Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Five minutes - Four words – One Story

Write Something over Coffee every Monday - WriSoCoMo

 On Monday 16th November…….

The taxi pulled up at 5 AM. In the seconds it took to get to the passenger door she staggered, buffeted by the storm.

She could hear the driver lug her bag into his boot. The car shook as he slammed the boot and shook more when he threw his big frame into the driver's seat.

 ‘It is my belief,’ he declared, ‘that the end of the world is nigh’.

 He turned to look at her - ‘Where to my love?’

 ‘The airport’ she said – still trying to struggle out of her hooded jacket.

 She found herself looking at a big plastic daisy on his dashboard.

‘So - you're into flower power then?’ She asked wearily.

 ‘Hah – Daisy can spot a morning grouch a mile off,’ he said…..

ENDS (122)

Fifteen minutes -Six Words - One Story….

Write Something over Coffee every Monday - WriSoCoMo

On Monday 9thNovember…..

Eva sat at the kitchen table clutching her teacup. The large window had steamed. She asked Rosie to wipe it with kitchen towel.

Outside it had stopped raining. The sycamore was laden with dripping gossamer. Gossamer was woven into the sodden lumpen grass.  The path glistened with moisture.

The sky had descended almost on to the house. It was black to the east and west but a shaft of light stretched south to the road. Eva would watch the road now till he came.

Rosie had gotten an email to say he was coming. Rosie wanted her to take toast with her tea but the knot in Eva’s stomach was growing. She leaned too close into the window - and her breath – or was at her tea –steamed it again.

‘I can’t see’, she called out to Rosie.
Her voice sounded plaintiff and weak. She cleared her throat.

Rosie came back with a wad of kitchen towel.

‘Eva,’  she said gently – ‘Come sit by the fire – you look cold.’

‘I can’t see out from the fire,’ Rosie said. ‘Why is the window so steamy?’
‘It will clear,’ said Rosie, ‘it's so early, you don't usually get up at this hour.  He won't be here till noon Eva – come sit by the fire.’

‘I must watch,’ said Eva. ‘I need to catch the first glimpse of him. I will know everything once I see him.’

 Rosie wiped the window again making a big circle beside Eva.
She touched Eva's hand.

 ‘You are cold,’ she said.

 ‘This is a cold dawn Rosie,’ Eva said

ENDS (265)

Monday, 2 November 2015

Twenty minutes, eight words, one story.

National Write Something Month (NaWriSoMo) has begun.

This morning in the Orchard cafe, writer Triona Walsh is busy developing the stunning plot for her second novel.
Meanwhile she challenges me to write a flash fiction piece, in 20 minutes, using the following prompts.

An accident
Cup of tea


So here we go..............


Mary stares into her cup of tea. It is grey – dish cloth weak – as weak as she could make it. The doctor said it was critically important to drink several pints of water every day. She can't face cold water - so her day revolves around enormous pots of tea. Half a teaspoon of leaves to one large teapot.. Dehydration was how sadness was affecting her - the doctor said. So Mary has a goal – one thing she can do - drink tea.

John and she can hardly look at each other since the accident. His thing is digging. The doctor said he needed to exercise. Mary has become paralysed but John has become agitated. He can barely contain himself. She can hear him digging now - the spade making contact with the stony soil of the garden. She hates the sound. The beds have been dug and re-dug. The vegetables have been harvested and given away. Every autumn leaf is being swept as it lands.......

At 11 she will bring him a coffee. She will put it on the bench. She will put a biscuit on the saucer. She will watch from the kitchen as he breaks the biscuit and put it into the bird table. He will stand with his back to the kitchen window lest she might catch his eye. She will see how bony he had become and how his elbows stick out under his rolled up sleeves. She wonders if the day goes faster out there than it does in here. She envies him activity. They never speak now. She can focus on only one thing now - tea.

