Sunday, April 28, 2019


This is a sequel to a previous poem called, They Stole My Bike. 

This time (28/04/19)

This time, the motherfuckers             
left me my bicycle but stole
other related stuff:
petty accoutrements,
tiny addendums,
minor accessories
to my cycling life.                  

I came out and saw I had lost three
random pieces of my bike’s
equipment; the front light - €5 in Halfords –
had been pocketed – though they had
left the red back light, hidden under the saddle
like a mouse cowering behind a sideboard.

Then I checked the saddle bag;
my waterproofs had disappeared –
worth all of €15 in some outdoors-y shop
that makes you feel like you are in touch
with nature
just by being there.

Lastly, the hi-vis vest, in all its
reflective yellow horror,
had been swiped,
my gilet jaune, the €4 in Lidl
insurance policy that made me
conspicuous on the roads.
The flimsy fluorescent garment
that could have saved my life,
was obviously too tempting
for the thief who rummaged through
my pannier bag.

It was my own fault;
I had forgotten that I was in Dublin,
den of thieves,
home of pilferers, my naïve western
perspective had left me open to
being fleeced. I shrugged; it was now
part of the deal when you spent time
in our capital, where filching stuff
is an accepted form of spending
your day.

The only thing is,
they left the carrier bag;
my detachable, well made
little sack that hangs off
the back of the vehicle,
like the pouch of a kangaroo,
the bill of a pelican.
It is my way of transporting
the tools of my trade,  
of keeping my shopping safe,
my spare clothes dry.

It was the only thing – apart from the
bike itself – that was worth stealing,
€45 in bike shops, almost new,
blemish-free; it would have been
a matter of seconds
to detach it from the frame and run away.
It could have served as something
to carry the rest of the swag in,
if they had been thinking.

Were these thieves with a conscience,
robbers who would go so far,
but no further? Light-stealers,
waterproof-nabbers, but who would draw
the line at swiping a slick new bag?

Or were they just dumb,
these motherfuckers, too stupid
to twig that if you rifle through a bag
for something to steal, you could
just steal the whole fucking bag
and sift later.

Good luck to them,
I thought;
they will be well-lit and highly
visible when they commit
their next crime. And their low-slung
jeans will be kept nice and
dry by my green, nylon pants,
though they do get a bit sweaty
if it is warm out.

I was just glad that – this time –
that they had left me the two wheels,
the frame, my pointy black saddle,
the handlebars that stick out,
like the antlers of a deer. It helped,
I suppose, that my new bike is a
piece of shit, and not worth stealing,
even by bike-hungry Jackeen kleptomaniacs
that live to spoil someone’s day.

I sat up on the saddle and cycled off,
happy, at least, that I didn’t have to walk.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019


There was an article in the Sligo Champion newspaper this week about my launch and the new novel. It can be read here.     

It was generally a good article, but it did focus on the ME element in the story to the exclusion of almost everything else. As it says in the article, I have had experience with the debilitating condition ME (also known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, as in the headline), for twenty years or more. I have largely recovered, but it has left a big impact on my life. I lost a good few years there in my thirties to exhaustion and illness and I used some of that to write the Do part of the novel, where the narrator, Kay, tells about her life with this condition. 

Yet this is only a quarter of the book; it is one story of four. To read the article you would think that it was the dominant narrative in the book. 

That said, I know that journalists need a hook to sell a story, and the Champion writer chose the ME story to try to get people interested, and to create a personal link with the author. And it is eye-catching, despite being a little misleading. 

I was also interviewed on the arts show on Ocean FM last weekend (listen above). I had talked to Harry Keaney about my first novel and this time he gave me more than fifteen minutes to talk about the book, so it was a good, wide-ranging interview. I think it gives a concise idea of what the book is about. 

The book has also received its first review. The website Goodreads is probably the main book reviewing site in the English language. The reviews there are written by normal readers, so it is a very democratic source for finding out about books. 

The first reviewer of the novel on Goodreads said that "The writing and plot construction are elegant without being mannered: this is literary fiction that is still highly readable. A recommendation for anyone interested in meditation, ME/CFS, modern Ireland, or just some good new literary fiction."        
I thought the review was perceptive and well-observed, and it mentioned some things that I hadn't thought of myself. It can be read in full here.  

