The Beginning

2017 was a turbulent, strange, unexpected year for me. The highlight was going home to Ireland for a month by myself. I’m still processing the journey and what it meant to me, and you can follow along as I write about it in installments. I’ve posted four already, and more will be on their way […]

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A Writer in Ireland: Part Four

In Crossmaglen the fire burns true The patriotic flame will never die And when you hear the battle cry It will be the fighting men of Crossmaglen. -“The Fighting Men of Crossmaglen”, IRA ballad, 1970s Armagh and Crossmaglen After a wildly comfortable night in a country B & B just outside Armagh (I had it […]

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A Writer in Ireland: Part Three

Newry Nestled between the Ring of Gullion and the spectacular Mourne Mountains, Newry doesn’t make many headlines these days. I drove into the city with a load of wet washing drying on the back seat and vague memories of grey stone and dullness and necessity. Over the next two days, however, I was to become […]

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A Writer in Ireland: Part Two

Castles are never how you imagine they’re going to be. You picture yourself wafting from medieval great hall to windswept rampart, the imagined accompanying strains of Enya or Clannad making you feel ever so slightly weepy, when in reality you find yourself in rubbish-strewn, freezing ruins with Sam and Betty from Wisconsin, their shell-suited thighs […]

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A Writer in Ireland: Part One

Born in this island, maimed by history and creed-infected, by my father taught the stubborn habit of unfettered thought I dreamed, like him, all people should be free. -John Hewitt, “The Dilemma” There was a surreal, joyful melancholy to this homecoming. As we punched through the haze above a sweltering London and soared left, easing to […]

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An Irish family history

It’s now just over two weeks until I get on a plane to Ireland. In preparation for my trip back to my birthplace, I’ve been talking at length to my father about our life in County Armagh, Northern Ireland. Around two weeks ago I asked him to give me directions to our old house, my old […]

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Beginnings

I’m going home next June. I was born in Northern Ireland, and lived with my Protestant minister father and my mother and two siblings in County Armagh, just by the border. In the seventies (yes I am that old) South Armagh was known as “bandit country” because it was such a dangerous place to be during […]

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The Book Exchange

I’ve achieved some rather major literary goals this year, and last night I celebrated with two lovely women. There’s me in the middle. (Those holes in my top are a design feature, not a result of drunken undressing in the dark. I wish.) On the right is Joanna, and to the left is Sara: the […]

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The Girl Behind The Bar

I entered this story in a competition a few months ago. Today I found out how I went. Read my next post to find out… The Girl Behind The Bar The girl behind the bar, her face tight like a punch, takes my order. She grips at the tap with a grubby thumb, her blonde […]

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Music to Write By

If I’m lucky, every week I spend a number of happy hours by myself, writing. Music is often my only companion. If I’m really concentrating – trying to craft a particularly tricky sentence, or juggling a complicated plot sequence, I turn it off, but most of the time it is the perfect accompaniment. I’m like Pavlov’s dogs: the minute […]

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