn’t afraid to risk sunstroke, exposing herself to this vicious heat for anything over five minutes.

Myself and the two dogs stretch out in the temporary shade provided by the mattress. I know though that shortly the unrelenting rays of a sun gone mad will find me and the dogs and we’ll have to move again -probably to the bath tub half full of cold, gloriously cold water.

I close my eyes and imagine the wind on my face, the soft caress of raindrops on my cheeks, the gale blowing in from the East, the crunching of ice underfoot,  and me shivering and reaching for another jumper. Oh, it’s a consummation devoutly to be wished for.

But I’m hallucinating because here in Duhallow, under the inadequate barricade of a double bed, I break out in wave after wave of perspiration as the sun moves ever higher in the cloudless sky.

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Reflections on the Old Year

Sitting by the open fire with the lights of the Christmas tree twinkling in the corner, I can almost feel the exhaustion of the old year as it limps towards oblivion while the lively, arrogant young new year waits in the wings, impatient for 2017 to shuffle off into the shadows so that it will have the limelight all to itself.

The new broom indeed!
Time though to reflect on the year almost done. A good writing year overall. This year I became acquainted with Eamon O Cleirigh of Clear View Editing who proved invaluable in helping me polish and edit my novel into shape for submission to publishers early in the coming year. So fingers crossed on that one. In March, together with the hardworking Kanturk Arts Committee, we celebrated a very successful festival with an expanded programme and increased crowds. My short comedy Take Off got a great reception from a packed courthouse, thanks in no small measure, to performers Teresa O Keeffe, Sheila O Connor, Martha Keller and Darragh O Keeffe. The other featured plays at the rehearsed readings also got a marvellous reaction from a great audience.
Throughout the year, I had memory pieces and a short story published by Ireland’s Own.

On a beautiful summer’s day in Cloghroe, friend and fellow writer Mary Bradford and myself met up with some wonderful writers at a workshop on Flash Fiction with well known novelist, Denyse Woods. Out of that workshop came my first flash fiction story which went on to be awarded third place in the Allingham Literary Festival 2017. In September, with fellow writer Aidan O Keeffe, we each put on a rehearsed reading of our latest work at the Daily Grind Coffee Shop in Kanturk. Half an hour before the performance was about to start, the place was packed and we got great affirmation from a very appreciative audience. Again, thanks to my performers, Teresa O Keeffe and Sean Bowman who played a blinder with my comedy Funeral Blues. The following month, I was lucky enough to be accepted for publication in the long established Holly Bough with an article recalling the first car my father had when I was a child – a grey Ford Anglia and the absolute delight we felt when we saw it parked outside the small gate of our cottage in Broadford more years ago now than I care to count.
In early December, I was in Cork County Library reading a story at an event organized by 2017 writer-in- residence for Cork County Library and Arts Service, Denyse Woods. The year is set to end on a high note with one of my plays The Invitation, being performed at the Glen Theatre, Banteer on the 28th of December at an event to raise funds for the visually impaired.

So what do I hope for in 2018?
Well, I hope to get a publisher interested enough in my novel to offer me a contract so fingers, toes and everything else crossed that this might happen.
In February, at a Drama night in Glash Community Centre organized by Mike Guerin, Newmarket, I’ll have a one Act play, By the Light of the Moon, performed by Martin Riordan(Banteer Drama) Sean Bowman and Cliona Broderick(Newmarket Drama) so hoping that will go down well. It promises to be an interesting night with short plays from Mike Guerin, Aidan O Keeffe and performances from some of Mike Guerin’s young drama students. It will be great to see a new generation of actors emerging.
I also hope to get a collection of short stories together and launch sometime mid year. So enough there to keep me busy, I’d say, and out of mischief for the foreseeable future.

On a personal level; here’s  to health, contentment and friendship for 2018. Without those three, there’s nothing we can do.
May I take this opportunity to thank everyone for their friendship and support during the year and may I wish one and all a Happy Christmas and Healthy, successful New Year.

Happy memories from 2017.

 

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Kanturk Arts Flash Fiction 2018. now open for submissions

5E774DEA-DD60-461F-A05F-6C5FB5CC8AC4The 2018 Flash Fiction Competition is now open for entries. The above image is the visual prompt for the adult flash fiction.

This year we have three categories Under 13’s, Under 16’s and Adults.

Full details on all three categories can be found on Kanturk Arts.ie
Image reproduced by kind permission of Viv Buckley, Digital Artist

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The Obscenity of World War 1.

