Winter Wedding…

I’m off to Ireland, the south-eastern corner, to a small Barony known as Gaultier and the tiny hamlet of Faithlegg, to the wedding of my youngest brother and Godson.  An odd thing, having a brother as a Godson, but his son is also my Godson.  It was a privilege his dad wanted to share with him, I imagine, as it’s the nearest thing to being a father I became, and a role I enjoyed with him.  Originally I became his Godfather as there was some fifteen or so years between us and my mother, in a moment of insight, suspected I would emigrate once I came of age.  It was only a hunch, as none of our family had emigrated, but Ireland wasn’t in great shape in the early 80’s and 100,000 people a year were legging it out of the place in search of a life … any kind of working life.  I believe her fears were that our age differences might mean that we would grow distant, were I not to come visit regularly, and she feared I would later meet my brother as a stranger.  I didn’t visit regularly for the early years after leaving, but her insight ensured that we have remained close over the years, and have always remained in touch.

As my novel “By Hook or by Crooke” is set in the Barony of Gaultier, I’m delighted to have an excuse to pop over and do a little bit of leg work also.  I’m into the sequel already, and am now trying to find an agent to build a relationship with, as I’m going to try and publish the novel along the more traditional route.  I’ve mentioned Gaultier previously, and how this long narrow strip of river and coastal land has played host to several invasive incursions into Ireland.

The early Vikings meandered along Gaultier’s coast before settling further upriver beyond where the city of Waterford now sits.

The Normans with Henry II at their head also landed at the village of Crooke, and Henry, in a typically royal supremo gesture, granted the majority of the land that he could see to the Templar Knights.  12,000 acres in fact, and at the time he didn’t own a jot of it.  Nobody really did.  It was under the control of the local tribes and chieftains, but ownership was an alien concept where land was considered, soIMG_0798
disputation didn’t arise more due to a lack of understanding, rather than any kind of acquiescence.  It seems that the first steps in the ridiculous dance-of-death between the islands for the next 800 years was one of misunderstanding.

I’ve a few places picked out to visit, and hopefully once I return I can flesh this out a bit too.
Wishing all a happy New Year, and a good session to see this year out.  Perhaps next year all decent minded people will just ration their professional services and advice to the goose-stepping nutters who’ve managed to somehow get in control via idiot-alley.  Take some time-out and remove the opportunity for them to scape-goat.  The mess they make will be someone else’s fault, but if there’s no-one obvious to blame it’ll stretch their creative abilities to actually create causal links where none exist … or is that their main skill?  I’m trying not to think about them.

It’s that Blairite anthem tune in my head … can things only get better?


Remembering odd words from Lao-Tzu …

Sometimes things come at you sideways.img_0021

One moment you’re sitting there and having an espresso, talking to a friend who’s visiting from Holland and your mind is in a European headspace (for lack of a better description).  Rising politely, he pops to the loo, and on the way back is distracted by my wife coming back from a network meeting.  They haven’t caught up yet, and by the time the whole shebang of catch up, coffee ordering, loo visits, catch up revision, and ‘check the tickets on the car’ is done … a small story has popped up, that ha
s absolutely nothing to do with any of it.

We are clever beings, us humans, but somehow seem to endlessly ensnare ourselves unwittingly in traps we never intended to place.  Our cleverness, whilst being our strength, can also be our downfall.  It is perhaps why a fool can be happy, a clever man miserable, and those who recognise the difference we come to call wise men or sages.  Be careful of showing your skills, they could end up enslaving you.

This popped up in the short time I sat alone…it’s unedited, but was only ever meant as a quick jot of an idea.