Both are trying to learn how to wait. When lunchtime comes she will put a sandwich somebody else has made out onto his bench. John will probably not eat that either.

On the hour, every hour, he will go to the radio he had set up on his bench and listen to the news. He will check his phone too for news on social media and emails.
Every hour. On the hour. He only allows himself to look once an hour.

Mary’s phone stares blackly at her beside the teapot...................................
Check out Triona's progress here http://trionawalsh.blogspot.ie/

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Write Something Every Monday for November

Inspired by National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) @TheTrionaWalsh and myself have decided to meet in the Orchard Café and Write Something Every Monday for November.

We will set a timer. We will write randomly for 15 minutes.  Then we will do a quick edit and blog the result.

Here is my first attempt:

Coffee is a good start to writing something. Sit still for a moment with my coffee – put my two feet on the ground - feel contact with the earth - just for a moment. My feet will very likely end up round my neck as I tackle the words but that's okay. So to start - a coffee – a blank page - a pen – feet on the ground. What happens? Something always happens. First it's contrived - I'm doing an exercise, it had better be good, smart, witty, quick......

But then I spy a woman in a pink baseball cap balancing two lattés on a tray. An older woman, leaning heavily on a stick, follows carefully behind her. The baseball-hatted woman puts the latte’s down on a nearby table and pulls out a chair for her companion.

The older woman takes a while to sit - takes ages in fact. Finally her stick is positioned safely under the table. She straightens her back and gazes serenely at the lattés. Her hatted companion has taken a call on her mobile - she is pacing to fro nearby – she looks agitated. She can't hear properly so she goes outside. She marches backwards and forwards in the garden talking furiously.

The older woman’s eyes never leaves the lattés. The froth has subsided on both. She strokes the glass of the one nearest her with her finger. I know she won't raise it to her lips until her companion returns.

Outside the hatted lady’s face is flushed. She paces among the Halloween Ghouls oblivious of their presence. (250)


Saturday, 12 September 2015

Are ye here for the jazz?

Hail Queen of the Late Night Radio

Returning to the subject of songs that get stuck in one’s head – there are two very firmly lodged in mine since Sunday the 6th September. 

On that day I travelled to Monaghan Town to attend the Blessing of the Graves ceremony for the first time in nearly two decades.  On my approach I was startled to discover, several miles outside the town, that cars had been parked along the roadside.  A stream of walkers were trudging steadily forward as though towards Croke Park.   Too late to similarly abandon my car I resolved to pull in temporarily when I got closer to the graveyard and deposit my Lily in its pink ceramic pot onto the footpath – but as I got near I was waved vigorously onwards by the Gardai.  I eventually parked at quite a distance from my destination. I considered abandoning Lily as she was heavy - but instead I put her in a sturdy M&S carrier bag and entered the stream of humanity.  

Each time I put Lily down for a rest I was overtaken by scores of people. As I walked down the hill in the hot sunshine into the townland of Laturcan, where three sloping graveyards meet in a triangle, I was amazed by the crowds.  There were groups at almost every grave.  As I passed the Old Graveyard, which dates back to 1790, the hymn ‘Hail Queen of Heaven, the Ocean Star,’ began to crackle through a loudspeaker system.  I could see to my left, at the grotto in the St Joseph’s Calvary Graveyard (which dates to 1925) a makeshift altar and an assembly of priests surrounding the bishop. 
My destination was the New Graveyard.  I finally got into line beside my people by the second refrain.

O gentle, chaste, and spotless Maid,
We sinners make our prayers through thee;
Remind thy Son that He has paid
The price of our iniquity.

Virgin most pure, Star of the sea,
Pray for the sinner, pray for me.

On my last visit, a mound still betrayed my mother’s recent interment. Today the surface was flat.  One simple wreath lay on fresh dark compost that had been perfectly groomed by her sons.
Lily, who had begun life in a small plastic pot by my mother’s bedside, looked cheerful and uncompromising in her new situation as the final refrain of the hymn rang out.

