Oversight…

Looking back on it, it seems that 2016 was the year of the oversight.

Early in the year, talking on Trump, some commentators bandied about figures about him having 20% of 20-24%, suggesting that the apathetic American public who recently have struggled to get over the 50% turnout, were reasonably split between the Democrat/Republican poles.  This came with an allowance for a couple of percentage points being allocated for the usual maverick billionaire with a bee-
in-his-barnet.  Trump, it was believed held the maverick card at this stage – he certainly had the barnet – and everything seemed pretty much run-of-the-mill, for the American process.  He’d run his race, and disappear into whatever oblivion vacuum that sucked up Ross Perot …

His ranting and raving had the more refined on Capitol Hill sniggering up their sleeves.  The press and television media smacked their lips in glee, but the wind-bag was expected by everyone to blow himself out by mid-summer at the latest.

Traction comes from unexpected places.

Trump maintained his bile, and despite the obvious lying, fabricating, and some bewildering back-tracking, before seemingly blowing his other foot off, the act was somehow still gaining momentum.  People didn’t know what to think across the world.  A mass under-class protest making its gripe known was the general international prognosis.  Poor white people were upset and wanted something done about their unhappy state.

What America was thinking was beyond us, looking in from outside, but America often baffles the world with its thinking.  Progressive thinking coasts combined with a sixteenth century moralistic middle don’t make for easy analysis. Trump was obviously some kind of psychopathic loon-tune with an odd personal agenda, but somehow he was staying in there.  Like a reality version of goggle-box, the worldunknown-4 scratched its collective arse, its armpits, its head, and finally shrugged in bafflement.  May arrived, and the primaries ended.  Trump was endorsed by the Republican Party.  The Democrats celebrated across the land, believing the Republicans had given up the ghost.

Not taking him seriously by June was the Democrats major oversight of the year.

June crept along and England gave all sensible thinking people a massive kick in the balls.  An idiotic bunch of warm beer swilling xenophobes had hoodwinked the normally apathetic English and Welsh into voting to leave the European Union, by not deviating from a meaningless phrase of ‘getting control of their country back’, and depicting the country as being overrun with hordes of alien foreigners trying to occupy beds in their hospitals.  A twenty year campaign from what were regarded as little-england bigots, and rural folk scared of anyone with a higher melanin count than their own milky arses, came home to roost.

Believed by the powers-that-be to have somewhat run its course, and that this was to be the final laying to bed of Farage and his bunch of odious cronies, many people in and out of power took their eyes off the ball.  An oversight by the sensible, of insensible proportions.  Corbyn disappeared from all reports, and won’t be forgiven by many people for his absence, and the BBC gonged its way into 6pm with Prime Ministerial commentaries countered by Farage, as though it was he who had become the Leader of HM’s Opposition.

Timing was Cameron’s oversight.  Only a year in to his second term (if first real term) – an unpopular time for any leader, especially one who hadn’t managed a mandate for his first term – he and his Tory chums were confident that having seen off what had seemed a much more likely independent Scottish threat, the whole Brexit hoo-hah was merely a bag of wind for the silly season of summer and would be similarly put to bed.

His oversight cost Britain its imminently sensible and beneficial relationship with the EU, and lie piled upon lie paved the bigot-enabling-path, with the media flailing and flapping about, seemingly unable to take anyone to task in a post-Paxman world.  Expecting the truth, and reasonable argument to win the day, Cameron and Osborne tried to keep to the status quo narrative (what else would a conservative do?) and their oversight in believing the fake-news pedlars, who ignored the statistics, the facts, and anything else reality might throw at them, and maintained the stream of drivel, their oversight in believing this would come to bite the liars on the arse, was perhaps the biggest cock-up of the year, and perhaps even, Tory history.

The celebrations of the fake-news brigade spread, and the possibilities for bigots everywhere just opened up.  Liberal-minded and tolerant people suddenly found themselves in conversations they’d thought had been consigned to dust-bins twenty years ago.  Seemingly, the thoughts were just in hiding, and the hate simmered along, and was even cultivated quietly through the private social networks, and caverns of hate as they have since come to be called.

Trumps inauguration came about when the Democrats also misread the narrative, and the disgruntled mood upon which it rode.  Like the British, this wasn’t a mood of debate, reason, logic and understanding.  This was a mood that didn’t like words much.  People wanted change, and unless that was what they were going to be promised, that’s what they were going to have.  The oversight was not just misunderstanding the mood, but also misunderstanding how deep and mean the mood was running.

