#FridayFlash A Sense of Danger

Along the long pavement on the straight road she imagined being run down by a wayward driver mounting the kerb, her body crushed, the car ricocheting over her bones. Her feet became manic on the path, slapping the cruel concrete over and over. At the high voltage sub station the grid of the mesh gate zinged. She imagined her fingers sizzling, her body dancing with electric; that mad scientist hair before she slumped.

Around the ring road, strangers walking too close. She felt disliked by ivy, she passed quickly but felt their liquid tendrils round the slim lines of her throat. She had trouble breathing. Planes in the sky had that falling note, clouds rallied like the fists of boxers, rain spat, buses roared warnings from Hades.

She might eat her own fingers, her nails nibbled away in ancient times, long gone, she might unravel her clothes, picking away at loose threads, she might rub holes in her trouser legs, in her own legs, she might erase herself. Yes.

Round and round the ring road.

Chewing on her lip.

Stabbing the cruel concrete with her toes.

Bullets came.

On the back of her slim neck, on her head, firing, raining down, stones of ice. The heavens were out to get her. In Asia a hailstone killed a man.

The ice rain obliterated the view, all hail, all falling down. The long pavement grey with a kind of mourning. Dark rumbles from above, light daggers through the clouds stabbed at her. This constant raining of pain. Her heart galloped, leapt into her mouth.

And her heart saw out, this strange beautiful land washed clean. She held a hailstone in her bitten fingers, watched it melt. And the top of her head was cold and renewed. Liquid slid down her warm cheeks.

She lay in the abandoned road. Her arms out in the way of making snow angels. And the cars didn’t come and mow her down and above her the clouds parted and on the walls the ivy shone.

#fridayflash Ice cream dreams

It’s been quite a while since I did #fridayflash. Here’s one with some of the characters from Origami Flamingos.

All day the ice cream van was circling. Ice dream van. Rat catchers, child snatchers from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Singing 99 bottles of beer on the wall while waiting for it to arrive. Eating in his mind’s eye a 99 – whipped ice cream with a jaunty chocolate flake. He would save that until last.

They didn’t have the money. Barry put his hand into his pocket and pulled out a lining that was torn. It was reminsicent of his magician hankerchief trick when he was still on the domestic circuit. He shrugged his shoulders. Gary glared in the ferocious glare of the sun. His lips were as dry as popped pods, from which he ate peas, shooting them staccato sweet at the back of the throat, as if he could extract something special from his resistent life.

It was all there, wasn’t it in the shrug of his shoulders? Pauline and Barry. His parents. Not his Mum and Dad, Just two random people who fused a sperm and an egg. He knew about that. He was interested in science. Life wasn’t all necessarily random, there were patterns and conditions. And if there were he was going to find them.

In Gary’s room there was a map, a print out. It depicted the route which the ice cream van took each day during the month of August. It was part of a greater analysis, the graphs of which were safe inside his computer. There was a slightly different pattern for every month. He was a fan of Traffic estimation and prediction systems, other wise know as TrEPS. His uncle Gavin the architect was fascinated when he showed him. His father told him about the perfect rhythm of the Las Vegas Can Can Dancers and how the crowd went wild when he made Pauline spin at the end of stick while elevated. The thrust of this revelation was somehow at the same time both tangential to Gary’s project and way off the mark.

Speaking of mark, Gary had made a new friend, Mark Burns, a strange boy with an obsession for paper aeroplanes. He was always trying to improve the aerodynamics. He said that he had once flown across the Irish Sea with his mother. He was such a serious boy that Gary was inclined to believe him, witnessing the incline of his head, his determined fingers as he sharpened the edges of paper wings.

Every day now, he and Mark would test the TrEPS for the ice cream van down to exact timings, leaving only sixty seconds from the house to the predicted arrival point at the ETA (estimated time of arrival). Gary had other friends but only online. They would Skype each other with verified sightings of the van as the data for the TrEPs was compiled. He was cheered by the sound of these disembodied voices. Barry and Pauline had never Skyped him, despite their many travels. They ‘hadn’t been ready’ for parenthood. He lived with Gavin and Christine instead. When he was younger he had made maps of their travels, stuck pins in where they were located but he was finished sticking pins now. Now he merely scowled at Barry’s empty pockets. Back on the sun lounger Barry revealed his gold medallion on his hairless, sculputured chest. Why would you want a Dad like that?

