Some writing

Hi there,

I’ve taken up the writing mantle again and am putting more pen to paper so to speak.*

a natural

The latest is that I read Ross Raisin‘s A Natural with a view to seeing if my story about this boy soccer player would pass muster. Raisin’s book was a challenging read with its broad reach across growing up and encountering confusion and isolation, not to mention the homophobia of a soccer dressing room. I think my story could also do itself justice. More anon.

I have also been too caught up with other pursuits to dedicate myself, but in different ways Colm Tóibín, Stephen King, Dr. Margaret O’ Rourke, a birthday party and my own inner voice have brought me back to the keyboard. Less talk and introspection, more writing to come.

*Thanks to my sister-in-law, (hi Anne!:) and family on that score for kindly gifting me a vintage fountain pen for my jottings. Plenty of ink on the fingers but equally productive on the page.



Florida: Newly-Wed or Nearly-Dead?

(a well-due return to the blogosphere) (smiley face)

Our waiter described the city of Naples as fit for “newly-weds” or the “nearly-dead”! Being neither, we still managed to settle in without undue compromise. American Airlines (as chosen by Eoin at Trailfinders) delivered us to our white beach idyll with minimum fuss. In fact, the longest delay we faced on our six state adventure was experienced in Dublin airport at the dreaded security pre-clearance line which seemed to stretch to infinity. The security gate always reeks of latent aggression, a “Don’t Fuck with Me or You’ll Find yourself in a Jail Cell Pronto, Sir!” kind of vibe, more particularly this time with airports at high doh around Europe. At the booth denoting American soil stood an officer in full uniform emblazoned with badges and bristling authority. He sniffed when I was beckoned along, reacting only with a bare wince when drinking quickly and peremptorily from his thermos bottle; I couldn’t tell if the drink was hot or cold. He stamped my passport and recorded my fingerprints and I wondered how anyone could escape charge in such a thoroughly efficient organisation. We were through. Next to the white sands of Naples, Florida.

My first impression was the same as seeing a man after a nigh-due haircut. You know what I mean: all visible excess hair has been shaved, clipped and brushed away, literally not-a-hair-out-of-place, but in an excessive way? It almost looks too severe, as haircuts must in the immediate aftermath of a bazzer. Florida was the same. Paved pavements, manicured lawns, row upon row of hotel set-down areas, preened to the nth degree. Someone would nearly be up behind you to shine up your buttons with Brasso. The outskirts told a different tale. You can sanitise your hands with all the alcohol you like but there will still come a time when a good washing is needed. Driveways boasted Trump placards or tumbledown remnants of  never-ending car boot sales. There was no-one about but you knew people abounded because the First Purchase Methodist Church, Teeth-Whitening Services and Elementary School buildings all pointed towards population. Not moneyed but not poor either. Here was a place which seemed to cater for all sorts but when we reached the hotel, we realised that in fact we were members of a select club, where money bought you luxury.

If it hadn’t been part of our package, we couldn’t have afforded our accommodation. For us, a visit to a five star hotel is a major treat and although in the four star range, this resort (La Playa) had it all. Immediate beach access to white, unspoilt sands stretching for miles; valets to set up your lounger and umbrella or fix you a paddleboard, snack or beverage straight to your lounger; gourmet breakfast from pancakes to eggs Benedict; rooms in the lap of luxury; comfort from marital bed to grave. I could get used to it! So, in short, it was well beyond expectations. But there was something missing.


La Playa Resort, Florida


The human connection in such establishments tends to be from a distance. The waiting staff engage but only barely to recite the specials. Newly-weds can entertain each other, older folks are comfortable in each other’s company but there is a dearth of warmth when you notice a glazed pair of eyes as you peruse the menu. I’ve seen the same thing in Killarney, where a weariness of tourists can subtly come across in an exchange. Not that you’d want to hear someone’s life story. I understand that some people who frequent such hotels need an escape from their busy schedules and this distance gives them the service they require but also a non-invasive privacy. There’s a fine line between service and intrusion. Let’s interact but we’ll keep it business-like. I’m not sure but the service and atmosphere felt a little over-done and I experienced it as functional and glib.

It was in a restaurant down the street that we encountered the waiter who set us straight on Florida life with his quip on the clientele. He had us so convinced of the merits of this balmy climate that we swooned a little as we took in the sheltered lagoon out back. The establishment was of the honest-to-goodness type and served fresh, simple seafood or burgers. This was more our scene in a human sense and we appreciated the service and fresh welcome we received. But inevitably, the residue of a life bookmarked by holidays in increasingly more luxurious surroundings overwhelmed us once again. The gathering clouds seemed to mirror our mindset, threatening a steady downpour as if to warn us that this would be our lot if we stayed put in the cheaper seats. “Regain your status” it seemed to say. We had gotten used to the luxury and although for a brief time we considered the dream of renting a room in the in-house motel for a whole summer, the draw of the deep-pile carpet and super king bed was too much and we reverted to type, settling in for our last night of dinner in style.  

Amazing location, amazing raw materials, a sunset from a storybook but it all lacked a little of that human touch. The food and accommodation were excellent but four days was more than enough. We had mind for a change by then and skedaddled to the airport with our Albanian chauffeur as our storyteller for the short journey. Neither newly-wed nor nearly-dead but human and on an adventure.