The international community, especially when it comes to American affairs, keeps its nose to itself.  It’s the way America likes it, and many were non-too-happy with the commentaries on Trump from various figures in the European capitals.  Still, believing itself impervious to external influence, and the ability of other nations to manipulate media messages with its own mastery, the American institutions and public took their eyes of their traditional foes in the Kremlin.

This may be the oversight by a nation the rest of the world trusted to maintain vigil, that we all come to ultimately regret most.  On America’s watch, will the free world give up the baton of leadership?  Will it all be because of some oversights?

 

via Daily Prompt: Oversight

 

Privacy…

Millennials, the name with which a new generation of people have been labelled, differ from many of the generations that came before them when the issue of privacy is brought up in conversation.images-1.jpeg

Fortunate, or unfortunate, enough to deal with this younger generation in the role of a teacher, their take on the issue is strikingly different from my own seemingly semi-paranoid generation, who spent an inordinate amount of wasted time objecting to identity cards, which would no doubt have been poorly kept, poorly recorded, and would have probably provided less useful information than the average ‘name-crunching’ database selling leads for double-glazing or conservatorys.

The main thrust of the Millennials’ view is one of utter ambivalence.  Asked whether they see anything sinister or odd in the obsessive data-gathering of multi-nationals, their reaction to my question is a bamboozled sympathy for me.  I’m too old to understand how things work for this generation, they probably think.  They actually want the tweets or texts telling them that a pair of shoes, that they might like or have once glimpsed at on-line, are on sale, as they saunter past a shop in Westfield.  How the data exchange occurred is simply not an issue.  The mixture of media platforms through which they are contacted has inured them to suspicion or worry.  Information gathering they believe will ultimately serve them, as they can’t see what the motivation for gathering it could be otherwise.  Things will be designed, based on the information provided upstream.  Similar to the arguments I remember from the ID card days, but in reverse, they suggest that those with blemish free lives really don’t images-2.jpeghave that much to worry about.

Many are now savvy enough to realise that posting drunken images of themselves on Facebook, or having real identities on Twitter, Instagram, Grinder, Tinder or any other platform is probably not a great idea, so have aliased these, and believe the net-curtain they have raised is sufficient to protect them from any real interference in their private lives.  They may be right?  What motivation does anyone have to reveal the comings and goings of a nobody?  Should they hit the heady heights of celebrity status, that of course may change, as even their windy releases become currency then.

Privacy for many of them is an elitist worry.  Celebrities being compensated for what they perceived as minor intrusions into their lives.  In their desire for status, and celebrity status being the only type carrying kudos, the mantra that all publicity is good publicity, ironically from the ID card era, has been revived.  Checking their stats on their various platforms, seeking ever further exposure for whatever about them they believe might possibly be of interest to others, privacy is not an issue they wish to concern themselves with.

Trump and the King’s Ransom

Trump’s inauguration is now complete.  Rather than go to the party and strut about with that big fat ugly orange gloating muckle-mug of his, he first sets about trying to ensure that Americans on the wrong side of the income line are compromised further as he sets his slitty-beady eyes on ObamaCare.  A real ‘man-of-the-people’ move.  What next, wipe a shitty shoe on a hobo’s back?nbc-fires-donald-trump-after-he-calls-mexicans-rapists-and-drug-runners.jpg

Some idiots in America seem to think that having some kind of social net in a wealthy society compromises them.  “I got here on my own … why should I pay for someone else?”  Because that’s what a society is you twats!  It’s a social network of people prepared to look out for each other and contribute into various funds and resources from which they themselves may never need to draw, with a view to benefitting others and creating a more equitable society.  Help others?  Why do these people find this so strange and offensive?  It’s not even an alien concept for Christians?

I’m beginning to believe that too many of our American friends are reading the Bible too much and spending all their time in the Old Testament.  Come forward several hundred years folks and you’ll come to the New Testament wherein you’ll find all sorts of stuff from a chap alleged to be called Jesus who goes on and on about looking out for each other, being nicer, forgiving and understanding.  Sounds awfully Buddhist in a way.  His dozen or so follower chaps even claim he died for us in a sort of massive self-sacrificing act too!  Or so it was put together about three hundred years after his death by a big bunch of big-wigs around a table in Turkey.  The old eye-for-an-eye was the earlier book, and like most updated programs of various sorts, it was rendered obsolete by the teachings attributed to the man-on-the-cross.  Spurious history aside, it does seem only right that if people are going to call themselves Christians that they actually behave or at least understand what it is they’re purporting to be.  Trump’s lot remind me of the mob at the stoning in The Life of Brian.

Four years … surely he can’t do too much damage in four years?