The chime of the ice cream van came from far away, but he knew it was closer. He had this impression of Mark putting down his paper aeroplane, tightening his laces. Gary had an aunty who ran. Gertie ran for no reason up and down the highstreet, out to the edge of town, in marathons and muddy obstacle races, during parades despite peramulatory preponderance. Gertie was running now, in the kitchen, helping Gavin and Christine out with everything. Any of them would have given him the money for an icecream but he like to test Barry from time to time to see if he really was good for nothing.

Pauline’s handbag was fancy. Alligator skin he thought she’d said. When he opened it up he saw the alligators jaws widened. He was quick to get in and out before the jaws snapped shut. He felt paper between his fingers. He folded it quick, sharp, like Mark.

His heart was on standby, kerthump, kerthump. His toes were poised and he heard the shrill laughter of Pauline on the recliner, the deep throaty answer of Barry. All that time he had been counting down in his head. At school they called him exceptional. The exceptional informed the pattern of the regular. The ice cream van may be late on the day of a match or the broadcast of an opera. The human bits were harder to equate for.

As Gary passed the recliners with the ten pound note wrapped into his tight fist Barry raised his hand but through his sunglasses he could not see his son’s face. The boy counted down to the suitable number. He raced out of the garden to the sound of the ice cream jingle. He crossed the road and headed to the green. He could see Mark coming towards him. In the glare it looked like he was flying in the centre of the great orb of the sun. For an instant he was halted by his imagination instead of facts.

If he had been too distracted by life, like his parents had been, if random events collided, like they had when he was conceived by the time he crossed the road he would have been in the path of the ice cream van. There would be a bang that rang out around the estate so that even Barry snoozing on his recliner, would sit up. Mark would fly to his friend and Gertie’s footsteps would not be far behind. The ice cream man would have his head in his hands and at the house Pauline would put her cardigan on against the chill. Gary would lie on the ground with white in his head, the last thoughts of ice cream melting.

#fridayflash Do not forget the girl forgotten

I’m very happy to have been invited by Johanna Harness to post my #fridayflash today on the #amwriting website. This beautifully designed website has plenty of terrific articles by writers who use the #amwriting twitter hashtag to connect. If for any reason, you can’t access or comment on the story there, here it is:

It was the 70s, sideburns and plaid. There was a birthday party. Gertie had seen the trifle with the sugary spongey fingers and the hundreds and thousands on top. It must have been Saturday because the man who was her Dad was there, he was in the garden trying to catch butterflies with a net, actually a fishing net – it still had straggles of seaweed wrapped round it. Gertie had seen on the telly that nets were made in Bridport by a woman who was very skilled at hooking the twine round. Bridport had a tradition of net making the programme said. They started with fishing nets but later they went on to other nets for things like football. The netmaking people said that one of their brilliant nets had been used in the 1966 World Cup between England and Germany. That wasn’t very fair to Germany then, was it? Dad’s net didn’t come from Bridport, it came from the seafront in a place they had been on holidays.

Gertie was under the table. From out of her pocket she took out the string of a cat’s cradle. She wound it round her fingers in the long parallel strings of candles and the concertina of diamonds. One, two, three, four, five. Gertie wasn’t sure what age she was. No-one had told her.

Gertie thought about the food above her head, about the rows of sponge fingers at the bottom of the trifle, about the bowl in which the trifle was made, pale green glass with a pattern of repeating diamonds, the plaid on her skirt, repeating intersecting bands of colour. The wallpaper’s repeating rhomboids.

The birthday party wasn’t for her, she didn’t think. She wasn’t sure who it was for although that girl from next door was here, the one who’s right thumb was half the size of her left and was constantly spongy. And there was the girl who sat beside her in school and stole her fancy pencils. And there was her cousin Lily who had a very thin and delicate name but a wide body like a descending parachute and fat black boots and a heavy stomp. She was affectionate, like a Great Dane, she often came up close to Gertie whispering gibberish intimacies while spraying a mist of spittle against her skin.

What Gertie wanted right now was a person, a person she supposed you might call a friend who would know how to do the cat’s cradle with her, pinch out the strings, help her turn it into something else

A head appeared under the table, upside down so that he had a beard of curly black hair and his eyes spoke. “You aren’t real” said the boy. “You don’t talk normal. What’s wrong with your mouth?” Gertie didn’t answer. Sometimes she didn’t feel she had a mouth. Sometimes she felt like those special post boxes where you pulled up the lever to see all the letters inside and then pulled it shut again so it was just metal, boxed up. The boy disappeared and then it was just feet. Patent shoes, a pair of wellington wellies, scuffed runners. Then legs, skinny pales ones like cricket bats turned sideways.

