Book release…

Matty Monroe in Paradise has just been published on Kindle.

This is a collection of seven short stories, many of which I’ve been putting together over the last year or two.  Writing them when working on the yet to be released novel ‘By Hook or by Crooke’, I found writing the shorts both good to get my head in gear for some food, which I invariably needed, but also just to maintain that discipline with the form itself.  I often find I like the more heightened style of writing found in the short form, and if I’ve an hour or two, and have hit a wall – or gone blank for a while on the novel – messing around with a short can be enjoyable and distracting, and oddly productive too.

I now have three of these short collections completed, and will upload them all, as well as the final ‘Complete’ collection ‘Three Dead Dogs’, which will contain an extra story of the title name.

Two of the stories in the complete collection (1 each from books 2 & 3) will also have short films that you can get to via the URL links, and I can only apologise for not having a third film ready for this, the first book in the series.  The films were fun to make, and have been shot and edited by the most excellent Stormfresh Photos.  They’re a simple instructive demonstration of the process involved in making the meals, and both come in around 2 minutes long, and can either be used as a stop-start recipe to follow, or just watched, before following the written recipe, which has now become much clearer after seeing the film.

My favourite story is the title story ‘Matty Monroe in Paradise’, probably followed by ‘The Bus to Ballybeg’, which tickles me, as I’ve set it in the town I was born, but it could’ve been set almost anywhere in Ireland.  I’ve popped a link on the bottom of this, if you fancy popping along and having a look.



Read ‘Matty Monroe in Paradise’ at






It’s a long long way from Clare to here…


I knew that the drive from Ballyferriter to Clare wasn’t a long distance, mileage speaking.  Around a hundred kilometres to get on to the Wild Atlantic Way in  that county, and to find our way to Kilkee.

I’ve never been to Kilkee before, and in honesty I don’t think I ever heard of it.  The hotel we booked, The Stella Maris (Star of the Sea I think that means) was pet friendly, and just managed to slot us in … I only booked it after breakfast the same morning we left Ballyferriter, so a big thank you to them.

First impressions of Clare after the postcard scenery of Kerry are somewhat bleak.  It’s the kind of landscape you need to come straight into, and not compare with others.  It has an empty windswept cast to it, and most of it seems devoid of trees.  Sea-gales, and lashing winter storms shape it.

Approaching Kilkee, the landscape is dominated by bungalows, small housing estates and mobile homes.  There’s a sort of nothing feel to the place.  The Stella Maris was a slightly tired, but not weary, hotel from an age gone by.  Music from the thirties and forties crooned from small speakers, and people sat about having afternoon tea in that mish-mash of tee-shirt, cardigans-and-towel combinations, only ever found at the seaside.

The strand of Kilkee was unusual in that the eastern end of the beach was arced by large ghat like steps that served multi-functionally as storm walls, viewing points, changing areas, and a climbing area.  The western end of the beach is overlooked by what must be the old part of the village: an attractive series of detached Georgian houses, that took you out to a nice cafe and a great cliff walk.

Kilkee I imagine is where the good people of nearby Limerick come to holiday.  Gaggles of skimpily-clad teenage girls meandered about watchful for boys of their own age, or over-vigilant parents.  Similarly aged boys moped here and there in wet-suits, or egged each other to jump from heights on the cliffs into the sea.  Adults were scarce in comparison.  It could have been any year of my life between 1980 and now … the subtleties of swimwear or wet-suit designs were perhaps the only indicator of the present.

Food in Kilkee was regrettably unimaginative, and we only ate one main meal at the hotel outside of the breakfasts.  It was forgettable, and I have indeed forgotten what it was.  It’s a sort of pizza-chips, burger-chips, steak-chips, or seafood options kind of place.  Not great for us, and we were both a bit chipped out after Kerry.

We had a beautiful cliff walk though, to the western side of the inlet, and found the remnant markings of an organised run which we went back later to do.  Saw a few choughs along the cliffs when we walked, and came across some Pollock Holes, which neither of us had ever heard of.  They’re large holes in the limestone that fill up with water and are used by bathers wanting a gentler experience than the ocean might be offering on a given day.

Moved on towards Lisdoonvarna.

Stopped along the way to take in Lahinch and Spanish Point before continuing on to walk the now overridden paths up to the Cliffs of Moher.cliffs of moh
Still a beautiful sight, despite the people traffic.  I remember sitting up here some years back with a friend and picnicking with a spliff and a bottle of wine.  Not a soul did we see, and we must have been there for three hours.  Hard to imagine now.  Streams of people seemed intent on walking from one end to the other of the walk without really taking time out.  There were also a number of ‘dogs forbidden’ signs, which Zak ignored, and it got us talking with a few others we encountered about the difficulties of tootling about in Ireland with dogs.  The pubs don’t allow them.  Most of the hotels don’t allow them.  The beaches don’t allow them.  The walks don’t allow them.  The fields don’t allow them.  When did this absurd nonsense arise?  I grew up in Ireland, and took our dogs everywhere, and back then I don’t think I ever Zakwalkaboutowned a lead.  Today we all have leads, and the dogs are less feral generally.  The country needs to wake up a bit and look at it as an opportunity.  People today like their pets and don’t just see them as beasts in the yard to help them go kill some game when the season comes.  One hotel suggested that I might use a shed they had (windowless, three feet by three feet, concrete floor, formerly used for coal).