At the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month World War 1 ended. So it was then that at 11am on the 11th of Novmber 1918, the guns fell silent all over Europe for the first time in over four years.As the eerie silence grew, the war weary people of a battered continent began to take in the enormity of the losses and consequences of the so called  Great War – the deaths, the injuries, the broken families and not least, the broken men who returned from the trenches and who would never be the same again.

7A17BEF9-419B-4907-B8BA-D3FDE3D8804F.jpegNearly 50,000 Irish men, died in the bloody obscenity that was World War 1. The figure of 49,435 is mentioned on the War Memorial to the dead in Islandbridge in Dublin. These men had enlisted for a variety of reasons – to show Britain their loyalty so that Ireland would be rewarded with Home Rule, its own parliament in Dublin at war’s end. The bill to allow Home Rule, had in fact been passed in 1912 and was due to come into effect in 1914. However, due to the outbreak of war, it was shelved for its duration. Others joined from youthful idealism, some answered the call for adventure while others still saw an opportunity to receive a regular wage to support their families at home.

Whatever their reasons, thousands marched away to war to the sound of pipes and drums, flag waving and cheering. So many never returned and for those who did in 1918, the climate was so politically changed that they found themselves strangers and regarded as traitors in their own land.  No cheering heaving crowds or marching bands, no flag waving or great speeches to welcome them home. It was a totally changed landscape.   In 1916, the Easter Rising had taken place and in the words of W.B. Yeats ‘All changed, changed utterly’ so that the men who had marched off to War in September 1914 as heroes were yesterday’s men: by fighting in the British Army and not in the GPO,  their sacrifice and bravery were consigned to oblivion for decades.

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All War is an obscenity but none, I feel, more than World War 1, a conflict caused by the greed and ambition of the Great Powers in Europe. Moreover, when peace was finally restored by the treaty signed in the grandeur of the halls in the palace of Versailles in 1919, it was an utterly punitive one against Germany, revenge not justice, the driving force. All it ultimately achieved was a twenty year lull, during which time, anger and resentment festered in Germany,  giving rise to Hitler and the Nazis.

So it was that in September 1939, an even more ferocious conflict was unleashed on a world not yet recovered from the barbarity that had occurred just two decades before. And across Europe, the sounds of guns and bombs and tanks and death, filled the silence once again. And once again, the sound of marching men was heard echoing into the silence.

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Waiting

She hates the darkness, fears it. She makes a sound, not sure whether it’s a sob or a laugh. She stifles it as she feels the small, damp hand twitch in hers, steadying herself with a deep breath, then another. She must not lose control. But she is suffocating. The air is fetid, pressing against her, smothering. Her body is covered with perspiration and her bones ache. She caresses the hand on her lap and turning sideways, bends, brushing her lips against the soft cheek.

How long have they been here? Hours, days? She shifts slightly, painfully and the hand tightens in hers. There has been no sound for a long time, not even the scampering of rats or mice, or whatever the creatures are that they share the darkness with. She shudders and closes her eyes, remembering.

The village had been a somersault of panic and dread for months. Life suspended, people waiting, sun shining. The days and nights passing in a slow tumble of light and shadow and heat and shade. Rumours scrambling over each other like living things, each one more terrifying than the last. The villagers sweltering in unbearable heat as each day passed and still, nothing happened. But they lived with the terror: – waking, eating, sleeping, working, pushing the perspiration from their eyes and staring at the empty dirt road leading to the distant north.

At last, it came, as they had known it would. She was feeding rice to the child when she heard it. At first, she thought herself mistaken, deceived by months of imaginings and false alarms, and she stopped, spoon halfway to the child’s mouth. But no, there it was again, a series of booms like muffled drums, coming from the dirt road, an indolent serpent winding itself back all the way to the city, several days trek away.

The child’s eyes widened, the pupils darting sideways, but made no sound. Strangely, for a long moment, there was no sound anywhere. It was as if the village had been sucked into the very atmosphere itself, giving it the chance to take a last collective breath before being spat out, defenceless, puny, against the approaching madness.

From outside the open window, voices, an avalanche of voices, shrill, rapid, urgent. In the room, she could smell it, the terror, the helplessness, the inevitability, and as she laid the rice on the blood red tongue of the child, her hand trembled.

Now in the darkness, she prays for courage, but fears her God is far away, powerless to help them. Has abandoned them, even. She pushes the thought aside but it lingers, like a mist coiling itself into her mind, settling there, taunting, laughing.