There was a lot of noise from the garden. From under the table Gertie could just see out the kitchen door but only through a gap that was triangle shaped like the segments in her aunty’s special tray for what she called ‘nibbles’. From what Gertie could see, her father had put down the net and was helping Barry arrange fireworks beside a realistic cardboard model of an Apollo shuttle. They had laughed at Gertie because she called it a Polo shuttle. She had been thinking about those round sweets with a hole in the middle that came in mint or fruit. Barry and her father had forgotten her, and her mother was busy talking to her Aunty who was holding the nibbles tray. Gertie looked back down at the cat’s cradle. It was lovely once she held it tight but she couldn’t do that forever.

When Gertie’s was three months old her mother left her in the pram outside the butchers and went home. Once they forgot her when they went on holidays – her grandad found her when he called round to put out the bins. He said that her parents were away with the fairies. She thought they had gone with Barry and Gary. When her mother told the stories of her family they always left her out. She heard her grandmother say once that she had been an afterthought. Somehow that made her think of after dinner mints with the green stuff inside. That cheered her up. But then \again there was the time when her mother leapt up after a dinner party exclaiming – “The after dinner mints! I forgot to put them out!” There was always some kind of tragedy or commotion.

Gertie had been hopeful for her mother, despite her forgetfulness until she started hanging things up, wind chimes, dream catchers, those yellow sticky strips that caught flies. Gertie used to dance in front of her, trying to catch her attention but it never worked. It was as if she wasn’t there, as if she was an after dinner mint from the after life.

But if she had been from the afterlife they might have seen her. Gertie’s family were always looking to the sky, to the butterflies and the UFOs, the trajectory of comets, the parallel vapour trails of airshow jets. Gertie looked at the cat’s cradle. She heard the fireworks whoosh in the dusk, she heard the cheers of all the faraway people. Perhaps it actually had been her birthday, but now she was utterly forgotten. She sat quite still under the table until she could not longer be seen, until, in fact she disappeared, in the finger shadows of chair legs.

Flash fiction in the Irish Times

Regular readers of the blog will know that I am a great fan of flash fiction and that I regularly take part in #fridayflash on Twitter where writers post their short fiction and read and review each others pieces. I’ve also talked about what flash fiction is on writing.ie

Today in the Irish Times, crime writer Declan Burke whose new novel Absolute Zero Cool is out now (and sounds fantastic) has written a great piece about flash fiction Flash fiction: ‘Intense, urgent and a little explosive’ and has kindly quoted some of my thoughts on this wonderful medium.

You can read some of my flash fiction pieces here. One of the flash fiction pieces ‘Unwritten’ was published by Crannóg and I read the piece at the launch of Crannóg 25.  Writing flash fiction has been the single most helpful activity in my development as a writer. It demands editing skills, attention to detail, brevity and impact. It also – as Declan Burke – explains is a wonderful showcase for the talents of many writers who came to the attention of agents etc through this medium.

Watch out for some new short fiction (not quite flash fiction but almost) from me tomorrow (Thurs 27th October) at the wonderful Metazen.

#fridayflash Cleave

In this flash another outing for Emily and Eddie, some of the characters in my still-in-progress interrelated flash collection.

Setting sun, last dash grasped memory of fun, rollercoasters on the prom. Scuff, scuffle, sleet, duffle, caress, ruffle. Kerfuffle. Summers last forever, last summer.

This time she was late, she had been out with her mother shopping for a bridesmaid dress. More ruffles. She said not on her life. He couldn’t believe she was sixteen, seemed like she’d been around forever.

He didn’t consider himself clever. He couldn’t spell. He couldn’t smell trouble. He was clean, free, fresh as a breeze, naive. Cleave. It was one of those words, you know that meant the opposite. Wasn’t that onomatopoeic? Automatic kudos with Miss Bradley in English. No. Wrong. Onomatopoeic meant stuff like sludge, splash, spaghetti – sounded like it was.

No-one sounded like they were, he’d figured that one out but he hadn’t told anyone. Cowards sounded loud and women with metal like Miss Bradley sometimes couldn’t be heard. He didn’t sound like he was, if he did he would have sounded like a dog whistle. What was the sound of Emily?

Cleave. Leave.

What he hadn’t said was that he didn’t have to.

Cleave. The plum from the stone. At the shore with a punnet, he broke the skin of it’s dark flesh, tore it from it’s heart. Plums, Emily couldn’t stand the things, she took it out of his hand and flung it into the water laughing. Plum dunk. Plum drunk, her mother would have been outraged.