For some reason my head took be back to Thailand some twenty years ago and rather than sitting around in a coffee shop in winter, I’m in 35 degrees heat, and someone has told me it’s the ‘cool and windy season’ …

Man and the Monkey
Deng woke early. Beneath her hut the copperhead snake slithered to her nest. Eyes closed, still as a mouse, listening to her movements, Deng heard her coil beneath the flimsy floor and settle in to sleep the day away. Mai was due back later. Hopeful he’d bring something for her, she’d even helped Mr Li, which she didn’t like doing. Mr Li watched her working all the time, never saying anything. Mr Li’s eyes made her uncomfortable; when he smoked his Chinese cigarettes he seemed to look dow
n on her, like she had a bad smell; made noises in the back of his throat too, and Deng couldn’t tell if Mr Li was laughing, or going to spit.

Sticky rice and papaya for breakfast, Deng checked the nearby trees and visible windows first; modestly sluicing herself behind the reed frame circling the back of their hut. The heat was already up; the animals about her becoming restive as it rose. Chickens fed, she left one of the roosters out from beneath his basket, opened the pig pen, and watched as the hungry piglets scattered in different directions to forage. A quietness whispered from the monkey cages. Tapping the cage with the smaller female, she pushed in a bit of papaya to her.
“Pu,” Deng whispered, “Pu … Pu.”
Soon know her name.

Quietly, taking it, blinking wide; her young intelligent eyes watched Deng’s every movement as she did so. Mumbling reassuringly and gently, as she pushed another piece of fruit through, Deng slowly worked on building her trust and a bond. Ten days now; already her eyes followed Deng everywhere once she came into view. The older male in the adjoining cage, angled away from her, watched warily through slitted eyes. Deng ignored him. Not about to waste fruit on him again; Mai could dump him back in the jungle later. No use. Nobody ate bushmeat anymore. It made you mad. Like hillmen.

The four European girls got out of bed around nine. Leaving the island today, after three days, they’d been to the waterfall, the big statue of Buddha, and the cave where birds made nests of spit. Three or four more would arrive before the day was out. Sometimes a boy or man came to stay too. Always three days they stayed at Mr Li’s, and always only visited the three things on the island from the book they carried. Mai drove them sometimes, if he finished in the fields early, or Paap came with his van, from the bottom of the hill near the village.

Once when it was quiet, and there were no tourists staying at Mr Li’s, Deng went with Mai to see the waterfall. In the jungle, they parked his bike a long way away, and followed a little path. The birds and insects were noisier than in the village, and monkeys came to watch them as they made their way through. Hot and steamy, when they got to the waterfall, Mai explained that the tourists sometimes swam without clothes to cool off, after which they would eat the food that Deng prepared. Sitting there for a little while afterwards, they always took photos of each other with their phones. After, Mai took them back to Mr Li’s where, tired, they would often have a sleep, before eating again. Later, they would visit the bar near the beach, where other tourists drank beer and listened to loud music. To bed late, they always got up when the morning was nearly over. Mai took Deng home after they cooled their feet in the water, but first made a small detour to the statue. Lots of tourists taking photos, and eating food in the cafés nearby, Mai pointed out which of the cafés Mr Li owned, after which he drove the long way around the island to get home. The bird caves were on the way back, but he didn’t drive there to show Deng. It was just bird spit, and Mr Li didn’t have any businesses there. Back at Mr Li’s, Deng was surprised that she didn’t feel hungry or sleepy.
At eleven, Mai arrived carrying two bags of groceries from the mainland, and three strips of soft sugar candy for Deng hidden in his shirt. A new machete too, and a collar for Pu and the male. Sitting in the doorway, Deng sucked the long yellow strip telling Mai of her days without him. Laughing about Mr Li, he explained again that he was partially blind; reminding Deng he’d already told her that. Deng hadn’t remembered, her memory wasn’t very reliable, so she laughed too, and tried not to be afraid of Mr Li so much. He paid Mai’s wages.

Eating some of the sticky rice, when he’d had his fill, Mai turned back to Deng.