She feels the child move beside her and clamber onto her lap. Wincing, she strokes the hair, damp, smelling of stale sweat and begins to croon softly. It is a rhyme her mother used to chant to her as they played games in the wood when she was very young. Shouts of laughter, rising in rhythm with the words, her mother swinging her round and round and she, squealing with happiness.

Hey ho, tipsy toe

Turn the ship

And away we go…

 

Thousands of miles and a wide ocean ago …

 

Her eyes jerk open. The child stiffens on her lap but remains silent. She hears a door burst open somewhere on the corridor outside, volleys of shouts, marching feet and a storm of voices, high pitched, alien. She swallows and puts the child gently from her, forcing her body upright. Her legs are shaky and she staggers, praying that she won’t fall, that she will be strong. She reaches for the child’s hands, gripping them – feels the small body trembling.

The knob turns, roughly, uselessly. The strange voices, high, excited, a crash against the door. It doesn’t budge. Then, more shouts and grunts, the door judders but still holds. It is only a matter of seconds, she knows that. She pulls the child closer, deeper into her side The wood is splintering now, creaking like an old arthritic knee joint. Not long now, not long.

Her lips move above the child’s head and the words come softly…

Hey ho, tipsy toe,

Turn the ship

And away we go, go go..

 

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Pedal Power only in the Sunny South East.

IMG_1753.JPGDetermined to cycle part of the Dungarvan- Waterford Greenway before returning to school, I arrived in Dungarvan this morning with two friends to an overcast sky, threatening rain and other dire offerings. The look of the sky was so bad that it prompted Nora to remark, somewhat sourly, that swimming goggles might prove to be of more benefit on the route than the sun glasses we wore, somewhat rakishly, on the crown of our heads, to effect a rather bohemian demeanour.
Emerging from a hearty breakfast at Meade’s Cafe in the square, well, there wasn’t any point in foregoing food because of some misplaced notion that real athletes set off on 25 kilometre cycling trips with only granola and natural yogurt in their stomachs. We’ve never set much store in the well-loved catholic belief of penance and fasting, so there wasn’t much chance of the three of us suffering from hunger pangs en route. We are inclined to lean more towards an army marches on its stomach school of philosophy really.
We were amazed, even suspicious, to be greeted by sunshine and a warm breeze as we stood in the square, among all the food stalls: it very evidently being market day in the town. Still, we persisted with our plan of hiring bikes and pedalling the 22 kilometres to Kilmacthomas village. It was wonderful to see so many people, adults and children cycling, walking, running, (ok, there were some who did seem to be on the verge of expiring but even they were putting a brave face on it, it being such a sunny day and all) Fair play to them.

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The view was wonderful, for the first five or six kilometres, we had the sea beside us, choppy with white spray dashing off the rocks. We passed Clonea Strand, though we stayed wedged in our saddles, as we had this superstitious belief that if we once dismounted, we mightn’t be able to persuade our limbs to climb back up again.
There was a long tunnel, dark, moisture laden, lit only by faint bulbs along the way. It was black and rather sinister and I was thankful when we were back into the sunshine again. We passed under another tunnel, of trees this time, cool, dappled sunlight peeping through the branches which met in the middle. I was so busy here, admiring the beauty of nature and wondering if I’d chance writing a poem on it, that I only narrowly avoided falling off the greenway altogether and tumbling into the ditch ten feet below.
By this time, we’d begun to believe that we’d actually manage to complete the 22 kilometres without mishap, so we detached ourselves from the saddles to take a break at the old pub, near Durrow. Mahony’s has been plying its trade since the 1860s and the three of us were so intoxicated by the combination of fresh air and the quaintness of the pub that we went mad altogether, treating ourselves to a yogurt and bottle of water, with Nora losing the run of herself completely and demolishing two Curley Wurlies – in addition to the yogurt and the water.

 

Nora and myself take a short breakIMG_1748.JPGBack on the bikes again, it was just over an hour to the old kilmacthomas railway station. We were feeling inordinately pleased with ourselves and maybe, in retrospect, that was the problem. Haven’t we all been reared with the old adage: pride comes before a fall?Whatever, it was here, as we were on the home straight that we had, what could euphemistically be called ‘the incident ‘ – though we did manage, thankfully, to survive to tell the tale.

Well obviously, you’re rceading me, aren’t you?

To be continued

 

The Dungarvan -Waterford Greenway was opened by Simon Coveney TD on March 25th this year.

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