There was a chance her mother was dying. She’d seen a letter from the hospital on the sideboard, she’d told him, in a whisper, in a rush, then refused to say anymore.

So many dusks on the beach with the sand grains rubbing out the edges of Emily and Eddie. Heads bent together as the sun split it’s skull, spilled it’s blood into the water. He wore black, he threatened to get a tattoo. In quiet coves at next day middays when the sun revived, smiled, blasted them, they basted their limbs and she explored the topology of his shoulder blades, rib cage, contours with many reverberations, spider legs, sleek starchitectural trusses. He had this vague idea of designing buildings but he didn’t get the necessary points. His mother had asked what was the point of being an architect if they all had to emigrate; there was no room for fancy design among the battalion of bungalows painted in shades of ghastly pastel.

He was leaving anyway. Cleave.

Clinging to each other like the ivy on the walls of the convent. They’d walked past it on the way home from school before the summer began. The convent made them smile because they could never be like that. He kissed her in it’s shadow. But in the fast forward of his life Eddie would one day find himself in the closeted halls of his bedsit, dreaming of waste paper bin basketball, offering up blue prayers for deliverance.

Leaves, the first ones, almost forgivable, began to detach themselves and fall. It was almost autumn. He had a friend in London who had a floor. He had all sorts of plans and alternate futures. Emily had a wedding to go to, a dress to wear, a smile to put on. The days were numbered. He was unruffled.

How many last days could there be? When she went quiet he thought she thought of her mother maybe, of him, of maybe nothing. He climbed inside her eyes but did not see everything. Out to the hills, he stole her on his motorbike, down by the sea they cleaved to each other on the beach, bleached in the endless holiday light.

He didn’t have to go. She could not be everything. She bit her lip, he held her hair, back, hips, fingertips, loosening.

#Fridayflash Three Objects

On every birthday she took out the box, high in the cupboard, behind her suitcase, behind the clothes of other season. In the box there was a photograph, the sliver of hair, the first suit that only fit him for a week. She took out the photograph and placed it face down on the bed. She took out the hair and felt the curl of it round her finger and saw the colour of it. It was nothing like her own. It was dark, a jet black oil smudge. She took out the suit and watched it retreating every year, it fit in her hand, she crushed it. She did not put it to her face. It no longer had the smell of him.

She placed the three objects side by side: The face down photograph, the lock of hair, back in it’s envelope, the baby suit, flattened out. She felt the place where she sat on the bed sink down and give way. She waited until her breath was steady, until the rhythm of heart repaired. Then she put the photograph back in the box, to the side the lock of hair in the envelope which made a faint sound as she laid it down, then on top the suit, fit into the box in the shape of a child. She patted the fabric down. Then she closed the lid of the box, reached up and put it back into the cupboard, behind the clothes from before, behind her suitcase and all it’s possibilities.

#Fridayflash Unidentifed Fishy Objects

#fridayflash is a great community of writers on Twitter who post stories of less than a thousand words each week,then read and review each others work. It has been a great source of inspiration and discipline in my writing development and I recommend it highly. For more check out the button on the sidebar. Fridayflash is also on Facebook and on fridayflash.org where I was delighted to discover that I’m among the authors nominated for the Best of Friday Flash Readers choice award!

This story is related to Close Encounters with Goldfish

‘The sky is actually black’ he said, although I didn’t want to know.

‘We only think it’s blue because the light bends in the atmosphere and blue has the shortest wavelength.’

‘Uhmh’ I said, with pins in my mouth. I was turning up the hem of our daughter’s dress, for Barry’s sister’s wedding, Astra was going to be the flower girl. Astra, I know. It was either that or Cassiope so I think we got off lightly. The nurse had come round with the registration forms and Barry had signed them while I was out of the ward having a shower.

‘The light we see from certain stars began travelling towards us in Roman times.’

I prayed that he wouldn’t mention aqueducts but that would have been more in his father’s line. He was a walking encyclopedia, except of course encyclopedias don’t really walk anymore. I mean you don’t see those door to door salespeople now do you, it’s all on line, you know, virtual learning. Roy’s father isn’t around anymore either. He finally came down from his attic, where he had all the trains and the Star Wars comics and God knows what else and died. Oh he was okay and he was kind to Astra. The way they chatted quietly in the corner, him in his easy chair and she perched on the edge of it, it looked like they understood each other. Sometimes I fear for Astra.