“Only one good.” Deng replied, telling him how smart little Pu was. Females were always more intelligent she teased. Papaya was her favourite fruit too.
Asking after the male, Deng shook her head. Too stupid and too stubborn, Deng reported. Too old and angry also. They’d never get on. Didn’t like Pu either. To Deng’s surprise, Mai suggested putting her to work. Not properly, but he had to be ready to do something for the morning, even if he only showed up training her with the others. Since Hima fell, and died, they hadn’t done a proper day’s work. Deng nodded her understanding.

At the cages, Deng cooed her name and watched little Pu react. A piece of papaya held, as she opened the cage, Pu sat still watching it before coming out sideways, and taking it gently.
“Clever, and gentle too huh?” Mai agreed, attaching the chain to her neck-collar, to check Deng’s progress with her training, and to accustomise her to it.
Too dumb and too stubborn to allow himself to be chained, and be put to work collecting coconuts, Mai ignored the male. One or two were always too dumb.

He’d throw him back in the jungle later.


Things get in the way…

I still haven’t managed to sit down and start working properly on Book Two of the Harry Johnson Chronicles.  I haven’t self-published Book one ‘By Hook or by Crooke’, so unless you’re about local to me, you wouldn’t know about that one.  It’s a 350page (and a bit) literary thriller that’s set in my young stomping ground.  I’m going to tout it about for an agent first.

kerry lakes

It’s an odd little spot where it’s set.

In the south-east corner of Ireland, the Barony of Gaultier is one of the Baronies that make up the county.  It has a very peculiar history.  Ireland is made up of Baronies (it’s an old term for a district, not dissimilar to a ‘Hundred’ in England, or ‘Wapentake’ in Scandinavia).

The title of Barony sounds grander than it is, but ultimately is accurate as there was a kind of ‘lordship’.  Gaultier also is an oddity to an English speaking ear.  ‘Gaul’ ‘Gal’ ‘Gall’ or anything that sounds like a variation of any of those spellings, means ‘foreigner’ in old Irish.  Whether that was because we were trading with the French (Gauls) from the fifth century onwards, and theirs was the first truly foreign tongue, seems to be uncertain.  It’s almost Pythonesque … All French are foreigners, so … all foreigners must be French… it really could have been that simple.  ‘Tier’ ‘Tir’ or ‘Tír’, generally means land or long in Irish too.  The two match up here and name Gaultier as a foreign zone, and a relatively long thin strip of it, at that!  Even the names in the district today have French sounds to them.

It was used as a landing zone right back to Henry II, the Norman (Anglo-Norman people say, but considering he rarely came out of France, never spoke English, and really never spent much time there, I think Norman is probably more accurate) King of England, and Duke of Normandy (as well as a bunch of other titles).

Essentially the Normans routed England and most of southern Wales.  Back then the idea of primogeniture was still somewhat alien, and the Merovingian, Carolingian and even the later Avengian dynastic powers collapsed due to the inheritance system of ‘Gavelkind'(share it out amongst the surviving sons) more than any kind of war or rebellion.  The Carolingians (Charlemagne and the lot before him) pretty much laid out Europe into what we can recognise as Germany-France-Italy, and Charlemagne gave one of each to his three sons.  Like a Grimm’s story, each believed the other had a bigger bit of the pie, and so they all went to war.

I’ve gone off piste again!  Once I start looking at Gaultier and thinking about it, it really is an odd spot.  Prince John (Lackland, or Softsword) of Sherwood Forest fame (think Alan Rickman versus Kevin Costner) landed here after Henry, and although the local chiefs showed up to pay tribute, they subsequently ignored him.  Richard II arrived a while later with the biggest invasion force ever to land in Ireland.  All of them landed at Crooke (a village just beyond Woodstown), after navigating around the headland of Hook.