(TÓL August/November 2016)

It’s not all about that bass, it’s about Clive James

Tyrian Lannister by Jillian Tamaki

P.s. It’s not all about that Bass. It’s about

Clive James:

interview with Matt Cooper

review of Game of Thrones

(What a line about Tyrian Lannister’s reaction to the threat to his life: “…his resigned desperation, if there can be such a thing, is conveyed not by the little he is allowed to say…but by the way he looks when he listens.”)

Japanese Maple

On the RTE Radio 1 Book Show with Sinéad Gleeson


What’s not to love?!



To PhD or not to P..

Thesis pic

I reached a point of calm desperation during the week when I handed in my last assignment for this course in Educational Leadership that I’ve been taking since September. The extent of the toil was not beyond the reach of human endeavour but doing it on a part-time basis brought its challenges. Suffice to say that it has massively re-sparked my practice (as in teaching) but I’m treading a trepidatious path towards embarking on the path to a PhD or what is the next logical step in my studies. I just don’t know what to do next.

You see, I like studying, I like researching. I always did but it took me a long time to knuckle down and allow myself the scope and space to fully engage. I get a buzz out of reading up on something (the lit review part), finding out what others have discovered and pitching them against each other. Then you get to do your own research and find out what is happening out there in practice, bringing the lessons learned to bear on your own practice and off you go again. You read, reflect, relate, research; read, reflect, relate, research and on it goes. Your practice, as such, improves and so the students you are teaching benefit and learn better than before. So, a PhD is not the end of the journey—it’s a circular route to knowledge, to depth of understanding, to improvement.

But why would anyone want to do a PhD? It reeks of pretentiousness, more letters after your name, the requirement that people now address you as doctor (lol:). But it’s the obvious next step right? Or I could do another masters or simply just read on and write and leave it at that? What’s stopping me? Aside from the financial and temporal implications, I’m just not sure what I want to do next.

I teach, I write, I read, I study. I’m interested in teaching, leadership, mentoring and coaching, literacy; language: the Irish language, the French language; words, (I took a course in proofreading but work and other study took precedence and I didn’t see it out); short stories, novels, poetry; not to mention the world outside my window and the tandem blackbirds in my back garden beaking around in the cherry blossoms the rain drenched and sank to the grass.

Just at that I’ve reached a conclusion: everything is equal after a walk. I’ll head out and let the universe decide.



Not a Lotto

Not a Lotto

In Memoriam Paul Daniels 17/03/16


I once thought the lotto was the emblem on Ruud* Gullit’s boots.

It was but I never got to wear a pair.


“Can I have your boots now that you’ve retired?”

I hadn’t as it happens, just threatened to do so.

I threaten to do a lot o’ things.


*Correction 4/4/16
“Ruud” has two “u’s” and only the one “d”!:):

I didn’t say it…

I didn’t say it but they say it better.

“What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from.”

T.S. Eliot


“We will improve learning when we collectively, intelligently, and creatively focus our efforts on improving the teaching and learning process.”

Linda Darling-Hammond


I did say this (in my head):

“I’ve never seen an owl.”



work/life balance

Phillipe Petit

Philippe Petit                                                  Photograph: Alan Welner/AP

Work has taken over my life. Officially. But today I’m on a quest to reinvigorate myself, re-balance things. Here’s how it’s going:

  1. I met a friend yesterday evening; I’m meeting another today.
  2. I began a poem and a story this morning.
  3. I began a new book last night, The Girl on the Train.
  4. I’m researching Daphne Du Maurier’s life story.
  5. I’m going to find out more about Major Henry Arthur Herbert.
  6. I’m going to see Moll by John B. Keane tomorrow night in Macroom with LdeS.
  7. It’s sausages (the big fat gourmet ones), Tuly Irish rashers, fried eggs, tomatoes and toast for breakfast, washed down with some Lavazza coffee.

Gym, chopping wood, fire, walks, air, conversation, new words, perspective, leave my village to know my village, rugby, smiling, laughing, being me…

The purple ones and productivity

the purple one

I haven’t been doing much structured writing of late (bar essays for college!) but here I am back with more routine in my life so it augurs well that it’s Saturday morning and I have an early draft.

I read a good bit over Christmas but a lot of the time I slipped into Claire Keegan’s no-no of watching a gabháil of tv. It was hard to avoid: Downton, Christmas movies, Oscar bait, the list goes on. I maintained some awareness of plot structure and characterisation but it’s so passive that it becomes a lair for constant hand-to-mouth feeding and easy entertainment.

Downton Abbey

When  it comes to pastimes and entertaining myself, I’m not one for reading books for my betterment. I have the best of intentions but it’s unlikely that I’ll keep going unless I’ve been promised a good read. I read everything from the newspaper business pages to Daphne Du Maurier (again!) to Michael Fullan on principalship. I also picked up Danielle McLaughlin’s Dinosaurs On Other Planets, E.R. Murray’s The Book of Learning (nearly finished), a book of Benedict Kiely’s short stories and The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid (thanks RP).

Writing-wise, I’ve begun a story about a man with a vision of his home town (on an island) who loses it all only to salvage something at the end. My problem as usual is how to keep the plot momentum going. I think I’ll do some research to try and find some help. Here’s to getting a little more down on paper every day. Much better than staring at the box and wondering if there are any more purple ones in the box!