It was strange for Barry to be there. Usually he was out this time of night charting the UFOs. Once I asked his mother for advice, whether to crack down on that kind of thing, I mean he’s never said it out loud but in his sleep he’s been convinced that he’s been abducted by aliens. It’s not a nightmare, he says things like ‘is it okay if I pull this lever here?’ and ‘Yes, toenail clippings for analysis are quite acceptable’ and then he talks gobbledegook which seems to be their native language. His mother said her policy, if you wanted to stay married, was to turn a blind eye to everything unless it involved cutlery.

Barry’s got books like the Turing Option. It’s not about a badly spelled tour of a famous Italian town where they worked on authenticating that shroud thing, it’s about how to tell whether you are talking to a human being or a computer. Finally, I said to myself, a self-help book that was written for me.

Astra looked beautiful in white, shining really, like a……She’s the kind of girl who settles nowhere but is everyone’s friend, she kind of….collects strays. We spent Christmas last year with a woman in a wheelchair who ate nothing but cheese and a man who had to sit at the front window and count the cars as they went by. He also occasionally shouted ‘Yarr!

So, as I was saying, it was strange that Barry was around. He came home early for tea and I couldn’t give Astra fish fingers like I promised. Barry won’t have them in the house. It’s probably something to do with e-numbers and astrological charts. When we first dated he made sure that I knew where Pisces was in the sky and he said once that we were descended from fish. He also used to say things like ‘We are made of the stuff of stars’ which I thought was really poetic until he went on to explain about the Big Bang, carbon, nuclear star furnaces and intersteller dust particles. I think I fell asleep then but I married him anyway. I don’t know if I ever really woke up.

I ought not to really say this but you know how it gets with married couples after a few years, not to mention fifteen, the passion fades a little, but, how do I put this, the last time we, er, you know, there was a metallic taste when we kissed each other and when I pressed against him it felt as if there was something under the skin, cold, pressing back.

Then once I woke up with a bright light shining in my eyes and a strange blurry figure, that later turned out to be Roy, taking my pulse and, please don’t get me wrong here, I thought my toenails were longer. And there was a strange smell of mackerel or something.

Barry wanted to take Astra outside. He seemed agitated, in a hurry. I was about to protest, it was late and cold, so clear that you could see the full moon hovering, quite low, but I had pins in my mouth so they were out the door before I could say anything. He took her hand, his torch in the other. They hurried down to the end of the garden pointing.

I was just tidying up when I saw a bright flash of light outside.

I woke up in the easy chair. It was almost light, a suspicious kind of dawn creeping up, you know the way it does. My pins were all lined up at the edge of the chair and my fingers stung.

Then Astra and Barry both burst in the back door, breathless. Astra’s cheeks were flushed and she was different, not so serious. Oh I know what it is now, it’s both of them, they’re happy. I realise what’s been missing all these years and I start to cry. I was sobbing so hard that it was difficult to see but I noticed that Barry was carrying a fishing rod at the end of which was bait that….throbbed light….You know sometimes things are so…strange that I end up talking to myself like I’m doing now, but if anyone is out there….if there is anyone listening….I hope you believe me.

Astra, was glowing too, really, like that stuff under the water at nights. She hugged me. I felt her cheek against mine and a cool hard pressing from under the skin

Her beautiful dress smelled of mackerel. I had to get it dry cleaned.

#Fridayflash Solid Table Fallacy & New Post on Writing.ie

I am absolutely delighted today to have been asked to post my #fridayflash on the #amwriting website.

#Amwriting is ‘an award-winning Twitter hashtag created by Johanna Harness.’ Joanna is a mother and writer of middle grade and young adult novels who has created a venue on twitter (the hashtag #amwriting allows you to see a stream of people now currently engaged with their writing) and now on a dedicated blog for a community of writers to come together, share their work, resources and ideas and support each other. For an excellent explanation of what #amwriting is all about see here.

My #fridayflash fiction today is called Solid Table Fallacy, it is one of the stories from my flash collection in process and features characters from previous flashes You can read it here on the #amwriting website. Don’t forget to leave a comment if you have some feedback!

My other hat is resident guest blogger on Writing.ie . Today I have a post on novel writing and headspace: My novel is a submerged island.

I hope you enjoy!

#fridayflash Not Ariel

This was not her house, this was not her bed, these were not her curtains with the long nosed trolls hidden in the floral pattern. This was not the way the light trotted in around the curtain rail and swung around the room like a torchlight, disappeared with the low hum of departing car. This was not Amy’s life.