The reasons they came to Ireland are all twisted up in nonsense about papal directives, invites and duties, but really they came to have land.  Gavelkind meant that expanding noble families needed more and more land.  They recognised their illegitimate offspring then … the word hadn’t really gained ground as a significant drawback.  Stick a Fitz before a name, and you have a recognised illegitimate royal.  Henry I, had 23 on his own, and Princess Nest (a famous beauty from Wales, and possibly one of my Progenitors) seems to have shagged every noble man with potential who happened to cross the Welsh borders).  Every noble born arse had to have a lump of land.  And their offspring too … 7 steps from Kevin Bacon begins to make sense … the twelfth century Normans, springing as they did from the Franks (Germans of the time) needed ‘lebensraum’, and decided to go stomping across the islands on a major land-grab.  They grabbed England, south Wales, and then sort of fell asleep half way into Ireland after a couple of hundred years, by which time, with all the to-ing and fro-ing, they’d all turned English and didn’t want to keep sending money back home to France, and the whole shit-shambles between the two countries kicked off in earnest.

I’ve distracted myself enough to ramble on with the story now, and will come back and ramble on here tomorrow …

Tomorrow never comes…

Three days later and I’m in a different mood altogether.  I still haven’t managed to get back to book two in the Harry Johnson Chronicles (working title of course), but two short stories keep getting in the way.  At least I think they’re two shorts – at the moment they seem to be two halves of one story.  They’ve also crept up to 3500 words each, or thereabouts, and every time I peek back at them, more seems to come and an hour later I’m lost in them both.

Mustn’t grumble, as long as words keep coming I’m happy.

This time of the year is awkward though.  My students, mainly second language learners, are all organising their breaks and this normally means them missing a class either side of the break.  The classes are 3 hours plus, so it can be a chunk they miss, and when they come back, their English has normally regressed to a level they’d passed some months earlier.  I’m teaching English, as you may have gathered from that, if I haven’t said it before.  For those outside the UK it’s called Functional Skills English, which is exactly what it is: basic English for the workplace.  I teach adults, and try to avoid the younger 16-18 year olds as much as I can.  Adults are voluntary learners, and aware of their needs.  Native kids requiring this teaching are generally coerced, unaware, oblivious of more or less everything, and have no interest in learning.  They’ll all be back in the system once their own kids show up and they realise that they can’t help them with their homework.  Most of these 16-18 year olds wouldn’t be able to help a seven year old as it stands, and could probably take both literacy and numeracy lessons from them.

Enough about work … I have to go there later, so it’s probably on my mind.

The Cook in the Books series is at least beginning to tick.  I relaunched timg_0967he series by dividing it into three small books and one larger collection.  That way it gives the reader a chance to perhaps have a decent look at the stories before deciding to get the lot.  You can also read the first story of each book for free, so this might also give the reader a better taste of things.  I’ve not done a social media ‘campaign’ for it, as I don’t have time this month, but I find the whole ‘buy my book’ thing tedious, and find I never go to the links myself for this kind of thing.  I’m not under the cosh at the moment to produce or generate income of any significant size, so I think I’ll avoid all the kerfuffle and pressure that comes with trying to put a campaign of sorts together.

I also want to see what happens with the interest in By Hook or by Crooke, and don’t want to find I’m switching a horde of people off before I’ve even managed to get them interested.

Okay … back to work again.  This does get in the way as much as the shorts, but once I’ve dumped here, I find it easier to forget about it and concentrate on what I’m supposed (by me) to be doing.





2017…a few early thoughts on the year lately gone by



A real world

is laid bare, so

shut up and hide!

Those without care

have swung the wide tide.

Love of the other,

no longer finds favour.

Hate and distaste:

these things are now savoured.

Accept what they’ve done,

that they lied, and they won!

And the rules that they broke,

we ourselves thought a joke.

For life, it goes on,

without shame in their eyes.

But life without care,

we know is not wise.

Remember instead,

it’s not enough to just think,

to cry or to wail,

or spill tears in your drink.

The enemy lives,

Within the heart of us all,

For the love of a God,

it too, found

a fall

I will arise and go now,

and go

but not to Inishfree,

for there, I don’t have a cottage