The trouble is he probably can and it looks like that swing to the right has happened across the entire country over there, as well as over here, and in France, Holland, Austria, Germany, Australia, and Poland.  Is it because we all have more possessions and things we have to guard, and have become paranoid about someone taking them away or having to share them?  It’s definitely not some intellectual movement, or a thought-out dismissal of one view over another.  The whole thing stinks of some kind of selfish knee-jerk reaction of spoilt people having their noses put out of joint by things not being as great as they want them.

‘We want what we want and we want it now!’

As societies we have as much as we need.  Needing an extra ten million when you have a hundred borders on a slavish stupidity.  Life is limited in time and enjoyment of it is an art form that needs practice.  Practice takes time.  Pastimes, hobbies, loves, all these aspects of life-enriching behaviour need more than just a wad of dosh flung at them.  If making money is your only enjoyment, you need help the same way a gambler or coke-head does.  You’ve gone off track, even if you think you haven’t.  Like Tyson driving cars until they ran out of gas and then just buying a new one … Not having every thing you want is normal.  It keeps desire and balance and stopimg_0967s you turning into a complete twat as you retain some perspective on what life is, if not for you, at least for most people.  Unless your somewhat psychopathic, being amongst fellow human beings and sharing the world in the time you’re alive is what being human is about.  Even if there’s a crowd in the ivory tower, most of them live only in their own minds and lack the empathic development to understand real depth of compassionate feeling.

The English King John hoarded money to the point that the economy almost came to a standstill as many traders and merchants no longer had coin to exchange with each other and keep the money illusion alive.  When such an idiot ran England, they ended up with him being a lame-duck King until he finally signed the Magna Carta with a mob of Barons holding pikes to his head.  It seems that things sometimes have to get worse, before they get better!  Not good omens for the Trump era I’m thinking.

Who would be the equivalent of the Barons today who could hold the King to Ransom?

 

By Hook or by Crooke

The Harry Johnson Chronicles are well under way.

Book one, By Hook or by Crooke, is complete, but waiting that final edit, so it’s sitting on the shelf for another two weeks until I’m allowed to twiddle and fiddle with it once more.

The distance, I find helps.  It allows the glitches to grow more obvious to my scanning eyes, and close focus is virtually impossible now the story is so familiar to me.

It opens with a small historical preface of the area in which the book is set, and where, by all accounts from locals in the area, the above phrase originates.  From here we then enter the novel properly, so any thoughts on the opening page are welcomed.

IMG_0790

Above: Gaultier View: the bend in the River Siúr from above Faithlegg, looking out to Passage East, and beyond to Hook Head

By Hooke or by Crooke

‘By Hook(e) or by Crooke’ etymologically originates in the Middle Ages, according to some sources, and refers to an ancient aspect of English Forest Law.  The forests were owned by the King, and interference with them in anyway, from common grazing, foraging, assarting, or harvesting any kind of wood, were all strictly regulated.  A man could often only gather what wood he could reach on the trees ‘by (use of his apple picker’s) hook(e) or (his shepherd’s) crook(e)…

 In the south-east of Ireland, two villages sit on opposite banks of an estuary, no more than a few miles apart.

 The first, a hamlet named Hook(e), retains a very old, but still functioning lighthouse, and boasts its origins as a protector of seafarers to the fifth century, when monks from Dubhán’s Monastery made their way to the headland tip, to light warning bonfires for seafarers of the time.

 The second village, Crooke, further into the estuary, has witnessed a multitude of invading forces.  From the early Vikings in 852, to Richard de Clare (‘Strongbow’), and Henry II, the first self-styled Norman ‘Lord of Ireland’, followed by John Lackland, that notorious money-grabber of Sherwood Forest lore, through to the largest invasion force ever to sully Ireland’s shores, accompanying the last of that Angevin line of Norman Kings, Richard II, in 1377, Crooke has played a pivotal role.

 Later, it is believed that Cromwell, on his way to seize the hitherto ‘untaken’ city of Waterford, uttered the promise that he would do the deed ‘by Hook or by Crooke’ … he did indeed proceed to land in Hook, and advance to Crooke.

 Etymology being what it is, nobody can say for certain what the origins of the phrase truly are, but as apple pickers and shepherds no longer concern themselves with the nuances of Forest Law, the denizens of Hook and Crooke perhaps will carry the phrase safely into the future and make of it their own.

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.
“Monkeys?”

“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 https://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B01N65852X 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.

 

 

 

 

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.

Cheers!

Barry

Read ‘Matty Monroe in Paradise’ at http://tinyurl.com/zajf6z5

 

 

 

 

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

ClareCroft

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, (http://tinyurl.com/poam5pa) 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.