And while to Him Who reigns above
In Godhead one, in Persons three,
The Source of life, of grace, of love,
Homage we pay on bended knee:

Do thou, bright Queen, O star of the sea,
Pray for thy children, pray for me

 A steady stream of people continued to enter each graveyard, dressed in Sunday finery, ferrying children, carrying stools for their elders, coats over their arms and redundant umbrellas. 

No-one spoke much as the readings were read. More hymns were sung.  The rosary ensued. Priests and ministers of the Eucharist fanned out, trudging up and down the paths, trying to reach into every grave with a spray of holy water as families blessed themselves.

And then, quite suddenly, it was over. 
The masses began to surge again, back towards the town, back to abandoned cars, calling out to each other, spotting old forgotten friends, shaking hands.

You can’t be in Monaghan today and not go to the Harvest Blues festival,’ I was told.
I got carried along by the tide through Old Cross Square. 

As we strolled up Dublin Street the mourners seemed either to vanish or change focus - to morph somehow into hard core blues aficionados.  
We stepped into the darkness of a pub. 

And there she was. Clara Rose, the Queen of the Late Night Radio. She was in full voice, with her mammy singing backing vocals, belting out the Sam Cooke song – ‘Bring it On Home to Me’.

I found myself seated on a window seat with a great view, delightedly clutching a pint, when a northern man beside me leaned in and said ‘Are ye here for the jazz?.

 ‘No’, I said, ‘for the Blessing of the Graves’.
‘Och aye’, he said nodding sagely.

The rest of his response was drowned by their roof raising finale ...
One more thing
I tried to treat you right
But you stayed out, stayed out at night
But I forgive you, bring it to me
Bring your sweet loving
Bring it on home to me, yeah (yeah) yeah (yeah) yeah (yeah)
Yeah (yeah) yeah (yeah)...

Have a listen to Clara Rose and Lizy here


Wednesday, 15 July 2015

As I do live by food, I met a fool…..

Nobody does love’s confusions like the Bard.

I wonder if it’s possible to attend a Shakespeare play and not wake up for mornings on end afterwards with snippets of famous monologue ringing in ones ears?
Like, for example, Jacque’s Seven Ages of Man monologue in As You Like It which begins:

All the world's a stage,

And all the men and women merely players,

They have their exits and entrances,

And one man in his time plays many parts,

His acts being seven ages.

A fool, a fool! I met a fool in the forest,
 A motley fool; a miserable world!
As I do live by food, I met a fool
Who laid him down and bask'd him in the sun,
And rail'd on Lady Fortune in good terms,
In good set terms and, yet, a motley fool.

Shakespeare is believed to have written As You Like It in 1599.  In the play the heroine Rosalind flees persecution in her uncle's court.  Accompanied by her cousin Celia she travels to the safety of the Forest of Arden where she falls in love with the wronged Orlando, a courtier deprived of his birth right by his brother.

Critical response has varied historically - some critics finding the work to be of great merit while others describe it as a potboiler.

For me - attending this production in the Globe theatre this July is a bit like watching a three hour episode of Fr. Ted in which the ‘wimmin’ are outstanding. 

Michelle Terry as Rosalind and Ellie Piercy as Celia are so energetic they are spellbinding.  

And beneath the cross-dressing and the quicksilver wit all the age old issues are quivering:
alienation, justice and injustice, love and loss, forgiveness and reparation...........

It was a real thrill to be under the balmy London skies at this production.

Nobody does love’s confusions quite like the Bard.


Thursday, 30 April 2015

When it's not always raining there'll be days like this


I surveyed some writers I know to see what songs get stuck in their heads.

Here are the results:

Rather an eclectic bunch!

My favourite from the list – Sandy Denny - one of the greatest female vocalists of any era.
Have a listen here : Who knows where time goes


Monday, 30 March 2015

Do you ever wake up with a song in your head?