As we’d gone on from the nineteenth century, I declined to stay there.  Family pets just aren’t housed that way any more.

I’ve been to Lisdoonvarna several times.  This time, it looks old hat.  Living off a match-making festival and a couple of traditional music festivals can trap a place into a time period and prevent it moving along and evolving naturally.  We stayed at Elements B&B just outside, as we couldn’t arrange a pet-friendly hotel.  Some say they are, but need to be contacted in advance.  They didn’t answer the phone or reply to emails, so we stayed with a lovely Brummie couple instead.  I got potato cakes with breakfast (okay, he called them bubble and squeak but there was no squeak so I’ll call them potato cakes)!  Lovely couple, and although they’ve stopped taking pets (they have two dogs) they honoured the booking and were smashing.

I introduced Gaelic Football to Storm on a walkabout, and whilst not greeted with the same enthusiasm she shows for hurling, she preferred the look of it to footie and could see the appeal.  Sometimes they’ll say anything to keep you happy or just shut you up.

We were on our way to visit some friends, which was why we came up to Clare, so decided to go spend a day in The Burren first.  I think it was Patrick Kavanagh who said The Burren was where the bones of the earth had been uncovered, or came out to get some air.  Mists rolled in from the sea and drifted about in different directions.  The mood there is always one of mystery; you sort of expect a fur-clad woman with long red hair and a leashed wolf-hound to appear on the hilltop shouting instructions into the wind before disappearing with the mist; and if you can get away far enough from other people, it also has a bizarre  lunar feel to it.  @Stormfreshphoto took some nice flora shots which I was hoping for, but they’ve probably been sent out elsewhere.  I’ll have to try get them again.

We went down to Quilty beach (Choill Quilty I think) to see the recently revealed fossilised trees on the beach.  Several people mentioned a legendary storm of 2014, or was it 2013?  They were unusual though, but I’m not sure if the photos could do them justice, but the sky was amazing and went on forever.ClareSky3



Ballyferriter Blues…

kerry lakesOver in the west of Ireland at the moment, tootling about.

Just finished in Kerry where we stayed in the village of Ballyferriter on the Dingle Peninsula, out in the Gaeltacht (Irish speaking) area.

Absolutely beautiful out here.  Miles and miles of empty beaches, the water crystal clear, and verging on tepid … it’s where the Gulf-stream hits after all.  Fuchsia bushes thirty feet high line the winding narrow roads, terrifying the life out of the American visitors.  We spent Monday evening with some sheep on the heights of Dunmore Head watching an Atlantic sunset over the Blasket Islands.

Had too many Guinness on Tuesday and listened to a musical French family called Trotwood who’ve been coming to the Gaeltacht for years to play, and it was nice to hear some improvised reels on cellos, and non-traditional instruments.  They were joined by a bongo – tabla – bodhran player and having arrived at the pub around six, I finally found my bed around two, having forgotten that we had a MSP_1886four hour winding drive planned for the following day.

If you’re ever in the area, check out Tig Uí Murcú in Ballyferriter.  Great staff, and a ridiculously friendly crowd.  The music doesn’t start until around 9, so I’d say about half-eight is the right time to get in there, unless you want to eat.


Stayed in a hotel across the road from the pub called Ostán Ceann Sibéal which had fantastic spacious rooms with panoramic views from the front, and was also pet friendly.  If you stay, go for room 18!  Zak, our dog was even more reluctant to leave than we were.  He went nuts on the beach too.  I think he thought he was in dog heaven.  The hotel’s food wasn’t fantastic for us, as we’re both veggie, and Kerry is still in the goat’s cheese phase when it comes to vegetarian food, but it was an easy going place, and they had some great craft beers in the bar too.

From the strand (beach) near the hotel you can walk a few miles across the bay to Baile na Ngall and the Tabhairne Uí Chonchuir.  The walk takes about an hour and a bit, and most of it can be done on the beach or the beach bank.  Swimming is good at several points, but especially on Wine Strand which is a smaller lagoon-like bay.Kerry sea view

If anyone from the area does pick this up, I’ve published a series of short stories with Vegetarian Recipes that are pretty simple, ( but many also have an Irish twist to them.  Too many chefs and cooks find it too easy to churn out the same old nonsense, and visitors are hoping for something a bit different to what they might do at home.

Having a full ‘Irish/English/Scottish/Welsh’ breakfast is about as exciting after day one as having a dump, and I’m told both get equally trying over a fortnight.

Breakfasts could have all come with potato cakes, with onions or herbs even, to add something a bit different.  These are cheap to make, filling, and traditional, and they fit with almost anything in the morning.  I didn’t encounter them anywhere?  I did come across some nice breads, but nobody seemed to play with any ideas and add things like spring onions, carrots, parsnips, or even wild thyme and rosemary, which is everywhere.  Breads like these can add a dimension to a simple bowl of soup, and use up any leftover vegetables.  Again, they’re cheaper to make, add something a little different to the table and make a visit more memorable.

Kerry was absolutely stunning.

We’re off to Clare…and a special thanks to @Stormfreshphoto for the shots.