Amy bit the duvet. This was her duvet but it smelled differently. This was her duvet cover with the princesses, if she had to choose she was Ariel, the mermaid with the bright red hair. Hannah would have to be Cinderella, blonde, nothing else, just blonde.

They had their own rooms. Mum had said they were extremely lucky to have that under the circumstances. Hannah said what was wrong with their old house, this one was too loud. Amy said yes, all she could hear were the cars all night on the motorway. Mum held her breath, Amy saw her although she was always telling Amy not to do it. Amy saw her mother’s lips turning blue. And although Mum hadn’t said anything, Hannah had started crying. No thought Amy.

Amy climbed out of her bed, she went into the garden.

She could hear the murmur of her mother’s phone voice from the kitchen.

There was one good thing about this house where her Dad wasn’t.

The grass was squidgy under her feet. And squidgier as she went down the slope.

On holidays the last time, Daddy had made her take off her water wings. She had swum: one, two, three, strokes towards him.

From underwater, Amy had seen her Daddy’s white, hairy legs, puffed up like balloons, she had seen the flash of Hannah’s bright pink suit. She’d inhaled water, thrashed to the surface. Her Dad had looked at her and laughed a big belly laugh – a kind he hardly ever laughed. If she’d been Hannah she would have sulked. But Amy just stood, snot and water dripping out of her nose, a sharp sensation in the back of her throat and watched him laughing, watched him as if he was someone else’s Dad far away at the other side of the swimming pool and laughing for a proper reason.

She stood at the edge of the river, heard the music of it.  ‘This is not the sea’ thought Amy. She was not Ariel.

‘I’m Ariel’ she thought.

Someone had told her she was too old for all that.

Things were different. She could swim now.

Her nightdress went to her feet, she stood close to the bank, the hem of the nightdress became damp.

The moon was reflected on the river like a silver coin. She threw a stick into the river. It spun. Then it was carried away.  When she jumped in, her hair spread out like a fan.

Under the water she could not hear the murmur of her mother. She could not hear Hannah’s stupid sobs.  She could not hear the motorway with its army of cars, straight backed men inside with faces set forward, faces with no tears. Faces that laughed at disaster. Amy held her breath. Her legs were welded together with cold. She flicked her tail and swam.

She thought of princess’ pearls on the sandy floor. She wanted to keep on holding her breath, for as long as her mother had, for as long as she could. She swam to the bottom. But her chest began to hurt. She took in great gulps of water. She thought of her father’s legs in the swimming pool. She was not Ariel.

The river was not a sea, the river was not even a river, was it. After all, she found she could stand, albeit on the flagpole of submerged turrets. The water ran off her, she felt it slide over her scaly skin. She breathed the unnecessary air. She heard her mother’s voice tearing the night apart with fright.

#fridayflash Anywhere but Ireland

On this singular morning, the birdsong drills and pins the world by the scruff of it’s neck.

It is easy to flee with the dawn, all impetus. The brine of the sea smells good.

The ferry cuts through the water. The land retreats.

I feel no nostalgia for round hills diminishing.

There are children’s entertainers on the boat. They are woeful. Their sing song shenanigans get me by the throat. I drink whiskey in the bar. One, two, three. I love you, you love me.

There’s always one who tries to talk, to tell a story, to make a connection. He was on the streets, made good for a while, went back to the drink, a bum in London. He couldn’t resist a look see at what the boom made of his old country but he’s happier now it’s back to the old days, the comfort grumblings of ruination, the fist in the direction of the ubiquitous oppressor, the head bent towards the snuffle shuffling of Italian-Irish handmade shoes.

I have no time for old men, looking back.

I feel no nostalgia for the faces of my children in photographs.

The hydrofoil makes good time.

When I came home – from the airport in those days – they would dance around my pockets for treats, they were always wanting something, always at me.

Deborah would be there with her mouth tight, her cheek flat against my cursory kiss, saying all the right things, an excess of manners. Had she ever writhed under my hand?

In the lap dancing club I threw fifties.

On the golf club I lowered my handicap while plámásing gombeens.

I raked it in while my gardener raked leaves in Dublin 4.

I walked away from the fella in the bar while he was still talking. Now disembarking, he’s lost in the crowd.

No matter how the plebs in the bank sing they’ll pin nothing on me.

I have a caseful of money, pocketfuls of excuses.

Like the pope they just beatified, (that was a moment of glory before the last economic fall, his visit, 1979, even I remember!)  like him, I kiss the ground when I make it in to land. Anywhere but Ireland.