Part three of my series of 12 investigative talks with highly creative people is on the way.


In the meantime I have a question that can’t wait  

Do you ever wake up with a song in your head?

Maybe I don’t get out enough, but after hearing Scottish singer songwriter Eddi Reader perform live in Vicar Street Dublin at the end of February, I still often wake to her fabulous voice singing the Robert Burns’ anthem ‘My Love is like a red, red rose.’

I decided to Google the lyrics to be sure they were playing correctly in my head. 

I had no sooner typed  ‘my love’ when up comes ‘My Lovely Horse.’ I rushed, panic stricken, to complete the phrase and to fill my head as fast as possible with a You Tube video of Eddi singing my latest favourite song before Ted and Dougal took over my brain. 

Do you remember that episode of Fr. Ted when Dougal got Eurosong fever and he and Ted composed a dirge called ‘My Lovely Horse?’  That ‘song’ wedged itself into my head for ages after. It still occasionally comes back.  I need help when this happens....

I wonder if it is involuntary  -  is it a random thing - what is it that determines what will get stuck and what will not? 

by Robert Burn
Can we control it? 
Having Eddi playing beautiful Robert Burn lyrics in my head is a joy.
Apparently even Bob Dylan, when asked the source of his greatest creative inspiration, cited Burns' 1794 song A Red, Red Rose, as the lyrics that have had the biggest effect on his life.

On the other hand having Dougal and Ted singing in one’s head, much as one might love them, is a horror.

The last time a voice got stuck in my head, before Eddi, was in January when I interviewed Clara Rose on this blog. 
Her song, Wallflower Waltz, is my other favourite song.

I imagine either song could be the perfect antidote for the horrors.

 Wallflower Waltz -  gentle, layered, fragile yet strong, measured, lyrically beautiful, modern…

A Red, Red Rose - ancient, perfect, indescribable….

I want to know what you think?

And to sincerely thank my muses Clara Rose, Eddi Reader and Robert Burns.

PS    Careful now.  Do NOT Google My Lovely Horse.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

‘Put out the light, and then put out the light:’....


This is part two in a series of 12 investigative talks with some highly creative people who are within my radar. I want to find out what their method of writing is.  I want to discover what exactly forms their inspiration.  I want to figure out, if possible, what their relationship is with the Muse.

My February Artist
is Siobhán Devoy



Perhaps Siobhan Devoy’s  greatest muse is her mother. When Siobhan was small her mother, Joan Slowey, belonged to a writers group called Inkwell. They were a group of 20 - sometimes even up to 30 – scribes who met in Mahaffy’s Pub in Pearse Street on Monday nights to read, critique, debate and edit.  Joan won several awards for her short stories.  She was shortlisted for the Hennessey award. She published poetry in Ciphers. In 1992 she published a book for children called the Silver Tea Set.


Siobhan’s mother, who comes from County Down, had to leave her Civil Service job when she married as was the norm 40 years ago. Her five children, three girls and two boys, were brought up in Tallaght. Joan ensured that the family was steeped in literature and in the arts in general. The teenage Siobhan was already an avid reader. At home there were great big bookcases. It was not uncommon, when she stood before a bookshelf looking for a new book, to find her mother putting something into her hands like a Turgenev. She almost never chose something that Siobhan didn’t love, or grow to love.

Every year there was an annual Inkwell trip for families. Siobhán remembers going to the witches Castle in Carlow.  She still remembers how the children were both delighted and horrified by the notion that the Druids could, at a stroke, create a mist - start fires at will - and bring down showers of blood.  More often, the trips would involve less challenging but equally enjoyable things like visiting Dora in Wicklow where the children could play all day outside in the fields. Literary holidays were normal for Siobhán and her siblings.

Joan also ensured that her young family attended Theatre and Opera. Othello for the Leaving Certificate was something to be experienced not simply read.