Wednesday, January 30, 2019


I will finally manage to launch my new novel, Be Do Go Have in the coming weeks. In fact, I am doing a kind of mini book tour (very mini - it consists of two counties!), reading in two bookshops in the north-west and also in the special place that is the Yeats Building in Sligo. 

This may seem like overkill, but for an independent publisher, it is one of the only ways to sell books and engage with readers. When your marketing and promotion budget is minimal, and you don't have time to be on Twitter all day promoting your book, face to face encounters with people who might actually buy the book are invaluable. 

So there will be three launches for the price of one. The first will be in Liber bookshop, the last bookshop standing in Sligo that sells new books (the second-hand Bookmart is still going too). I sold a good few copies of my first novel, A Year in Lisbon, in Liber, so the place has been good to me. This is on Wednesday, February the 20th, at 6.00pm.

The second event will be in my friend Orlagh's bookshop, The Reading Room, in Carrick-on-Shannon. This is the next day, on Thursday the 21st, at 6.30pm. The Reading Room is small but is packed with things that you would like to read, and is a great place to find interesting stuff. 

Finally, the week after, I will return to the Yeats Building in Sligo, on Thursday the 28th, at 7.30pm. I launched my first novel here, so it has good associations for me. It is a beautiful, historic building, and a perfect setting to finish my tiny book tour. 

Friday, January 4, 2019


It is dark;
the next time we see the light
it will be nearly Paddy’s Day.                  

The cave of winter
is solid and without cracks;
the dark has a physical substance
that you can almost hold;
I feel sure that I could go outside
with a bottle and put some in,
ready to take to a far off place
that needs a little darkness,
somewhere baking under
oppressive sunlight.

The dark is a blanket that covers,
it is a barrier that keeps stuff out,
a lid that closes us in.
Light is the thing that exists -
in waves and particles and rays and shafts -
and darkness is just light’s absence, 
but sometimes,
deep in the cavern that is the Irish winter,
the dark is the only thing that really is.
Light is the aberration and its opposite
is the natural order of things.

The dark does not care about us;
it is vast, like the ocean,
and just as full of contempt for
all of our mess and hassle and
lack of light. The dark is a
creature that does not eat and does
not breathe, but which occupies space like
a malevolent gas. The dark has
no tentacles, but it feels like it does. 
The dark covers and hides
and blankets the world in negative space, 
like anti-matter, a creeping vacuum. 
The dark is a negation,
an absence, a nothingness that
sucks the vibrant hope from the world. 
The dark does not hate us; 
it is worse, it does not care if we exist. 
Our wounds and cravings
and loss do not matter to
its fixed, merciless expanse.

I hang on, and wait
for March.

Saturday, November 24, 2018


The sales of e-books worldwide continue to decline, and their printed cousins are making a comeback.

For a while, e-books were becoming more and more popular, and their rise seemed unstoppable. Things have turned around quickly in the last few years. The swing back to the printed page is easily understood. People have reported a variety of reasons for going back to the physical object: printed books are easier to give as gifts, people are worried about screen-time, books are beautiful objects in themselves and have a pleasing weight to them that makes them seem more trustworthy.

I have just published my second novel, Be Do Go Have, and today received a consignment of books from the printers. It was actually a lot more impactful to pick them up and handle them than I thought it would be.

The Kindle version of the novel went live on the Kindle store two weeks ago, but there is something that a physical book has that something that exists on an e-reader only in the form of bytes and computer code can never possess.

For one thing, a book engages another sense, the tactile, and this is significant. When you can touch something, handle it and flick through it, it becomes more real to you and you can form an emotional connection with this object. This emotional connection is not possible with a file on your Kindle.  

There is another reason that I found it pleasurable to hold the physical book for the first time: for this, my second novel, I have done all of the design. I have had help and advice from Martin, the designer who did my first book, but largely the typesetting, book design and cover design – as well as the little four-colour image on the front and back – are my work. I learned to use Indesign this year, and laid the book out in this program. I wasn´t sure how it was going to work and surprisingly, to me at least, it looks really professional.