For this family it was normal to entertain each other by quoting (or misquoting) literature. Siobhan and her sisters would regularly conjure up the Moore of Venice in their bedroom and terrify each other with requests to ‘put out the light, and then put out the light:.....

Their breakfast conversations as they discussed others would often call on the words of scribes like John B Keane;

She’s a bit red in the legs but a fine wedge of a woman.’
‘She’s a man by day but a woman by night’.

Siobhan chose media production TV film and journalism at college. Afterwards she was torn between photography and journalism. In the end she and her boyfriend Greg (now her husband) took off to spend two exciting years in London where Siobhán did her post grad in journalism.  They came home when Greg joined the Gardai and Siobhán began a job in 2005 with the Evening Herald as a sub editor in the newsroom.

Siobhan describes animatedly the busy newsroom, the different shifts,  the different editions and the necessity to sometimes rewrite the same story four times.  All this is very good for honing your writing skills. When Siobhan writes creatively she edits as she goes.  There is at least one big distinction, however, between the two activities for her.  With her professional work she is highly organised and disciplined.  With her creative work discipline seems to go out the window.  Some of her best creative pieces have to be retracted from the back of envelopes, or from the back of her shopping lists.

In 2007 the Evening Herald outsourced its graphic design and editing. Siobhan moved to RE&D and sub-edited for the Irish Independent, the Sunday Independent and Herald AM. . Much has changed in recent years both for Siobhan and in the newspaper business. Some reporters write their own headlines and edit their own stories using a content management system. Siobhán has become a busy, very happy mum – her son is nearly five and her daughter is three.  She freelances now for the Daily Star newspaper. She also writes feature articles for Books Ireland Magazine.


What is Siobhan’s creative writing method?

Siobhan keeps a journal.  She puts entries in every couple of weeks – a page – a paragraph sometimes just a sentence – her entries are longer in the summertime. Siobhan will always find ideas in her journal for her creative writing .
 She keeps lists - assiduously – devotedly - regularly - always - since the beginning of time.... 

Siobhán lists everything.........
  • Books she has read. 
  • Countries she has been to.
  • Items to pack.  
  • Things she will do before she dies. 
  • Stories she will write.

She was the inventor of bucket-lists. Lists are great, she loves them. They are a keeper of facts and of secrets for Siobhan and are often a source of storylines.

What is Siobhan currently reading?
  • Is This a Man?,  by Primo Levi, published 1947. She describes this as a must read.
  • Amongst Women, by John McGahern, published 1990.  She's given this by her mother who has just read it for the second time and is dying to discuss it.
  • The House of Mirth, by Edith Wharton, written a century ago.  She was given this by a mother for Christmas.


Siobhán loves anything involving Woody Allen and likes Roddy Doyle very much too, especially Commitments.

What music does she like?
Her taste in music is eclectic.  When she's in the car she listens to Lyric FM.  When she’s home she prefers talk radio. She listens to music on the computer.  She makes up playlists to listen to when she walks. Her lists include pop, rock, blues and jazz.  She makes playlists for when people come to dinner and chooses the music according to her guest’s tastes. Nowadays her five year old son and three year old daughter have a big influence on her taste. Currently they like to dance around the kitchen to Taylor Swift singing Shake It Off.

Before the kids came along to one of her great joys was theatre – often in the company of her sisters and her mum.  She describes the moment that the curtain goes up as exhilarating.  She’s looking forward to when she can bring her kids.

What is her greatest project?

Siobhán is working on a novel which doesn't have a title yet.  It’s set in Dublin in the now and in the Dublin of 20 years ago.  It has a female lead.  There is a crime involved but that is not the point of the book.

 Can we see an excerpt from her novel?
Siobhan promises me yes, soon. 

I, for one, can’t wait. 

(Put out the light and then put out the light’ is a quote from Othello (V.ii.7), who is psyching himself up to kill Desdemona.)


More from Siobhan here soon.