It appeals to my sense of independence; I now know that if I want to write, design and publish a book in the future I, on my own, can produce a quality product that looks as good as anything in bookshops. A few months after beginning the process of publishing, the books are already for sale in bookshops in Sligo and Leitrim. And that feels good.

A paperback book is a form of primitive but effective technology, one that has been around in its current form for about eighty years and in other forms for centuries. It is not something that is going to disappear. People are always going to want printed books, in one form or another. Mine are now here and it is a pleasure to be able to hold something tangible and physical. Seeing it in print makes it all the more real. 

Sunday, October 21, 2018


My second novel, Be Do Go Have, is now available. The Kindle version is live and on the Amazon site, and as we speak, the PDF files are on the system of a printers somewhere in the UK, being converted into printed paper and coloured card, ready to be shipped back to Ireland and sold as books. The digital version is done, the printed one will be here shortly. It is a relief.

The actual writing of the thing didn’t take that long – probably a year or a year and a half, all in, once I got going – but it is the editing, the typesetting, the cover design and finishing touches that are time-consuming. I am still learning how to do all of this, so the actual production is slower than it could be.

For my first book, I outsourced the typesetting and cover design to a graphic designer that I trusted, who did a good job and produced a cover that I was very happy with. This time, though, I was determined to learn how to do it myself. My designer gave me some lessons in Indesign and I set about trying to grasp the ins and outs of the programme. I have learned a tiny fraction of what Indesign can do, but it was enough to put together a rudimentary cover, part of which can be seen above. In another iteration it was more complicated and busy, but I have since simplified it, and am now quite happy with the result.

The book started one evening when I was reading a passage in a book about language by Stephen Pinker. As a language teacher, the part about the centrality in every language of the four verbs; Be, Do, Go and Have, caught my attention. And then my writing brain kicked in…..

“The verbs be, have, do and go are…… the most commonly used verbs in most languages and often pitch in as auxiliaries: “helper” verbs that are drained of their own meanings so that they may combine with other verbs to express tense and other grammatical information…. Many language scientists believe that the meanings of these verbs – existence, possession, action, motion – are at the core of the meanings of all verbs, if only metaphorically.”

The phrase “the core of the meaning of all verbs” immediately made me sit up. “Existence, possession, action, motion” kind of sums up what it means to be a human being. We are, we act, we have, we move. What else is there?

From there came the idea of a story to go with each verb. Four verbs, four stories, four characters, all told in the first person, their lives criss-crossing over and back, into and out of the other stories, attempting to form a tiny picture of what it is like to live on the planet Earth in the year 2018, with all of our being, doing, going, having.

So I started writing……..

Saturday, October 6, 2018


Two little Lidls
(on the opening of a second Lidl store in Sligo Town)

The blue and yellow logo                  
emerges from the gloom
like the lights of a rescue ship,
like the promise of greatness.

There is a second Lidl in town
and Finisklin, where it resides,
is now like one of
those once sleepy villages that get
a Virgin apparition,
a moving statue, a picture of Jesus
in a slice of toast:
the pilgrims are already flocking
to this part of the town that,
for twenty-two hours of each day
used to be as dead as Christmas.

Now, the line of cars stretches from the mid-block
junction down to Finisklin, the Ursuline and the railway
bridge; all landmarks of my childhood.
I grew up five hundred empty metres away
and this road has never seen so much activity,
so many craving a bargain,
such an intense desire for random

They come for cheap drill bits,
anti-splatter shields, bike panniers,
children’s gloves, ladies’ jeggings,
patio lights, car fuses, garlic presses,
high-vis vests, nose-hair trimmers,
steam irons, first-aid kits,
mani-pedi sets, gym balls,
apfel strudel.
The hungry faithful
enter with their heads bowed
and handle the merchandise with wonder,
as they would a saint’s leg-bone or
a piece of the true cross.

This, finally, will put our place on the map;
it is what we have been crying out for
for decades.
Now we are whole, now we can
hold our head up high and take our
place at the top table of
the Irish urban landscape.

After all, what self-respecting town has
only one Lidl?